We’re locked down. We knew it was coming and yet when the moment came it was still deeply shocking.
It made for an evening none of us who live through this crisis will ever forget. And for the vast majority of us, like none other we’ve experienced before. Or ever thought we would.
If living through it sounds a tad dramatic for you, talk to anyone who stays with someone who has an immunodeficient condition.
I do. And so do countless others. I lost my first partner to a plague 25 years ago. I don’t want to lose my husband now.
I spent much of the rest of the evening checking up on friends. Many of them in distress. Not because they are self-indulgent but because this is very frightening.
They fear for their loved ones, especially those from whom they find themselves apart and those for whom they are carers. They are self-isolating and fear for themselves.
This is not fiction, it’s breathtakingly real. Follow the virus.
Yesterday, I learnt from a friend that someone we both knew — he very well — had died the night before from cancer. I cannot begin to fathom what it must be like for the dead man’s partner.
To lose the love of your life is unthinkable. For that to happen amidst this dystopian nightmare beggars belief.
Today I spoke to another friend — whose village of 300 people has a telephone tree in place for every single one of them. Brilliant self-organised endeavour.
These are the stories of the moment. They chill you to the bone one minute and warm your soul the next. The last thing we need is cold hearts.
Most of us are just trying to get through all this. Heads down, shoulders to the wheel. Cherishing our nearest and dearest and getting on with the stuff that matters.
We’ve gritted our teeth and suspended hostilities on a myriad of causes. We’re sailing through choppy waters. We know that unless we’re one crew — all together — the boat might just sink.
And so it is astonishing — isn’t it — that some folk just don’t seem to have got the memo?
Think Rod Liddle, writing in The Spectator, who thought fit to urge a boycott of the Highlands in response to Scottish Finance Secretary, Kate Forbes’ heartfelt plea for people to self isolate at home, not at the risk of her constituents.
Or the Telegraph columnist, Alison Pearson, who also thought a boycott call was an appropriate response to the gravest moment in recent history — ‘Let Made in China be a badge of shame’, she exclaimed on Twitter.
Or Spiked Online’s Brendan O’Neill, who declared that ‘The right to dissent from the middle-class apocalypticism enveloping the Covid-19 crisis is the most important liberty right now.’ In the name of free speech? Nauseating.
Or the MSP, John Mason, rightly branded neither ‘an exception nor exceptional’ by his colleague, Jeane Freeman, for insisting his surgeries would remain open.
Or Mike Ashley who announced his Sports Direct empire should be on the essential shops list, without a moment’s thought for his staff or customers. For what? Greed.
Mason backed down. Ashley should have no choice.
Pardon the naming and shaming – it’s not my default. But these are not normal times. And what’s good for the goose is sauce for the gander.
I could go on too, but I won’t. Because the only stories that actually matter are those about the people who are doing everything to get us through this nightmare. Sometimes at great personal cost. Even in the face of significant risk to their own lives.
I’m talking, of course, about public servants in the eye of the storm. Those in the NHS. Those delivering social care services to people most in need.
Charities working with those in harm’s way – including those for whom home is not a safe haven. And the armies of volunteers who are looking out for fellow citizens.
You think I’m being wide-eyed and dreamy? Trust me. You won’t if you find yourself, or one of your family, relying on their efforts.
The degree of difficulty in all this is off the scale.
The last thing we need is the thoughtlessness of puffed-up, second rate politicians or the avarice of shameless racketeers. Or contrarian and dangerous diatribe from those whose column inches could be put to better use.
To quote an old friend I spoke to at the weekend now is the time for all of us to evoke our better selves. And for those with a voice to help us re-clothe our rightful minds.
If you’re the object of my ire, you’re free to disagree, of course. But we’re free not to listen. And on balance it would be better if you found something more useful to say or do. Or just shut up — shops and all.
Yes, there are conversations to be had about the best way out of this. Plans to be scrutinized by politicians across the board. Serious questions to be asked by decent journalists. Emily Maitlis took no prisoners on Newsnight.
And quite right too. We live in a democracy, which, for sure, makes all this necessarily harder. Enforcement will be tough. Mutual trust will make this work.
And, yes, disagreements will be had. Tempers will fray. We’ve a long way to go. We’re only human. The end of the tunnel is not even in sight.
But if your purpose is poison or prejudice, profit or peacockery, give us all a break. And do some good works instead.
But most of all — stay at home and save lives. Nothing else matters now.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash