Yesterday IT announced its intentions. IT had strolled into Downing Street, slipped past the security and sauntered up to the guy who was trying his best to carry off a Winston Churchill impersonation and gave him a dose. Not content with that, IT then moved onto his trusted sidekick and, just for good measure, IT later broke into the royal palace and wiped its feet on the tongue that belonged to the heir to the crown. I’ve got to give it some respect, it’s as bold as brass with a virus coating.
During this crisis, I have taken to calling my mother. If I don’t call her, she calls me. Indeed, she calls us. And if there is anything that the virus has brought with it, it is increased appreciation of the little things. Sometimes it feels like we are all standing on a beach watching the tide go out way too far. As we stand there, the waters are disappearing over the horizon and fish, crabs and shipwrecks are now so very clear. There are moments when we could walk out and touch the world that only Nemo has seen (Captain not little blue fish, but it works either way). So, the sea has gone and there is a gathering of seagulls that are swooping around and squawking in confusion. Like the humans, those odd bald apes below, they cannot comprehend what is happening so they continue with what they do best and eventually swoop down for exposed and stranded prey. Us apes just gather, feeling safe in groups. We may squawk a little between ourselves and offer out some empty observations before realising that something is wrong; something is very wrong. Behind us, someone has smelt the breeze and the breeze is picking up, and it’s coming back towards the shore.
My mother phoned us this morning. She is worried about our daughter who is showing fully blown symptoms of IT. Last night, when I woke at three, a couple of muffled coughs slipped through the house before returning to her bedroom and falling back to sleep. I was awake because I had a full bladder, one that was the result of a little too much wine yesterday. I bought the wine to celebrate the start of the weekend regardless of the fact that the weekend had been going on for two weeks now. The celebration had left me with a dry mouth and an urge took up residence in my brain and told me that I needed tonic water. We have tonic water in because my GP told me that it would aid my recovery from a strangely inflamed and swollen lower right calf that had been with me for a number of weeks. It wasn’t a craving but it would be obeyed.
So, I descended the stairs, the cat crept out of the front room sensing an opportunity for an early breakfast and I made for the downstairs loo. Relief, the like of which I did not realise I had, ran out of me with a sigh and a steady stream of contentment that seemed to wish to break some world record that had not, so far, come into existence. I stood for a while wondering at the flood that I was able to create, a veritable outpouring of my inner reservoir and wanted to bow when it finally came to an end; all good things. I then moved onto the tonic, poured myself a glass, filled it with a topping of tap water, and fed the moggy some Dreamies. Contentment ruled the world.
I returned back to bed, my wife lost to sleep, and found that the coming day was interrupting my passage back to Nod. An hour later, our feline alarm went off with the softly insistent meowling that told me that she was ready for her morning stroll. I knew that resistance was fairly futile and slipped from the covers once more, descended the stairs again, picked up said cat (who wanted more cheesy treats) and opened the back door for her to take the morning air. Back to bed but with Phoebus already across the heavens, I needed something to block out he light. A tea-shirt sat over my eyes until a normal hour arrived to greet the coming day.
We had been up for a short time, sharing tea-making duties. We watched a little of the morning’s news, my wife commented on the strange choice of top that one of the newsreaders was wearing – it was a leopard-skin imitation and did seem incongruous to the setting before I returned to our bed room in order to write. No sooner had I done this than the phone rang and was answered by my wife. It was my mother warning us about the imminent arrival of a giant salami.
The world of media is full of celebrities and many of these celebrities are famous for doing something other than being a celebrity. There are doctors, gardeners, dog-trainers, child-trainers and…the list is endless. My mum is a great fan of Good Morning TV, a light news-based programme that sees itself a warm sunrise for its viewers. Amongst the experts is a Doctor who has gained fame for being a TV doctor over many years. On yesterday’s edition he was obviously required to spread some advice about how best to combat IT. He didn’t call it It, but we knew what he meant. It would appear that our, until recently vastly underfunded, National Health Service is set to face some rough times with the amount of patients that it is going to have to treat in the coming weeks. We have seen Italy’s finest buckle and almost break and now it appears that the NHS is preparing itself for a bit of the same. And it is the weapon of choice that It is deploying against us, according to this doctor, that is so underhand. My mum, who has been a follower of this doctor and another eminent practitioner, Doctor Spooner, heard that a giant salami is coming our wave. Spiced sausage on the rampage?
This level of profound confusion is bad at the best of times so my mum called her best friend and neighbour who then explained that the eminent expert was probably talking about a tsunami, a tidal wave not a sausage. But then, tsunamis don’t happen in our part of the world, do they? What fresh threat had fate conjured up for our NHS now that potential buyers from the US were otherwise engaged? My wife explained that the tsunami was a metaphor that meant to stand for something else. ‘Overwhelmed,’ she said. ‘Overwhelmed.’ And then I heard the penny drop.
There are still moments when the normal world, that one that sticks to ‘normalcy’ breaks in. The streets may have been deserted or given over to runners, cyclists and power-walkers, but waiting behind the curtains are those moments that undermine the existential threat that is so seriously affecting all that we are. Normality is not just a state of accepted and ritualised behaviours, it is a sense of hope that goes about its business in the face of IT’s anarchy.
There’s scene in To Kill A Mockingbird when Atticus Finch, mild-mannered and scrupulously moral, shoots a crazed dog that is threatening the neighbourhood with its brand of mayhem, Rabies. A sunny afternoon in summer on which even the flies have given up buzzing and this dog lopes into the community with a disease that is incurable until the moral compass of their world performs a task that is so savagely simple that the world stops, and breathes, and normality is returned.
My mum’s Spoonerism was also the gun that killed the threat.