Covid Chronicle — day 11, or is that 15? (I ‘ve lost count).
My mother in-law’s (Mil) text has not been replied. My phone rests on the dinning table unused. Zoom has come to dominate conversations that leave our home.
Mil’s message likens the food shortages and rationing to her memories during the war. The consumer boom of the 60s has eradicated any semblance of hardships in legacy memories for generations. Why don’t you write about what’s going on, she asks.
Where to start. For one thing, I’ve taken to scavenging through books as if the world is nearing its end. My attention span perhaps is the cause. I used to wake up to BBC’s Radio 4 Today programme, but since the Brexit drone I have muted the button. It stays muted.
Everyday though is an exercise in how more depressing things can get; more deaths, more doctors, nurses, more bus drivers, more people. Yesterday Emily Maitlis presenter of Newsnight opened with an extraordinary, but necessary monologue.
Being a fighter, being of stern stuff will not save you from the virus, she said, alluding to the spin the government’s aides have deployed to levitate PM Boris Johnson. It’s the stuff of fairy tales. He is sick and any human would wish him a speedy recovery, but the rhetoric surrounding his wellbeing is being crafted to religious fervour.
Maitlis’ address comes of the tail of Afua Hirsh’s powerful opinion piece: If coronavirus doesn’t discriminate, how come black people are bearing the brunt? That morning she too identified the virus was not the great leveller and that those suffering disproportionately were not the metropolitan class, but low income workers and specifically black people.
I worked at Newsnight in 1991. During the day all manner of newspapers draped the editorial desks and we ‘d comb through them looking for inspirations. I would not be a tad surprised if Maitlis was inspired by Hirsch.
Meanwhile, we’re off to the shops for provisions. I lived through the bloody coups of Ghana in the 70s/80s as a child. I know what it’s like to go without.
These trips to the supermarket bring back memories. What is it though with some people? Is social distancing a test of IQ? On the streets a family spread themselves across the pavement oblivious to social etiquette and that passer bys have a right too. In the supermarkets, shoppers too impatient, would rather risk airborne droplets on their arms, reaching for the pasta than waiting their turn.
Studies have now migrated online. I do feel for our international students, whom are quarantined. We’ve had some good chats. I’ve tried to keep them lighter, so they talk about their own experiences. Some of them have responded, but it’s tough.
Next week my equipment comes for my mobile studio. A friend from my Uni days in the late 80s contacted me to chat about an online show idea. It sent me off to my garage where I opened a box and stared at scores of reels, which retain some deeply loved interviews. I’ve digitised a few, as you can see below, but I need to get hold of a Nagra or uher to digitise the rest. My one has given up the ghost
Meanwhile this show, speaking to some very clever people about creativity seems like fun. The British Library have written to me, as part of a team of advisors. In 2021 they’re planning a huge exhibition and it’s been a joy and experience being in the room with notable news heavyweights like George Brock, Kurt Barling and Samira Ahmed.
I wrote to one award winning journo to see if I could feature his work. He hasn’t got back. You’d think he would, but, well there you go.
Our kid’s 17th birthday today. No friends around, so it’ll be a quiet one with a home made cake. We’re about to watch the news again. Nothing so cheery. In fact I have just missed the 8.00 O’clock clap for the NHS. A tad guilty now. I’m going to text one of our family, a doctor, who’s getting ready for a shift on a Covid ward.
Be careful. Stay home. Keep a safe distance.