Coronanotes 19

A few weeks ago, or so it seems, though if I really think about it, it was probably just after Christmas, I remember. I remember the usual routine of military precision mornings. Up early to write a little bit then waking the kids and bringing a tea up for the wife; showering and dressing in waistcoat and tie for school then gathering around the kitchen island for breakfast together. All a little bit tired but all ready for the day: a brisk walk to start us off – first to the girls’ school and then across town to mine. I might have plugged Audible in once I’d left the girls and listened to some few minutes of David Copperfield or Homo Sapiens before surrendering to my day and being consumed by the school gates. 
The very established, very predictable and very reassuring routine that I often used to lament and manipulate a little, knowing all the while that things settle as they’re meant to and routines establish themselves because they work. Unnecessary additions might pop up from time to time but soon fall by the wayside. Illnesses and injuries and unwanted spanners in very efficient works. It’s a smooth machine. 
But going back to where I was. I remember this one day and it must have been January because it was bitter cold and the hats and gloves were laid out by the front door. A frost lay across the view of the back garden and the BBC news rattled along on the little telly in the kitchen. A new virus had been discovered in a part of China that no one had heard of, Wuhan, and people were dying. It meant little to us; we were news-weary after three years of Brexit and were absolutely convinced that the mainstream media would make a story out of anything just to remind itself that it could talk about other things. 
I took no notice and the eldest, who does prick up her ears at these sorts of things, made a mental note to follow the story. A couple more people died the next day and I started to wonder why there was so much interest in a flu virus in the most populated country on earth. Surely there was more in this than drumming up a story. Eldest raised it and I brushed it off: people die all the time I said. And then something like: you’re more likely to be eaten by a shark in this Midland town than you are of dying of this Chinese virus. She likes my metaphors and most of the time this is all the reassurance that she needs. I happen to think that all anxieties need some degree of attention – some reassurance before they can grow into some other thing. 
Then the virus came to Italy and lots more people started to die. Pictures surfaced on the internet of army vehicles carrying coffins out of provincial Neapolitan towns and more people died. Then Spain and then France. Steadily closer but still mercifully foreign and distant. The people that died spoke a different language or looked different, so it didn’t really count as real. 
And now the schools are shut and breakfast is a little later. The tiny story that started on the other side of the world is on our street and rings in the silence of the main roads. It’s not an adventure any more and lock-down means more than lie-in.  
The numbers are staggering.  
Each day in my journal I collect them and now they seem unreal. I write this to remind myself how quickly it all happened; how we have gone from that chilly innocent morning to this different, frightened, suspicious world where the few people that we see on our daily walks spring out of the way and cover their faces as we pass. We are doing the same. My daughter are looking for sharks in the hedgerows… 

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