February has been a strange month so far, sitting as it does a year on from the Covid-19 pandemic for much of the world. This in itself forces us to look back to the same time last year and of course, given the year we have just had, the contrasts could not be more stark.
This Time Last Year
A year ago, the first known cases of Covid-19 in Britain were being whisked away to an isolation hospital, first in Hull and then in Newcastle, as the rest of the country watched, more with voyeuristic excitement than genuine fear. Today, our death toll, directly attributed to Covid-19, stands at 119,000 and rising, and there have been more than 4 million confirmed cases in Britain alone.
A year ago, Covid 19 was still referred to as ‘2019 novel coronavirus’ and thankfully still felt as though it were happening somewhere else and therefore to someone else. It had, we knew, killed 304 in China so far, with the city of Wuhan undergoing a strange, military-style lockdown. How alien that all looked. How impossible for those scenes to be replicated in the world at large, or heaven forbid, on our own doorsteps. Of course, that would all quickly change as the novelty of this novel coronavirus wore thin and a new, hitherto unthinkable reality emerged. Today, there have been more than 110 million cases worldwide and in excess of 2.4 million deaths that we know of because of it.
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A Birthday Like No Other
A year ago, I celebrated my birthday with friends and family. We finished off the day in the local pub, gathered round an intimate corner table, sharing laughs and stories and space and air as if this were the most natural thing in the world. In 2021, I spent my birthday on my hands and knees scrubbing every inch of my parents’ house with bleach in an attempt to scrub away any residual virus as they both lay in hospital beds, fighting their own fight with Covid-19.
A year ago, I went to the London Poetry Fair where I rubbed shoulders with thousands of poets and booksellers in a packed hall in Islington, and my only concern was not being able to elbow my way to the stalls of books quickly enough. Today, I step off the pavement to avoid the single masked person coming towards me with her shopping bags and the only shoulder rubs and physical contact I get are from my designated shoulder-rubber, my partner, my “support bubble”.
Everyone has stories like this.
Everyone looks back with longing, shocked and numbed by the year just gone, whilst desperately dreaming of a time when normal life may be resumed.
A Game of Two Halves
And February is helping with that too. In fact it is very much a month of two halves, the first half given to looking back in utter disbelief and the second half, thanks largely to the success of the vaccination roll out, tentatively looking forward to a time when restrictions may be lifted and life, as we once knew it, can begin again.
Of course, we can never go back. That is not how time works. The year just gone has inexorably altered every aspect of our lives and our thinking. ‘Normal’ will return, eventually, but it will be a new normal, a post-Covid normal for the whole of the world. It is important to remember this, and not to get too hung up on trying to replicate exactly what was there before this all started. That has gone, if only because we are now all changed in some way because of what the world has been through.
Nothing Stays The Same
In case you didn’t know, things are different now! Children have an altered relationship with school for having tasted home schooling, and their parents even more so! Who knows, they may appreciate it more in the future and you’ll take less time trying to drag them out of bed Monday to Friday. College students also have a markedly different university experience ahead of them these days. And work, well that will never be quite the same again either. The pandemic has opened our eyes to new ways of working, of socialising, of studying, of being. Not all of it has been good but then again not all of it has been bad either. It has been different. And change happens all the time, pandemic or no pandemic, whether we like it or not. The best thing we can do at this time and in the future, is simply to remember that nothing can ever stay the same for long and this is simply our reality for now. You have no choice in the matter, so embrace it, warts and all. You’ll save yourself a hell of a lot of stress if you can!