A Round Of Applause At The End Of The World

My Story Of The Pandemic

Here is my take on the Pandemic. I have no fear whatsoever of catching Covid-19 or dying from it. My weight, having ballooned to over 260lbs with a BMI in the 40s, means there are many more immediate lethal threats to my health other than Covid. That said, I know that people are scared, and they have my sympathy and support. Out of regard for my fellow human I follow the rules. I stay home when I can, and I wear a face covering when I’m out and about. But it’s not just the germs we need to protect each other from. I wish so many people would wear a gag under their mask and that the press would be less concerned about the dollar value of hysteria and more concerned about its adverse effects on our mental health. It’s not just the mask. I sometimes want to wear a blindfold and earplugs as well.

I live in a small friendly town called Prestwick on the West Coast of Scotland. In January 2020, Covid-19 was just another epidemic spreading to a few people in Asia. I had travelled throughout Asia during previous outbreaks of Bird Flu and SARs and thankfully never experienced anything from either. I thought Covid would be the same as they were. Just another flash infection spreading across a far-off country. It’s not that I have no regard for the Chinese, just saying that Covid-19 was their disease at that time and I simply couldn’t imagine it affecting us in the UK to any great extent. I was wrong. Cases of Covid-19 started appearing round the world and, for the first time I can remember, an epidemic became a pandemic. As it made its way from Asia to Europe, Italy and Spain were the first countries to be hit really hard by the evolving tragedy of Covid-19.

Even though there were some cases in the UK by late February I was still pretty hopeful that we were not going to get hit hard. The word ‘Lockdown’ was getting increased usage in our vocabulary, but I still couldn’t imagine us actually having to get into one. Late February I drove to the Campsie Hills to the North of Glasgow with my brother and my daughter. We huddled together in the rain to read our map. Three people from three different households in two different council regions all within a meter of each other and not a facemask in sight. That was the last time I remember the world being normal. I don’t think we’ll ever get back to that ‘normality’ again.

As the completely unknown idea of a Lockdown became closer to reality, I saw the hysteria in our society as farcical. Panic buying toilet roll and hand sanitizer was just absurd to me. I joked about it, noting how supermarket toiletries shelves were still full of condoms, lube and mini sex toys. If we were all about to die, at least we could die happy.

We entered the first Lockdown in the UK when it came almost with the atmosphere of a street party. ‘Furlough,’ another word I’d never heard before, meant that many people were able to stay home and get paid 80% of their wages. I was living off redundancy money, so I wasn’t really affected. Lucky enough to live 5 minutes from the beach, my walk along the promenade became the exciting essential activity of ‘daily exercise.’ As they had done in Italy, on Thursdays we clapped at our windows or banged pots to thank key workers such as medical staff for their support. These were naive times when people thought society would change and at last the essential skills to support life and virtues such as courage and heroism would be valued more than money. I guess we thought the Billionaires would all just quietly go away. Neither they nor the virus did.

One of my daughters stayed with me through the first lockdown so that neither of us had to face it alone. This was a happy time for us. I write music as a hobby and my daughter likes to sing. I set up a record label called White Horses Music and we spent the month of March writing songs to pass the time. It hadn’t sunk in yet that I hadn’t seen my best pal in weeks. Every morning I went online and analyzed the Government figures for the UK and many other countries around Europe listing the number of new infections and the number of deaths from the disease. As a religious person, I always prayed at that time for everyone affected and thanked God in prayer for the health of myself, my family, and my friends.

By summer, the numbers of infection were dropping, and deaths had almost disappeared prompting restrictions to be lifted. Now it was the rules I thought were farcical. They changed at least once a day, sometimes several times, and they never made any sense. There were still strict one-way systems and you had to wear a face covering in the supermarkets and shops. I’d even managed to get lost inside the store at my local garage! But the pubs were open, no mask required and only 1 meter distance. At the airports travelers wore masks and kept 2 meters from everyone through the airport and then were crammed on top of each other as usual on the plane in pressurized re-circulated air before fanning back out to 2 meters again when they reached their destination. I’ve flown to every continent and to somewhere or other every year of my life for the past quarter of a century. I didn’t fly in 2020 even when it was allowed because it just seemed daft in the circumstances. As soon as the world started to open up, a second wave of the virus hit, massive in proportion to the first one. It infected us, killed us, and kept the world indoors and industry paralyzed for months to come.

We lost my mother in early October. She’d been suffering for decades with a crippling condition called Myasthenia Gravis which stresses and wears down your muscles. My Mum never tested positive for Covid-19. A combination of Pneumonia, Heart Failure and Myasthenia eventually took her life. No one was allowed to see her and that was utterly heart breaking. Her condition meant that she couldn’t text and her ability to talk on the phone was deteriorating. For all the days in hospital when she had the capacity to enjoy our company my Mum never got the chance to do so. Eventually they were unable to get a line in to administer her vital medication. When her death became inevitable and imminent, they allowed us in to say our goodbye. By that time, my Mum was virtually blind, had lost the ability to speak and could barely move. She was still able to smile as I noted when I mentioned my daughters, her girls, to her. The last time I saw my Mum alive, she was in a drug induced sleep which I think was merciful for both of us. Like so many people during this tragic Pandemic, I wasn’t able to be with my Mum when she passed.

Because of the Pandemic, there were only 20 people allowed to attend my Mum’s Cremation in person. A small congregation with tears flowing onto surgical masks. There was no Wake, no family get together afterwards. Brief and silent conversation and then everyone went home. The grief of my mother’s passing overshadowed any concern for me about Christmas Shopping or Christmas in general. While the Government debated how to let people safely meet each other over the Festive Season, I just wanted to live in the warmth under my quilt. There were however essential journeys which had to be made as we looked after my Dad. His mobility is also extremely limited and now he was living alone with a house full of memories and a broken heart. Though we never managed to get together at Christmas, we kept in touch and infected each other with the mutual love of a grieving family.

At last, we have vaccinations in circulation, and we live in hope that they will work in the long term both in protecting against the virus and stopping the spread. As I write, in January 2021, about 7 million people in the UK, mostly elderly, medical, and care workers, have had their first jab of the vaccine. There has neither been time nor distribution enough of the vaccines to have any significant effect on the ferocious spread of the second wave of the virus or its new mutations. There are tens of thousands of new cases and thousands of new deaths every day. We are now in a third national lockdown; industry remains paralyzed and the economy in decline. I’ve stopped looking at the daily figures because I can’t face them anymore.

What saddens me more than the virus is the effect it has had on our society. People are angry, scared and divided. There are Covid Deniers, those who refuse to wear a face covering and seething crowds still seem to form up at the drop of a hat. As well as the ever-changing government advice and new rules brought into law, there is a growing rhetoric for considering the morals of one’s actions regardless of the rules. Scandals emerge as celebrities and politicians are called out every other day for breaking or bending the rules.

In their clamour for hysteria driven revenue, the media publish one more alarming prediction after another fuelling the fears of ever-increasing casualties at the hands of a seemingly indestructible virus. New mutations of the virus and the incompetence, or unwillingness, of the government to deal with it are also popular subjects in the media. For the first time in my life, I find myself needing to ration my exposure to the news and Social Media in line with my emotional ability to handle it. Meanwhile, in hospitals, care homes, supermarkets and every other vital part of our infrastructure, ordinary people risk their lives every day to save and support the lives of the rest of us. They never did get any more than a round of applause. That to me is the greatest tragedy of these unprecedented times.

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