A year today, I started living (almost) 24/7 within the confines of my home, like you and others (apart from Dominic Cummings). What stands out for me is witnessing and feeling something that was invisible – the virus- take hold in an almost tangible way and translating all that into fear. It was a new midlife experience for me.
I have seen articles by boomers and midlifers about how previous experiences had stood them in good stead for facing the pandemic and life in lockdown. I beg to differ. There was the AIDS pandemic in the 1980s but, with all due respect, heterosexual people are just ‘bigging up’ their experiences.
What I witnessed, starting a year ago, was the scalability of fear. It went from the equivalent of saying, in the UK, ‘not us’ to something like 125,000 deaths today. If that sort of scale of tragedy isn’t fear inducing then I don’t know what is.
Pre-pandemic, I had grasped fear as something that happened at a personal individual level or, if scaled up, perhaps, in a ‘contained’ tragedy like an aeroplane crash with identifiable victims where it was those onboard who would have experienced fear. We sit at home and watch these tragedies unfold on our TV screens during the news. In the next moment, we forget about it. Something that happens in another part of the global imbues us with a sense of disconnection from the tragedy.
Then fear became something that landed in our own backyards. How naive we were at the start of pandemic in the UK to dismiss the thought that a heaving capital city like London could ever go into full lockdown. We became pandemic prisoners in our own homes.
Witnessing this and being a part of this phenomenon was and remains, in a negative way, one of the most memorable experiences of my life. We were certainly all in it together – bound by the fear of contracting Covid-19.
Yesterday, the 17th March, was a year to the day when I last visited a café. I did what I had done week in week out, drink hot chocolate while reading a newspaper. Going to a café was one of those things people did without spontaneity. It was a part of our social life. I miss the sight of marshmallows floating in a froth of whipped cream. I miss going into a bookshop and looking through the latest publications. I miss the roar of traffic along a main Central London road.
There are many other things I miss but these pale in comparison to those who have lost loved ones to the virus. It is them who have borne the largest burden. While we were all bound by fear, not all of us have paid a mortal price.