BACK IN THE COVID
The Lockdown Diary 3 - Conclusion
It is the 17th of March 2021. It has been a full year since my wife and I entered the first lockdown in 2020 a few days earlier than the 23rd March when it became legally enforced. The Covid is not over and done with as yet by a very long stretch and although life around us is enjoying a few extra freedoms and there are positive signs ahead equally there are negative signs not the least being the number and unknown dangers of evolving variants in countries like Brazil, India, USA, South Africa and the UK where it has been allowed to spread uncontrolled throughout the population. Our future freedoms are now in the hands of scientists seeking to improve vaccinations and a treatment regime around them which, like the humble flu jab, will no doubt be offered regularly.
It is the 17th March 1722, 299 years ago. Daniel Defoe has, this day, published A Journal of The Plague As it had happened in London in 1665. There had been an outbreak in France in 1720 - 21 and 57 years later memories still wary of a recurrence made the whole subject popular in discussions and no doubt Defoe was tapping into this. Even today this book and a follow up volume remains the source of much of the popular imagery we associate with that dreadful disease.
No doubt in the future there will be a wealth of records to work with for Covid 19 significantly more erudite than mine which must now come to an end.
Having myself had Covid 19 in November 2020 I am experiencing so called long Covid symptoms which are improving but are still limiting my ability to work and more to the point, concentrate. In short I’m done as far as this little enterprise is concerned.
Readers might have noticed that towards the end of 2020 my diary entries stopped their monotonous regularity and then occurred several days apart and then weeks. This has been due to a weird form of fatigue which has become the nemesis I battle with daily. Not bodily weariness although it that feels weak, it is both bodily and mental weariness. In 2004 our granddaughter developed ME/CFS which is also a post viral fatigue syndrome and I now know how she must have felt and particularly how dispirited it leaves you.
So by way of a conclusion here is a summary of where we are in the Covid right now and how it seems looking back. Now being the period from 17th March until this finale is finalised, finito, le fin!
Spring 2021 arrives
Even though we are still suffering from late frosts the weather has been sunny and dry and escaping from the house into the garden is back to being a regular feature of our day. I think of April as the yellow month. Sophora, daffs, wallflowers, Forsythia, Erythronium, the young shoots on Acer ‘Drumondii’, more or less in that order, with a handsome finale provided by these incredible tulips (sadly I cannot remember their variety name).
Total lockdown ended on April 8th when some kids returned to school and outdoor socialising on a small scale was permitted with food venues open for outdoors or takeaway consumption only. We acquire some other freedoms back soon but frankly I have lost track of exactly what and when. Covid mental fatigue seems to be setting in on everyone. Clarity and transparency from government is completely lacking, confusion is rife and interpreting rules to suit one’s own inclinations the order of the day. In short the whole thing is breaking down to the point where it will all seem to be over some time ahead of reality. The reality is that , like the common flu, it will never be ‘over’. There will be a third wave.
No doubt scientists are cracking on with the protection regime we will require in the future but plans are not being shared officially. There hints of booster jabs.
We, as we have throughout, are following our own safety regime. At times this has been to the point of obsession in spite of which we both had the disease last November and to this day have no idea how it got us. My wife was fine after a few days. Neither of us had a fever but I had a racking dry cough for 8 days which cleared up as quickly as it started. The false sense of ‘home and dry’ was shattered another week or so later when the heart went crazy, breathing became laboured, eyes became sore and gritty, the sleepiness kicked in and my concentration/cognitive functions disappeared altogether. As I recorded here previously the worst was over after 3 months, heart issues were scary at the time but not permanent or life threatening however the post viral fatigue remains as do some of the eye problems.
Health wise we have had an eventful 12 months. It was necessary to take a third and longer course of treatment for yet another PTSD breakdown and my wife who had called our GP for an indigestion concern, was unceremoniously ambulanced off to A&E bemused and somewhat put out, for a heart concern. She was sent home several hours later and advised to take indigestion tablets! All our other ailments continue unabated but no worse than a year ago. Frankly it is rather nice to have them back like the few familiar friends helping to clear up after a funeral party when the drunken but obligatory guests have all pissed off home and you can laughingly slag them all off.
We appear to have survived at least to this point and on the whole we are both feeling pretty well and positive.
In fact that has been our attitude throughout. I am unable to say how we would cope if another lockdown happens but so far all is well with us mentally and physically in so far as it can be in your 73rd year.
There have been no major ‘domestics’! We had our ups and downs, initially threw ourselves into the Covid with sterling grit inherited no doubt from our parents WWII experiences. We vacillated between fear of catching the virus and FOMO, especially in our relationships with the new great grandchildren. We worked things out , adapted our behaviour and tried to make the most of the positives.
Our natural interest in life about us simply added covid to the list of priority issues we needed to understand and know about if only to see beyond the utter bullshit written in the press and rife on social media much of which is engineered by an extremely incompetent government more concerned about it’s own survival than the survival of it’s citizens. Sadly there have been more than 200,000 deaths many of which could have been avoided by a more timely, more competent and less cavalier approach.
During the interval between Lockdown 1 and 2 in early October, we managed a two week break in Devon at a self-catering cottage. Lovely to be by the sea but weird in a mask! Until then we had not eaten out at all since March.
As individuals and as a society our behaviours have changed. In some instances permanently, in others to such good effect that they have become desirable and should stay. The use of cash has taken a nose-dive. It’s days were numbered but it’s demise now guaranteed. Working from home has proved attractive to employers with expensive city office rents in their overheads and in some form will become the norm for any employee who only needs a computer and an office LAN to plug into and structures to do the latter have been extensively developed. Executives spending the majority of their time abroad can do away with their top floor, mostly unused luxury offices.
Booking system adaptations have worked wonders to keep people from infecting each other but are also of great benefit whether at the doctor’s surgery or at the local rubbish tip. They reduce waiting times and associated stresses by making the flow of traffic through them more predictable and regular.
On line shopping has become the habit of many, ourselves included. Why should we spend a couple of hours in Tesco on our feet and then queue at the checkout for hours when a weekly delivery can cost as little as £2. Clinically vulnerable people have been forced out of necessity for their own safety to stay indoors and let the shopping come to them. Many of these are elderly and this would have been perhaps the first time they have depended on ‘the internet’ for a personal benefit. The Internet has been our great friend throughout in fact. Especially our ability to face call the family and keep in touch.
These are just a few of the changes but in reality they changes in our way of life have been extensive. The internet as an integral component of the functioning of a modern society has been at the forefront of our fight against Covid-19. Here we are fitting in humour where we can by playing cribbage on line, making Covid memories of the better kind.
We saved money. It has been something of a revelation how much of our retirement income was being spent on eating out, usually for convenience rather than a special occasion and on car fuel for days out. This meant that we could help our family with some of their little emergencies and although some of this luxury expenditure will gradually drip back into our habits I doubt we will return to such profligacy.
I became fatter, by about 3kg or more, which, having started at the outset of lockdown as an incorrigible, even dedicated, trencherman, is not at all good. There is an upside; we have eaten much healthier meals than we did before lockdown and on the whole enjoyed cooking them as more of a relaxed regular activity than as a necessity, often a rushed necessity.
The bad things…. ?
I am a natural introvert and I have come to prefer myself as I am, indeed to enjoy it, but this has been a characteristic that societal pressures have obliged me to strive against from boy hood to the end of my working life. If I am honest this has been to the considerable detriment of my mental health over the years and the substrate upon which I eventually succumbed to PTSD following unmanageable trauma, trauma I might otherwise have survived. Lockdown 1 therefore came almost as a release, a mental rest break if you like and not at all resented. My wife and I both felt the same. We were holed up in our home each occupied with our own creative projects and either pottering about the garden or lost in a book of cryptic crossword puzzles. We were doing what we love best free from all the usual obligations and were, in addition, on a voyage of discovery with each other. While the ‘great threat’ was raging outside, in our secure and cosy bubble we were looking out and caring for each other much more than we would normally reserve time for.
We readily acknowledge that ours was an easy Covid especially with the help of our own exceptional family. Although vulnerable and over 70 we never really worried for ourselves, our fears were for our children and their families but also for our community and humanity at large. Our concern drove us to an almost obsessive interest in facts and data (and the trustworthiness of it) and forced us to accept our role as responsible members of society. We obeyed the rules.
And yes, we strayed at times, corrected our course, strayed again and discovered how easy complacency can be reinforced by an ever present need for the physical presence of family especially such a close family as ours.
We had our sixth great grandchild, Harrison, in lockdown and the temptation to stray was unbearable.
It was , I admit, quite a struggle to put this conclusion into coherent thought knowing on the one hand that for humanity and our society as a whole it has been a terrifying, life changing and uncertain time. Tragedy has been all around us and ever present either in disruption, personal loss, job loss, business closures, loss of life, ongoing health issues or relationship breakdowns. Young mothers have struggled with protecting their families, working from home and kids at home, with mixed, incoherent messaging from a vacillating government. This has been a debilitating cocktail of stresses on family mental health. It is interesting to reflect upon how society’s structures, systems and provisions interlock to largely avoid mental unwellness in spite of the normal high stress levels which we have become inured to and which we take for granted (mistakenly I think) as the reality of life. Personal freedoms are critical to self care when it comes to psychological health. The importance of a holiday break at a time of one’s own choosing is not to be underestimated.
Health care, social care, education, welfare for the vulnerable, policing, the whole lot is damned fragile it seems and thanks to Tory government policy even more so due to under funding and under resourcing. The Covid has broken society in many ways, testing it’s limits and exposing the greed of inherent in right wing politics as it seeks to mitigate against it’s own losses and heap most of the bad consequences of this pandemic on the poor, the vulnerable and the defenceless who are suffering the most. Apparently to this government spending £37 billion on a seemingly non-functioning Track and Trace system or bunging a Tory party donor a lucrative PPE contract is far more important than feeding poor kids free school meals over the Christmas holidays in a pandemic for a paltry few million pounds.
For clarification I am not a socialist. I hold that membership of any political party an intellectually demeaning signpost to a partially closed mind. Capitalist economics works, socialist economics does not. Simple historical experience attests to this as a fact of life. However I know what is right and wrong and the twin disasters of The Covid and Brexshit have taught me that politics must stand with religion as the two greatest curses to have ever beset mankind.
Covid-19 is the sickness that threatens us from without. Covid, aided and abetted by that other great national setback, Brexshit, has however laid bare the sickness within, the deep ideological sickness of a society dominated and enslaved by a nationalistic, mostly religious, pseudo-feudal, privileged and rich elite, their supremacy perpetuated by an antiquated, undemocratic FPTP voting system. They are supported by an openly or unconsciously racist, nationalistic, elderly demographic who insist on pre-determining the future of those that follow and all of this is being maintained by a government driven to systemic mendacity, secrecy, a complete disrespect for standards and the law, authoritarianism, propaganda, control of the media and the marginalisation of Parliament. Covid has exposed the disturbing fact that our present ‘Lords and Masters’ do not value us as citizens or individuals and have a moral outlook which allows them to raise the value of wealth, especially theirs, above human lives, especially ours.
We have such an enormous amount of civilising to get on with!
But get on with it we must, for the sake of our grandchildren and great grandchildren and I am optimistic. Education cannot be reversed, economic interest cannot be suppressed, the truth goes on being true no matter how clever the lies and always comes out in the end. The elderly demographic which keeps them in power has at most twenty years left for their insidious influence to count. Religion, which drives more right wing political ideology than most people realise is in terminal decline. Communication via the internet has put the world on our desktops and our mobile phones. Trump fell, Bolsonaro is falling, Orban is weakened by his need to oppress, Erdogan’s religous agenda is anti-youth and dictatorial, Modi’s failure to prevent Covid from overtaking India threatens his tenure as it did Trump and as it will Bolsonaro in Brazil. None of their damage is irreversible, some of it will take time.
We will, one-day, return to more responsible, caring liberal government (small ‘l’)and rejoin the EU initially via the single market and the EEA. Not in my lifetime possibly but we will sometime, down the road and then we will reflect on what it was like “Back in the Covid”. As the bigger picture of history emerges we will realise that civilisation, during that tragic period, took a step forward not back and that The Covid paved our way to Enlightenment II.
Completed 30th April 2021
I have one overriding and horrific mental image that will not fade. Embedded in my consciousness during the first few weeks of The Covid is a scene of mind numbing and fear-shivering horror in which a patient is dying alone in a hospital bed without family or loved ones around. This scene has been re-enacted on a cataclysmic scale. 200,000 plus lives in the UK alone in silently slipping away in unmitigated, uncomforted anguish.
A vital but vulnerable nurse stands by the distressed patient who has become a political plaything between the opposing forces of profit and economics on the one hand and medical science on the other. She too is traumatised, exposed to potentially fatal consequences and emotionally overwhelmed in her attempt to sustain such levels of selfless care.
She contemplates the gold ring on the blotched finger of this desperate, ravaged soul, a token of love turned symbol of loneliness and dread, cries a little more inside, and moves on to the next bed looking sadly back.