Panicked text messages on Monday from a friend who lives at the very edge of a ‘Tier 3’ area. Her eldest child had come home from school feeling poorly, with a ‘pounding headache’ and a temperature of nearly 40°. She administered paracetamol and tucked him up, but within a couple of hours, he was complaining of pins and needles and numbness in his limbs. She called 111 and was told an ambulance would be sent ‘in a couple of hours’. She’d given up on that and got him to hospital herself, but now she’d been waiting in A&E for hours and nothing was happening. She sent me a photograph. The lad had his hand across his eyes, but below that, his face was flushed with a pinprick rash.

I phoned her. “Is the light hurting his eyes?”


“I think you need to find a member of staff, right now. Say he’s got a high temperature, terrible headache, neuro symptoms, photophobia and a rash and ask, ‘Could it be meningitis?'”

It was.

Once diagnosed, the treatment was exemplary. IV antibiotics, ensuite single room, checks for sepsis, intensive monitoring. After a couple of days, he was sent home, with community nurses coming in to administer the antibiotics. Then, late on Thursday afternoon, the bombshell. The lad’s routine CoViD swab had come back positive and the whole family would have to isolate.

The nurses will still come, wearing full FFP3 PPE to do the antibiotic infusions, but the local pharmacy doesn’t do medicine deliveries and NHS Volunteers were unobtainable. The GP, apparently, hadn’t been notified of the coronavirus diagnosis by the hospital so couldn’t put anything in place. So much for Test, Trace and Isolate efficiency. My friend spent Friday grinding her way round the usual loop of circular signposting, but eventually gave up, because she had another problem. She only had enough food in cupboards and fridge to last the weekend and didn’t know of anywhere local to her out-of-the-way house that does deliveries. Worse, her children normally get free school meals and while a week’s half term is manageable, a fortnight’s isolation, with 6 servings needing to be produced three times a day, is going to take a lot of doing. She called me back, by now in floods, not knowing where next to turn.

Well, thank goodness for Marcus Rashford and his astonishing Twitter list of food outlets willing to help. My friend doesn’t do Twitter, but a mere five minutes’ scrolling on my part turned up several places that I could pass on to her, including a local pub, offering children’s half-term food. She very nervously emailed the pub, and not only are they going to do the children’s lunches every day for the next fortnight, AND deliver them, but they will provide daily lunches for the adults as well and are putting out a call to their regulars to see who can do the medicine pickups.

Now that’s what I call people power. It’s just gobsmacking that the Government is so useless in the face of need, when one very young, apolitical man can galvanise so much activity.

I’m pretty sure my friend’s kids are not Man U fans (I don’t take much interest in these things, but their house shows a certain absence of red and a definite presence of pale blue). Whatever their normal football allegiances, they are mahoosive Rashford fans now.