We will look back on these terrible days for the rest of our lives. We will recount tales of the privations, the sadness, the challenges and the warmth we experience during the great Plague of 2020, which the history books will record just as surely as that which afflicted the Israelis under Moses, the Black Death of 1348 and the Great Plague and Fire of London in 1666.
We will remember the terrifying speed with which the virus came from nowhere; the appalling deaths, especially in Spain, Italy and the United States, and perhaps to come here in the UK too. We will think of the agonising illness from which many of us will suffer; we will be grateful perhaps that that the four riders of the apocalypse passed our house by, and congratulate ourselves on our successful self-isolation. We will be critical of some things the Government have done, or not done; but overall we will conclude that they made a pretty good a fist of it under horrifically difficult circumstances. We will record our huge admiration and gratitude to those in the NHS and the care system who put the needs of others ahead of their own, some of them paying for their heroism with their lives. Perhaps above all we will remember the sense of community which has sprung up in the arid ground of self-interest. It is truly wonderful to see how many people are volunteering, helping out, looking out for each other. That is the best aspect of the British psyche, and we should rejoice in it.
The first couple of weeks of self-isolation has, I hope, not been too bad. The decent weather and the onset of Spring must have helped. (Imagine if this had been mid-October with the dark nights and miserable weather approaching.) We are fortunate in an area like this, many of us to have gardens, or access to open spaces; reasonable fresh air, and generally a decent living space. Just think what it must be like to have a family of small children shut inside a small flat in a tower block in some inner city. Their Dunkirk spirit must be wearing a bit thin already.
I hope that we are all finding useful and memorable things to do. Sort out the drawers and wardrobes we have been meaning to do for ages, perhaps do a bit of DIY. I am sure that The TV and its myriad channels, social media and the rest of it helps a great deal to keep us in touch. But I hope that people will also rediscover some long-forgotten board games; keep a diary of these momentous events, revive some ancient skill - piano paying or chess. Pick up the phone and ring as many friends and acquaintances as you can. It will be appreciated. There will be stresses and strains on families, but I hope that there will also be some great benefits of time allowing families to get together in a way they cannot usually do. There have been some great videos circulating of families putting together silly songs, for example. Let’s all eat together, round a table, enjoy each other’s company; but also keep out of each other’s hair as much as we can.
I have been working hard from home with a vast number of emails and phone calls, trying my best together with my great team also working remotely, to help as many constituents as I possibly can. I have also been finishing off a collection of these Columns (heavily edited I hasten to add), stretching back over 25 years, which my publisher tells me he will publish in time for the Christmas market if I can find 350 buyers up front. So if you think it’s a good idea (£15, dedication signature free of charge), perhaps you would just let me know informally, so that I can give the publisher some idea of the market!
Here in Wiltshire, it’s all going as well as can be expected, with relatively few cases and a handful of sad deaths. I know that it may well get worse before it gets better. So we must keep our spirits up; keep busy; and generally brace ourselves for what may be to come.