As I've said before, I’ve been following the updates. The virus targets men. Older men. Men who are differently thin. Men with pre-existing health conditions.
Just last week, there was a report that people living in holiday areas are more vulnerable.
If a skeleton walks up to you wearing a black cloak and carrying a scythe – and shows you an Identikit picture that is an exact likeness of me – you haven’t seen me, okay?
Thank you. Also tell him his whole look needs a makeover. I suggest hi-vis jacket and hedge trimmer – but that’s another blog post.
I know it’s supposed to happen – eventually – but until this virus turned up, I don’t think I took the prospect of death seriously. Never took it seriously but didn’t realise that I wasn’t taking it seriously.
Damien Hirst once pickled a tiger shark and displayed the result over the title The Physical Impossibility of Death in the Mind of Someone Living. That title comes back to me now, although I had to check online whether it attached to the pickled shark or to the cow Hirst cut in half a few years later (and calf).
As the virus gets closer – at this rate, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a report that it targets men wearing spectacles who publish blog posts on Fridays – I’ve started to update my contingency planning.
I’m keeping up to date with the laundry, and I’ve plugged in the Hoover. I made a new will the other day (downloaded the form) and the neighbours witnessed my signature (from a social distance). I’ve been pruning the roses – yes, I know, but you haven’t seen my roses.
The washing-up’s done and my neighbour has a copy of the front-door key.
And all of that has made me feel really alive.
There’s sunshine on the water, brightest on the far side of the Carrick Roads, and the wind is just enough to make the trees seem to shiver.
The house is full of books.
I’m alive. I’m engaged. I walk on Gyllyngvase Beach every day (most days) and make a weekly run to the supermarket for supplies. I’m cooking-ish, getting the garden straight, reading, writing, and using my don’t-know-what-it’s-called to compress shredded paper into ‘logs’ for the wood-burner.
I haven’t gone back to being a hunter-gatherer. It just feels that way sometimes.
I’m not exactly “being realistic” either, about this deadly global pandemic with a special taste for older men whose first name begins with W. I suppose I’m just reporting that the brightness seems to have been turned up on life.
I do have one outstanding planning issue.
The people closest to me though the lockdown have been strangers – runners coming up behind me on my walk and passing ridiculously close, for example. That – I now realise – is how I want it. They’ll never know.
If I am going to be hauled off to meet my ancestors, I’d rather it didn’t happen after I emerged from lockdown, hugged all my nearest and dearest, and then started coughing.
I’m not sure whether this is considerate or egotistical, but I’d rather not be tucking into a steak’n’chips in Valhalla (I’ll have the cheese to follow), chatting to my great-great-great-grandfather across the table, while knowing that back down here, my loved ones are wondering whether they gave me the virus that killed me.
So that oaf yesterday was doing me a favour, really, huffing past in his Lycra, bumping my shoulder. And that student-age guy two days ago, music plugged into his ears. And that weird-looking guy in the hi-vis jacket, and all of them.
This is life. Bring it on!
And cultural. Socio-economic. It’s not exactly a hobby of mine – more of a niggle – but I notice it.
For example. These days, you won’t hear a UK government minister or a “science officer” or the spokesperson for any vast bureaucracy telling you that he is going to do something. He or she will tell you that she’s going to make sure it’s done.
No, I don’t need to go out and get a life, thank you. Doing that is probably illegal these days, anyway.
Listen to a daily briefing. Count the times. “Make sure”. You’ll hear it more than once.
If I tell you that I’m going to write this post, you can blame me for how well – badly – it turns out.
But if I tell you that I’m going to make sure this post gets written, well, clearly I’m the big, tough authority figure who’s leading the battle to get this post written.
If it turns out badly, well, you know, I’ve been as disappointed as you are by the result.
“Now is not the time to apportion blame,” said David Cameron, standing knee-deep in Somerset flood water a decade-ish ago, after a whole range of government-underfunded flood defences had failed.
“Now is not the time to apportion blame,” said one of Boris’s stand-ins last week, when somebody pointed out that we’re ahead on just the one forecast – number of deaths. [I know I’m misquoting, but that was the sense of it.] This is one you'll hear again.
There’s also a form of evasion-speak that directly heads off awkward questions. The Cameron government’s main contribution to this genre was “…and I think that is the right decision,” which would be asserted forcefully at the end of any announcement in any interview.
“I’ve decided to do something, and I think that is the right decision.” Optional extra: “…at the right time.”
“I’ve decided to do something, and I think that is the right decision at the right time.”
Gordon Brown, in his glory days as Chancellor, gave us the “Five Tests” that were then applied to European Monetary Union. Lately, they’ve been used against the ending of the lockdown.
“I relaxed the lockdown and thousands died in the second wave, but that was the Five Tests’ fault. They told me to do it.”
Tony Blair’s ministers never apologised, do you remember? “I make no apology for…” introducing whatever piece of unexceptional policy-lite was the initiative of the day.
“I make no apology for deciding to do something.” Minister, are you trying to imply that you’re being brave making that obvious, safe decision?
“I make no apology for trying to sound decisive.” Yeah, right.
In these incredibly challenging times, ministers are working day and night (no wonder they look so tired) and incredibly hard (‘incredibly’ means not believably, surely?) to deliver incredibly ambitious targets and claim to have met those targets – so now is not the time to apportion ridicule.