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.
This time last week things were very different. I wonder what things will be like in a week, a month. And if we believe what they say, it’s not even started yet and won’t really kick off until the start of summer.
It has been the weekend so tomorrow will bring updates from the workplace. Every day seems to have brought something new; when I thought it would wane it has done the opposite. The number of infected has double and seems to be doing so each day. The percentage of those who have died is significant and, if you think about the amount of people predicted to get the virus, will be very significant.
Trump has shut the borders to the UK now and Johnson is waiting a little longer until we Brits know exactly the extent to which we will be affected – not by the disease but by the social measures put in place. It is a difficult one and one which the Prime Minister can’t win; it has predictably become a great opportunity for the opposition to take a cheap swing at the decisions that are being taken. Scotland, as they do, have gone against government advice, simply because it’s government advice; Ireland purposely gave no warning of its decisions so that we looked flat-footed and Corbyn, still desperate to claw back some dignity after his crushing defeat in the election (how far away that seems now) is picking at everything that is said.
It makes me despair at the very nature of humanity and the chance that we have of dealing with things like this when flailing opposition parties use every little strain on the government to score cheap points. If Corby had got in; if Scotland was independent; I would still simply want the authorities to come together; the people on the fringes to put the people first and everyone pull in the same direction for the good of the country. Grannies and granddads are dying; our kids are getting ill and we ourselves face the threat of this disease and the wider effects that it will have on our country, our society, our economy and our fundamental identity as a nation. It is bigger that all of their politics.
Most other countries have shut schools so the predictable attack on Johnson is that he is delaying in Britain and that this will cost lives. It is a tricky one with so many factors to take into consideration:
Toilet roll, dried pasta and handwash have been the strange topic of conversation over the past few days as though all of a sudden we’re shitting ourselves more than even and haven’t been washing our hands enough in the past.
The shelves will refill and calm will return to that area as people’s cupboards fill up and can take no more. It will be something else. What will the next issue be?
I predict looting. I hope I’m wrong.
Is it interesting or even significant that two B-2 Stealth bombers from America landed in Gloucestershire this weekend?
Every day it steps up to a different level; there are forces at work out there beyond our knowing. The forces that were previously misty and distant – working in the background and pulling the strings – they’re closer now. They’re on the streets of the smallest towns and they’re face to face with people whose only training for this sort of thing is through the university of Netflix or Amazon Prime. They’re buying up all of the toilet rolls.
Seriously, I went to Aldi for toilet rolls an couple of hours ago and there were none. The shelves were empty where there should have been a collection of ply and scent and package size. The kitchen rolls were still there in number – things aren’t quite there yet. And also: Lidl’s over the road; there’s a budget warehouse next door to it and a convenience store next to that. No toilet roll in any of them. It is getting serious.
I asked the girl at the till if she thought that maybe people had started using more all of a sudden. She didn’t laugh and that’s ok. I don’t know what sort of a day she’s had. I also realise that I’m one of the people panic buying toilet roll, except that my panic comes from the fact that we have no toilet roll in the house. If we don’t manage to stock up tomorrow I will have to start stealing rolls from school.
They’ve bought new software and are giving out laptops to all staff. The software will let us teachers let all of our students into our homes and ensure that the school fees still get paid; that the education continues. I suppose a couple of hundred laptops is small beer compared to the cost of unpaid fees.
Trump has shut the border to the US; Ireland is closing schools, just like Portugal and numerous other countries around the world. The UK has more cases now that the Wuhan epicentre had when it was locked-down. Still, we keep it cool; we do the right thing at the right time. It is infuriatingly British but probably the most sensible option. Time will tell on that.
The world seems smaller; the country tighter. For once there is an issue that binds us; there is a common concern that we all share. It is so different to the Brexit trauma of the previous few years that pulled us in all sorts of directions. As a nation; as a world, we can pull together and each do our bit. We will come through it at the other end and compare notes; mourn the losses; tell the stories and remember that when it really comes down to it, we are quite good.