So where do I start with something that’s perhaps already too late. I remember sitting talking with Ben Graves probably a month ago now if not more. He told me how in China the virus was being presented as the enemy. China and its people were at war. I took that as some sort of trick of the state I suppose, an attempt to rally people behind a failing government or government that was afraid to be perceived as failing. No doubt on some level that’s the case. Political parties of all persuasions have the tendency to protect themselves and their own reputations. Not something that belongs to the Chinese that’s certain.
But here we are. 17th of March 2020. I’ve finally managed to persuade the children not to go to school tomorrow. Wednesday. Yesterday was horrible. I realised the position we were heading into and finally spoke to both Kai and Lottie. Both are excellent at mathematics and I tried to present them the statistical understanding, the change of probabilities, the impact of their continuing to attend school with large numbers of children and adults present. I described quite calmly the potential impact that might have on their capacity to spend time with other people.
I tried to appeal to the parents of my children’s peers. On a social media thread. Explaining that if we were all to stop sending our children to school right now and it’s obvious that we should be doing so really. Then perhaps our children would have each other to play with rather than having to separate off into our little cellular families. But that’s gone now.
My post was initially followed by a poetic intervention. Now this is horrible but one of the ugly little lines I keep inside me as so few people care, in fact I’ve never told anyone I don’t think… maybe I tried with Heidi… but for different reasons… is that poets really are very dangerous. It’s a sort of really rather cruel joke I suppose used by Zizek. He cites the idea that every heroic nationalist movement always has a poet somewhere crawling around on it. I suppose that even the same with Yates really. It is certainly far more poignant in the case of, was it Bosnia, who was it who was found hiding away having grown his beard? Some leader. Some nasty killer of people. Some nationalist hero. Sacrificing himself. But when it’s all over and he has to escape what does it do? He grows his beard long and becomes a published poet, was that not it? A published poet and some sort of herbal healer? So the idea is that somewhere and always there will be a poet. And that’s how I experienced the poetry. An absence of knowledge. I think that’s a decent description of the poetry I love and also of the poetry I am describing. Both of them an absence of knowledge. However there is a knowledge in that or there is genuinely an absence of willingness to know.
After the social media post, one person took it up. he has complicated health issues that require him to isolate. A nice man. Today someone else had kept the child from school. That was nice too, but my children, I couldn’t stop them going in and didn’t want to bar them shouting at the door at 7.30 in the morning. So I drove them in the van to keep them out of the buses. And then they came home. Lottie stayed quietly in the house snf Kai was invited out and went to see a group of his friends. Unfortunately, for me, I know where he had spent the day as had the other children so between them, between the different schools they were all going to was probably I don’t know 3000 potential people they had been in contact with. It is so dull to have to think like this – a pragmatism – also the only way to think. We are actually required as a group of people, as a people, as a set of communities, to do something that is both for ourselves and for the common good.
I ran into a friend of mine on the street. Craig Broadwith. A lovely man. Must have been some sort of SWP radical punk or something when he was younger judging by certain photographs and comments I’ve seen. Now he’s a very respectable senior heritage planner working for English Heritage in York. He wears a dapper cap. I asked how his partner was knowing that she had health issues. Although only a few years older than I he has had very poor asthma for many years and considers himself to be seriously in danger of… Dying… If he were to contract coronavirus. His partner has MS, an autoimmune system that doesn’t work at all and depends on complex pharmaceuticals to live even the comparatively good comparatively limited life she manages. She too might… Die… If she were to contract coronavirus. Where did he say they were going? I’m not sure he really had a response to that. I don’t think it was a happy one. He was worried about his daughter Rihonna, stuck in Manchester as he said it. He wants to get her back.
I explained how I was feeling I was some sort of idiotic voice in the dark. Because I was presenting things as they were. And so obvoious. I could see in his eyes of course that he knew the seriousness of the situation. All the potential is there are over the coming months for things to go so well in so many ways and then all the other possibilities as well. I said I was sick of it. He said there were many arguments going on in many houses and many relations. I said I was sick of it. People complain about being part of a herd. They act however like they’re in a herd. Glued to sets of political opinions that obscure to them the actual gravity and reality of the situation that is quite simply beyond their experience. Is it because I’m older? I asked him. I’m 58. Born in 1961 to parents and grandparents but particularly parents who experienced the war as children. Very different experiences and ones that sometimes led my mother to a cruelty. Never my father however. Never the little boy hiding. With the dagger or was it just a kitchen knife or even a butter knife under his pillow just in case the Germans did come and he could protect his mother. Who built the little wagon that he must’ve pulled along the 2 miles to the shops when he was eight. Buying food for his mother who had just had his twin sisters.
And so the Chinese said it was a war and now it’s here it is. It is as meaningless and as without aim as a falling bomb.
And it’s quite normal that someone who isn’t here doesn’t care. Because bombs have been falling everywhere for so many years and now and, as we all really expected, they are falling again.
And another difference, for now at any rate, is that the men are here as well. Not taken off to a battlefield leaving the elderly, the children and women. So I’ve done the unforgivable and become a man. Fuck. That is funny. Actually. I am a bit old for that.