Every now and then, even now, I just stop for a second and wonder how the hell did we get here? I look at the closed shops and at everyone wearing masks, I think about all the people I haven’t seen and haven’t been able to hug and it still feels like a dream.
How did we end up in a world where kids are routinely missing school, where my son and hundreds of thousands of others were unable to do their GCSE and A Level exams, where we can’t even enjoy a healthy parkrun in the open air on a Saturday morning?
Then there is the far more serious stuff. Nearly 60,000 people have died – all of them somebody’s loved one, their mum or dad, husband or wife. So many businesses have already been lost and many more will still follow. Unemployment is up at 4.8% of the working population.
Can you even remember the blissful ignorance of living without the shadow of Covid-19 over everything we do?
A year ago, we knew nothing of coronavirus. The first few cases were happening in China, but they didn’t affect us. We were just planning for Christmas, going to work, going to school and enjoying our everyday lives. Maybe we even thought life was a bit boring. But wouldn’t you just love to have that sort of ‘boring’ back now?
Then in January we started hearing on the news about this new mystery virus in China. It had killed five people, now six, now eight, now 11. (Well, that’s what they told us anyway… )
I remember my daughter worrying and me reassuring her. The figures are so small. It will never come over here. And flu kills far more every year. She took my message to her friends at school and the geography teacher said she was right. It was nothing to worry about.
Even when the UK started to be affected, we still didn’t believe it could really stop our way of life. The government would never step in to stop our kids from going to school, to close shops and to stop people hugging their family and friends.
But they did.
It wouldn’t last long.
Everything would be normal by summer.
Well, definitely by autumn at any rate.
But here we are in December, still living in the shadow of coronavirus, with the death rates looking scarily high again.
Can you even picture what life would be like without it? What would 2020 have been like if it had just been a normal year? Can you imagine having the freedom to just go anywhere and do anything you want?
We could do that in 2019! We could even do it in February! Can you believe it?
For a while, 2021 seemed like it would be an end to this nightmare – the pot of gold at the end of a really crap rainbow. But it won’t, will it?
I’m sure vaccines will bring an end to the nightmare at some point. But will that be just when the most vulnerable have been vaccinated? The over 50s? Or everyone? Because it will be a really flipping long time until everyone is vaccinated.
When is it OK to say that, unfortunately, a kid at school has tested positive for coronavirus, but the person who sits next to them can still go to school the next day? When can we walk into a shop without a mask? When can we get back to parkrun, marathons and half marathons? When can we enjoy a concert in a crowded venue? Or a pantomime with a full cast in a packed theatre?
I wish I knew the answers to those questions, but I really don’t.
There is a saying ‘When China sneezes, the whole world catches a cold.’. But it turns out that when somebody in China eats a bat (a bat for goodness sake, who does that?!) the whole world doesn’t just catch a cold.
It turns to absolute shit.