Tuesday, 23 March 2021

What we've learned in a year of Covid lockdowns

Lets start with a few new words and phrases. Maybe you knew them, I didn't. The five stages of the plague

Social distancing



Daily Exercise

Vaccine passport


If we've had someone to have conversations with, these are all words and phrases we've used. 

Then there are the new personal hygene protocols

Wash your hands

Sanitise your hands

Wear a mask

Then there was the false dawn of 'Eat out to help out'.

There's been the appalling response of the EU commission to the pandemic, which has made even the most committed Europhile a tad more sceptical. In truth, the British have simply done what we've always done, screwed everything up totally when faced with a national crisis, then got our act together in spectacular manner. Parallels in history abound. In the first world war, the headlines of "The boys will be home by Christmas", followed by the carnage of the Somme, eventually getting our act together, with a lot of help from across the Pond. In WWII we were totally unprepared, totally decimated in less than a year in Europe, but by the Battle of Britain, we were producing more fighter planes than Germany, who had a larger population. Even the Falklands war was a completely botched response to Argentine agression, followed by the most extraordinary military campaign ever, when we got our act together. My Dad, who was an RAF bomber pilot told me that the British are the most disorganised nation on the planet, until they are forced by an existential threat to get their act together, then they are the most ingenious and well ordered. I never really understood what he meant until the Pandemic showed me. I've been told, and I have no idea of knowing whether it really is true, but it is from a source I trust, that Boris was told to bet the house on the vaccination program as soon as the scale of the pandemic was clear. It's just a shame that he didn't start the second wave of lockdowns a month earlier, we'd then be probably the most successful country in Europe at fighting this awful plague. Look at the figure and how the 'curve has been flattened', move that a month to the left. We'd have been out of lockdown by now and in a much better place. Boris calls Sir Kier Starmer 'Captain Hindsight' but he was calling for this at the time, so it is a very misleading jibe.

What else have we learned? Perhaps the most interesting lesson is that when the Nation is facing a crisis, you need to turn to Socialism. Perhaps it is ironic that the nearest thing we've had to Stalinism in the UK has been brought in by the most libertarian PM in history. Britains Railways have all but been renationalised, the Furlough is plain communism, the notion of a 'Low Tax Economy' has disappeared in a whiff of smoke. We will be paying the bills, through our taxes, for a generation. The NHS has shown that it is the only sane way to manage public health.  The truth is that Boris did the right thing and there will be an economy to salvage. We won't really know the extent of the damage for a couple of years, until we see what firms actually make it. 

We've learned that we are a community minded nation. Sir Captain Tom was the face of lockdown. As unlikely a hero as we are likely to see. Sadly taken by Covid, but what a legacy. Will the compassion carry on? I hope so. The vounteers at the vaccination clinics are a tribute to our public spirited nation.

We are a funny nation. We were happy to clap for carers during the first lockdown, but we put such gestures in the cupboard of "been there,done that" once we perceive their time is done. 

And there are the personal lessons. I'm a musician. I learned that you cannot create in a vacuum. When Boris announced the lockdown, I envisaged a busy period of song writing. This never happened. I spent the first month or so of lockdown drinking beer and sunbathing in my back garden, unable to motivate myself to do anything. We did a lot of dog walking, but there was no creative spark. When I passed 17 stone, I kicked myself out of the lazy torpor, cut the boozing, but still couldn't get inspired. I did however do a lot of practicing, so my technical skills on the guitar have reached levels not attained since the 1980's, when I really did take it seriously. 

As for personal relationships. I've been locked up with my wife and three children for the period. I am surprised at how well we've all got on. Very few tantrums and very little long sulks by any of us. When we've had rows, we've quickly resolved it. I have five brothers and sisters. I nearly lost my eldest brother to a non covid related illness. He is local, but was isolating, so I didn't see him at all. I am glad to report he has recovered and is out and about again, vaccinated and recovering. He lives in Mill Hill, he's sixteen years older than me and we have different interests. I realised just how much I'd miss him though, even though we rarely socialise. I've seen one of my sisters twice. The one in America and the one in Northampton, I've not seen for well over a year. I miss them terribly. My brother in Bristol, who is a Man Utd fan. We text regularly about football. I've not seen him for a year either. Now we are all vaccinated, I feel more relaxed than I have for a year. 

As for loss, I've lost two family members, several friends and a dozen or so customers. I got a phone call from one customer last week, who I thought had passed away. He'd been seriously ill and had contracted covid in hospital. I was overjoyed to hear him. The staff call him "Nick the happiest man in the world". Losing so many people in such a short period of time, grieving for one person before you've finished grieving for another, gave me some perspective on what my parents told me of their experiences in WW2. I've realised that mostly, I just want this to stop and for us to have a degree of normality in our lives.

Then there is also the dark side of the lockdown. The crass profiteering of some shops at the start of the pandemic. The sheer selfishness of some people, taking more than their fair share of toilet rolls, eggs, flour, pasta, giving no thought to the needs of everyone else. There has been an upsurge in vandalism and anti social behaviour in Mill Hill. I struggle to understand why people who use the park, seem to delight in littering, tagging and smashing it up. I've come to realise that comments such as "Get a life" really mean "How very dare you object to my complete lack of regard for anyone but myself and my anti social behaviour" and a defense mechanism for those who really have no personality at all. 

I've learned a lot about social media. I've learned that if you block people who are corrosive and ignore them, social media is a much better place. They only exist in your conscious mind if you let them. Without oxygen, they wither. There will always be bad people.

But, most people are not bad. Most people on social media are great. Most just want to ease the isolation, most are happy to do things for others. 

I will finish with a prediction. I beleive that the next ten years will be one of the best. We've been given an opportunity to reboot our behaviours, to appreciate the good things, to appreciate nature and our environment. With the pubs etc being shut, we've come to realise what we are missing. I believe that once we can socialise and get out and abnout again, we will be far less happy to lose such things again, so we might actually try a bit harder to retain them. 

To finish, here's a tune I put together last June, in tribute to the NHS and a few words about my admiration for the NHS and its workers. I make no claims to be a singer, but it is heartfelt.  

I hope you enjoy it.

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