We seem to be living in a long Good Friday at the moment. When I was a child Good Friday was a very special day. Everything was closed except for the church, which was open for people to come and venerate the cross. No other ceremony or celebration was allowed. No Mass, no Eucharist, just queues and queues of people coming up to the foot of the cross. My grandmother used to take me to the church in Brook Green, which was very ornate, so there was plenty to look at while waiting my turn. I can’t say I really understood what was happening – and as an adult I have never attended Church on Good Friday.
This year I can’t. I’m not allowed to. And so of course I think about it. Would I have gone if could? Probably not. Yet everything is stood upon its head. The last month has been a real month of Sundays. It’s like being in the nineteen fifties, with early closing days, people with string bags lining up outside small shops, walking everywhere, doing a sort of bee dance in the street as they try to maintain their two metres all around.
One of my greatest fears has always been imprisonment. I went to boarding school which apparently is very similar, but at least I went home at weekends. I was brought up with my parents’ and grandparents’ memories of being deported to Siberia, of being imprisoned in concentration camps, of being bombed upon and starving, of people freezing to death and dying of typhus. So when the lockdown began I was very apprehensive. Would I be able to cope with social distancing and not going out, not seeing my family and friends, not going for coffee with a book etc etc.
The answer is of course that, yes, I can cope. We are not at war. The belligerent language of the press upsets me because not one of us is in actual danger of being bombed upon, of losing our home, of being afraid of a known or unknown human enemy. No one is going to storm my house, threaten to strangle me, bundle me into a cattle truck and take me away.
Yes – there is the threat of this horrible disease. Yes, I do know people who have suffered or are suffering with it, and no, I do not want to join their numbers. So I will stay at home and keep everyone at two metres length. This means I cannot see my children (thank God for Zoom and Facetime), I cannot be with my friends, I cannot go to the theatre. I cannot get a haircut. But that is all worth it, to help myself and others stay safe. I still have a flushing toilet, enough to eat and as much entertainment as YouTube will allow me.
War-mongering language I do not find helpful. The army itself seems to have got it right – they are there to help, and not to promote fear. The government seems to be scrabbling around for the right language to use and the police finally feel they have come into their own, with unprecedented powers of stop and search. I think it would be better if the populace were to be trusted just a little bit more.
On a less personal level I do worry about all children and young people who are missing out on school – not the lessons, but the socialisation, the opportunity to discuss, to argue and to make friends and just to while away time together. I worry about the people who are losing their jobs and those who have to work, especially the carers in homes where the facilities are not designed for distancing. I worry about people isolating on their own entirely – I at least have my husband with me – that also has taken some getting used to as he worked away a lot and now he is working from home.
So I have had to relearn how to shop (no deliveries) and cook, and how to clean, and iron. I was very spoilt for many years and had a wonderful person do it all for me. But like many people I hope that this disease does form a wake-up call for the world to slow down, to value what is good, to not waste and to treat the world’s resources, especially its human resources, ethically and kindly. I hope especially that the homeless and any refugees or exiles are treated more humanely than heretofore – there seem to be some beginnings of this but I hope it lasts.
I have written this all because an ex-pupil recently asked for my opinion. I have not managed to inject any humour into this piece of writing, but the subject I found thought provoking. I am optimistic that things will improve provided we do not lose patience, and that everyone’s generosity of spirit continues to develop.
Let me know what you think.
I wish you all a very happy Easter indeed.