A local’s view of…Self Isolation Comfort

Self Isolation Comfort in a world of Inequality

It is a dilemma at this time to strike a suitable tone. Should one play the cheerful jester, the optimist for the coming of a new society of caring and sharing? My sporadic Facebook glances indicate the upbeat tone is much in evidence albeit somewhat anodyne and as usual on this platform over self regarding. The alternative less popular view of where we are going, which I call the inner Savonarola, possibly provides more facing up to reality, less hope for much improvement for the most vulnerable and cynicism about the interest of the wealthy in growing a more equal society.

My son and I are comfortably self isolating in a home where we could live well without meeting. We each have a double bedroom with its own fully fitted bathroom. We could work on our computers, watch separate large TV sets, answer our own phones in separate downstairs rooms as well as in the bedrooms. Taking it in turn to use the kitchen, laundry room is easily managed. Of course we do not live like that and do share much TV and films viewing time, as well as working side by side on our laptop computers. I am saying we can self isolate if necessary from each other with little difficulty. Then I think of the millions in society who live in densely populated cities and have to cope with living in the high rise developments where sometimes two or even three generations may be crammed together indoors and have no garden. Will this change when the pandemic passes?

I counted my steps round the edge of our front and back gardens which came to 300 (I do not stride anymore so these steps using my walking stick are about 2ft). Four circles whilst looking at the old shrubs, trees, flowers, as well as birds, squirrels, the odd passing through cat (word has spread my daughter’s dog no longer spends her days here) provide my exercise.

Projects like clearing the garage (I am finding objects I have not seen for 18 years and never learned how to use before then), rebuilding the bower at the end of the garden, and repairing the green house are all under consideration.

In fact planning is a good way to inject optimism into the current mood regardless of whether accomplishing the tasks is realistic. We meet no people face to face. We leave shopping lists in a plant pot for our ex cleaning lady, ex dog walker, ex carer for my late wife, who is now our weekly shopper. Newspapers are delivered into a bucket. The gardener does his stuff and I place his mug of tea and payment on the water butt. Online grocery suppliers are eager to send us frozen supplies including complete meals. This Lockdown is a breeze for us. Looking at the books I own which I really want to read or read again, would need me to live another ten to fifteen years in isolation to manage it. As my underlying condition should abort this timeline quite early I shall content myself with only dipping into these prized works.

That description of easily managed, even enjoyed, isolation, is obviously a minority privilege. Wage earners in the majority of the population especially with families to support must face the challenge of staying safe with great with discipline and courage. The virus is no respecter of class, resources or age if we become relaxed about our contacts. My son and I may be in an ideal position to avoid needing medical attention thus helping to “save the NHS”, better than the majority of people. Observing the big communal effort, the government’s willingness to loosen purse strings, so tightly held for the last decade, and the belated acquisition of the essential protective equipment for the medical and care workers and the vital artificial breathing apparatus, plus intensive care beds, can offer some hope.

The statistics do not look good. The striking down of the most at risk is heavily loaded against men. The next generation will be lacking grandfathers who in parts of our society still offer role models, repositories of family memories and valuable experience, not to mention provision of affection and timely financial assistance.

We try to work out why the Germans are doing it better and the Americans with the biggest economy and world leading medicine practitioners appear to be failing worse than anywhere. Perhaps in future leadership will be seen as embodying foresight, empathy and co-operation in preference to nationalism and brute strength.

Stewart Shepley

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