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Cresting the wave:
what comes next, how soon,
and what does it all mean?

By Bob Alman
Layout by Reuben Edwards
Illustrations and links from the Web
Posted April 12, 2020

RELATED LINKS itemizes worldwide by country new cases, deaths, recoveries, and more
The bell curve (or not) in eight countries, updated daily
Corona Virus in the United Kingdom, updated daily

As the official numbers begin to reveal "a glimmer of hope," in the US and Britain, chattering on the Nottingham Board--a worldwide uncensored email service--has shifted from comments on safety to diversions for people in relative isolation. Looking back with the latest statistics, we present a considerably trimmed, edited-for-grammar digest of player responses to The New Global Plague from the Nottingham Board which dramatizes the considerable evolution of our thinking which otherwise might be unseen. Marking that change, being aware of it every day, making note of it consciously and frequently--over such a short period of time--could signal a transformation of consciousness essential to mending an ineffably fragmented world.

Inventing and maintaining the Nottingham Board is one of many contributions to the sport of Ian Vincent, presiding guru of Britain's Nottingham Croquet Club. If this conversation alone, among a few of the 1,000 or so subscribers, saves just one life--and surely it will--we say it's well worth it. It features the usual blunt wisdom of Dave Kibble and many other British and Commonwealth regulars.

The conversation mirrors the evolution of my own thinking on these issues. Perhaps you will recognize yourself as well. I am shocked to recall that just two weeks ago, I was contemplating a big-ball croquet event in a state park, demonstrating a "safe protocol." THANK YOU to everyone who made me change my mind. There is croquet-specific intelligence here, sparked by some innocent but impudent questionings, beginning with:

I don't see why I shouldn't be allowed to go to my club, which is closed; take my own balls....and my mallet and do a bit of practise on my own.


Dr. Anthony Fauci, Donald Trump's medical expert, confirms that even though the number of deaths validate that this has been a bad week in the coronavirus battle, there are "some glimmers of hope" such as stabilizing numbers of hospitalizations in New York. Social distancing and behavior changes are "starting to have a real effect." The virus death toll may look "more like 60,000 than the 100,000 to 200,000" initially predicted. He's "cautiously optimistic" that businesses may begin reopening by summer. Dr. Fauci reminds us that the "case load" numbers are never complete, but because deaths ARE all counted, they provide a more accurate picture of what's actually happening. The aggregate daily count resembles, ideally, a bell curve. Flattening the upward curve signals hope.

Tom, that might be fine, but are you taking your own hoops? If not, are you wiping them down afterward? The door handles & locks you touched, getting to the hoops? Toilet? Kitchen, if you made a hot drink? Basically it all gets too complicated, and better to just minimise exposure until covid-19 dies down - stay home, and just do walks for exercise....

My experience is that normal shopping carries far more risk than a solo croquet practice would, provided a few sensible precautions are taken. In shops you sometimes encounter people who don't obey social distancing advice and who don't cover their coughs and sneezes. For croquet practice, I'd think sensible precautions are hand washing on arrival and leaving, having alcohol wipes or a soapy wet cloth to sanitise any equipment which you have touched (including door handles etc) - before starting and before leaving. (Before starting for your own protection because anything outside of an operating theatre can be contaminated; before leaving in case you're an unwitting carrier). You could also wear washable or disposable gloves if it helps you to avoid touching your face.

Tom was talking about using his own balls. If using shared balls, given the milling pattern, I guess wiping would be potentially inadequate. I'm also guessing that, being plastic, they'd come to no harm if they were immersed in a bucket of soapy water and scrubbed with a nailbrush. But it seems a very unlikely cause of cross contamination anyway, compared to a supermarket trolley or a door handle, and that in turn is less risky than being near someone who coughs or sneezes.

Nothing is risk-free - including staying at home and getting no exercise. Rates of suicide and domestic violence are already...rising, and no doubt heart disease and other diseases of the sedentary will come in their wake if we all sit in front of daytime TV or social media. Getting out provides physical, cognitive and social stimulation which can make you more resilient if you do contract a virus. Being out in the sun can... dramatically improve Vitamin D levels...and Vitamin D is good for the immune system and also helps recovery from chest infections.

We all have to obey the current legal restrictions in place in our own countries. In some cases there is also government guidance which is more restrictive but not enforced, which it is wise to follow, especially for those more vulnerable to this dreadful virus and less at risk from staying home, or who have

The Pope addresses the eternal emptiness of suffering and silence.

Peter, I did say the club was closed. No door handles or locks to touch. No toilets or kitchen. The hoops of course have been removed. Running hoops is the last thing I need to do when practicing Association Croquet. I do my roquets, croquets, rushes, stop shots, rolls etc as in doing a break. If I get all that correct; running the make-believe hoop is the easy bit.

David, I can assure you that I do understand the point of social distancing. Exercising in the fresh air on a large field of grass on my own; hundreds of yards away from any other human being and possibly animals is much safer than going shopping. I am being refused that and only hope that when out shopping I don't become ill and can no longer look after my wife.

And if everyone did what you want to do: How many people on the lawns then?

I fear you do not understand the point of social distancing: it is to stop (or slow) the spread in the population, not to protect one or two vulnerable people.

If everyone stays at home then it works.

If people make their own decisions it doesn't.

Please stay at home and stop believing your actions don't count.

Five centuries ago a new plague was spread in the same way the new virus is carried. Today's travelers arrive by air very quickly in an overpopulated world.

Dave Kibble, do you consider exercise essential?

You miss the point too: It's not about what I think, nor (and I know this will hurt) what you think, nor what Tom thinks.

We have something to do and if we all do it then it is for a few weeks and the consequences are not so bad as they could be if we don't.

It's not a balance of pros and cons for you to make. Just stay at home, please.

Resorting to petty insults doesn't help your argument, Dave. And as you know, you oversimplify matters. But this isn't for a croquet list so I'll stop here.

Where are the petty insults? I don't see any.

I agree completely with everything Dave has said and don't see his argument as an over simplification.

I would also like to point out that Croquet Clubs are places of work for employees, and those employees deserve to be protected as much as possible from contact with others because they don't have the luxury of choice of being there or not. "Contact" includes sharing of surfaces touched. The Department of Digital, Culture, Media & Sport has ruled that volunteers should be viewed in the same way as employees when doing essential maintenance work. This advice is aimed at facilities not being destroyed through neglect during the lockdown as they will be sorely needed afterwards. In the croquet world, volunteers are likely to be in the high risk category and definitely deserve to be protected.

There are plenty of ways for croquet players to get exercise without playing croquet - they would just prefer to play croquet.

Mecca's pilgrims must circle the holy Kaaba seven times.
I find Tom's wide-eyed innocence quite charming; his belief that "closed" means "shut to all but Tom" is just like some of the clips circulating on WhatsApp of puppies doing delightful tricks.

I just had a practice game of Croquet and found that maintaining suitable separation was going to be easy, even on a half-size lawn. The main problem was that the lawn had not been cut particularly low recently which meant that it was not really the best circumstances in which to try to make reasonably successful technical strokes. However I persevered and made a reasonable fist of getting round. Anyway, good to be out playing again and I managed to get in my 2 miles walking exercise for the day. It would be a shame not to make the best of this weather.

Did you mean to say that you played the practice game in your garden ? I am assuming so as the Cheltenham club is closed and every other member is not going there .I feel it's necessary to make this clear so that other subscribers don't get the wrong idea about our attitude to the advice and clear wishes of the government . I also wouldn't want you to be the target of undeserved opprobrium .

Sorry all. I should have made it clear that I AM at home and that I have created a rudimentary Croquet lawn in our garden, where I was trying out having a practice game (by myself, against the conditions). I would not dream of going to the Club (in Cheltenham, which is in any event 12 miles away for me and hardly an essential journey) until the Committee (of which I was a member until a week ago) decides that the Club can be open for play. I was just making the point that, being on my lawn, it struck me that maintaining 2 metres separation (or better 5 metres even) would be no problem at all if playing a game of singles.

Getting all the dimensions and hoop positioning, etc right was quite time consuming, but an interesting exercise and made me realise what a good job the lawn setters and hoop setters do at the Club. I just have my trusty mallet and a Garden Croquet set that I had about 15 years ago (before I got into real Croquet.) The balls are correct, but the hoops are just sturdy wire hoops (which very satisfyingly direct the ball through if it hits the inside of one of the vertical wires - bending it outwards in the process).The lawn surface though turned out to be very uneven and it also has a significant slope from South to North. It time no doubt it could settle in and get smoother and I might be able to cut it "low". Not somewhere though where I can enhance my skills, but I got some exercise out of it and it is good to be out in the fresh air, doing nobody any potential harm. I have almost run out of gardening jobs and am on the cusp of having to get to grips with the intended de-cluttering exercise of house and shed that I felt this enforced isolation would be ideal for. Can't put it off much longer!

The austerity of the Passover meal recalls a miraculous escape from Egypt.

Seen from here, what's going on is so consequential that there's no reason not to discuss it on this board if people want, and if the discussion doesn't get personal. In Uruguay (400 cases and 5 deaths since 13 March, according to a group of four of us were sneaking out twice a week in our deserted seaside resort in order to play an hour's safe-distance Golf Croquet on a private cheapo-cheapo court - wearing gloves, wiping things down etc. It was a very pleasant reminder of normality, and the only social contact that the four of us had, but we didn't feel good about it and have wound it up. No-one could see us, so it wasn't so much that we were setting a bad example, it was just that there were other ways to socialize more safely and take exercise. But now that no-one else has access to the court, is it OK for me to go and practise Association Croquet on my own, like knocking a ball around in your own garden? The court is a ten-minute drive away.

I work in the Rail industry, and my role comes under the category of "key worker", so I am still turning up for duty. We are still running trains, and I am still encountering members of the public.

Many of the passengers we would usually be transporting are workers in London, travelling from various South-East Coast towns & villages. For the most part, these are the people most likely to conform to government guidance on social distancing and personal hygiene practice, as well as the guidance to "stay at home", thus most of these travellers are now working from home, and not travelling on trains any more.

With nearly all of these "conformists" gone, that leaves the rest of the people travelling on trains (and indeed generally frequenting the public domain). A tiny minority of these remaining passengers are other "key workers", in roles such as healthcare and emergency services. We are also transporting just one or two people to allow them to go shopping or visit the doctor. These are all deemed "essential journeys".

That then leaves everyone else who is getting on a train, who is making a non-essential journey. These "non-conformists" are currently by far and away the vast majority, and they are the type of people who had no real regard for health and general hygiene before the pandemic, and have no intention of changing their practice for the well-being of themselves, least not anybody else. These are the people who will continue to leave their homes, see their friends, visit their nan, cough into their hand, wipe their nose with their hand, spread the virus, bla bla bla. Ultimately, it will be these folks we will have to thank for a full-on draconian lockdown.

If you choose to make a non-essential trip to a croquet club, it really does not matter at all how good your intricate health & hygiene routine is, it takes one of these "non-conformists" to walk past you and cough, and you've had it. Sure, it's a minimal risk, but if you chose to forego your trip to the club, your risk goes from "minimal" to "nil".

These are dangerous times, and absolutely anything that unnecessarily increases this risk, however negligible you may feel it is, should be avoided.

Stay at home.

The conversation stops at its logical end, for now, with this important reminder: It took place over a course of WEEKS, over which time the thinking of many subscribers--including my own--evolved tremendously, albeit invisibly. As China opens up again, and South Korea looks towards a return to something resembling "normal," we can remind ourselves: From the local starting point of a traveler returning from afar, a single new and novel viral infection leads to a wave of infections and deaths which over weeks builds to a crest, while in the meantime, another traveler....

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