by Colin Campbell
LAST April when we were in the early throes of lockdown, a relative in the south said to me: “Thank heaven this is taking place now, when the weather is good. Imagine what it would be like if it was in November or December.”
At the time, we thought it would all be over long before then.
Well now it is taking place in January and no imagination is needed. Covered in snow and ice on the outskirts and with the city centre empty and desolate amid the ever-growing threat of the virus running rampant, these are soul-destroying times.
This is a harsh, freezing January and if anyone can remember a worse one in the round I’d like to know when it was.
I’ve come across babbling columnists in papers, including local ones, offering their various “tips” on how to get through it, usually revolving around some new offering from Netflix. That’s a distinctly uninspiring outlook.
We could insert all the usual caveats about how other people, particularly older people, are trapped in their homes and are having an even worse time of it. Maybe so. But is the even worse suffering of others supposed to lift morale?
The “we’re all in this together” slogan which seems so pervasive is now nothing but an irritating, meaningless cliché. And, its alternate form, “we’ll all get through this together” is no better.
Worn down by 10 months of this situation – not far off a year now – far from all being in it together, people are visibly becoming more tense, fractious and short-tempered.
On the buses the mood is low and sour. “Fed up”, “had enough of this”, the “world’s gone to hell” – snippets of conversation heard by anyone bothered to listen.
The other day two women almost came to blows over a disagreement before one was chucked off by the driver. Yesterday a driver “We are in lockdown!” clashed angrily with a passenger who hadn’t the correct money for his fare.
At Queensgate I saw a man approach the open door at the post office. Another in a mask, glasses and woolly hat standing outside it on his own snapped at him: “There’s a queue”, and waved his hand as an instruction to get behind him.
“Oh, there’s a **** queue is there,” the other snapped back. “Thanks a lot for telling me.”
The rain lashed city centre looked hideous.
This is not based on a few brief anecdotes from me. Other people have told me of their own experiences. There is agreement that stoicism is wilting drastically and ill-temper is rising at the same rate as this drags on amid the virus plagued freeze. And who would be surprised.
Meanwhile the vaccine salvation has paled just a bit in significance, mainly thanks to politicians who seem intent on destroying optimism by insisting, vaccine or no vaccine, we could still be social distancing and forced to wear face masks till next winter.
I read in one paper – and it’s a mistake to read these doom laden rags, at least the national ones – an unnamed adviser to the Government fulminating about people breaching the rules for exercise, like having a coffee together on a park bench. “If we have to ban exercise to the point of allowing one hour only once a week, that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
That surely won’t happen. People would be prepared to end up in Porterfield before they’d be confined like that.
The virus in this area now seems to be running rampant, many people know someone’s whose caught it, the struggle to get through this seems more difficult than ever and on freezing days under leaden skies this is by far the worst part of the whole ghastly experience. Others may view it differently.
The darkest hour comes before the dawn, or so it’s said. Well we don’t know what the dawn will be like but the darkest hour is certainly making a very fine job of stretching out over days and weeks without end.