Some things have inadvertently improved due to the Chinese eating bats; children now have to sit in rows, spaced out, facing the front. Most teachers, even those purporting to teach history don’t know that this was once the norm and worked well for hundreds of years. Pubs are now going to close at 10pm. Many have forgotten, but from 1914 until November 2005 that was quite usual, giving rise to wonderful publican banalities such as; ‘Time Gentlemen, Please!’ ‘Haven’t you got a gnome to go to?’ and, ‘We’re not running a night-club here you know.’
The licencing law was scrapped to allow the healthy, wholesome habit of twenty-four hour drinking, vomiting, littering and defaecating in our streets.
Apart from those good points it seems we are on a downward slope with Covid again, which is obvious to anyone who still goes out shopping. Most people have held onto their on-line delivery slots which was probably wise. This week I noticed with dread, yawning gaps where toilet-rolls in all their clean white purity used to be stacked. As the threat of a new lockdown looms all cleaning products will probably disappear too. No one wants to get caught out again.
Although retailers insist that there will be no shortages this time, that only happened because the last lockdown happened so quickly, hoarders will soon start stacking their chest-freezers. My ‘unconscious bias,’ or as I call it, ‘reasonable mistrust’ of fellow shoppers is adding to my distaste for shopping.
I now wear a visor as I peruse the emptying shelves. It looks ridiculous but is an improvement on masks. When it’s clean I forget it’s there and take swigs of tea which splash everywhere, it bangs into things, steams up and often gets smeared so I wander about barely able to see, but it’s a lot better than wearing a paper mask which gave me a frenzy of itching, or a cloth one which dragged my ears out of my head.
I also shop for a neighbour aged 94, who has been shielding since l March. A lot of old people get thin and spindly but he must weigh about twenty stone, and has recently been in hospital for high blood pressure and complications with diabetes. Doctors do not go in for ‘fat shaming,’ and the only thing they seem to have suggested is that he should take up eating jelly babies. Perhaps they meant him to choose them as a low sugar alternative to his usual two bags of toffees, but the message he’s brought home is that he now has to eat them as well as the toffees.
His diet is like one of those documentaries about how we lived in the 1950s; tins of rice pudding, custard, minced beef, those Frisbee shaped containers of steak & kidney pie and canned peaches. Also bumper bags of crisps, and gallons of lager.
I’ve now got a problem of getting his shopping into my car because I attend art groups on Mondays and on Fridays. They used to be a simple matter of going along with paint, palette, turps and packed lunch. Now you have to take your own ‘virus free’ easel, painting board, table, dust-sheets, lashings of hand sanitiser, and your own coffee.
I bought a folding table from Halfords. Like this whole wretched situation it came from China, with no instructions about what to do when you’ve got it. Instructions on Google made no sense.
My little car, back seats flattened down, is bulging with stuff like an old donkey or miniature builder’s yard, and it disturbs me to see it like that as even the small details of ordinary life are changed.
This is the way of the future and only now can we start to see what we’ve lost; people no longer go to their orchestras, theatre groups and choirs. Some of us are now allowed to get together to paint a live model, at least for now and as the PM said, we have to accept the new circumstances as a fact of life for at least the next six months.
People had worse to contend with in the last war, but on the home front a great deal was provided, people were better fed and clothed than ever before. That was a time of intense social cohesion, strict rationing, community singing and communal canteens. Unlike the effects of Covid the last war was the antithesis of loneliness with people of all classes encouraged to come together, to share and bolster each another up. This virus is about being selfish and isolated in an already deeply materialistic society, where people live in their own bubbles, with the generations particularly estranged. For years we’ve heard that the old have stolen everything from the young.
Just before Autumn set in, I cancelled a self-distancing pub lunch with a friend and threw myself into the river, not a final act of despair, but my last chance to swim about in something like a dirty salad before it gets too cold. Despite all the pollution local councils have allowed to pour in to our water-ways, people unable to use regular swimming-pools, and desperate for exercise have been taking to the river, rowing, paddle-boarding and swimming like never before. Not since Lewis Carroll rowed up the river with Alice and her sisters has there been so much leisure activity on the Thames. So there is another good thing to thank the Chinese bats for!