It seems I’m not the only one waking up at strange times these days. I noticed a friend had messaged me during the witching hour and when I asked why, she said she was feeling anxious and getting ready for work. Outwardly, she seems fine about still working and is now on reduced hours, so presumably her employer is making some steps to protect the health and vulnerability of their staff? But I really can’t understand why they are still open for business; their staff wouldn’t be classified as ‘essential’ or ‘key workers’ in a situation where face-to-face service is the least sensible option for everyone involved. Financial services operate remotely 24/7, customers can use ATMs to get at their dosh, online banking services for paying bills or moving money around, and that amazing invention ‘the telephone’ if they need to talk to ‘a real person’, so why are branches still open? I’m puzzled by why people feel that they urgently need access to their money at this time? More curious still is what on earth are they buying, how are they managing to spend it? Most shops and retailers have been required to close, so only shops selling essential items such as food and medication remain open, and supplies are hugely depleted due to panic-buying so I think anyone would struggle to spend much at all right now.
Crazy headlines in the gutter press again this morning, wildly suggesting these new social distancing measures are having a significant impact already, even after 24 hours, due to an apparently significant fall in the comparative death-rates of the past two days.
Confused? Yes, me too. Call me stupid if I’m wrong in this, but my understanding is that COVID-19 is a virus that we don’t know much about except that, like its extended family, it has both an incubation period and a contagion period and therefore it is unlikely that we will see any dramatic improvements or even significant changes over the duration of a single day. Not surprisingly, later headlines crushed any hopes the deluded might have had, with today’s totals being the largest daily increase so far, with over 100 deaths.
Walkers (with and without dogs) have also been criticised in the press today, and what a bunch of delinquent anarchists we have been shown up to be – how dare we walk for miles in isolated remote places, all alone or with one friend and / or our dogs! Apparently, we are only allowed to walk our dogs ‘locally’, but the term remains unclear since it means different things depending on where you live – for example, ‘local’ in a city could be simply a few streets nearby so your dog walks would presumably be limited to the nearest park; but in vast rural areas such as the North Yorks Moors or the Peak District, ‘local’ could mean almost anywhere up there because the moorland paths just roll on through vast open spaces where there are no boundaries or concepts of where ‘local’ actually stops. I’m with Mr Ryder on this one…
My local dog walks are becoming more bizarre with each passing day. The regular walker who I saw yesterday has taken to distancing himself from me even further, and today’s conversation comprised of us yelling to one another from the tops of separate inclines around 100 metres apart. If I do develop a sore throat over the next few days, I won’t know whether the virus or the increasingly vocal dog-walking conversations are the most likely candidate for blame.
But happily we’re not alone in getting bad press these days. Sadiq Khan is still under intense pressure to get to grips with the grim irony of severe overcrowding on public transport systems during a period of mandated social distancing.
Similarly, Prince Charles continues to be pilloried not only for the heinous crime of being tested for the coronavirus whilst many other, far less ‘important’ but far more deserving individuals may never have that privilege, but also for his evident belief that having an NHS test instead of paying for Private care would justify his actions in any way. Even more astonishingly, NHS staff supporting and caring for hospitalised individuals who have contracted the virus are not considered a priority for testing, despite being at risk throughout each and every shift, not to mention the high risks taken during their commutes.
Communication, or rather the lack of face-to-face communication seems to be what’s biting at everyone’s bums now, and has been particularly obvious today. I’ve had around three times as many contacts with friends / acquaintances today as I did a week ago, almost all via social media or text, and people seem to be really struggling with the idea of spending time alone. Obviously there’s a whole host of other issues that are also bothering us all, and not the stuff of ‘normal’ life but major issues such as: ‘Do I still have a job?’ and ‘How am I going to pay bills and buy food since I now have no income?’. Clearly there are going to be no answers for quite some time yet, so it seems best to try to ignore it and learn how best to manage all this home-time that you currently have, but the major issue seems to be one of missing the company of others, a very natural human trait. So much so, in fact, that people are willingly risking their own health, as well as that of others, in flouting current ‘social distancing’ measures simply because they cannot bring themselves to be alone. I’m thinking of E here, my 90-year-old neighbour, who was on the lookout for people to chat to or pop in to see the other day, and my friend told me of an elderly customer at work who persists in coming into branch for the flimsiest of reasons. What is it about being alone that distresses them so much? What is so disturbing about spending some time in your own company?
Embracing time alone, or at least with less social contact as circumstances now dictate, can be a bit of a struggle for some people, impossible for others, and vaguely idyllic for weirdos such as myself. A friend used to describe me as ‘very self-contained’ which I took as the ultimate compliment, and I suppose it’s a pretty accurate description of me; I can always find things to do, stuff to learn, experiment a bit, entertain myself, and appear to have little need of company, so I’m finding it a bit odd that right now almost everyone perceives time alone as something negative. Actually it’s a lifestyle choice I’ve been pursuing for a couple of years now although, to be fair, I wasn’t hurled into it overnight with absolutely no choice in the matter, in the manner in which the the UK population has just experienced. Boris’ ‘social distancing’ measures have made absolutely no difference to how I live my life although, ironically, since ‘social distancing’ began I am now in closer proximity to many more people than ever before, so has kind of spoilt it for me. But more of that in later posts. In the meantime, here’s an article from The Irish Times, ‘Me, myself, I: The Joy of Being Alone’ (February 2019).
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