2020: Dancing With Covid
If 2020 was a conversation between two genres it would go something like this:
Fiction: Hey, anything left?
In January 2020, the World Health Organisation (WHO) told us we might be getting a plague. It had originated from Wuhan in China and it might be global. They called it COVID-19. Social media streamed us clips of people falling where they stood, all in various stages of distress.
Burning down the House
The virus was only interested in one thing: replication. This killer wasn’t hostile: it was simply looking for somewhere to hunker down. Its tools of breaking-and-entering were contact, air, respiratory, and excretion. Or in simpler analogy: touch, breath, snot, and poo. It spotted a host – any human would do – found a weak backdoor, moved in, smashed up the furniture and rebuilt everything to its own specification, then started to make itself dinner.
Based on age, our biological responses to COVID's attempts to break in generally went something like this:
0 - 25: What's on telly?
26-34: I think someone's tried to break in.
35- 50: How the hell did you get in?
50 plus: We might have to burn everything.
Against all odds: Move along; this house is already on fire.
Pets were lifesavers and household implements made perfectly good companions.
A tiny invisible virus killed us, created more conspiracy theories, made billionaires and paupers, and brought something called Zoom into our lives. We discovered we could live, love, and laugh under greater duress than we'd ever imagined. Our home was a fortress. Our garden was vulnerable. Pets were lifesavers and household implements made perfectly good companions. Stealing plants from patios and front gardens became a thing.
World leaders contracted the virus, one or two openly flaunting their contempt for safety. Our Prime Minister Boris Johnson informed us that we'd be pleased to know that he'd visited coronavirus patients in hospital, where he "shook hands with everybody." We weren't pleased. Nor was COVID. It wagged a very stern finger at our PM and gave him everything except thicker hair.
You had to laugh. You had to.
We had masks. Oh, yes. We used scarves, brought gas masks, cut up sweaters and t-shirts, tea towels. We improved designs, shared, mended, drew, donated, and sold masks. They had flowers, skeletons, animals, landscapes, flags, slogans. They were cultural, spiritual, religious, militaristic, crude, funny. We clashed and coordinated, made statements, along with masks for hospitals, friends, relatives, and strangers.
Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes
We had lockdown. We had slogans and mantras. After a while they all merged into sense and nonsense.
Alert the virus
Sing happy birthday
Polly put the kettle on
Do the hokey-cokey
Some of us protested against wearing masks. We demonstrated for the right to choose. Some of decided we had covididiots living among us. We fought each other while fighting a pandemic. Hey, look, we’re only human.
While we were stuck inside, nature reclaimed its dominion. The animals came out - and in far greater numbers than two by two. We saw goats, crocodiles, ducks, deer, swans, giraffes, elephants, snakes, sloths, foxes, lions, and monkeys entering urban life. Without the human around, every creature had a ball. Some caught covid.
Shops, restaurants, clubs, pubs, bars, sports centres, theaters, museums ... everything had to close. Well, not everything. Apparently COVID didn't like education or being out during the day. Schools stayed open and pubs closed at 10.pm. In the UK, the virus wasn't the only thing plaguing us. Brexit stopped us from even making it as far as Dover. We needed an access permit to go down to the coast. Two Brits broke New Zealand's covid-free record by travelling there and giving them the lurgies.
Back in the UK, we’d been the first with a vaccine. However, the virus had mutated into something no other country seemed to have. We were the ‘first’ with a. vaccine and first with a variant of COVID. Before this, nobody had wanted America, but now it was the UK that upped the ante with a new variant. We were Plague Island. It was shutdown and shutout.
Around the globe, wars and conflicts continued right alongside the virus. Only human, right?
This is not a game
European countries were also suffering. Italy's plight was catastrophic, as was Spain's, France's, and the UK's. Every day, hundreds were dying. Some cities had an epidemic within the pandemic. In Italy, the town of Bergamo lost around 26,000 people from a population of 525,000.
The world flipped 360 degrees. Africa already had several jumps on fatal diseases that could decimate populations. With limited modern health facilities, the general world view was What will poor Africa do? What it did was to ban Europe. Those recently arrived were returned or quarantined to reduce all risk to highly vulnerable populations.
No one was playing with this virus. Throughout The Caribbean and Latin America, Barbados is the only nation in the region designated by the UN as fully developed. While still dependent on tourism, and with deaths from Covid totalling just seven, this tiny island brooked no nonsense. It was quarantine for all arrivals who couldn't show a negative test for the virus. It even arrested and detained Love Island cast members who tried to break from isolation.
Everyone had a tale to tell. One family member went in on Christmas Eve. Came out a few days later, but passed another relative going in. He had called the ambulance for his mother. They came; examined her. "She's fine," they told him. "But you ..."
No-one wanted to take the vaccine. At least, not until Death poked his skeletal head in the door and said, "Hey! Oops, wrong one - laters!"
We tried. We stayed inside, got drunk, danced, stockpiled toilet paper, pigged out, and learned the walk of every pigeon. We could only go outside for certain activities and for food, medical, and exercise. We baked, danced, sang, cooked, knitted, applauded. Food banks came into their own. That hobby of making robots from recycled mesh was suddenly the difference between a roof over your head and eviction. It put food on the table.
Loved ones left us. Some within a matter of days, some alone, some confused, and in the most frightening of conditions. They couldn’t breathe.
In America, one man couldn’t breathe. Not from Covid-19, but from a knee on his neck. George Floyd died in full few of the public when Derek Chauvin, a police officer in Minneapolis, knelt on his neck for almost nine minutes. He called for his mother. He lost control of his bladder. He died.
A good part of the world erupted in fury. For the rest it was just another day.
Suddenly, black lives mattered - and Black Lives Mattered. On the TV; in magazines; in marches; in history books and public buildings. Statues were torn down and drowned; buildings were renamed. Isms were praised or reviled. This writer no longer had to struggle to find representative black images for my writing. (If you're non-black, give it a go.) On TV, everyone suddenly became fifty shades browner.
It was confusing, breath-taking, and joyous. Of course, it would be transitory, but those who were a little more jaded made the most of the moment. 'Representation' had arrived. You just tried not to notice the higher representation in fried chicken and gambling ads; as opposed to property and finance. After all, the world was on fire; there was money to be made. Some businesses thrived; others were forced to take their 'broke ass home'. 2020 was a year in which to hustle.
We began to appreciate what being neighbourly truly meant.
We understood the toil and the extraordinary efforts of the NHS and key workers everywhere. There were those who kept water running heating on, roads cleaned, shelves stacked, post delivered and transport running. Each one was a butterfly effect in providing us with all the things we take for granted. Take them away and if you didn't know how to make rockstone soup and build your own fire, you'd be lost.
A ninety-nine year old solder called Captain Tom marched for charity; the country saluted him. A young footballer shamed the government into changing the rules that would have meant children going hungry during lockdown. He became an MBE. We began to appreciate what being neighbourly truly meant.
The Fool on the Hill
Right alongside the influence of George Floyd and of covid, was that of a man who led the most powerful country in the world. A self-proclaimed non-politician, a businessman, a celebrity. He presided over a surging economy, peace treaties, tax cuts, criminal reform, a pandemic.
He was a narcissist.
For those of us who've ever worked, socialised, or lived with a narcissist, we knew. Charisma, often a workaholic, buzzing with ideas, leadership, attractive to follower personalities. Narcissists come with a inferno of need for adoration. They must be be the focus of attention at all times and by any means possible. They are ruthless. From several personal experience, I have a single piece of advice for dealing with narcissists. Run like hell. Don't ever look back. My work here is done.
"We're storming the Capitol! It's a revolution!"
This is America
We had the American election in November 2020. We also had the aftermath. Suffice to say American politics exceeded every movie genre Netflix could put out. Let's be honest, how many of us watched the US inauguration wondering if we might witness an assassination attempt during a Presidential inauguration? I'd say just about as many of those that saw the US Capitol on 6th January 2020. On that day, just in case we couldn't believe we were witnessing an attempted coup by a sitting President, Elizabeth from Knoxville, Tennessee enlightened us: "We're storming the Capitol! It's a revolution!"
How many of us feared being seeing an assassination attempt during a Presidential inauguration?
2020 made us stronger, more weepy, inspired by memes, jokes and parodies. You had to laugh. You had to. We found the spirit we needed to cope with dread and the fear for ourselves or for a loved one.
But we've come out the other side - some of us. Most of us have at least one new interest or skill. We've found higher ground and we're ready for another spate of whatever the hell 2021 might bring.
Meanwhile we’re saying to 2020; Ok, we recognise; we appreciate. Now, we’re ready.