This morning came again, at 5 and 6 and 7.15 and 8.30. It was delayed and left us swimming around in the shallows. Finally comes when everything else has taken place. One day, this will be over; not finally.
The government set about each new update to the nation by reading out a long list of things they have done. They tell us about the ventilators being shipped out to hospitals, the number of nurses and doctors who have come back to work on the front line, of the billions that is being spent to protect our economy. After that a rather sour-faced deputy lead of the NHS details what is happening in the battle against the virus. Everything is termed in the lexicon of war which probably helps us to identify the thing as an evil antagonist that is intent upon our destruction.
Union Jacks are draped in the background and each of the politicians that are wheeled out speak as if they are reading from a ledger, without the normal emotions one would expect of such an enterprise. It is only when the press, contained in television screens, are asked for their questions that things become a little more ad-lib. Yesterday, one journalist threw a monster into play. He suggested that his sources, inside the NHS, were saying that the government were grossly under-reporting the incidences of death. The woman with the sour face and the young politician with the baby face, enjoying his first taste of the limelight, answered the question by ignoring it and instead providing the journalist with some of the figures they had already read out and then praising those volunteers who were doing the decent thing, a thing to be proud of. It’s normal to expect this in a situation such as this because the one casualty we cannot afford is the public morale. Not telling the whole truth is often necessary to avoid losing the war.
Up and about, I was not replete with my patriotic duties. I was still asleep and needed reviving with mugs of tea and then a strong coffee. After that, I could begin. It’s teaching day today. I have six online lessons to deliver so shaking off the pyjamas, brushing my teeth, and having a shower is the order of the day. Soon, my first student will be online.
Doing the online teaching is not always as easy as it sounds. I use a Microsoft app that allows me to listen or video the sessions. Last week went pretty well. This morning was more of a labour. The problem was that I have only just finished my honeymoon period with this virus. Being at home, not having to travel, being able to cycle, working from home…all these things went towards a good honeymoon. I was at one with my new normalcy and the normalcy was at one with me. Enter bear from stage right.
The bear is the responsibility that I have to bear (pun intended). Giving lessons over a digital platform can be wonderfully good or they can be insanely bad. One of my students is both insanely bright and devilishly argumentative. He brought the devil to my platform this morning. So, there’s me looking to conduct a meaningful session with a tour de force. The prospect of climbing the north face of Everest, unaided and unaccompanied, at the moment a blizzard hits, is sometimes more preferable than teaching this student. In the past, I have displayed palpable signs of fear; if shaking, crying and hiding under a desk qualifies as fear. This morning, I was relaxed, if a little put out.
I went through the first of my sessions with a student who is a dream to teach and this left me in a place of complacency for the test to come. We ran through the preliminaries, the hellos, the how are you, the general functional stuff that makes up everyday interactions. And I dared to believe that it was going well. Think again, smucko. I was essentially doing the lesson blind as I could not my tutee. I think that he could see me. I was in digital space and in digital space nobody can hear you scream. Fortunately, I wasn’t screaming, not even really frustrated. The previous months I had slowly become accustomed to the ways of working with my student. And some of those ways had been particularly foreign to me, but I had learned and I had done it the hard way. Now, two weeks into working from home and I had forgotten what I had experienced so much pain to learn. Complacency is the mother of all failures.
Exit pursued by bear.
Back again to the real business in hand which is to survive this bloody epidemic whilst still retaining qualities that are compatible with being a normal human being. I am missing people and for someone who was accustomed to self-isolating, before the threat of disease, that is quite a big confession. I miss those things that I had never really thought about: the walks into the market on Saturdays, the confusion of other strollers as they make their way through the thoroughfares of the town, and the chance to sit down with a pint in a pub of my choosing and being able to share words with strangers about the weather of whatever. We are all strangers now.
Self-isolation has the capacity to drive us into the realm of madness. On two occasions, I have moved a goodly two metres around another in a public place (supermarket aisle) only for them to turn away from me, face the shelves of produce, and deliver an unsaid indictment concerning my potential for spreading the contagion. It really hurts that a fellow human should act in this manner. I now know what lepers must have felt and somehow feel grubby as a result of it. If IT continues to work its charms on people, what are we going to be like on the other side of this? Already, the EU has fallen back into borders that are closed. Trust between nations is based on the realist concept of what we get in return, not what our gift could bring. There are two ways we can come out of this and they are to treat our fellows as friends or to serve up suspicion and fear.
Is that bear bearing gifts or does he only have his tremendous appetite to offer?