The cruellest month…
I’ve probably said that before.
These are strange days indeed. We are now a lunar month into lockdown and things are beginning to calm down a little: the supermarkets have got their heads around how to control us and the panic buying seems to have almost vanished. There was never a shortage of anything anyway, just empty shelves and bursting pantries (does anyone have a pantry anymore?) We have been blessed with some lovely weather so sitting in the garden and connecting with neighbours has been a very positive thing. My heart goes out to those who don’t have that facility. Up here, in Sheffield, it’s not considered a luxury to have an open garden with a one hundred and fifty metre perimeter but, down in London in would be a house worth millions. Even in major city centres, space is at a premium. I have family who are confined to flats with no open space and this must be like being in prison. As I said last month: thank god for social media. Not words that I thought I would ever express.
It isn’t so much not seeing family as not being able to see family. Every day, we are reminded that we have to stay in our own small space with permission to shop or go for a run round the block. Under normal circumstances, I can go a week or more without seeing my kids and grandkids, but these are not normal days at all, and knowing that I can’t go to them, even if there is some problem, is very hard. It’s a kind of social breath-holding that has already gone on far too long. We’re all, subconsciously, swimming madly for the surface. There are signs, particularly in America (where many people are batshit crazy anyway), of serious fatigue setting in. Impatience. Anger even. I know that a lot of young people have been criticised for not sticking to the rules but, can you remember being eighteen? You were immortal. And some heavy cold that’s killing off people who should be dead anyway isn’t going to keep you from pursuing your hedonistic, teenage urges. I remember skipping a family funeral so I didn’t have to be away from my mates. The idea of grounding myself for six weeks to avoid a fifth of one percent chance of catching a heavy cold would have been unthinkable. Try and remember being that age before you judge them.
The news is full of speculation as to when the lockdown might end or if a vaccine is close to completion. None of it all that hopeful really. The Orange Twat across the pond conjured an old memory of mine: he heard (via unknown and possibly unearthly sources) that light and heat kill the virus. So he asked if there was a way of introducing light and heat to the inside of the body as a possible cure. He did this at a press briefing so clearly has no sense of self-awareness. Further to that, he claimed that disinfectant also killed the virus and that maybe injecting people with (bleach? who knows?) could be considered by the scientific community. He was rightly lambasted for being an imbecile. However… I remember, back as a boy in Stoke on Trent, that we had bottles of medicine made up by the chemist at times of colds and flu outbreaks. This medicine was called Fennel (that’s how we pronounced it). However, in reality, it was a dilution of Phenol in water and we used to take a dessertspoon of it every night to avoid pesky germs and viruses. As late as 1972, my father had a chemist in Chesterfield make up a solution for us. I remember it vividly. I have questioned this memory but, as the last instance was when I was fourteen, it seems fairly reliable. Along with the name that was used for it and, if any further proof was needed, my memory of the taste. You can’t untaste TCP once you’ve had it in your mouth. I can find no account of this practice anywhere on line except for the use of phenol spray as a mouth cleanser and treatment for sore throats. Also, the Nazis used to inject it into people as an efficient and cheap way of killing them. Maybe that’s what Trump was getting mixed up with.
Filling time without wasting time has become something of a challenge. We only have one go at this thing called life so, if there is any such thing as a sin, then wasting that given time must be one. We’re all guilty of wishing our lives away: end of school term; run up to a holiday; end of a dental appointment; end of jail term… But the situation in which we find ourselves, wasting time seems all the more distasteful. Exercise is one good way of using it, as is growing seedlings and potting them on. We’ve been doing both of those things. Being creative should be something we could all indulge in but, for those of us who do spend a lot of time in creative pursuits, this is almost impossible. To be creative requires a degree of mindfulness (or lack of), of relaxation, of being able to ‘get into the zone’. None of this is possible while we’re worrying about the end of times. I know, hippy bullshit. It’s true though. I have two novels that are stuck (when haven’t I?) but I can’t even think about them. My mind won’t settle. So the idea that this is an ideal time to ‘write that novel’ or ‘learn that instrument’ is nonsense. I’m sure there are plenty of folks out there who would contradict me.
One of the most enjoyable activities during this lockdown has been the use of alcohol. It has taken a turn for the vaguely serious. Before all this started, my reduction in alcohol intake was a work in progress. Now, not only has that been abandoned but I appear to have taken the whole idea as a challenge. It’s no secret that the government recommendations of twenty units a week for adult males and fourteen for adult females (has anyone ever tried getting into a drinking contest with a girl!) are completely arbitrary. A figure was demanded and a figure was given. I mean, twenty units? That’s less than a good bottle of wine a week. How does that work. And anyway, we should be led by example and our fuzzy-haired blonde prat of a PM appears constantly pissed and has openly admitted to abusing class A drugs. I wear my hundred plus units per week with pride! Still not absolutely certain that I can class it as time well spent, unless that time is measured in units of pleasure and contentment.
Anyway, as April draws slowly to a close and May is just around the corner, I wish everyone peace, health and happiness. This won’t last forever. What it’ll be like afterwards, I can only guess. We all want to go back to normal, but what is normal anymore? Will we tolerate billionaires and multi-national companies calling the shots? Will we go back to ignoring homelessness and the piss-poor wages of public sector workers? I hope we don’t but there will have to be some fundamental rethinking and cultural change if we want to achieve anything like that. Maybe new movements will emerge or old ones become more powerful. It’s definitely time for revolution but I really fear that no-one will be arsed.
I’ve interspersed these ramblings with spring pictures. There is no relevance to the text. They are simply an effort to inject something pleasant into a situation that is anything but.
Remember to check out my Web Site. Stay safe and see you in May!