Way back at the beginning of the pandemic, one of those Chelsea matrons who inspire me to bomb making remarked “I suppose people will be nicer to each other now …” and I retorted that I had never needed an epidemic to be polite.
But although I see some writing on long Covid, I don’t see very much about how Covid has impacted us individually, though the idea of mass illness brought about changes in behaviour and not all of them negative.
So here is my positive and negative as I assess it, in the presence of a nasty disease, of which in the early days my son, knowing of my scarred lungs, remarked, “You mustn’t get this.”
I replied “And if I do, make me comfortable, keep me at home and let me go.” And then did all the sensible things I could – exercise, travel and shopping melded into one, not going out every day, always wearing a mask (the bug is airborne), hand washing again and again and again (I have always been pretty hot on handwashing). I shall refrain from saying common sense because it is increasingly rare and unjustly discredited for sounding old fashioned – but you know what I mean. I did not wash fruit in Fairy Liquid and boiling water.
A big positive was that, trapped indoors, I finally addressed two out of three of the compilations of books and papers
I have amassed. Five bags of shredded material (p), four loads of books to Oxfam which has a thoughtful book section in the High Street Kensington branch (p).
I turned out drawers – not all the drawers, but I made what is called “significant inroads”. I went through things and let them go to a happier hunting ground, guilt lessened, (p).
Several of us agreed that we had good days and bad days. We always had had, but these were highlighted by the relentlessness of news media. In Covid the broadcasters got “rolling news”
personified – nothing to look for, you could do whole programmes on updates, conflicting debate, how much worse it was in India or South America, and the old saw about “lies, damn lies and statistics” (n).
It wasn’t just what was said, it was how it was said which means that one of the more reliable speakers is a distinguished statistician who spoke with the wish to communicate within his field of expertise (p). He was rare. As soon as one person made one point, somebody else knocked it over to make another. So what we the watchers learned is nobody knew.
I am sure this was terrifying for some but in any form of public life, you either accept the model that while there are fools, there aren’t any too many of them (p) or you talk to us all as if we were in some kind of adult nursery (n). And the latter is made worse by frequent recanting and contradiction. Few of the political contributors speak well (n).
Time stopped and stretched simultaneously. I reread a couple of the books I pulled down from the shelves. Sometimes the days seemed stopped, one merging into another. Pam the Painter and I had hysterics about whether it was Tuesday or Thursday. But the months flew – more than halfway through September all ready ?
For some time is the enemy, for others the friend. I found those waterlogged afternoons definitely negative but they may have worked for other people. I missed doing things on a whim, having to book, to reserve a space and time (and Pam was furious that when she did, she still had to queue and wait- which was to do I suppose with the numbers of people permitted and how slowly or otherwise they progressed through.)
But I turned into a mental miniaturist. Every small good thing
was a plus, every smile, every quip. Every day I could say I was well. An email from a long ago listener who wrote to me as a friend – this is my year round Christmas present, I never get tired of these (p).
And on the way home, through a shower, as I rounded the path’s curve, there was a clean space on the road, rain rendering it glassy, on which ten leaves (I counted) had fallen or been blown, arranged, placed by an invisible hand