I’m at the end of my eighth week of Lockdown and the colour is leaching from my life.
It turns out that reading, walking, cooking and spending time with my wife no longer sparkle when, instead of being things I’ve eagerly found the time to do, they are the only things I’m allowed to do.
It turns out that I can’t sustain a joyful ‘Here And Now’ in the absence of an anticipated tomorrow.
It turns out that my government’s priority is hiding its incompetence rather than learning from its mistakes. That they cannot protect, test or trace but that they fake success by making the lowest-paid go back to work and by making all but the elite in private education offer up their youngest children for two weeks in a petri dish school so that things look like their getting back to normal.
It turns out I that every worst-case scenario my pessimistic mind generates is invalidated only because, when they happen, they’re worse than I expected.
So I’m looking for hope. Not a lot of hope. I’m too English and too old to believe anybody who tells me it’s all going to be OK. It won’t but maybe, perhaps, just sometimes it might not be so awful.
It turns out that Sheenagh Pugh wrote a poem that offers as much hope as I can bring myself to believe in. It’s called ‘Sometimes’.
‘Sometimes’ by Sheenagh Pugh
Sometimes, things don’t go, after all, from bad to worse. Some years, Muscadel faces down frost, green thrives, the crops don’t fail, sometimes a man aims high, and all goes well. A people, sometimes, will step back from war; elect an honest man; decide they care enough, that they can’t leave some stranger poor. Some men become what they were born for. Sometimes our best efforts do not go amiss. Sometimes we do as we meant to. The sun will sometimes melt a field of sorrow that seemed hard frozen: may it happen for you.
It turns out I’ll settle for sometimes when it feels I’m being offered never.
By the way, Sheenagh Pugh has a shared the story behind this poem. She says:
It was originally written about a sportsman who had a drug problem and it expressed the hope that he might eventually get over it – because things do go right sometimes, but not very often… But it isn’t anywhere near skilful or subtle enough and I would cheerfully disown it, if people didn’t now and then write to me saying it had helped them. By the way, you might also care to know that I originally wrote “the sun will sometimes melt a field of snow” (the sportsman’s drug of choice was cocaine). But I mistyped “sorrow” for “snow” and then decided I liked that better. I believe in letting the keyboard join in the creative process now and then.
I love the idea of ‘letting the keyboard join in the creative process’. That also gives me a little hope.
3 thoughts on “Eight weeks into Lockdown and it turns out… that I need a poem by Sheenagh Pugh”
I don’t understand exactly how you feel – I am still able to enjoy this brief moment of respite in part because I know that when tomorrow comes for me (and it is coming for me right now) things are going to be really terrible when we try to catch up. I think if this had happened four years from now, after I retire, I would probably feel differently.
I felt as though it was a respite for the first six weeks or so but those weeks haven’t been used to set up protect, test and track capabilities. We have a divided government with confused policies that will almost certainly kill 50,000+ and then generate a second wave.
Meanwhile, we continue to head to a Hard or No Deal Brexit (even though the second is technically illegal under the Benn Act.
Share values have dropped by 30% in the past quarter. Oil is priced below zero which destroys the commodity market. UK GDP is forecast to shrink by 5% in the next six months with that number more than doubling if there is a hard Brexit.
The outcome of all of that is 3-8 years of ‘market correction’ (based on 1992, 2002 and 2008) a static or falling housing market, no safe haven for savings, falling value of Sterling and growing poverty and wealth inequality in the UK.
Travel will become harder once we’re not in the EU. The airline industry is on the edge of collapse. Cruise ships are floating Petri dishes. If the UK does not control COVID-19 it may find borders closed to it.
So the next three to five years will be a train wreck. I don’t see anything getting back to ‘normal’. I expect that climate collapse will really start to bite before the end of this decade. By the middle of the next decade, people will look back and wonder how we ever thought the way we lived at the start of the century could continue to work.
I’m sixty-three. Selfishly, all I wanted was some quiet time to travel with my wife and the nebulous but necessary satisfaction of knowing that things would continue to get better for each new generation.
Now, what I wanted won’t be possible and seems even more selfish than it did five years ago.
With all that needs to change, with the choice we have between helping each other or letting the very wealthy help themselves while the rest of us become serfs, it feels wrong to be doing nothing.
Sorry for the rant. I guess I really do have too much time on my hands-
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All of those things are true here, too, although our fatalities are within spitting distance 90K as of this morning. I anticipate that the U.S. will lose 200K people by the time that this is over. Maybe as many as a quarter million. I could be one of them – I don’t have any significant health issues, but I’m 54 and have been in a high stress, sedentary occupation for twenty four years.
I agree with EVERYTHING contained in your “rant” and am not sure that something that is so realistic should be called a “rant” at all. The Washington Post had an article yesterday from Georgia, which has essentially reopened without any real attempt to enforce social distancing, etc. This is a problem.
But the real problem is in the citizenry. We have corrupted our sense of community and our sense of freedom. Freedom is now perceived in an individualist & hedonistic fashion that allows for no sense of community responsibility or shared sacrifice. We revere the wealthy in a way that I don’t think we’ve seen since the literal Dark Ages – and we are re-establishing a form of serfdom, little by little. All of this is the reason that we fiddle while Rome burns, both vis a vis the pandemic and climate change.
I am most worried about my kids. That’s what keeps me up at night. My daughter is 24 and my son is 20. She is married to a young man who comes from a lot of money, and she has a job with his family business. I’m less worried about her. My son, though, is 20, was diagnosed with autism when he was 3, and would struggle entering adulthood in a world with 6% unemployment. He’s very high functioning, a talented musician, and a wonderful young man, but I simply don’t know what he will do in this job market.
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