The pink blossom and yellow daffodils are now out: the days are longer, brighter and hopeful of renewal. Spring opens and warmer breezes fill the air. As if by some strange irony, the world news is filled with a deepening gloom with this coronavirus - with lockdowns, deserted streets, death tolls, empty shelves. People must now work from home. And I worry for our frontline medical workers and that the NHS will be unable to cope.
We were fooled believing somehow we were protected, when in our interconnected world disease spreads even faster. France, Italy and Spain are now in lockdown in this fast moving situation. Many businesses will be hit – first tourism: flights, hotels, restaurants, bars; retail; culture and the arts, with theatre, museums, cinema, festivals, concerts - all closing. While some businesses are essential and will keep going – food, medical, drugs, energy.
Young people and children may mostly be okay, so life will continue. For those over 60, they must work at home and self–isolate. Why were the UK schools kept open so long as a babysitting service, when most other countries have closed schools? Children may not be getting as ill, but schools are major places of spreading viruses. Many school staff and children have been staying away, so schools weren’t functioning properly.
There is an eerie, unfamiliar silence, as people prepare for the worst of times ahead, with oddly empty shelves, grounded aircraft, silent airports and train stations and quiet city streets. I’m glad on Monday that the UK government changed its tac after Imperial College London advised them that their “washing hands and carry on” policy advice of last week wasn't enough.
My two older children are frontline hospital doctors, so I won't be able to see them. I'm worried too about what they are going to have to deal with soon. It makes us all realise who the important workers really are - and many are women and the carers. Can we have a rethink about what capitalism is really all about? It all feels like being in one of those catastrophic movies that we might have foreseen. I’ve heard odd things being said on the tv - one BBC commentator said, "its not often we see health emergencies like this!"
Now is the time to think urgently about planning Scotland’s supplies. Most of our food and more comes via long trucks that trundle all the way over from Dover, and then on long haul motorways all the way through England. How can we gain practical independence this way? Scotland used to have many busy ports to the Americas, Ireland and Europe – via the shipping ports of Ayr, Irvine, Glasgow Leith, now all silted up. If we depend on food from England, we cannot be truly independent.
When we see what is happening in Italy, where the over worked doctors are unable to cope and its likely the scenes in Italy will repeat here. The English have this odd sense that somehow they are protected, that they are uniquely special. I fear we in the UK have learnt no lessons and are acting far too slowly. On the news last night people in London were packing themselves into shops and tube trains: one lady even claimed she was out and about because she wasn’t going to let this virus defeat her! Sorry but this virus has never heard of the Dunkirk spirit! Clearly some people pay no attention to any news items. Britain may be an island but in todays interconnected world we will not be immune.
Thank goodness for the internet and being able to keep in touch! How was life before? Among it all the Italians continue to sing. Life will never be the same again.