Testing positives – finding little chinks of light in the darkest of times
Covid. Yep, I know, we’ve all had it to the back teeth with this sodding virus which continues to work it’s way through the Greek alphabet with appalling regularity. But, despite the shit storm of the last few years – which I know has been hard-going for everyone and bloody unbearable for many – as the cheery, eternal optimist that I am, I discovered some, personal, pandemic positives.
In at #3 is Socialising, or lack thereof. I’m not antisocial, in fact, quite the opposite – if you think of me as a human Labrador, you wouldn’t be far wrong. But these lockdowns didn’t half take the pressure off and, between you and me, I rather enjoyed them.
For Tim (my other half) and I, our socialising routine wasn’t exactly wild to begin with; a Sunday lunch at the local gastropub a couple of times a month and the occasional night out for a birthday, anniversary etc.
We’re at an age now where clubbing is off the table and going out, especially out out, ironically, takes it out of us. I’m only fifty two but honestly, there’s nothing better than coming home at a reasonable hour, donning your PJs and kicking back with a nice cup of tea and Midsomer Murders.
Plus, Tim’s from Yorkshire and without straying too far into that stereotype, he is exactly how you’d imagine a native of God’s Own Country to be – no-nonsense, taciturn and quite happy to avoid all forms of social interaction and the associated polite, meaningless chit chat.
So yeah, lockdowns were a gift for him. For me, having him at home 24/7, was… challenging, so I enthusiastically encouraged his mildly expressed desire for a raised vegetable bed, and was thrilled when it kept him busy for weeks. Fresh veg + Tim out from under my feet = Win Win.
But another reason I happily adhered so stringently to the rules was because of Mum. She’s classed as vulnerable due to heart issues so, if she were to catch Covid, there was a high likelihood of her dying – and I couldn’t have lived with myself if I’d been the one to infect her.
Before Covid (B.C.) I used to pop up daily, a routine that wasn’t wholly my choice. Much as I love her, you can have too much mother in your life but I discovered that, in her extensive arsenal of maternal machinations, emotional blackmail was a key strength.
But During Covid (D.C.) that regimen had to be curtailed and, frankly, it was wonderful. Now, it was just two visits per week to drop off her shopping and I’d sit in her garden and have brief conversations through the patio doors.
Plus, there was the added bonus that, though I’d describe myself as a strong, independent woman, being outside meant Mum couldn’t smell that I’d just had a sneaky cigarette.
#2 is Pub Protocol. The younger me, who frequented pubs and clubs, knew that if you wanted a drink, you queued. You stood in line, or squeezed your way through, and waited, generally patiently, for the harried bar staff to wade through the orders whilst desperately hoping no one asked for Guinness or a round of cocktails.
And you didn’t complain; in fact, often for politeness sake, you’d find yourself apologising to someone who you knew was after you but… “Oh sorry, were you before me? No, no, it’s fine, you go first.” It was the nature of the beast.
But then, on one leisurely holiday in France, I learned the joy of European Service. How civilised. You relax at your café table, the garçon approaches and, moments later, he’s setting down a fat, iced Coke in a sweating glass and a café au lait, dismissing my ‘merci beaucoups’ with a negligent, Gallic shrug. Brilliant.
So, when table service started in pubs, what wasn’t to like? No queuing, no squash of bodies jockeying for position, no shouting across crowded heads, “What did you say you wanted again?” or doing the universal hand-clutch-empty-glass-swivel. It was bloody great.
Sadly, since restrictive measures have been lifted, it’s back to the old routine but I say, let’s put the hospitable back into hospitality, embrace our European roots and bring back table service, s’il vous plait?
#1 Top spot for me is masks, which seem to be surprisingly divisive. Some folks have embraced them as a necessary, and very simple, public health measure whilst others believe they’re a threat to our very freedoms, a symbol of a New World Order or the start of a Great Reset. Whatever. Me, I’m all for them.
As well as empirical evidence that they help keep Covid at bay and lessen your chance of passing it on, since I started wearing them, I haven’t had my usual winter colds or flu or the numerous other bugs I tend to pick up with tedious frequency.
And another benefit is that it covers a lot of my face. Over the last two years, I’ve spent nothing on lipstick and find that masks are a wonderful way of disguising a double chin and sagging jowls.
But what I love most about them is that whenever I’ve been wearing one, when it comes time to remove it, I have what I like to call MDKM – My Dr Kildare Moment!
I might simply be coming out of Tesco’s but, in my mind, I’m leaving an operating theatre after completing a procedure so complex, no other surgeon in the land would even attempt it.
As I step away from the table, the assisting doctors and nurses break into spontaneous applause which I acknowledge with a modest head shake, a self-deprecating wave and the humble smile of a medical megastar. In that moment, I’m a hero in my own headspace and it feels amazing – so long may mask culture reign!
Of course, there were other things that floated my boat. When it all kicked off, there was a very real sense of shared purpose; individuals began to connect, becoming a collective force for good, to keep one another safe, to feed our communities, to be better, more caring neighbours.
There was Nature; the dawn chorus, undiluted by the rumble of rush hours, was gloriously deafening and foxes prowled the streets in the daytime.
I found our local farm shop which, as well as tasty, fresh produce, also makes the best banana milkshakes and cooked breakfasts in Swansea, served on a covered terrace overlooking a field of sleepy sheep.
I embraced bra-less living, releasing my ladies, to swing low and liberated, enjoying my mammary mutiny after almost forty years of M&S constraint. The only downside was the need to choose shirts with care, a weightier fabric required to conceal the nipple action caused by fluctuating temperatures.
And remember those photos of cities that were all over Twitter, showing the dramatic reduction in air pollution after just a few weeks of lockdowns? They brought hope and clearly illustrated ways we could reduce, or even reverse, the effects of global warming.
Then there was the clapping for the NHS; those Thursday nights when you stood outside, beating hell out of a frying pan with a wooden spoon or banging saucepan lids together like cymbals. The very first time we did it… well, it packed a massive emotional punch.
I had tears rolling down my cheeks and genuinely felt the meaning of the ‘We’re all in this together’ mantra. It was an uplifting and poignant two minutes – but being brutally honest, it did begin to pall a little and, in the final couple of weeks, I found myself doing it for form’s sake, and to stop Pauline from next door bitching about me.
So, though this pandemic has been a most devastating and life-changing phenomenon, it’s certainly shown me how to find the little chinks of light during the darkest of times. Plus, it demonstrated – at least, until Dominic Cummings took his Barnard Castle test drive – the power of a united populace to realise beneficial change.
I wonder if that’s something we can ever achieve again? As I don my FFP2 and rose-tinted, utopian glasses, I really bloody hope so.
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