Coronanotes7

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.

Coronanotes6

c.2000/71 

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.    

Coronanotes5

c.1300/35 

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: 

  • If the peak isn’t going to be until June then do we really need to knee-jerk lock-down like so many other countries have? A lock-down will need to stay in place until the crisis is over. You can’t turn it on and then off again. 
  • This period of anticipation will help the citizens of this country slowly get used to the idea: the Italians, French, Irish and all the rest, they had hours to prepare mentally. I think we’ll be ready for it when it comes. 
  • So we shut down schools – are the kids going to stay in their houses for 16 weeks? Nope: they’ll gather surreptitiously and spread the virus and put themselves at risk as they seek illicit places to meet up.  
  • They’ll get bored and boredom is the root of most evil in the teenage brain. 
  • And what about the parents who will have to stay off? They will be nurses, firefighters, toilet-paper manufacturers…who will do those jobs? 
  • And you get granny and granddad to look after the kids and…see paragraph 4.    

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?  

Coronanotes4

c.600… 

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. 

I wonder

Coronanotes3

Cases c.500 

The numbers are climbing impressively and I must admit that I’m a bit surprised that we’re all still talking about it. It was days like this that the word exponentially was made for. One of those beautiful words that languishes in the back of our minds and waits for its day. 

The numbers are rising and my old man in wales thinks that he has the disease. In truth he’s been through most of the others in his mind and now that he knows how to access google, can self-diagnose in an instant. I’ve told him to use the web for what it was meant for but he says he’s too old for porn. I don’t believe him. 

Some of my overseas students have jumped ship and gone home for a couple of months to see out whatever it is that we get hit with. The Chinese have gone back there since it seems to have peaked. In Europe they say we have weeks – months even before it peaks. We’ll have to see about that. I’m still not sure. 

What I am pretty sure about, though, is where it’s all come from – and that’s great as I plan to start on the next book. 

There are some countries that can get away with this sort of thing. They’re the ones with brutal but effective regimes; the countries that put the national interest before the interest of the individual. Communism helps in this regard, but it doesn’t need that sort of emotive tag. Simply a country that can put the squeeze on without too much of a fuss; that can expect almost total obedience from its citizens. These nations are vilified by us western liberal states, but they do work.  

Sometimes they work too well. Look at China. Home to a quarter of the world’s population and yet still with a boot firmly on the throat of the lot of them. So when that power needs a boost or looks like it might slip, measures need to be taken to regain the grip. In the past wars have helped to shake things up – and you think those natural disasters are all, well, natural?  

But this time it’s something new. Something new cooked up by the boffins unfettered by developing actual weapons for actual wars. A new weapon: a way to do a number of things: 

  1. Control a population 
  1. Target that control at the useless aged 
  1. Deplete small renegade businesses and mop up the margins 
  1. Remind the population who the boss is. 

Gee nee us. 

A place as vast and dense as China can spread an artificial virus in a flash – and then lock it down. The people that need to die: tens of thousands of ill and elderly, briefly mourned and then gone. Billions saved in health, social care etc etc. The authority reaffirmed. Job done. Six months. 

That’s all good. China takes strides towards world superpower through means that not many other nations could because of their inability to exert the same pressures upon their people as the Chinese more than any moral dilemma. There’s little doubt that they all know about what’s going. No doubt that they with they could do the same. It’s become pretty clear that the Western Way is in serious regression as it spends more time on fringe issues than things that matter (though that’s a different thing). 

But what if one of those western nations suddenly has crazy ideas of recreating its former grandeur with an growing economy run my fresh-faced youngsters while the rest of its neighbours age and fade away.  

Somehow Italy managed to get hold of China’s virus and had a go at its own little purge. The oldest population in Europe would soon be the youngest; its health care system, only having to deal with a fraction of the usual cases would be the envy of the world; cash spend on the elderly would go into manufacturing and innovation. Rome would once again rule. 

Trouble is that the European authorities, like the Americans, can’t put their big boots anywhere near the throats of their citizens without major revolt. Recent and more distant conflicts resonate loudly still and previous wars have not faded. People move where they want; they do what they want; they know their rights. And so the virus runs out of control and we all get a piece of it. 

In the long run we’ll all benefit, of course. And in close circles the Italians will be lauded as the world breathes a sigh of relief. 

Coronanotes2

Cases c.350 

The food is untouched in the garage, though I did have to have stern words with eldest for dipping in to the cordial supply. 

“But we had run out of blackcurrant, dad” she said. She didn’t get it. Better half replaced it because she could see where I am with this stuff. 

It shouldn’t be touched. When it is then we are in a situation – or I’ve brought it mainstream because the dates about to go. I might get locks on the cupboards. Or on the garage. I think the roller door may not be strong enough when it comes to it so this will also need considering as we get closer. 

The BBC has a theme tune and graphics for the virus. It has reached celebrity status. Football matches in Italy have been cancelled and the 6nations rugby looks in doubt – just as England is topping the table. 

Italy is in total shut down. The virus really has ravaged that place and people, like in Wuhan a month ago, are being told to stay indoors. 

I’m waiting for it all to blow over. I’m still convinced that it will, but the boss called us all in for an extra briefing today to tell us that he think it likely that the school will be shut at some stage and that we will be expected to teach our usual timetables remotely from home if it does. It sort of takes the gloss off it a bit, and maybe that’s what he wanted. There is no romance to having twenty kids break the peace of the study so that I can teach them through an internet speed decimated by my own kids on Netflix or Youtube or whatever. 

It makes it a little bit realer, though I’m still untouched in any other sense by the virus other than that I can’t find hand sanitiser anywhere on the shop shelves. That said, there’s no UHT milk at the moment, either, and supplies of toilet roll are perilously low. Er guess who’s already got a ton of it in his garage… 

Coronanotes1

Cases c.180 

I suppose it has gone past the point where we can ignore it now. I was hoping that we would be able to; to let it wash over like all of the other things seem to do. 

They’re all so distant and foreign: as far away as they can get with the Australian bush fires; the African Ebola; the Asian tsunamis and earthquakes. It’s all event after event that we see on the screens and read in the newspapers and we feel a twinge beyond fiction because it’s real but we feel no real fear because it’s foreign. The floods in this very county are difficult to really guage the scale of if you don’t see them every day or live by a river and in fear of the same. I had to actually go to Bewdley to see it for myself and even then it was muted. Like water tends to be. 

Even Brexit wasn’t real. Not really. It got close and happened in the places that we recognised and our little ballot cast in the village hall meant that we were invested in it in the only way that we really could be. But it still wasn’t real. It didn’t change the way that the traffic ran on the roads or the colour of the water from the tap. It didn’t alter the taste of chocolate or orgasm and it didn’t make the walk to work any quicker or dryer in the rain. Life goes on and it always will, I think. Save for the tiny little moments of snowfall that grind things to a halt or the rare sporting successes that pump us up. 

But maybe things are going to change for a while in the next few weeks. 

Just as we thought we’d managed to rid from our ears the Brexit worm, a new one comes along. Everyone’s saying it. It’s the word that comes to everyone’s lips and has overtaken the weather as the topic of conversation amongst the we of nothing to say. 

Coronavirus used to be something foreign, too. It was a China thing and then, same thing, a Korean thing. It was interesting in an earthquake, tsunami sort of way but too foreign to care about. Then it hit Europe and now Italy’s shut. Still foreign, true, but getting closer and the cases in the UK getting more and more numerous. 

In my desire to let it wash itself away; in my conviction that the BBC would soon enough get bored and find something else to rattle on about it I occupied myself by filling the empty cupboards in the garage with a couple of things. Only the regular sort of thing that everyone keeps in the garage, of course: 

  • 6x litres UHT milk (Date Nov20) 
  • 10x tins tuna 
  • 20x tins beans 
  • 20x tins chopped tomatoes 
  • 5x kilos rice 
  • 5x kilos pasta 
  • 10x ready to boil flavoured rice 
  • 10x ready to boil pasta in sauce 
  • 20x toilet rolls 
  • 50x ½ litre water bottles 
  • 4x litre cordial 

Nothing major but, you know, just in case… 

You see it’s not the virus that I’m afraid of. It’s the people.