Last week came and went like a blur. All days rolled into one and though I didn’t miss a single lesson nor a single minute of any lesson, I couldn’t really tell you what I did with them. I know that I was looking over my shoulder at my own kids and their work; I know that I was conscious of trying to entertain the classes online but also knowing that it was all being recorded and might be looked at by anyone. I can get away with quite a lot in the classroom that maybe I shouldn’t but it’s that edge which keeps the kids engaged and ensures that they do ok in my classes.
At this time last week we were teetering on the edge of the unknown; there was something happening that had taken us all by storm and dragged us to a point beyond anything that we might have expected in the humdrum of our lives; it had forced us to buy into it and we were well along the track before we even knew where we were or what was going on.
I suppose this is how these things have to be if they’re to work: don’t give people the time to think too much about things – get them moving quickly and driven my fear and it will be too late to turn back before they realise what’s gone on. It has all been so bizarre these past couple of weeks that none of us really know what has hit. And here we are.
I’m not suggesting that we’ve been duped – I take that head-on in other posts; it’s not what I’m suggesting here. I’m only suggesting that we never had a say in any of it. The initial response that I had – and still retain – is that I don’t fear the virus but the reaction of the people to the measures put in place. I guess we have to believe that the people in power really believe that this pandemic is worth the hassle because the measures that have been put in place and the costs that have been incurred to our way of life as much to our economy have been off the scale.
I know that I have said this before but I really am struggling to get my head around the fact that a mere couple of weeks ago we hadn’t even heard of this virus. A month ago if you’d have said that Ant and Dec would have to do a live show with no audience; that there would be no football on Saturday at 3; that the Olympic games would be postponed – any one of these and countless other disruptions would have been massive news on their own but to be all simultaneously dropped simply is astonishing. During the world wars they could still go to the cinema and he shops and watch the football. They weren’t restricted by the amount of hours that they were allowed out walking each day or the distance that they had to stay apart from each other…
It’s a tough sell and maybe when you’ve been in the house for a week like I have an not been able to taste the atmosphere of the outside world like usual it doesn’t feel all that real. People don’t buy into things unless they feel real. At the start of the crisis things moved quickly and there was something new every day to keep us on our toes; to make this beast continue to grow and become more and more of a danger. Half of that was through gossip and rumour – so when you force people into their homes half of the gossip and rumour slows down. Daily briefings announce the latest figures and seeing them rack up like a cricket scoreboard adds a sense of reality to a threat that otherwise could feel a lot more alien that the conditions applied upon us all.
I might have suggested that the Prime Minister’s acquisition of the virus was an interesting piece of spin and useful to ramp up the stakes as the public interest waned mid-week, but he does look rough. Then the Health minister went down with it and now the chief medical adviser, the one with the strangely alien face that we see on the new warning ads, also has it.
The news today was that we might have six months of these conditions if we’re to kill the bug good and proper. If they want to make that work then there will need to be a lot more enforcement.
We live in strange times but the strange thing is how quickly we’re getting used to it.
It did escalate. It escalates every day and now we are in lockdown.
Today I taught Shakespeare from my home study: the characters of Richard III read by my students across 6 different countries while my own kids did their own work in their bedrooms.
It is more than a war. It is humanity v…
It is as bad as it could be without being an actual alien attack (though there are some who would say that this is precisely what it is…) I heard someone say that they need to change the batteries in the birds and that’s why we’re all locked down in our homes. I’ve heard others say that there’s some glitch in the mainframe and there’s an urgent need to get it fixed before people notice. People have started to notice – those noises that people were reporting all over the world; those eerie grindings and groanings seemingly coming from the very heavens were, they say, early signs that things needed fixing…
I wonder if we invent these fictions because they allow us to distance ourselves from the real causes of the world’s woe.. these intelligent invaders from outer space that land on earth with the sole purpose of depleting our energy reserves (don’t have many of those any more) and setting fire to our homes and towns so that poor old we are suddenly the defenceless victims.
When the aliens come down in these films and make contact – because they always do (they’re generally organised and aware) the first thing that we (apparently the US army is all of us) want to do is show them what big guns we’ve got and how we’d like to kill them, all of them. We watch these films and we’re meant to believe that all of a sudden we’re desperate to save our fellow human beings.
No one ever rocks up, and there must be those out there drunk or high enough or simply with the balls to stand up and say “mate, we’ve fucked it all up already. Anything you do will be an improvement.” I’d go further that, too, and suggest that the wisest thing anyone could do – layman or politician or scientist – would be to communicate and ask for a loan of the technology so that we can get the fuck off this rock. But they never do that.
In the end the alien is the saviour because it diverts all attention from our mess and mistakes and gets us all off the hook. I am getting a bit stir-crazy at home after four days but I am absolutely without doubt that there are a few people out there absolutely loving the current disruption.
We are making a mess out of it and it is a travesty that it takes an event like Corona to make us pause and see it. And that’s all we do. We pause, some of us, and take the opportunity to look at our own lives and the way that we do things and maybe at least plan to do things differently in the future. Maybe.
We’re leading our children into a long and dark tunnel and maybe the sane amongst us could usurp the politicians and the money and make our own little changes.
Nature carries on and the sun shines as if the world is smiling. I heard a good one today:
Maybe humans are the virus and corona is the antidote.
It would be difficult for any of us to argue with that.
So people have deserted the cities as they’ve been told to and the centres are eerily quiet. If Big Ben was striking he would do so in the earshot of few.
But then we see pictures of packed beaches and holiday promenades; of the cars lining the tiny lanes surrounding Snowdon. It’s as if these idiots think that it’s the cities that are infected. When actually, it’s them. I wonder how many of them have carried the virus with them, out of the city and up into the rural corners of the island.
In my fields where no one goes there is fresh air and wonderful sunsets; there is the space to breathe from high above the town and the world as all of this madness unfolds itself.
I don’t tell you this because I think that you should do it too. I would be quite happy if you did as you were told and stayed in your house. I don’t do this for you. I wouldn’t dream of thinking that I could do that.
Are you ok, though? I’m asking because I’m worried.
But don’t tell anyone.
The world has changed. There is no denying it now and it feels like it must have felt during times of conflict and national tragedy. It’s no so much the virus that we fear but the changes we’re being forced to undertake.
The hope is that it will all seem like a huge over-reaction when it’s all over, but this is no media scare; this isn’t one of those things that we all talk about for a day or two then awkwardly distance ourselves from when we realise the part that we’ve played in the hype. It feels like a weird dream but it’s very real.
Schools are shut. Pubs are shut. Theatres, gymns, cafes and restaurants. All shut. Supermarket shelves are emptying in a way that they only do in films and the people, smaller in number, it’s true, wander round in a daze wondering if they should buy stuff just because it’s on the shelf and might not be tomorrow. They’re talking about the economy crashing but I bet retail has done ok in the past few weeks.
How to make an adventure out of all this, then? There’s opportunities in everything – and I don’t mean the guy who stockpiled toilet roll all those years ago, or the ones who kept a hold of the old freezer just in case. I mean simply taking the opportunity to change the dredgy rhythm of the past few years. It has been boring, let’s be honest. And now there’s the perfect reason to do something different and get into new habits.
c.2626/104 (the number of cases is thought to be ten times this)
Each day when I wake I have that three seconds of blissful innocence where anything is possible. If only we could live in those moments. All too soon reality comes crashing down and the world that we thought we knew takes a different shape. Each day I think that it wash over and normality will return. Am I alone in sometimes loathing that normality and that routine? Am I alone in secretly wishing that something would happen to shake it all up? I don’t think I am.
The virus has spread from its epicentre in Wuhan to the ends of our road in Worcestershire, England. It has spread to the Australian outback and the Salinas Valley; my friend in Zambia; deepest Africa, tells me that schools are closing there because it’s somehow reached them. It is incredible. It is awesome. It has spread so quickly and just as quickly has the novelty and the excitement worn off. Lives are having to change; choices altered and plans put on hold.
Schools shut from Friday. All exams cancelled.
In my little world this is where it hits; this is where day to day life will have to change and it is (we assume) nobody’s fault. If the fees at my school don’t get paid people will lose their jobs.
Is it real, though? Can it be real? We reel in shock at the way that world has changed so swiftly. From not even talking about it a couple of weeks ago to talking about nothing else today. It seems too unreal and maybe this is a danger. Maybe getting our heads around it quickly and changing the mindset is what needs to happen.
We stagger when we hear that this summer there will be no exams; when we hear that the end of term celebrations that have happened for centuries at the old school will be cancelled; that other pillars that prop up the passing of the year and chart our way through life simply won’t be. It is traditions like this, however much we might sometimes loath the routine and predictability of it all, that provide the framework which keeps us upright and points us in the right direction.
We watch the value of shares crumble and we see small businesses fold. We see huge airlines fall and empty shelves in the supermarket – and this, only the start.
My thought today is about how tight we run it all. How rigid and unbending the rules by which we live, the budgets by which we survive, the contingency planning on which we complacently rely actually are. It is a human failing, not success that we are always striving for bigger and better and always looking to change the now. All that this brings is the inability to learn from mistakes because learning is the point – gaining and growing is the point.
I hope that this current crisis makes us take a look at the way that we do things. When I look at it, and I’m doing that more and more these days, I find it absolutely flabbergasting. What kind of planning goes into the future of us as a species? What are the goals that we aim for? Who is in charge?
How can it ever be right that we can land on the moon but not put an end to famine? How can it be right that we can invent technologies that allow us to video call to the other side of the world on a device that we carry in our pocket, but we can’t find a cure for cancer or aids? How can it be that we can develop planes that break the sound barrier and weapons that can wipe out entire nations, but we can’t stop economies collapsing when a tiny virus gets into our frail human systems?
I’m not a great campaigner for social justice or environmental change or gay rights or veganism or anything like that. I actually think that those things fade to insignificance in the light of what I’m concerned about – and that is simple common sense in the literal sense of the term: a combined and unified effort on the part of every one of us to see sense and make an effort to point us in the right direction.
I’m a simple bloke and maybe that’s what it takes to see. On my wrist is tattooed a symbol a little bit like a pyramid that to me signifies the perpetual rise and fall of mankind; the endless cycle of failure.
This crisis will be devastating for many and life-changing for most but there’s the tiniest hope that something might come of it that we can learn from. Maybe we will see that September doesn’t have to mean the start of term and that exams are not the only way that we can prove we’ve been doing our job.
I walked past a little less traffic this morning and the Tuesday market on the high street was a sorry state of affairs with only the Jesus tent and the fishmonger bothering to turn up. 71 dead of the virus in this country in a matter of mere days and no real idea how long it will last. When the kids – my own and the ones that I teach – ask me what about this and what if that I tell them that I don’t know. I simply don’t because it has never happened before and we have no past mistakes to try and avoid or the wisdom of hindsight to rely on.
Brownies is cancelled until further notice and the Bronte Parsonage in Haworth has shut its doors. The major concern at the moment is the economy and the effect on people’s livelihoods. The potential life-changing few months that we have ahead of us are what looms the biggest on the horizon at the moment and shades out the bigger beast that lurks behind it. Lots of people will die. If it follows the estimate then that number could be as high as half a million in this country alone. We can only hope that the predictions are being made by the same people who predicted that Trump would never get in and the Brexit campaign would fail…
So where’s Jesus in all this? Isn’t he due back sometime soon? I was told that story at Sunday school all that time ago. What? Is that offensive? I haven’t got started yet – and I did say some weeks back that this isn’t about you and it’s not for you? If you had the chance I bet you’d be spouting your Jesus love. This is my platform.
I’ve heard the zealots and their idea that God is warning us. What does that even mean? – Is he the creator or the coy voyeur with a knowing smile and a sad shake of the head? You put your kids in the snake pit and then tut and nod as they get crushed. Really?
The pope’s been all brave with his televised sermons. Is anyone there that can explain this? He’s in a room up on his golden throne in a palace paid for by fools and taxpayers and he sits in front of the camera and rattles off some tired old promise which is then screened to an audience gathered outside. So presumably he doesn’t want to be too close – is that it? At the end of the speech he waddles up to the window, his fancy robes dragging along with him, and he gives the audience a wave. What? So it could be that the pope’s actually dead – there was a rumour that he had the virus. Or that he’s severely ill with it and these messages are pre-recorded (it’s the sort of thing they’s do) so it could be anyone’s arm sticking out of the window. Of course, wouldn’t be right for them to see the pope struck down by a disease that’s sent from the old man up on high. Would force them to have a think about a few things (well, some of them at least).
I wonder if maybe this actually isn’t sent from anywhere and if this virus is just a bit like us – trying to make its way in the world while it can regardless of what stands in its way. Sounds a bit familiar, don’t it? You have to admire it. Nothing ever has this impact on such a wide scale.
It is one ten-thousandth of a millimetre across and yet it has brought us to our knees. Fair play.