One Month On

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Yesterday, 24 April, we in the UK reached the one month mark in our Covid-19 lockdown. It’s a rather odd experience – are we all in it together, or in isolation…? I’m lucky. I live in a place which is not very densely populated; going for a walk or even doing a shop in the local supermarket doesn’t cause great social distancing problems. And I have access to some garden space so most afternoons at the moment are spent sitting in the sun getting on with my crochet while listening to a podcast. The crochet is a rather complicated shawl in case you’re wondering, one of those projects you put aside until you have enough time for it. Well, if not now, then when…?

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I’ve got loads of podcasts downloaded on to my phone, and I rather enjoy just sitting there listening while my hands are busy. For example, the BBC World Service’s 13 Minutes to the Moon, all about the successful Apollo 11 landing on the Moon in 1969, and then series 2 about the rescue of Apollo 13 when that mission went disastrously wrong. It’s escapism literally out of this world! I’ll be listening to Death in Ice Valley next, if you want another recommendation, and The Doorstep Murder looks good too.

This all makes it sound as if I’ve entered a kind of dreamlike state within my own personal lockdown, and of course I haven’t. I’m not one of those people who report going stir crazy because they can’t go out, but I greatly miss physical contact with my children and grandchildren even though I do catch the occasional glimpses of them on Zoom. It’s just that the sun makes it all so much more bearable than the early weeks when you were quite glad not to go out because it was cold and wet most of the time. And you would listen obsessively to 24-hour media to hear the same old news and opinions being rehearsed over and over again, as if hearing it for the umpteenth time would somehow change the basic fact that there is a global pandemic and the world is in quarantine.

I don’t do that any more – I catch up morning and evening, and the rest of the time try not to allow the Coronavirus to take over my every waking thought. I’ve learned over the past month that I need to strive to set my own agenda for the day – if I let the news do it I just end up getting all hot and bothered about what should and shouldn’t have been done, is being done now, will be done in the future. The trouble is that everyone has an opinion, from the US President who seems to think that if we injected ourselves with cleaning fluid we could make this whole thing go away, to the great British public who have largely adopted a kind of Dunkirk spirit embodied by the marvellous 99 year old veteran, Captain Tom Moore.

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I remember the moon landing being the go-to news the minute you got home from school in 1969 (I was 15 that year), rather in the way Covid-19 is now, or at the beginning of the year Brexit – remember Brexit? –  before the world changed and we became obsessed with something rather bigger. Back in the sixties families would huddle round our wee black and white televisions watching events in real time, along with, it seemed, most of the rest of the world. There really was a huge Earth-wide collective holding of breath until those Apollo astronauts finally touched down safely after their perilous missions. That’s the way I remember it anyhow.

We tend, we humans, to come together at times of great triumph and disaster – royal weddings, sporting victories, wars, natural disasters, the death of a much revered personage. We remember those events, we remember where we were when we learned of the death of Princess Diana, or JFK, or John Lennon – insert your own iconic figure here – and the memory of them becomes a shared cultural experience that we use as reference points as part of our very identity. Funny thing is we often feel as if we were actually there when in reality all we’ve done is watch it on television.

So with the Coronavirus. There will, eventually, be life after lockdown. We will be like the Londoners emerging from the Underground Stations after an air-raid warning in the midst of the blitz, blinking and coughing in the daylight, battered and bruised but glad to be alive.

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In the meantime, I suppose we just need to do what it takes to get past this. We can’t see enemy planes flying overhead, but the peril is no less real, casualties heartbreaking, those on the front line heroic.  I have misgivings about the curtailment of our civil liberties,  questions about exactly WHICH science it is the politicians are following and what seem like broken promises over PPE or testing. We must continue asking these questions, but for now we are largely suspending our disbelief and focusing on the bigger picture. 

And I am finding a genuine sense of us all being in it together – when you venture to the shops or walk along the street, most people nod and smile as they neatly step off the pavement in order to stay 2 metres away, or chat as they wait in line to be allowed in to the supermarket. When we go out and do our Thursday shout-out for the NHS, neighbours grin and wave at each other – in fact I’ve seen people from across the street that I’d never even met until all this started.

I’m learning to be less hard on myself now that I’ve finally accepted that left to myself my two favourite pastimes are sleeping and eating. Any day is a success which consist of more than just getting up, having breakfast and then going back to bed until it’s time to eat again (I’m not kidding!). I try to write every day, box sets are good, but really, it’s knitting and crochet that are getting me through. Sometimes the only thing that helps is to get the hook out and make yet another rainbow….

 

Is Politics Dead?

spring-1I took a bit of a break last month, what with Easter and all that; spent a few days in Cork with the Irish grandchildren, which was lovely. And it seems that, however haltingly, spring has arrived at last.

But now that the welcome Easter hiatus is over, it seems as if it’s back to the same old same old on the political front. Even front page news such as the fire at Notre Dame Catherdal, the shocking killing of the young journalist, Lyra McKee, on Good Friday, and the terrible massacres in Sri Lanka seem to offer only a temporary respite from the interminable debate over how to progress with that most poisoned of poisoned chalices, the great Brexit debacle. An issue that seems to have sucked the oxygen away from all other debates.

Most Members of Parliament in any country say they got into politics to make a difference. That may or may not be true, and I’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt, but to be honest it becomes increasingly difficult to suspend one’s disbelief when you look at the absolute dog’s dinner that is being made of the so-called negotiations for Britain to leave the European Union. The only thing that everyone in our divided country seems to agree upon at the moment is that our politicians are hardly covering themselves in glory as day after day we hear spokespersons from one side or the other endlessly rehearse what have become increasingly tired old arguments.

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I regard myself as quite a political animal. I always go out and vote, brought my children up to do the same – “People died to give you the vote, the least you can do is get out there and use it!” I love that feeling that in your own small way, you are participating in the march of history when you stand there in the polling booth and mark the paper with your cross. These days you can keep up with the results on the internet, but in the olden days (!) you had to stay up all night tuned in to the BBC as one or other Dimbleby told you the results as they came in, with Jon Snow in the background analysing what it all meant on his his famous swingometer.

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Of course it’s all much more sophisticated nowadays, with computer graphics and animations, and endless polls from social media giving you continuous updates. If I’m honest I do feel a certain nostalgia for those rickety old sets and the ponderous pronouncements of the great and the good. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the way the candidates all have to assemble behind the Returning Office as s/he announces the results of the ballot one by one. Long may that tradition continue – how else could we see the spectacle of Theresa May in the same lineup as Lord Buckethead, Elmo and Mr Fishfinger. That’s democracy for you….

democracyNow, if we could only get over the current obsession with Brexit, perhaps we could go back to the cut and thrust of proper politics.  Honest politics where politicians gain support because of their ability to inspire and unite us rather than cause us shame and embarrassment as they muddle around in ever decreasing circles in a mire of their own making.bedlam