They say that China is free of any new infections. Italy has become the epicentre. As it now stands, Italy’s deaths have exceeded China’s. Spain is pushing on and catching up, whilst it remains to be seen how quickly the UK can lose control. Everything is about politics. There are sound-bites galore and what should be a sober delivery of facts, during daily briefings, becomes a replay of Churchill’s Greatest Hits. The virus has been transformed into an invading army. I was part of the defence, a dad who was still trying to guide his middle daughter to safety. Even the purchase of toilet tissue was beyond me.
The evening arrived with news that was not generated by the media. This new story came from our neighbours who were showing signs of the dread virus. The parents of their daughter’s boyfriend had recently returned from Italy and had passed through customs without having to undergo the type of checks one would think were the norm during wartime. Nope, nothing. It followed that they returned to their family home with a transferable memento of the trip and now, as nature intended, the virus began finding new hosts that could incubate its passage. My wife did the decent thing and bought them some supplies to aid their time in isolation. These are certainly strange times.
Each new day brings with it a revised calculation of the number of dead. Italy is still haemorrhaging souls and so is Spain. There are a number of videos circulating that are attempting to show the spirit of communities as they face up to the prospect of isolation for the foreseeable future. The Italians have taken to singing from their balconies as have the Spanish. The British no longer go in for that type of continental clap-trap. Our stiff upper lips inhibit the creation of mellifluous notes yet some may still try. On the video in question, a lone Brit takes up his singular song, bounces his way through the scales like a rock dislodged from a mountainside, pushed into its momentum and hitting and bouncing off anything that comes into its path. It finished with an off-screen voice telling him to shut the F##K UP. Presumably, the Blitz behaviour only allows for people who can reasonably carry a tune. I have some time for the efforts of the lone vocalist as he is merely announcing his presence and, by default, his continued existence. Just how many people will succumb to this IT with silent screams of agony, cries for help that nobody hears?
The virus races on. Its time has come and its work will be done. However, my wife and two daughters went out for food yesterday and found that the centre of our own market town was packed, sardine packed, with people making the most of a sunny morning and trawling the shops for last minute supplies that will top up their reserves. The government has told us that there is plenty of food in the network and I have believed them. I have never stretched my credulity to the point of suspecting that in this they were lying. Governments would not lie about this type of thing would they? On the other hand, let’s just suppose that what we have been told is not fully the truth. These have now become extraordinary times and extraordinary measures are now being taken. Transport has started to be closed down; London has limited underground services with the result that more people are cramming themselves onto the ones that are still running. And this morning, the warning is that you run the risk of dying if you wander out into public spaces where other individuals wander, will lead to massively increased chances of contraction. There are the people who we don’t see, those who drive buses, collect the refuse, and sit on the checkouts at supermarkets, who are being repeatedly exposed to the risk of infection. And if they go, where will the rest of us be?
Today is the day when we finally pick our middle daughter up from University. She should have been home on Wednesday and for one reason or another has persuaded us that she is not well enough to return. Our daughter is a very unique one who lives her life at arm’s length from most of the world. She has her own sphere in which she moves, and that sphere revolves around our own. But today she will finally be reconnected with the rest of her family.
Three daughters, one wife, one cat and me. That’s what Sunday conjured up. Well, that and a bike ride. I have been cycling with my neighbour for a number of years now. He’s a decent bloke and a great bread winner. When I was ill, and in the middle of my very own existential crisis, I think that I was envious of my neighbour. Apart from earning a goodly amount, he seemed surreally calm about life. I’ve never heard him rant, the way I can do at times, and I have never seen him lode his temper, even a little. I have been described as ‘laid back’ but my neighbour is beyond that. He is Zen-like in his calm. On this day, with the full cohort of my female family now fully resident in our home, I wanted a little outlet, and biking seemed to be the ideal solution.
Pathetic fallacy is when a writer aligns the weather with the human scenario. A storm brings anger and lightening a crisis. At the start of the dread Corona virus, the weather changed from rain to sunshine. Something beyond us has a dark sense of humour. The winter was awash with the brown flow of flooding; houses continually being inundated by avenging waters. The rain fell and fell again before falling once more and then again for good measure. People were staying indoors or venturing out in raincoats a fishing crew would appreciate. In the background there were stories of a virus running amok in some province in China. Before long, British people, who lived and worked there, were being airlifted out. This made big news, but was soon knocked off the top billing by the UK’s BREXIT plans.
The UK, England specifically, has a problem with the world as we secretly believe that it revolves around us. That’s certainly the case for those born-again Brexiteers who have such little regard for Johnny Foreigners who live both home and abroad. There has been a tidal wave of resentment directed against those undesirables who seem want to stand in the wave of us taking our preordained place at the head of the table. Others believe that we may get a place at the head of the table only if we consent to being the lapdog of the United States, the same federation that is now being manically driven by the chief tweeter and his odious staff. IT has put a stop to that and has made all of us think about our assumed right to be at the head of any evolutionary table. Let’s face IT, we can’t even fight off little microbes so what chance do we have when something big comes along? It took an awful lot of people to die in Italy and then Spain for us to sit up and smell the air. Shit happens and, at the moment, it is happening to us.
The new normality is taking its time to take a grip. People have been going about their business as if nothing was really happening. Okay, so toilet paper was in scarce supply whilst pasta was continuing to fly from the shelves before it had even settled, but beyond that, and ignoring the advice of central government, people were going about their business. On Saturday, my wife ventured into town to try to buy some supplies, a term that sounds very ‘backwoodsy’, and what she discovered was a market place that was busier that at any time she could remember. Our market town is a draw for ladies and gentlemen of the wealthy pensioner variety and it was a herd of these that descended on the town and its still open shops. It was one of those gatherings that came out of the blue ‘rinse’. That is the way of things these days, there are flash crowds fighting for whatever is deemed to be crucial at that moment. If somebody decided guano was essential to survival, there would be a colossal panic and guano sales would soar, only to be later replaced by the excrement of bulls. That way, you would get a lot more for your money but would need a much larger set of bags.
It’s the end of the world as we know it and people are behaving as if it is the end of the world. Decorum and manners, common decency and reasonability have gone the way of the Dodo. The new world is about dogs eating dogs, cats eating cats, and the rest of humanity being offered a selection of shit.
There is no way of escaping IT. IT is coming our way, but IT does not have to adhere to the standards that we humans expect of each other. As a species we have let ourselves down and our wonderful leaders are viewing us from above, shaking their heads, offering rebukes and shame that it has come to this. Thinking back, the moment with the toilet roll and the woman who could not reach it speaks well for me. I may go to my grave with this one tick on my list of good deeds. Maybe, if there is another existence after this one, one where the good deeds of individuals are measured against the sum of sins that they have committed either voluntarily or not, I may get a seat at the best water closet. Isn’t life a ride?
Speaking of rides, I have managed to get out on the cycle a number of times of late.