Saturday 4th April 2020
It’s been a long time coming. The sun is out and the temperatures are climbing into whole double digits. After 7 months of Great British winter it’s about feckin time, and normally an excuse for the entire country to have a sickie-induced, unofficial national holiday. Windows open with music blaring, everyone in shades and shorts, sunning themselves on beaches, parks and traffic islands, sinking timetables as trains come to screeching halts from the ‘wrong type of sunshine’ or buckling rails in the heat shimmer. The distant tinkle of ice cream vans as the new morning-to-night chorus, churning out their tinny renditions of Ode to Spring and ice-cream flavoured plastic. Tube carriages becoming searing animal transportation scandals, as the motorways and country lanes choke with daytrippers, in 15 degrees.
Well, the country’s on high alert to battle this oncoming tide of wellwishers and semi-pagan worshippers. Lines of armed convoys, army escorts, throbbing helicopters and arm-to-arm sweeps of the Picnic police.
A woman and child in Kettering were caught inflagrante with a bucket and spade. A grandfather in Looe with a fishy looking pole. Then that family in Southwark, claiming their children (holding picnic blankets and rackets) weren’t theirs. The three teenagers in Birkenhead, whose burgeoning pregnancy turned out to be a football. Chopper footage of three people in Brixton dancing around a radio, though they said it was epilepsy.
The horror. In all seriousness though, this deceptive kinda shit is killing people. The Health dept is now looking at banning the daily ‘exercise’ that is drifting up the beauty spots and vista points with cars, winnebagos and selfies. The Western govts are increasingly looking at smartphone tech now, that can trace your whereabouts (as if they don’t already do), like they did in Asia to alert others if a newly infected person had recently been in contact or passed nearby. The legendary Spring Breakers who broke US advice to party in Mexico were apparently tracked the whole way, and are now facing the consequences along with their hangovers and teen pregnancies. Likewise the same may soon be happening here, your records of diverting suspicously through the Peak District, or via your bosses wife or the atmospheric dells of Clapham Common at 4am for all to see.
Today I got progress on the glowering thing that’s long been in the back of my mind (after the world collapsing and tens of millions dying of course, of course) these past few weeks. The first coupla pages of my book I’m trying to write, with great feedback from some literary aficionados that have seen me re-write them from scratch, but with less description and a change in chronology. When writing it’s like trying to paint a vast picture while hovering only a few inches away, unable to step back and see the unruly splodges that mar it, nor the overall composition. It takes someone else to come in and point out that my portrait has three eyes, or a bird’s shat on the corner, or it looks like an untrammelled disaster and I really should take up plasticine figures again.
I also missed my sisters’ birthdays; both of them born two years apart but on the same day -C looking chuffed in a family snap over a big double-candled cake, yet strangely missing mum who’d just gone into labour. I look at these bygone pics and wonder if Now marks a turning point between worlds, that of Before and that of After, always after. They say social distancing may last years, and that older folk may have to be shuttered away till the next one, though my civil servant friend who’s not allowed to say, but has conveyed (through the art of mime) that the govt hopes it’ll be over by June.
708 people died today in the UK, overtaking Spain and Italy, where the Midlands has now become the new epicentre with over 200 deaths (almost double London). 5 London bus drivers were among the day’s dead. We’re still an estimated 7-10 days away from peak. And does it even register with us any more? We are growing a shell to the fate of others, beyond our little chalk-drawn, spray-painted, wall-built delineations.
Spain is now seeing a second day of lowering its figures to a ‘healthy’ 674, on the heels of Italy also down to 681, both of whom were recording tallies of up to 950 in the previous week. The US took 1,344 into the highest daily death toll ever. Italy remains the country with the highest deaths so far, over 15,000.
Meanwhile China is saying it will not limit its production of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and ICUs to any country, like a teacher trying to break up bickering students. The kind who are pulling each others hair and stealing phones, to the tune of hundreds of ICU’s appropriated on the way to Spain or Italy, or the US barring factories from sending any equipment to any other country other than itself, even if they’d already commissioned and paid for them.
This is a bit like a fun game of catch which everyone had been enjoying by the rules, but then started holding on for too long. Until The Great Orange Dolphin comes along, barges poor Flipper out the way, and eats the damn ball.
I literally cannot point it out further, like a stuck record. How there are certain ideas in people’s minds projected into societies, in turn becoming governmental policies that are undermining this entire effort to stop the pandemic globally. We need to be united and working as a team, not as a committee, and not as a rival rugby troop. Sometimes you do need that perspective, to not put fences around your own little claims, and sense of righteousness over others.
I realise I am that teacher now, shouting empty words like a stuck record to a roomful of lounging, scrolling, smoking, casually sexting youth. Like a door greeter in the Disney Store churning out those empty niceties, or a production line products to the wrong client.
One day we may look back at all this and be appalled. Or will we? Will these transgressions ever see the light of day again? Or just be portrayed as a lovely staycay with govt support and no, we know nothing of stealing those meds meant for our neighbours who couldn’t afford it, but we could so we deserved it more. Ah, the snapshot of human life, to stand back and appreciate.