And Now For Something Completely Different.

It has always been my contention that we are defined, not by the good times in our lives but by how we bear ourselves when times are tough. My generation has, until now, been a particularly lucky one; well fed, no major wars to fight, fairly affluent and good health care. If we are now to perish we’ve had the best part of our lives anyway. So no gripes from me for once————well———— perhaps just a tiny one————-that all of the havoc which now surrounds us, as millions face death and the whole world grinds to a halt, could have been avoided if some prat, five and a half thousand miles away, had just found the strength of character to resist the temptation to lick a bat’s arse!

I take no satisfaction in pointing out that I’ve predicted such a catastrophe many times over the years. The underlying cause remains the same, chomping on strange animals was just the trigger on this occasion. Bad as things are, certainly beyond the experience of even this old git, the current nightmare is but an hors d’oeuvre for the feast to come, just a taster of that to follow if we continue to breed like flies and abuse the planet on so many levels. In that respect little Griselda Toerag may indeed have a point.

As ever our glorious media is well astride the situation, blasting us with hell and damnation from every conceivable angle, both fact and fiction, to ramp an already dire situation to fever pitch (OK, unfortunate choice of phrase). To some degree I’ve come to believe ignorance is indeed bliss and now avoid, or at least ration my exposure to both news and social contact. After all you can have too much of a good virus.

Other than impending death, it’s no real problem for us retired old folk, still fit enough for a knuckle over bog rolls down at the local supermarket. I do, however, feel desperately sorry for those who live alone, those with underlying problems and the young folk struggling to pay the rent or mortgage, now unable to earn a living and unexpectedly stuck with the kids at home until they’re forty odd. It must be both demoralising and absolutely terrifying.

Above all, this has brought home just how fragile our society really is beneath the thin veneer of civilisation which is now evaporating before our eyes. It has polarised humanity, on one hand into the greed crazed element, selfishly stripping our supermarkets of everything, save for ‘Corona Lager’ (Sales tip: relabel it ‘Vaccine Ale’ and the thick bastards will buy it by the crate) and broccoli, as well as buying up every fridge and freezer in the land to facilitate an even greater capacity to hoard. Against this we have our NHS staff and emergency services, working beyond exhaustion, together with our social services and an army of carers and frontline workers, all of course exposed to the virus to a hugely greater extent than the rest of us.

I’ve heard it said that the whole situation has been exaggerated out of all proportion and that the nation is suffering from a kind of ‘wake hysteria’ which will lead to our being locked into a police state forever. There may be elements of truth in this, yet even I cannot be that cynical and even if I was, surely we must all applaud the efforts of our sadly underrated essential workers who, in this upside-down society of ours also represent the lowest paid among us. Who could fail to be moved the other evening to see everyone, even out here, clapping and banging saucepans in order to show their appreciation for everything they do?

In truth I feel a bit of a fraud in writing this blog as so far I’ve done nothing to help with the situation aside of staying out of the way and trying to keep myself fit and healthy. With over 700,000 responding to a request for 250,000 volunteers, however, I feel a bit surplus to requirements at present. On the other hand, of course, in my younger days I worked for many years in a virology lab. Hence I am fully conversant with sterile technique, tissue culture, and viral analysis, although probably rustier and more out of date than Titanic, with a bit of revision and updating I’m sure I could be of use in a lab somewhere at this time if somebody out there can use me?

Despite everything there are still those flouting the good advice available to us. Put simply, you should be as unsociable as me, just stay put, keep your distance, and wash your hands more often. We here are fairly isolated at the best of times yet my son, his girlfriend, and neighbours only two doors away have already had this virus. Mildly fortunately, as they’re all quite young and fit and have now recovered. Like creating a firebreak to prevent a fire from spreading we really must keep our distance to have any hope of limiting infection, however harsh that may feel.

Niels Bohr’s 1913 paper ‘ On The Constitutions Of Atoms And Molecules’ sought to explain how electrons were able to keep from falling into the nucleus by occupying only certain well-defined orbitals. He postulated the idea that an electron was able to disappear from one orbital and simultaneously appear in another without visiting the space in between. He called this ‘The Quantum Leap’ and in doing so introduced the concept of probability rather than certainty in physics.

Given our current predicament perhaps there are parallels with his radicle ideas. No longer can there be any certainty in life, only probability. Like Niels’s electrons our comfortable, familiar, behaviour patterns must now take a similar leap into a scary new world, as alien to the old as Quantum Theory to Einsteinian Relativity. For the moment our cosy macrocosm has been reduced to an uncertain personal microcosm.

On the upside my own little world around Hever has suddenly and unexpectedly returned to the peaceful retreat that I moved to thirty seven years ago. Barely any people about, but those that are take the time to talk again, albeit from a distance. No traffic, and very few cyclists. Come summer there will be no bloody music festivals, triathlons or weddings at the myriad dedicated venues which now surround us and hence no blaring music or explosive firework displays to disturb our tranquility every weekend. What’s not to like? Would that it could, once the virus is defeated, continue thus for ever.

One oddity is that with negligible air traffic, in the way that we have come to tune it out when at its busiest, now that its gone I am not factoring in its absence. I have, it seems, become immune to this at least.

The overall atmosphere is in fact eerily reminiscent of the early sixties about which I so recently wrote. From choice I have always lived a pretty frugal, fairly spartan existence, therefore, in reality little has changed in my day to day lifestyle. I am not, so far, hungry, neither am I bored, we even managed a takeaway curry the other evening, delivered by what appeared to be a spaceman, but what rankles ever so slightly is that we no longer have any choice in all this and it is that which I find a little disconcerting.

Shall we then emerge from this as kinder, less greedy beings? Hopefully, perhaps even probably, there does seem to be a feeling of unity once more after the divisions caused by Brexit, but the only future certainty is that nothing can, indeed must not, ever be the same again. Yet even as I write, the so called ‘wet markets’ of old China are reopening, fully stocked, not only with cats and dogs but snakes, pangolin, all manner of other strange beasts, and of course bats!

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