To start on a positive note: I got over to Portugal and it was completely worth it. While Britain suffered rain / hail / snow / wind and freezing conditions, I had to lie in over twenty degrees of sunshine for six glorious days. Blue skies, bright sunshine, beer, cocktails and gin. It was magnificent!
I’m back now though.
But… back to what?
I was aware of the virus while I was away but only in the back of my mind. So far back that I was surprised to find notes on a story I’d sketched out where everyone in the three main hotels at the top of the cliff were all dead and rotting and that I was sitting, totally alone, on Praia de Falesia. That’s it in the banner photo at the top. There are worse places to be sat all alone. It’s hard to imagine going from that glorious week of leisure and plenty to the Zombie Apocalypse that meets us in every major supermarket. Apparently, we are not very nice people. Apart from stockpiling toilet rolls (does anyone even get that?), pasta, flour and cereals, there are also reports of people taking baby milk off the shelves because they’re worried about their tea and cornflakes. Those people should literally die of shame.
I understand some degree of panic. We live in a sheltered, oddly false reality where we don’t really need for anything. There is poverty, certainly, and that is mostly caused through neglect by our political system: being kind to the down and out and unfortunate doesn’t attract votes. But most people can afford a phone and a car and the odd holiday. Single parents get the sticky end big time as does anyone with mental health issues. But for most of us, we can get by. So the absolute mayhem that has descended upon our society has no basis in need whatsoever. It is purely selfish. I had a panic because I couldn’t get my favourite tonic water for my gin (I’m a tonic snob and spend far more on that than the actual booze) but it wasn’t going to end my world. We have an old bottle of out-of-date ginger cordial that will fizz up and gin and ginger is pretty awesome anyway.
The keeping away from each other is proving difficult for a lot of people and confusing as well. Some folks just don’t get it. The information is out there but has gone from hellishly complicated to frighteningly simple. Of course, there’s always the option of just looking at the graphs that go all the way from ten of thousands lost to tens of millions. It makes you wonder what’s going on in the heads of people who are queuing, within inches of each other, every morning at six in order to get toilet roll and hand sanitiser. I guess they don’t realise that they’re compounding the problem that they think they are trying to avoid. Maybe they’re self-isolating for the times that they’re not breathing down the necks of complete strangers. This situation is showing a society that is much sicker than we ever thought. I can understand how the country was divided by careful manipulation of political propaganda but it seems that leaving those people to their own devices produces something even more destructive and terrifying. Maybe we are all doomed. One bad apple and all that.
The psychological impact is quite interesting. Many people are embracing the outdoors, either walking, running, gardening or just strolling about. Others are getting angry now that the clubs and pubs have closed and their social lives have been effectively ended. Some are carrying on as though nothing has happened and that the shopping and social restrictions are just minor irritants. Some are behaving as though it is the end of times (we’ve already covered the nutters) and some are genuinely confused and terrified. For me, the overall effect (and we’ve only just started into this thing) has been one of apathy and disappointment. I planned on going in the garden or walking in the peaks or going for a run (god knows I need one!) but instead, I just feel as though I can’t be arsed to do anything. I know that this is a bad thing and that it will grow and fester and mutate into something really unpleasant. My usual bout of anxiety upon waking, that would normally last for about five or ten minutes, is now extending into the day. I can’t put my finger on it but I feel somehow disconnected. I never expected this. And I don’t really understand it.
I have never and will never panic buy but there are a few things we need: tinned tomatoes, eggs, mushrooms, orange juice. And I know I could probably get those by visiting a few local stores. But the idea of going out there and engaging with the problem fills me with dread. I guess I’m burying my head in the sand. Like I said, apathy. But I suspect it has more to do with the disappointment that I mentioned. I was disappointed that we chose to become a separate, nationalist entity; I was disappointed that we chose to put a lying clown in charge and I’m disappointed that a large part of the species that I belong to turn out to be stupid, selfish bastards. It’ll pass. No doubt. And, in the meantime, I’ll bolster my spirits with other types of spirit, the ethanol type. I’ll keep it to an evening habit and I’ll keep it down to a relaxing but relatively safe level. As long as my liver holds out, I’ll probably be okay. I’m blessed with a fabulous family and, who would have thought just how important social media would become in keeping people sane? My thoughts go out to those who are truly alone and struggling. I hope that they find someone nearby who can help them through this.
Maybe we’ll all come out of this stronger. There are some heartwarming stories of altruism out there and that cheers me. The NHS staff and supermarket staff are absolute heroes and I hope that everyone remembers that when this is finally over. But I don’t think we will ever forget how selfish some of our kind can be. As humans, we are tainted forever.
On that happy note, stay safe, stay in and stay well. Keep reading and don’t forget that you can always check out my website!
Look after each other. See you in April…