Yesterday I went to Leeds centre with my dad. Everyone was masked, indoors and out. Even the young busker was singing from beneath a mask. Toilets were closed, benches had been taken away, and the cafe we did find open didn't give out plates or trays for fear of COVID infection. Signs in shop doorways said "No mask, no entry." And some of them really meant it. So you head in, strapping up your face. If you take the mask off even for a second, just so you can take a breather in the corner, believe me, you'll be on CCTV and they'll find out you dared to remove it. My dad and I couldn't help but feel that, even though these restrictions had been applied for the good of the people, to save lives and look out for our fellow man, there seemed to be no humanity, or very little at least. The effects of COVID are contradictory. In theory they should have made the world kinder, but it's actually become more brutal and cold. It makes one think of a man signing a petition against animal cruelty, who then goes out and hits a badger with a hammer... or something like that.
Now, the flippant part of my piece is over. In truth, COVID is still a concern. Everyone is catching it now and while most of us are getting fluey, some are still getting seriously ill, others sadly dying. It's catchier than it's ever been. Everyone it seems is bound to get it, at least in some form or other. What scares most is the fact that it's pot luck how bad you get it, and what the effects will be down the line. The best you can do is stay as safe as you can, to use your rational mind - if you have one that is. I feel to be a COVID denier is to be in denial of reality and life itself, but to be a COVID doom monger is to rob us all of the joy of existence. The healthiest mode, I think, is somewhere in the middle. Carry on living, but be cautious, and also respect the views of others. For me personally, life is continuing as ever before. I see the people I usually see (the ones I can of course, for there are some I'd like to see but can't for various reasons), I go out occasionally, but happily spend most of my time at home, writing, emailing friends and associates, reading, listening to music, watching films, recording music, seeing to my work, spending time with my family. As a man very used to what others have called a "lockdown life", perhaps I am not the ideal person to talk about the difficulties of the COVID era, two years and counting. Selfishly, in some ways my own life hasn't changed at all, even though I feel for others, those who've lost their livelihoods, their loved ones, their lives. As much as the restrictions may frustrate you, think of all those people and what they have been through. That, at the end of the day, puts it all into perspective.
If what I have written here seems paradoxical, that's because it is. Nothing is black and white, and my views of the COVID era are grey, as many others are. But I feel what happens in the next few months will be vital. Will we learn to live with COVID in 2022? And what will living with COVID mean? We shall see. We cannot forget that so many people have died of this strange virus, and the fact that some have experienced true horror. And as if this isn't bad enough, it now turns out we have been openly mocked by those in charge, and at the height of COVID restrictions too. When people were isolating alone, losing their minds, when they couldn't spend time with loves ones, were saying goodbye to their beloved relatives, or watching from a distance in the graveyards as coffins were lowered into the earth, Boris and his Eton educated cronies were supping expensive wine and nibbling cheese in number 10's expansive garden. It sickens me to my stomach. There is no option now. I feel we need to get the hay haired loon out and let someone else have a go, someone with empathy, someone with thought for others, but also someone who understands life, can see things from another perspective, has some knowledge of the struggles people endure out there in the real world. In other words, anyone but Boris Johnson.
So yes, another year begins, or grinds awkwardly into gear at least, rusty cogged and creaking wearily. For me in my daily life, it will be like last year, and the year before, and the year before that. I will write, record music and do the things I enjoy. Yet I will not be in denial, and will feel and fear for others. I'm OK, but what of the world outside my cosy, safe environment?
Will we ever see the return of the world of old? I believe this year we will find out.