- Writing from Quarantine, 23rd March 2020
- Writing from Quarantine, 25th March 2020
- Writing from Quarantine, 30th March 2020: Long Live Society
- Writing From Quarantine
- Writing From Quarantine, 8th April 2020
- Writing from Quarantine, 15th April 2020
- Writing from Quarantine: Politics and Science
- Writing from Quarantine: The University of Home
- Writing from Quarantine: Staying the Course
Disclaimer: The views expressed within this article are entirely the author’s own and are not attributable to Wessex Scene as a whole.
Everything seems deceptively calm, and not unsettlingly so. The fact that the roads are largely empty has ceased to be disquieting, having been co-opted into the New Normal, as we seem to be calling it now. Seeing a plane is now something to be remarked upon, part of a new range of conversation topics that include (but are not limited to) our probably cancelled holidays or years abroad (rip), the next-to-zero prospects of getting an internship this year (oof), or the government’s response to this virus (which I shan’t go into today). Or there’s the weather, which has been so good for so long I can scarcely believe it. In fact, that part of it alone is enough to make me think that God is real and hates us infinitely. How else can you explain having the best weather we’ve had all year during a period when our time outside has to be at a minimum?
That being said, the calm is deceptive. Until you turn on the news, you wouldn’t necessarily think anything was wrong, but I’m finding that watching or reading the news makes me feel like my stomach is trying to knot itself into the same size as my fist. And the ‘feel-good’ stories that broadcasters having been putting out aren’t exactly helping. After all, being told that a 99-year-old veteran has raised more than £7 million for the NHS by doing laps of his garden, although a testament to his character, is simply a reminder that people are doing more than they should ever have to do to help in the current crisis. Even just on the story online tells me that Trump has withdrawn US funding for the WHO, that worldwide cases of the coronavirus number almost 2 million, and that the government has been forced to make yet another promise over the testing of patients in care homes, which in Scotland appear to make up around 25% of deaths from the virus. The reason that figure’s just Scotland, by the way, is because the numbers who die in care homes aren’t being included in the official count. And that’s before we get to the number of cases in our local area, the deficit of PPE, or any of the other facets of this monolith of an emergency.
But it’s an emergency that is both everywhere and nowhere. It confines us to our homes, it closed our uni, it’s totally upended the normal function of our lives. It threatens the sharpest economic recession for a century. And yet, as I sit here in the garden, I can hear birds singing, a few cars here and there, and life may as well be normal. I am eating, as normal. I am working, as normal. For a global emergency, it feels pretty banal. Until you go out the front door. Then you have to navigate social distancing, acknowledge the closed shops, the masks on people’s faces. Or you go on the internet, or turn on the TV. Or you think about all the things you cannot do, all the people you cannot see. It’s an emergency that is everywhere, it seems, yet not where I am – that is to say, at home.
Even when I do opt to face it, I have the same striking realisation that this is happening. Like, really happening. My country is at the centre of a global catastrophe and I’m sat around working on essays and watching Marvel films. The contrast between the two halves of that sentence is incredible. I guess what I’m trying to say is that this is utterly surreal.
What’s also difficult to think about is what I’m going to do next. My prospects for work this summer are uncertain and, in all seriousness, I don’t know if my year abroad is happening. If it isn’t, then I am going to be graduating next year, which is an only slightly terrifying thought, and will be taking whichever modules I get from my list of provisional preferences that I gave at the end of March. A list on which, and I cannot stress this enough, I have absolutely no idea what I put. Am I studying the history of nuclear non-proliferation treaties or the East India Company? Am I taking a module on gay people in history or the ethics of war? And where am I going to live? How am I going to view houses? Who knows? Not me.
I have a solution, however. I am going to ignore the problem until I know that it’s definitely headed my way. Not that I’m entirely unprepared, I have a contingency taking shape, but I am otherwise going to ignore it. I will simply refuse to think beyond the end of the academic year, and it should be fine. Right?