Yesterday Michaeline reported that Hokkaido is no longer in a state of emergency, so she and her family are free to socialize and celebrate the spring equinox. Yay, Hokkaido!
In my corner of London things are…strange. In true British fashion we’re not ordered to stay home, just strongly requested to do so. Pubs, clubs and bars are closed, ditto theaters and cinemas. Public transport is running a reduced service, and consumer stockpiling has stripped the supermarket shelves. We’ve been strongly requested not to panic buy food and toiletries, but so far that request has been more honored in the breach than the observance.
So far I don’t know anyone who’s had the illness, but I know lots of people who’re suffering the financial consequences of avoiding it. Friends who’ve lost their jobs or fear they may be about to; business owners who’ve lost everything almost overnight; pensioners who’ve seen their retirement savings devastated. The government is undertaking a massive program of financial intervention, and we have to hope that will mitigate the effects for the worst-hit people.
This week Eight Lady Jeanne and I spent almost all of our regular weekly Skype session discussing real world issues. One subject we touched on is the lasting effect that living through a world war had on our parents. It impacted my dad both physically and mentally. He damaged his back working as a Bevin Boy in the coal mines and lived with the pain of that for his whole life. And during my childhood he was incredibly touchy about chocolate—on some subconscious level he regarded it as a rare commodity, to be eaten sparingly and with great appreciation. He got seriously upset when he saw his kids scarfing it down as a casual treat.
Which set me to thinking about the current crisis. Even if the worst of it is relatively short-lived (current thinking here seems to suggest three to six months), the economic and social consequences are going to stay with many people for a very long time.
Mary Wesley, the upper-class British writer whose bestselling novel The Camomile Lawn depicted family life in rural England during World War II, said “War freed us. We felt if we didn’t do it now, we might never get another chance.” (If you’re looking for reading material, The Camomile Lawn is well worth a few hours of your time, as is Wild Mary, Patrick Marnham’s fascinating biography of the author’s own unorthodox life.)
I wonder what Coronavirus will do to us? Perhaps, if we’re lucky, it will make us kinder and more aware of others. In our street most people live busy lives and stay in their own big-city bubble. We say hello and smile, but we’ve always been socially distant. Privacy is valued. After more than 20 years of living here I’ve set foot in one house other than my own precisely once, a couple of months ago. So it was a big deal this week when one of my neighbors set up a WhatsApp group and leafleted every house in the area inviting people to join if they wanted to ask for or offer practical support or just reassurance. That gave me hope that some lasting good may come out of this crisis. I hope so, anyway.
Do you think this epidemic will change us?