This Coronavirus is no respecter of status, reputation or wealth.
The other day I heard of the death of Eddie Large, he of the famed Little and Large double-act in the 80’s. Then, this morning, I saw that Lee Fierro, who played Mrs Kintner in my favourite film, Jaws, had died.
This afternoon I was in the back garden when my wife came out to tell me that the mother of Pep Guardiola, the Manchester City manager, had succumbed to the virus.
And now the breaking news is that Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has been moved to intensive care after his symptoms had tonight worsened, with Dominic Raab, the First Secretary of State, deputising. In all intents and purposes, though the government won’t label him so, he’s now the acting PM in this time of crisis.
These are all notable figures, far removed from me. But, as the situation grows, the casualty list has crept ever closer within the last two weeks.
The sister of my next door neighbour, both parents of a child from my son’s school, and several people from my wife’s workplace, have all caught the virus. Also two people known to me, (not closely, I must add), have sadly died. And a couple, again, from my wife’s place of work, have also sadly passed away.
From this new and remote illness that we were first becoming aware of several weeks ago, we’ve now reached the point where a lot of us know someone who has suffered with it.
It is a diminishing circle that, with time, in our imposed isolation, we will break. It is horrible to hear of people dying alone, away from their families because of the nature of this pandemic and the required separating of loved ones. The thirteen-year old lad who both died alone and was buried alone; the elderly woman who said goodbye to her husband through a window as the hearse stopped outside her home on its way to his last resting place; people saying goodbye to loved ones as nurses hold a phone.
My lockdown in regard to these cases holds no comparison.
Listening to the Queen’s call for self-discipline yesterday, we should hold onto the part where she echoed Vera Lynne’s popular song from the wartime 40’s:
We should take comfort that while we may have more still to endure, better days will return: we will be with our friends again; we will be with our families again; we will meet again.
Reading all of the status’ on my Facebook tonight, coupled with several conversations throughout the day, it suddenly struck me that things are starting to kick in for everyone now, it’s no longer novel or an inconvenience. Health, family, logistics, finance, we are all in for some difficult months.
Try and stay positive people. Look out for each other.
So – the Coronavirus.
Here, in the UK, people seem to fall into two camps: those that are fixed to every news bulletin, worried about each escalation, and those that are generally blasé about it, saying it’s just like any other seasonal cold or flu strain.
But, whichever camp you’re in, everyday life has started to become impacted by it.
I began to notice a week ago a change in people’s habits. While waiting for my latte in a motorway services’ Costa, a lorry driver commented to a member of staff that he’d never seen their car park so empty.
The next day I’d braced myself for a wait while visiting my local NatWest branch, as often the queue goes right out the door. This time, however, the only other customer was leaving as I entered.
“This is the quietest I’ve ever seen the place,” I said to the cashier.
“I know,” he responded, “and, randomly, a woman came in five minutes ago, stood where you are, and told me that she shouldn’t be here, she should be self-isolating.”
I immediately withdrew from the desk I was leaning on: “She didn’t touch this, did she?!”
We laughed but, you know, the invisible elephant (virus) in the room.
Yesterday, I took my book back to the library, and again the current climate came up. The librarian: “It’s been dead. In affect we are self-isolating because no-one will come near us!”
Feeling emboldened by the fact I was in a library, I said to her that it was like Stephen King’s Salem’s Lot, (perhaps his The Stand would have been more appropriate), or maybe The Strain, where the town’s normally busy bars and restaurants had just a smattering of customers, streets were emptying and people were dropping out of sight. Of course, in those examples the problem was vampires and not Coronavirus. But the theme was the same. Plague and host.
And then there’s the panic buying.
Every store is running out of hand sanitisers, pasta and, bizarrely, toilet rolls. There is ridiculous footage of people coming to blows over toilet rolls. The likes of Tesco have been moved to ration them to one pack per customer. I got some yesterday from a different store, but only because we needed them. Just the one pack of eighteen that we usually have, and boy did I feel self-conscious! People were eyeing me as I walked through the shopping centre to the car. I felt like saying “I’m not a panic buyer-I just need to wipe my arse!”
There are other knock-on affects. Within five minutes I received three emails. One was from my son’s school, saying that they were stopping all sports fixtures and school trips, whole school assemblies would be replaced by single-class assemblies and on and on.
The second email informed me that the work I do from home was being halted until the end of April where it will be reviewed again, with all the financial implications that came with that.
And lastly, new guidelines are about to be issued for people like my wife who is a frontline carer for the elderly, the type of people most at risk from this virus.
I also spoke with a friend whose job is under threat-he works in the travel industry and this pandemic could be the final straw.
The Prime Minster’s latest speech declared that this is the worst public health crisis in a generation. “It is going to spread further and I must level with the British public: many more families are going to lose loved ones before their time.”
We are not quite on lockdown yet, but, with yesterday’s announcement that all football and other sporting events are being cancelled, and a potential ban on mass gatherings, it is said that we are about two weeks behind the Italian model. Though it seems that our government is instead going for the herd immunity strategy, which relies on a few million catching the virus to work.
That seems a risky ploy, but, similar to a previous Jackdaw post, we are relying on the advice of others. We just have to take on board the precautions we are given, and get on with things, as much as we’re allowed.
My hometown of Middleton is not quite the ghost town yet, but it will be interesting to see how things develop over the next few weeks. I’ll keep you posted.
Max Von Sydow, 90
R.I.P to one of the Busby Babes, Harry Gregg, 87.
The Manchester United goalkeeper was hailed as a hero after rescuing survivors from the burning wreckage of the plane in Munich, 1958.
Among those who died were eight members of a young team that had been standing on the verge of greatness.
I’m a Man City fan, and from all accounts I’ve heard, both personally and through media, the disaster brought the city of Manchester together, in the days when football existed before an often toxic and tribal rivalry.
I remember my Mum saying that when the accident happened she was, aged fourteen, in bed ill with Scarlett Fever. Her twin brother was a City fan, whereas her older brother, Jim, was a United fan. This brother came in to the bedroom to make the fire up for her, and my Mum said “I’m sorry about United, Jim.”
He didn’t reply, just silently cried with his back to her as he went about his task.
The fiftieth anniversary of the Munich Air Disaster fell, in 2008, on, of all fixtures, Derby Day, with my team travelling to Old Trafford. As a City fan I was dreading the possibility of the moment being ruined by a few idiots, but felt proud as both sets of teams marked the occasion perfectly.
This year, a friend of mine was chosen, along with her son who is a teammate of my son, to travel to Munich to represent the fans at the annual memorial service. Having lost her father a year ago on Christmas Day, she commented:
The occasion itself held an extra poignancy for me, travelling in the footsteps of my father who had made this same pilgrimage twice himself. I know he’d have been so proud of his grandson, reading out the players’ names and laying a wreath down for those who died, players and non-players alike. That is why the Busby Babes and their legacy will never be forgotten. Each generation passes the torch of remembrance on to the next.
R.I.P Harry Gregg
A hundred and three is some innings. Sharing the same birthday as me, each 9th of December I was reminded just how far behind him I was.
A final link to Hollywood’s so called Golden Age, despite a plethora of roles, he is Spartacus.
The year 2074-I don’t think I’ll ever catch him up!
I heard about the stabbings in Manchester, including at the Starbucks where my daughter, (not on shift today), and some of my friends work, when she rang me to ensure that I wasn’t in the city centre.
Scrolling through news updates, I saw on a photograph that the part of Starbucks that had been sectioned off by police was where my son and I was sat only last night. I later heard from a friend, on shift when the attacks began, how they had to evacuate screaming customers into the back, and then into a neighbouring store, before being put on lockdown.
This took place just a few minutes walk from the Arena where twenty two lost their lives in the bombing of 2017, and also another attack last New Year’s Eve.
It shows just how close these attacks can be, in terms of both geography and involving people we know, and how we all have to remain vigilant.
This is my wife’s ticket for the Trade Centre, from when she went to the top of one of the twin towers just six days before the terrorist attack.
It’s like playing Russian roulette with the calendar.
Remembering all of those who were there that awful day.
I’ve written that much, over on Facebook, about the tragedy and travesty that is unfolding at Bury FC, that I don’t feel like adding much more about it here.
But tonight, with tomorrow’s deadline looming, a deadline after which this historic club, after 134 years, will slip from existence, I took my son to Gigg Lane.
This is his club. Not a club he inherited from me, just as I inherited Manchester City from my father, but a club that he gave his heart to of his own accord. It’s a club that I have learned to love because he loves it.
On the journey there we heard a first glimmer of hope over the car radio. A chink of light in long-gathering shadows.
I feel a little more optimistic, but the margins are tight. It will go right down to the wire. It’s not dark yet.