Friday 13th March
It’s 6am. I open the curtains and the chimney pots are black against the pale streaked sky. Gulls wheel and cry. It’s just like any other morning except my first thought is coronavirus. How many more cases? How many more deaths? More bad news. Schools in Ireland are closed. Justin Trudeau’s wife has the virus along with a number of other political figures. The rest of the world begins to shut down. Children in Italy paint posters of rainbows with upbeat slogans.
Everything is provisional. Events, meetings, holidays………No-one says ‘weather permitting’ or ‘God willing’. My drumming group has a lengthy discussion on WhatsApp about meeting tomorrow and from now on. We make the decision to cancel meantime. Do we go to classes, attend events? How much food should we have in the house? Enough for four weeks? Older Daughter and Son have lots of pasta. Younger Daughter has wholesale quantities of rice. Will milk be available or should we freeze some? We have bought a thermometer online. They are selling out fast. Someone mentioned paracetamol shortages. I am on eight a day just now and would struggle without them. I have requested a repeat prescription.
I think back over books I’ve read on pandemics, fictional and historic. Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year, Station Eleven by Emily St John Mandel, The Last Town on Earth by Thomas Mullen as well as the two featured below and many more. There is comfort in being safely unaffected by the scary events of a story or the distant past. However, as the news increasingly tells us of a world crisis and new measures being put in place, the fiction becomes our reality.
How then do we cope? Wee Boy was briefly upset because his school assembly was postponed today but is largely unconcerned. Minecraft is his default distraction. You can die but immediately respawn. This is Steve, hero of Minecraft, ready to attack a creeper (coronavirus?) with his diamond sword.
As a ‘vulnerable elderly person’ with many friends in the same age group, how worried should I be? Our choir concert tomorrow night for which people have been rehearsing for many months has now been cancelled so we have been spared the decision of whether to go. Younger Daughter phones, very concerned about putting us and her dad at risk, saying that they probably won’t be seeing us for a while and that perhaps we should ‘think about self-isolating’ from now on. After a moment of feeling I might actually cry, I reflect that I’m very fortunate in having such a thoughtful daughter and lucky to have had actual physical contact with all my close family recently. We do keep in touch very regularly by phone, video calling and online. And as my wise child says, although Canny Rob and I both consider ourselves fit and well, we both have ‘underlying health problems’ and it is only four weeks since my knee surgery.
As Baby Boomers we are not inclined to give up taking part in any of the activities we enjoy. The University of the Third Age and similar organisations are hugely popular and many of us enjoy travelling freely here and abroad. In January I was proud to be marching for an independent Scotland and fully intending to do so again in Arbroath in April. Sensibly, this has been put off until 2021. However, our children and younger friends and relatives are concerned for our welfare. They would rather we stayed at home for a while than risk becoming seriously ill. And they are right. Ironically, I had been thinking about my older friends and relatives – the over 80s and 90s if you like – and thinking I should avoid direct contact with them, but there are a lot of us between 70 and 80 who may well develop the more serious symptoms. Talked to Older Daughter tonight. As a data analyst she has a good grasp of the figures, but still admits to feeling anxious. Walking round the block in the sunshine today, I wondered why I felt a nagging bleakness, almost like the start of a depressive episode, then realised that to feel sad and worried was a perfectly normal reaction to events. Someone in Scotland just died.
All I can do is wash my hands properly, stop hugging my friends, stay at home, walk round the block again tomorrow and get on with simple distractions in the house. After four weeks that’s becoming a way of life. At least now I’m off the heavy duty painkillers, I can have a glass of wine and read more than a page of my book before nodding off.
Spring flowers in the courtyard are cheering. Life goes on. This too will pass. We can have our family Easter celebration in May, or June or whenever. The internet allows us to communicate in lots of ways with the people we care about, wherever they are. I just spoke to my friend in Seattle. She lives in a block of flats and is avoiding the lift. A coughing woman said she had a Gummi Bear stuck in her throat. Very glad to hear from a close friend that she is not travelling to Italy after all but is worried about family there.
On a lighter note, I’d like to share this with you (apologies to Facebook and William Shakespeare). It makes a change from Happy Birthday. Click to play:
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Thank you so much. So pleased you liked it!
Balanced and beautiful, love your lady Macbeth, will be thinking ” out damn spot” every time I wash my hands x
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If coronavirus scares you, read this to take control over your health anxiety