What a difference 24 hours makes. Three days ago people were still going for a grand day out at the beach, queuing for the chipper and enjoying the sun. As if to rebuke the Guardian report this morning that the government had passed on advice to set up an emergency alert system, a text message was sent to phones around the country today, telling everyone to stay at home. As if things couldn’t get more end-of-days-ish.
One must just hope they didn’t have to pay for every text message. It is already surreal sharing this experience with friends on the other side of the planet. Universal text messages telling us to save lives take us into a weird Black Mirror world. It might be one we’ve been sliding into for a few weeks now but we have finally well and truly arrived.
Mind you, it really doesn’t seem like a brave new world out there. My desk is beside a window and I can see people passing by at both ends of the day. I can hear the main road from here too and the traffic has not stopped. Considering this is an unprecedented lockdown I had rather expected it to sound as quiet as it does on Christmas Day. We must have a lot of workers living locally – or possibly the new rules are taking a while to sink in. One can’t help wondering if a strict lockdown is possible in a country which has championed individualism for decades, with an I’m-all-right-Jack, attitude that leads us to obsess about sovereignty and independence. It was rather shocking last night to hear Boris Johnson actually sound like a credible leader, albeit a tightly scripted and pre-recorded one.
But then these are strange days indeed. When a Tory government effectively re-nationalises the railways and considers a universal basic income (link behind a paywall and the universal basic income is still just an idea, for the moment). Workers who were deemed low skilled and therefore low-value mere weeks ago are now key workers who are keeping society going. This virus is turning the world as we know it on its head. It might be temporary, it might be a lasting change. This really is the kind of event that defines decades, even centuries.
I haven’t blogged on a daily basis for years but now it seems a natural thing to do. I know I’m adding to the chatter, the cacophony of analysis and navel-gazing but I can’t look away. We are living through history. I want to record this time so that I remember it. Keep a record of the things I notice, things I feel. This is important.
After weeks of rain, the sun came out just as the country started to really take note of the virus. Today, the first day of lockdown the weather is absolutely gorgeous. I’m used to watching the sun through the window while I work though. I wrote both my books during summer recesses from the courts to tight deadlines. But the sky seems higher in Sussex than it was in Dublin. This is going to be a long and very quiet spring.