I watched the deputy chief medical officer making an announcement on the television a few days ago. She seems to think that we might be in this lock-down scenario for another six months, which is information I’m sure the majority of us took with an inward gasp of air. It really got me thinking: Obviously people are dying at the moment - in almost staggering numbers - and for the time being, health professionals probably need to be taking the lead in guiding us through the early stages of this pandemic. But, at a certain point, if the economy collapses because no one is allowed to go back to work, we could face a far deeper crisis. We are justifiably protecting the vulnerable in society at the moment, but, as lockdown measures continue, a whole new set of people will find themselves in deep water, and the government can’t keep bailing us out - particularly if there’s no hope of our economy being kick-started.
Of course, there’s a lot of talk of kindness at the moment and, almost every time I look at social media, I find myself moved by the genuinely altruistic gestures of others. But I’m also seeing a lot of self-serving posturing and general virtue-signalling, which I think we could all do without - particularly from celebrities who seem to take great delight in posting their marvellous messages of hope from beautiful houses which look out onto enormous gardens. And, furthermore, in the process of demonstrating that “we’re all in this together”, others are taking to the Internet and being quite horrible to those they feel are not towing the virtuous party line.
After what we went through last summer, it was no surprise to me that a knitter decided to use the “clap for our carers” initiative as an opportunity to “call out” Nathan, whose weekly online knit-a-long happens to start at 8pm on a Thursday, the very time that those of us who felt moved to do so were opening our windows and applauding our over-stretched health service. This knitter’s tone felt horribly smug and self-righteous, as she admonished Nathan for “making money” whilst the rest of us thanked our brave NHS workers. And to that knitter I say the following:
- Nathan’s online knit-a-longs are for people around the world and not just Brits
- Nathan is running them (without any form of monetising) so that people, at the same time each week, can check in with members of their community in a period where many are suffering great loneliness
- Gestures of kindness and solidarity like the “clap for our carers” initiative are only magical if people take part in them because they want to, and not because they’re told it’s a duty.
We really need to stop focussing on what other people are doing and start focussing on what we ourselves are doing during this crisis. Quietly turn the negativity into positivity.
Let me make this statement: We are all different. We are all dealing with this awful situation in the best way we can. Some of us are coping better than others. Some of us are better placed to cope than others. Most government advice, in my experience, seems to assume that the majority of us are part of a nuclear family. But many people I know, of all ages, are living on their own and this lockdown is causing anxiety and waves of terrible loneliness.
The other thing I have observed in the few days I’ve been out of the house for walks since my Covid-19 quarantine effectively came to an end is how people, certainly in London, are really icy with those they pass in the street when they’re out on their constitutionals. I understand that we’re all terrified - but we’re not going to pass coronavirus onto anyone by smiling whilst we’re doing that hysterical do-se-do around them, whilst, simultaneously (if you’re me) holding our breath. It really isn’t very kind to look at everyone you pass like they’re plague victims.
Nathan and I went down to Hampstead Garden Suburb for our walk yesterday. It’s now 18 days since we got the virus, so, by every calculation we’re now fully recovered. I celebrated by getting a vegetarian pastie at Daniel’s, a kosher bakery in Temple Fortune. There were only three people in the shop and two women were queueing behind us. As we turned to leave, one of these women scuttled to the other end of the shop. The woman behind her, somewhat confused, asked if she was still in the queue to which the scuttling woman replied “yes, I just wanted to get away from THOSE people.” She pointed at us like we’d just shat on the floor. As we left, Nathan addressed her, “it’s very difficult not to be offended by that remark…” I’m sure, had she found out that we’d actually had the virus, she would have considered her dreadfully unkind statement to have been justified. As it happened, it just upset me. Coronavirus, it turns out, isn’t a great deal of fun. I have had a pretty awful pair of weeks and I was actually really excited that I had sufficient energy to go for a walk and enough appetite to want to eat a pastie. I get that we’re all terrified, I really do, and perhaps it’s easier for me to say this, as someone who’s recovered relatively unscathed, but we really need to turn down the suspicion by a notch and start to treat those we’re forced to interact with with a little more respect.