So, yesterday the sun came out. It was the warmest day of the year so far, but that didn’t take much doing. This winter had been cold and damp. The skies had never made any serious attempt to turn blue, preferring their uniform grey. Because of the ironic upturn in the weather, I did my morning online class which then allowed me a healthy stretch of lunch during which time I took the opportunity to celebrate my new viral freedom to go out on the bike. This thing is starting to become the habit that I wish it to be.
I’ve grown less resistant to inclement weather and never truly brave excursions on the bike when it is raining, windy, or very cold. Living in England means that my trips out are restricted to spring and summer with a few in autumn. And of late, I have become quite partial to sharing my rides with others, in person not on digital devices. Coronavirus has put a stop to this shared aspect. Yesterday, I set off for the beginning of the rest of my cycle life.
I have reached that age when I believe that one should have two bikes, one for winter and one for summer. Last year, I bought a new summer bike which meant that my old summer bike then became my winter bike. This caused quite a bit of consternation with my wife as she has a summer bike that she rarely rides in summer and never rides in winter. To make matters easy for me to choose between the two, one is in black and one is in white. Like the weather during the virus, there’s a certain contradiction here as the black one is the new summer one. This is probably God again, messing with my head. If you were wondering if I had let God back into my life, the answer is NO. What I am prepared to do is to allow God an occasional walk-on part in my little universe –see how he likes it. ‘This is the thing’, a phrase which one of my students uses, having a god in your life provides an insurance policy. In bad times, you can pray for better times and in good times you can thank your lucky stars. See what I did there? – Monotheism and paganism all in one. For plague times, this is accepted.
Out on the newly deserted streets, I am in my element. There is a lack of people in cars and shoppers on foot because this is the first day of the ‘Lockdown’.
Our newly elected Prime Minister has taken to giving daily updates in which he is standing at a lectern, flanked by draped Union Jacks, and aided by either two ministers or two experts depending on the gravity of his message. I think that our leader is going for the Churchill look, but to me it appears a little Nazi. There is an ominous ‘one state’ thing going on and a huge serving of patriotism. For those not in the know, IT has been sent to try us, to test our very mettle, to challenge our national reserves of indomitability and all that other stuff that enabled us to conquer the globe and beat the Hun. It all makes for good family viewing until the weight of IT becomes apparent.
Updates have become the thing. Having a smart phone means that I have apps that are able to deliver news from around the globe without me having to do anything. The phone just receives them and then alerts me that they have been received. They flash up on the screen in red blocks as if demanding to be read.
Updates are not good. They are the harbingers of bad news. Usually, they announce some new figure that would appear nonsensical outside of such a ferocious pandemic. London has taken the first of the invading fleet and is spreading its way through the conduits of humanity that find themselves torn between the need to stay safe and the need to work. For those people, us included, who need their salaries to pay for the things that keep us alive, choices are stark, work and live, work and die. That’s why the tube trains in the capital are packed out at commuting times. I watched a politician today try to lay the blame on others saying that there were not enough trains in operation, but the trains are part of the problem because they provide an easy A to B to C to Z for a virus that doesn’t even buy a ticket. And that’s why the rates of infection are rocketing in London – lots of people crammed cheek to jowl, tying to make a living whilst preparing for the worst. Schools are no different, especially those that are run by ruthless academy chains.
This little concept of having semi-private schools, paid for by the taxpayer and run like businesses was imported from the US. I have worked in a number of them, have been a consultant for a number of them, and sincerely hope that their days are numbered as they treat their workers as little more than Victorian urchins. One school has made all of its staff attend its premises every day since the school closures have been announced. Teachers with young children of their own have been left with the problem of finding childcare because some executive head needs to instil discipline with an iron hand. What has happened to the world?
Cycling gets me away from it all. When I went through my period of madness, it provided calm and reassurance as it did yesterday. I met very few cars or bigger stuff, apart from a few farm vehicles, and was able to lose myself in the moment. My times were down on last year’s, but that is to be expected after my prolonged winter break. I was back in time for my afternoon session, Government and Politics, and wrapped everything up for approaching 4pm.
Lockdown was well and truly in place by the time I had finished. And it was then that IT dawned on me; the world had changed, changed utterly.