Self isolation isn’t so bad. I never liked hugging anyway
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James Marston finds small consolations are keeping him going through the coronavirus pandemic
I’ve cleaned the bathroom, waxed the car, made a lasagne for the freezer, mopped the kitchen floor, raked the shingle on the drive, harrowed the lawn, done a bit of pruning whether it’s the right time of year or not, filled up with petrol, sorted the garage, avoided supermarkets, pubs, restaurants and people generally, and dug out a jigsaw; for those of us, who don’t mind and are used to our own company I can’t help feeling I’m quite well prepared for this – at least at the moment.
I’m of a generation that remembers before Princess Diana and we didn’t go in for all this hugging that goes on these days – so I’m having no problem at all with keeping two metres apart – in fact it suits me fine as I tend to think much closer is an invasion of space. But I can’t help think that after several months of social distancing I won’t be in quite such good humour.
I know I’m one of the lucky ones; I sort of work from home anyway, I’ve got internet access, a car, I’m fairly healthy, I’m not running a business or worried too much about not getting paid, I’ve got no children to home educate either. I can just get on with it, though I don’t like not being able to see my parents and sister. And I can’t go to church.
But getting on with it has given me a little time to think – and I can’t help conclude that we’ve all been so busy filling our lives with keeping busy that we’ve forgotten how to simply be. A sudden change of pace has exposed the illusion of control, the inherent weakness of our service-based economy, our private and public dependency on credit, our selfishness, our greed, our obsession with shopping, the awful gulf between rich and poor, and, indeed, our fear of simply sitting still.
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Because in sitting still and staying at home – and that is all most of us are being asked to do – we can find it difficult to fill the unforgiving hour, and stillness exposes our own weaknesses as well.
To be still without stimuli makes us nervous because when we do still ourselves we invariably and eventually see ourselves in a different light. And to do that, I’m afraid, is not always comfortable or easy. Better to keep busy and keep ignorant isn’t it? Better to define ourselves by our jobs, our success, our cars, our holidays, anything but our selfishness and vanity and pride.
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But now the world, certainly in the more rural parts of our region, is quiet and still. We are all asked to stay at home. The prime minister has set it out: go out and risk the lives of others or stay in and do your bit. It might be unprecenteded, historic - these cliché words have been banded about enough, but now is our chance to do our bit, not for once for ourselves, but this time for others.
And when we still ourselves next time, when we next be instead of do, we can look back and be proud of our behaviour in the years to come.
My generation hasn’t been tested like that of my grandparents – they were able to look back at the Second World War with pride that they did their bit, safe in the knowledge that they answered the call of their country and helped save lives. Surely we can do the same? I don’t want to be old and know deep down that I didn’t make a lesser sacrifice and that people died because of it.
And there is hope. I’ve been taking my exercise with a short walk in the fresh air. The birds sound louder, the emergence of spring somehow more intense, the world around us is full of hope.
As we take more steps to fight this disease we have once again looked to our leaders, our Prime Minister and our Queen.
I have been reminded of George VI, a simple, almost ordinary chap, who stood up to the terror of Nazism, by doing no more than his best, and who also faced the unknown.
The King rallied his nation with the following words:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”