Just when we seemed to be – at last – emerging from the cages of lockdowns and keeping away from people – they called it “keeping safe” – just as all this suffocating pressure looked like being relaxed , there was another strain of the virus discovered. The omicron. No one seems to know for sure if it will be stronger or weaker than the other variants and how it will react to people that have been vaccinated. (I can see some people arguing that vaccination is a waste of time if it doesn’t stop you getting ill – just a little less seriously ill, but even double jabbed individuals with a booster jab as well can get ill and also pass the virus on to their contacts. So why bother with the whole thing? )
I’m told in the First World War people went on about the fighting being “all over by Christmas”, I expect they did the same in other conflicts and disasters. Any unpleasant situation doesn’t seem so bad if you can tell yourself it is not permanent. Alas that doesn’t seem to be true of the Covid Pandemic. As soon as one outbreak gets under control another strain, perhaps more virulent or more infectious pops up and we are once again hiding behind masks when we go out, washing or rather “sanitising” our hands at every opportunity and keeping a yard or more away from any other person. Back to where we were. Except that it’s not an offical “lockdowm” – or so the government tell us . They emphasise it so much that it can’t be true. Why not organise a sweepstake on when the next lockdown will be announced? My own bet is sometime between Christmas and New Year. That’s always a strange time with so many things not back to normal and many people at a loose end after a hectic time over Christmas.
There are so many things you can’t do, or can’t do legally in Lockdown. All the groups, formal and informal from the Women’s Institute to the Freemasons aren’t allowed to get together in person. Can you talk/socialise with one other person who is not part of your household or bubble? Or is it 2 or 6 or some other random number? It’s different in Wales and different again in Scotland or Northern Ireland and the rules change from week to week – sometimes it seems from day to day.
There are so many things that some people have done during the last three lockdowns – it makes me feel inadequate. People have written and published books, learned a new language, reorganised and decorated their house from top to bottom. Heavens some people have actually moved house.
Then there are all the extra skills people have acquired: cookery – the more exotic the better, sewing, starting by running up a few face coverings during Lockdown 1, and by now they are setting up a mail-order dress-shop showing the latest fashion in casual clothes for wearing when you have to stay at home all day. Others have completely re-arranged their garden so it now looks more like something by Alan Titchmarsh and less like an annex to the council tip. Others have developed some craft or hobby, anything from origami to wood carving, from batik to needle felting, from building model railways to renovating a narrowboat.
There was once a poster showing a child asking her father “What did you do in the war, Daddy?” The implication being, I think, that the father ought to have been in the forces or at least doing something to help the war effort. Fast forward to 2021 and some kid will be asking “What did you do in Lockdown, Mum?” Mum would have been expected to do something useful, either working for the NHS or some voluntary work delivering groceries to pensioners or being part of the many “hubs” that were formed to find out who needed what and see they got it!
You feel bad if you’ve not done anything much and spent a lot of your lockdown just grumbling about the things you can’t do, some of them quite trivial. You can’t go to the pictures – the cinemas are all shut. You can’t have friends to stay overnight or have a big birthday bash in a pub.
“Mummy, what does “panda mick” mean? Is there a panda called Micky? And why is your face covered up? Is it all dirty or sticky?”
How can I explain this damn virus When I don’t know myself what it is Stay at home and keep safe Keep safe, stay at home That’s what we’re told all the time. Social distance – two metres Two metres away That’s what we’re told. Try telling that to a five-year-old. He can’t understand, he can’t understand Where his friends have all gone They don’t come to play any more.
It’s worse much worse of course For old Annie, next door: Not allowed out at all. Food delivered by kind helpers Parcels piled on the doorstep. Put them down, ring the bell, and stand back. Watch her pick up the box Note she’s alive and (apparently) well Wave and smile Don’t forget, wave and smile Then tick off her name on the list.
It isn’t the Covid that kills you
It isn’t the virus that slays
It’s being in self-isolation
For goodness knows how many days.
It feels a great weight on your shoulders
Locked down and locked up and shut in
You can sit on the floor or wave from your door
Anything more is a sin.
You mustn’t go out of your garden
To the park or the post office shop
You can’t ride your bike or take out your trike
These endless restrictions won’t stop,
You can’t kiss your boyfriend or granny
Keep away from that baby so cute
Unless in a bubble, you aren’t meant to cuddle
Pray turn down your speaker to “mute”.
When a friend calls to see how you’re doing
Don’t hug them to show that you’re pleased
You’ve a positive test – and well, you know the rest-
You’re a pariah infected, diseased.
There’s one single scenario only
Worse than self-isolation at home
Being stuck with just one companion
Can be far worse than being alone.
Before the virus you would come
To see us after school.
You’d have your tea with grandpa,
Go swimming in the pool,
The river where you’d feed the ducks,
The park with swings and slides
And when the fair came to our town
You’d go on all the rides.
Sometimes you’d stay with us all night
“Sleep-over” that’s the name
You didn’t have a lot of sleep
(Your granddad says the same!)
We used to do so many things
I’m sure we’ll start anew
Once this lockdown’s lifted
Who knows what Gran can do?
If/when I come to the end of my life I want to be at home.This poem illustrates my thoughts on the subject. B.C. - before Covid I wouldn't have minded now I definitely want a "home death" like some want a "home birth".Last Wish
I want to die in the discomfort of my own home.
Not in a hospital bed,Surrounded by white-gowned Angels,
Looking like Ku Klux Klan members.
I’d rather die at home,
In pain but in a familiar place,
With my own germs and house dust mites
(And no doubt a plentiful supply of Corona virus)
In muddle and mess but mine own!
With people I know around me,
Not anonymous figures in PPE and plastic aprons.
However kindly, however compassionate,
I’m told in extremis they may even hold your hand
With carefully sanitised and gloved fingers.
Meanwhile your loved ones can only Snatch a glimpse through a window.
Will this last - selfish - wish of mine be granted?
I doubt it.
Life as we knew it now on hold,
Outside the world is grim and cold.
Corona virus takes each day
Keeps us back from work or play
Dearest children now are seen
Only via computer screen
What comes next? Who can know?
Next year where will daisies grow?
In 2019 I entered this piece for the Lady Denman Cup, a writing competition organised each year by the WI. The theme was “Amazing Discoveries” and could be about real or imagined scientific advances. Just in case you wondered mine wasn’t one of the winners!
The work of Professor Tracey Wildgoose is without doubt the best-known discovery of the twenty-second century. It all began in Disneyland when her young nephew went missing. He was found after a lengthy search, safe and sound and re-united with his frantic parents.
This incident sparked Tracey’s interest in the way some groups or couples have an almost telepathic sense of where their other half is and what they are doing; identical twins are often quoted as examples of this, so are pairs of lovers or mothers and their babies.
Tracey specialised in social psychology and communications. By the time she chose a PhD subject she had added neurology, information technology and electronics to her portfolio. She was determined to find a way of linking not just those with a special telepathic aptitude but everyone. She set up a major experiment involving thousands of volunteers, which was widely publicised and supported by the WI. It was difficult and complicated work and of course there were some failures. But after many trials on volunteer groups Tracey’s Tracer, as it was called, became a reality.
For many years there had been electronic tags to keep track of criminals out on licence. There had been pendants for elderly people to wear and activate when they needed assistance. These devices were good as far as they went, but the Tracey Wildgoose Tracer rendered them obsolete. The Tracer works by a small microchip inserted into someone’s brain and linked to a similar chip in someone else. Then the two individuals can share such detail as where they are, who they are with and even what they are thinking. Some families have all their members “chipped in”.
It took some time before this device was widely adopted and even now some people refuse it, just as some refuse to use computers or mobile phones. But by and large the Tracer has gone from strength to strength. There is even a movement to have every baby fitted with a Tracer at birth. This hasn’t happened yet but many feel it is only a matter of time.
A question often put is “Can a Tracer be removed or modified?” The answer is Yes. Teenage children wouldn’t want their parents to know too much about what they were getting up to and not many people would want to keep a contact geared to an ex-partner. So the Tracer can be adapted to a change in location or lifestyle.
Tracey Wildgoose has often been lauded as a “Renaissance woman”, a female Leonardo da Vinci for her work. But perhaps Isaac Newton would make a better comparison as his iconic work is said to have been incited by the single small incident of an apple falling from a tree.
Now, would you believe it, the government are proposing to put a trace (see Harry Potter books) on us all, by using of our mobile phones. Apparently phones can let you – or Big Brother Government or even Good Sister NHS know where they are, even when they are switched off. Then it will be possible to check whom you have been in contact with and if they are carriers of the Covid virus.
It isn’t too difficult to check where some phone is (the phone, as opposed to the owner.) Remember though phones can get lost, loaned or stolen. Their IT systems can be hacked and all sorts of other nasty things can happen.
Another consideration: how far away is “near” ? Someone walking past you at a fraction less than the “social distance”? Someone walking past your house while you are sitting looking out of the window?
How can you, or rather the authorities, know that the person you were in close contact with is a covid carrier? Will we get list of contacts and be required to check that they are virus-free? Perhaps we will get a message saying “you have been on contact with a possible covid source and must isolate” and not even get to know who the carrier is.
Sounds crazy but all too likely in the present situation. Where people struggle to get tested for corona-virus, but can leave the testing centre and catch the virus from the next person they meet or the next object they touch.
I had been thinking of getting a new mobile phone with the usual extras – camera, radio, films, video etc. but on second thoughts I won’t bother and I think I might chuck my present phone into the river.
It just goes to show how something written as fiction can come dangerously close to reality. I should be careful what I write. I’ll steer clear of stories of alien invasions or machines taking over the world – they just might come true!
Iwant to take advantage of the present very strange situation where we are shut off from so much – any group of people larger than two is forbidden unless you live in the same house when, I suppose, even if you are a family of mum and dad plus ten children you are permitted to go out for a walk together – as long as you keep 6 feet away from anyone else.
All very very odd.
From what I can find out: The Corona virus – CoVid19 – is invisible to the naked eye virtually undetectable and transmitted by contact with other people or surfaces or other objects. So not only can you be infected by someone sneezing or coughing on you, just touching something – a door handle or a sheet of paper they have handled can cause you to become infected.
Anyone and everyone can become infected by this invisible virus. Some people will not even know they have it – they will have no symptoms at all – but and this is the important bit – they can still pass the the infection on to others. Most people will get a fairly mild infection – they’ll feel a bit off colour but not enough for most people to even mention; some will feel worse and may have to take time off work; some may need to go to hospital of these some will become seriously ill and a few – a very few as a percentage – will die. (We’ll all die eventually.)
Oddly enough there may even be some good things coming out of all this. The local roads – and I imagine even the motorways and trunk roads are beautifully empty. Riding a trike round the local lanes is a delight. Wouldn’t it be great if when all this is over we started a Corona Virus commemoration day, say once a month, when motorised traffic was banned – apart from the emergency services. I can’t think of a better way of remembering those who died in the Corona virus outbreak and honouring the medical staff who treated them. Only a dream – alas.
I know most of this is trivial. But this is what it feels like cut off from the minor things that make life enjoyable.
Every day is now the same Once it wasn’t so. Every day was different With places I would go: On Monday if it wasn’t wet I’d catch the bus to town I’d wander round the larger shops And have a nice sit-down In park or square or café A cup of tea and then I’d take out my bus pass To go back home again.
On Tuesday I would meet my friends, A group who come on bikes. We’ve got our favourite cafe That everybody likes. Wednesday’s coffee morning Meets in the chapel hall. I find out all the latest news Of people great and small. Thursday is our market day And if the weather’s fine I’ll go round all the market stalls Down Main Street in a line.
We’ve a book group in the library There’s poetry, scrabble too. I’ve never till this Lockdown Been stuck for things to do. We’re told we’re not to venture out Unless we walk alone The only things that save me Are my i-pad and my phone!