I wonder if this is what it felt like during the phoney war in 1939? A period of almost surrealistic calm before the horrors of world War II really began.
I have to report that my own life has not so far been negatively affected – quite the reverse. The cool spring sunshine has been wonderful and each day I have been on a walk with my wife (and sometimes our son) on the glorious empty footpaths crisscrossing the gentle agricultural countryside around our cottage.
Life is frugal although adequate. We are certainly not short of food or anything else and it has been delightful to see so much of our 26 year old investment banking son, who is working from home. Discussing the odd M&A deal, sometimes late into the night, with the US or elsewhere.
I am half tempted to volunteer for something although I can’t quite think what. Agriculture appeals but at my age I’m not sure I’m really up to picking “stuff” from the fields. I wonder if I could drive a tractor? Or, god forbid, an ambulance if that ever became necessary. I would have been happy toddling around in an ambulance in WWII but I’m afraid I would never have held a gun.
Obviously we are not seeing anyone, even my sister and her family who live just down the lane. Social distancing seems vital and if we do meet anyone on our walks, we dash into the middle of the field and off the footpath.
So, selfishly, we are loving the isolation and the sense of utter peace and calm. The country lanes are empty and we are not going to the shops: I have no intention of facing an undignified struggle over the last roll of lavatory paper or bag of flour.
Who knows how this crisis will end. I hear dark things from those around me. A young nephew in the Guards has been leading his men in transporting dead bodies around our capital. The army is standing by in case of civil unrest. Looting perhaps, rioting. Taking it out on the underdogs? Blaming immigrants, Jews (as usual) or some other scapegoat for their fears and anxiety. I hope it does not come to pass but who knows, in the dark days ahead.
Personally I feel philosophical, resigned. To my own death at least, should my time have come, but not to those of any others. It feels like living on the edge, at the back of beyond. The aliens have landed and we are waiting for them to incinerate us with laser guns or whatever super weaponry those guys possess.
But it is also a time of great calm and reflection, for me at least in my privileged middle class bubble. As a retired old nutter in his cottage by the sea. Others are not so lucky. The wife of an old friend is severely ill in hospital. A family we know of depends on the Edinburgh Festival for most of their year’s income; it has been cancelled. A nephew runs a pub in Dover, which has been closed down for the duration.
I have not been reading much lately, but if I had, I would have avoided John Steinbeck:
In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.
What a time to reflect. What a time to consider my own behavior and to hope for a better future for our world. But I am afraid that is unlikely.
Just as in WWII, the profiteers and sharks are making hay while the sun shines. The massive government stimulation and rescue package is and will continue to be preyed upon by those for whom it was never intended. I have heard tales of unscrupulous business men buying up companies just to claim government handouts and a sister in law has been “furloughed” by her unscrupulous school.
Why does the human race insist on taking the piss at times like these? My sister in law has a contract and her school has its fees paid up until the end of the summer. And yet in an outrageous and flagrant abuse of their civil duties, they are laying people off so that the Government has to pick up 80% of the salaries. Why do humans behave like this?
As for me, I am guilty to report that I have never felt better and rarely enjoyed my life as much. I am walking, sitting in the garden and toying with a computer driven algo to trade penny stocks on the US markets.
I don’t really think there is much else I could do in reality. I am a people unfriendly, aging male of uncertain temperament and I really don’t think I would be of much use to anyone. Although of course I will certainly pitch in if the need and opportunity really does arise.