Monthly Archives: March 2020

Covid-19

I never thought I’d renew this blog in circumstances anything like this, and yet here I am posting twice in two days, on a topic that’s entered our collective consciousness so swiftly and completely. I promise not to bombard you with Covid-19 ramblings every day – if I manage to reinvigorate this blog I’ll try to keep the old emphasis on fiction first and foremost, because I for one need the escapism!

But I’ve been thinking something about the disease and this seems as good a place as any to record those thoughts.

Covid-19 Crisis

As modern Westerners, we’re not used to large-scale crises on our own doorstep. We read about them on the news and in history books, we feel sympathy and we may even be inspired to act, but it’s hard to empathise and the actions we take almost never jeapordise our own wellbeing. We are removed, and we are safe.

This taken-for-granted sense of safety has been apparent to me twice before in my life. In 2001, I watched the USA reeling from a terrorist attack on their own shores. It was shocking and terrible for all of us, the world over, but as a Brit, I was surprised by the depth of the reaction of Americans. And then I realised – I had grown up with a constant awareness of terrorism in my community. Although I had never (mercifully) witnessed it myself, I knew every time I went into a city centre, to a concert or on a train, that there could be an IRA bomb, or at least an evacuation, and I had seen the effects on the news when they happened. I hadn’t grown up scared, but nor did I find it mind-blowing that terrorists had attacked and killed people. Americans I knew didn’t seem to have the same level of normalisation to this type of violence, so their grief and fear and shock were heightened by genuine surprise that it had happened at all.
Then in 2009, I lay down for bed on a Sunday night and felt an intense pain in my chest. I couldn’t inhale fully and we rushed to the hospital for what I think was my first trip to A&E (the ER). I received treatment, stayed overnight and was home the next day with a diagnosis of Pulmonary Embolism and the medication to make it better. On Wednesday, I got the train to work. I lasted a couple of hours, then went home and stayed away for almost 6 months. It seems crazy now that I went into work on that Wednesday, but I genuinely had no idea I could be that ill. I’d never had more than a couple of days off at a time, and I know I now had the drugs to make me better. It was several weeks before I came to terms with the fact that I was really quite ill, and probably a couple of months before it really sank in that I wasn’t immortal.
All of which is a long way of analogising what the Western world is going through at the moment. Most of us, for the first time ever, find ourselves in an actual, day-to-day, community-wide crisis. There is something we can do, but it’s completely messed up the things we took for granted – popping out for cream just because we’ve decided to have cake for dinner, sending the kids to school or taking them to the park, buying enough bread to feed the carb-monsters’ daily cravings…
We are the ones who look on and help (or don’t), we are communities where one person gets terrible news and the rest of us rally round; this is not a place where everyone gets terrible news and the capacity for rallying is severely diminished by the need to stay away. We aren’t those people who queue for bread, wear face masks in the street and celebrate finding toilet paper in the store. Those people live in the history books and in the ‘Third World’.
And yet here we are.
We are learning to live with this new normal, and we will, because we are human beings and those people have much to teach us about the human capacity for resilience in the face of ongoing, universal crisis. But let’s not expect to go to work on Wednesday, or to carry penknives in our hand luggage for a long time to come.
We’re in this together… 6 feet apart.
Virus-free. www.avg.com

 

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Covenant

After a long (looong) hiatus, I have been inspired by an old writing buddy to pop back and post about an old, fictional friend. Melanie never ages, so she is still 7ish, but now Sebastian is 7 too; he wasn’t born when she started being 7 in my head. Yesterday we chalked our walk (and those of some friends we are missing!) – the blue writing above it is hard to read but says “We’re in this together”.

 

rainbow

Covenant

When I stuck the last red heart to the living room window it made a complete rainbow of hearts and I couldn’t see so much of the street outside. For a whole week now, we’ve been stuck here, in the house, waiting. Waiting for the government to say we can go out again? Waiting to get bored? That’s happened already. Just waiting, I guess. Every day, I’ve folded and cut and pasted up tissue paper hearts of a different colour. Now the rainbow is done and I’ll have to think of something else to do with the long hours indoors.

Looking out of the window doesn’t help really. There’s nothing to see. A few people wearing those little blue paper masks. They wear those at the hospital a lot, but they’re everywhere. Do they really help? Does the invisible enemy really care about a tiny scrap of paper?

Mrs Mwana has put up a rainbow too. Mrs Mwana always has amazing sweets that she keeps in a little jar and now the wrappers shine their colours across the street. “It’s like hugging,” Mrs Mwana said, “Put something in your window each day and I will do the same. That way we know each other is there.”

I said we should do a rainbow because the rainbow is the symbol of God’s covenant not to kill all the people again in a massive flood. Mrs Mwana doesn’t believe in God, so she said “I’m not sure about God, sweetheart, but this is our covenant. You and me.”

Mrs Mwana’s rainbow has stopped at the orange line. I should go across and check she’s OK, but Daddy said nobody was allowed to go outside or touch each other. It’s why we can’t visit Mummy at the hospital any more. Not even to say goodnight.

I wonder what Mummy is doing right now. Sleeping, probably, Mummy spends a lot of time sleeping. Last week, I was watching Mummy sleeping and I wondered how they would know when she died. Would she really look any different? I asked Mrs Mwana. Mrs Mwana said not to worry, the doctors would know. Then she said “And when it happens, you come and see me so that we can say goodbye to her spirit.”

Except now I can’t even hug Mummy goodnight and I can’t visit Mrs Mwana and if Mummy does die, there’ll be no way to say goodbye to her spirit because I’m locked in this stupid house with this stupid rainbow that doesn’t even block out the weird, broken world or the horrible virus that’s flooding across the planet to kill everyone I love.

I want tear down the hearts, because God broke his covenant and Mrs Mwana broke her covenant or she’s lying dead in her kitchen and can’t even tell me. Then I see something moving in her window. Mrs Mwana is taping red sweet wrappers over the top of the orange ones. She sees me and points upwards to where a cloud catches the light from her sweet wrappers, or maybe it’s God, painting his promise back onto the sky.

 

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