The last time I went out in public was seven weeks (49 days) ago; about a week before lockdown became official (too late) in the UK. I went to see Red Shoes at the Bristol Hippodrome – joyously, brilliantly camp, huge talent, invention, colour. Everything I expected and more. I knew, because having watched the news from the East, that it was a risk, but somehow, if it was going to be the last show I went to for the foreseeable future (or, argh, ever) it would be worth the risk.
Since then I've battled with huge families with 4 trollies in my local supermarket, I've foraged secretly around nearly empty shelves, I've found 4 masks and a few pairs of gloves, and washed a lot of the skin off my hands. I've been to the hospital twice with a friend who needed surgery. I've had a couple of shouted conversations with my daughter and granddaughter from across the street and I've been sent streams of videos and jokes by friends. A lot of them feature the big blond imbecile from across the pond who, really, I don't find funny at all.
Actually I've done pretty well: writers are very well prepared for isolation: usually we live in an 'other' world anyway and adapt to the bizarre quite gratefully. But I do find that my rage at the way this pandemic has high-lighted the inequalities of society has sharpened to a dangerous point. The poor, the badly housed, the low paid, people with dark skin, the people who do the caring work, the old, the refugees, the prisoners etc are all suffering and dying disproportionately. It's just what they would expect and it's outrageous. We won't understand the full extent of this tragedy till there's a proper count that doesn't skew the figures, and the politicians stop lying about them.
Meanwhile our well-fed, well-cared-for leaders are beginning to bleat about 'getting back to normal' Well normal just isn't not good enough. It's not good enough for clean air, climate change, health and inequality. They're talking about 'business as usual.' Well business as usual is really bad, selfish, dangerous business – unless you're rich, white company men with lots of shareholders to please. Back to business is back to bad business. Normal is abnormal.
We need a whole new conversation where we actually listen to scientists, environmentalists and philosophers; not to politicians and money-men.