If you’ve clicked on this expecting to find a little light porn – spoiler alert – that’s not what this is about! I’m not using the word as an insult but as a badge (or mask) of honour. Why? Because for the past five weeks, I’ve been sewing scrubs. Scrubs for doctors, scrubs for ophthalmologists, scrubs for children’s nurses and scrubs for carers, in fact scrubs for the world! Well okay just for a little bit of my county. Scrubs are that natty trouser suit (pant suit in the US), that medics wear to work. Scrubs can to be taken off and washed regularly and easily, and in times of crisis, like now, you need to do that a lot and a lot more people need to wear them.
You would think wouldn’t you? That hospitals and care homes would be properly supplied with scrubs by the government we voted for, with the taxes we have paid. Apparently not, but hey it’s an emergency time for the public to step up. Which they did, hundreds of little ScrubHubs have set up across the UK to meet the needs of local hospitals and care homes for scrubs. Scrubs that go on, come off, go into the washing machine go on again as often as need be, the cleaner the better, the more, the safer.
It is stressful though, sewing scrubs. I am not a hobby seamster, I had to dust off my nearly 40 year old Bernina to get going. The old machine has sewn a bit over the years, a few curtains, the odd dress – literally the odd dress – and children’s costumes. But the old machine has had a bit of a shock in the past five weeks, not least losing its ability to wind a bobbin. The bobbin crisis necessitated the purchase of a separate bobbin winder – result! But it’s not just the machine that’s stressed, its seamstress is a little frazzled too. I struggle with bias binding, overcasting and threading the damn needle (I need new glasses after this). Then there is the fitting in of the time between teaching online, making an online Film Studies course for a website (Teach All About It) and delivering groceries to my parents, since Waitrose can’t seem to offer a 91 year old man and his wife a delivery slot. Meanwhile, sewing scrubs requires printing out the pattern
on separate A4 sheets to be taped together… exactly. Then there’s the cutting (in my case three or four sets) the overcasting of all the edges, doing the pockets, the buttonholes and the dreaded bias binding round the neck, the neckline that is not my neck, hours of fun!
So why do I do this to myself? Virtue signalling?
Maybe I just want to feel sanctimonious, in which case job done!
But it isn’t just that.
It’s rage, sheer bloody rage!
How has it come to this? How hard is it to do what must be done? Look around the world, look at the growing list of countries locking down successfully, minimising the virus, while even now our death rate is hundreds per day. Our initial response was pitiable when every week, day even hours counted. Cheltenham held a festival, Liverpool held a football match, Cardiff had a concert and government dithered and delayed, muttering about “herd immunity”, “taking it on the chin” and worse. Medics begged for PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) and still do, care homes struggled on with barely a mask between them, while residents were returned to them with symptoms, tracking and tracing was stopped.
In New Zealand, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had 18 million masks for 5 million people and they produce 80,000 a day. Whilst in the UK, apparently there is limited scientific evidence for masks, in New York you will be shamed for not wearing one, or maybe we haven’t got any. At the time of writing the UK death rate per million is the highest in the world. Meanwhile countries across the world keep their death rates in the low hundreds and even so called “equivalency” which sees us compared with Germany… 8,300 deaths or thereabouts leaves us standing, or falling over, the Germans and the Turks test and track rigorously while we count the few tests we do do… twice.
Rage, rage against the dying of the many.
That’s why I sew scrubs to soothe the rage as well as to fill the gap left by government, to provide, what government should provide using our taxes – appropriate and sufficient clothing for the job – sewing scrubs is actually stress relief. The gentle give of fabric as I cut the cloth, the rhythm of the sewing machine, the heat of the iron (and I never iron so this is massive); the satisfaction at completion. I hesitate to say a job well done – my scrubs are a bit like the first pancake, functional but not pretty. Still the knowledge that someone somewhere feels that little bit more cared for because the scrubs are hand made and better seamsters than I, embroider “thank you” or “heroes” on the sleeves or pockets. The knowledge that when the workers come home at night they can take off their scrubs, shove them in the washing machine, in the knowledge that a clean and dry pair are ready and waiting, no short cuts, no compromises.
As I write the hypocrisy of government rages – the apparent architect of lockdown and government policy, Dominic Cummings, is getting away with driving blind. Meanwhile millions of us miss our parents, our children, grandchildren our friends or we are stuck in with kids who don’t have access to a park let alone a second home with a garden … breathe. Good job my scrubs have been collected and the next fabric has arrived! Oooh Looney Tunes how appropriate!