When the World stopped Spinning


mountain and blue skies

I should have been chronicling all this. All of it. I’ll regret it.

My grandfather survived the 1918 flu. I once read his diary, penned in green ink. I was interested. But not interested enough; I didn’t keep it.  The diary. I regret that too.

If I pin this to the ether then it’s there. There. Safely tacked to an intangible notice board. Glued permanently to ethereal. 

When it first slid over our horizons, this pandemic, I wasn’t alone in not noticing. Not noticing enough.  Again: not enough. My HK based editor asked me to do piece on the lungs, consult a respiratory expert she said, ‘ask them about this pandemic.’  It wasn’t one yet. A pandemic. I asked why. Because the WHO hadn’t called it one. It needs to fit certain criteria. It fit those long before it was lethally baptised; it had slunk across borders, onto planes, into homes and lives long before the WHO copped it’s global grasp. Invisible fingers around the world’s throat. Strangling the life out of it.

Almost four weeks after lockdown came in England, the rest of the world has folded. Here? Here where I live? Not much. Not enough. Pray the illness away our government advocates even as Covid19 gallops in.  I think of horses and apocalypses.  In town, most shops have erected little wash stands outside, fashioned of buckets with taps.  Some people wear masks. Especially the bodaboda riders – the motorbike taxis – facemasks but no helmets, so I must laugh at the irony. Waiters in empty restaurants wear surgical gloves. So do supermarket attendants.

I hunker down at home. This is easy for me. Self isolating. I perfected it back in Outpost days. All that’s different now is that that the rest of the world has joined me. It’s easier to feel less lonely when you know you’re not the only one who’s alone. No FMO when nobody’s socialising because we are all being coldly socially distant. Unless we’re drinking virtually en masse on Zoom. Or enjoying a Sunday afternoon quiz en famille: 14 faces, four teams, five countries.

I fret about my children. All in England. One in hard-hit London. Their youth sustains them, they have such energy and imagination. They write, draw, learn new things. They are too young to hear, really hear, what I have to say: that this thing is, really is, unprecedented. If ever a word was overused it was that one: unprecedented. 

I worry they are able to shop. I worry they remember to wash their hands, twenty seconds, sing happy birthday twice, I worry they will keep jobs. Be able to pay rents.  The world has tilted on its axis and we all need to try to keep our balance. Not eat too much. Not worry too much. Walk enough. Drink less. 

You could be almost anywhere in the world and it would feel the same. As if the world had stopped turning. When I was little we owned one of those blowup globes. I used to like spinning it and then, with eyes closed, arresting the spin by placing a finger blindly to it, to see where I landed. To stop the spinning and be anywhere. That’s what this feels like now: the world has stopped going round and I could be anywhere. Nowhere. Here. There. Who knows. Who cares?

My WhatsApp squeaks and bleeps with Corona memes: silly memes, funny memes, clever memes, memes that make me cry. Captain Tom has marched all the way up iTunes and raised more than 23 million quid in the process. Key workers and especially the NHS are the new Superheros, we clap them at 7pm GMT every Thursday, even me, even on my lonely mountain where nobody but bushbabies and owls can hear my applause. Where a hyena may whoop whoop in reply. Loo paper is viewed in new light. Everybody wants to know what to do with tinned chickpeas. My skies are quiet and still, a canvas of blue naked of their usual scribble as ribbons of jet stream untangled reassuringly upon them. 

I’m waiting. Watching and waiting. To see what the world will do next.

To witness the messages that will be writ across new skies.

3 Responses to “When the World stopped Spinning”

  1. Daryl Says:

    Whilst I am deeply concerned with how things will turn out here, in the UK, I’m even more worried about the low and middle income countries.

    Here, the government can pay to furlough people. Here, they can give bailouts to businesses. Here, they can buy new ventilators. Here, we can afford to build new hospitals from scratch in conference centres (though we cannot actually staff then properly!).

    There, in countries like Tanzania, none of this is possible. People who don’t work won’t eat. Hospital resources are few and widely spread.

    This is the truly terrifying thought for this pandemic.

    I spoke to my father yesterday – now retired, but someone who spent 20 years as a professional in the aid sector, travelling the world, seeing the poorest and the most vulnerable. His worry was what will happen when this hits the refugee camps in Kenya, or the Rohinga camps in Coxs Bazaar. Who will be able to help them?

    Please do keep telling us what is happening in Tanzania. I, for one, need to know. It is one the main countries in the aid programme I run from the relative safety of the UK government and not a day goes by when I worry about all the staff we employ there, and what will happen to the programme beneficiaries (especially when we have to pause projects).

    Above all, everyone, please stay safe, help your neighbours, and look after yourselves.

  2. Clare Taylor Says:

    Thinking of you RM. Life in the UK is both the same and different. We too are Zooming, WhatsApping, Skyping and facetiming with family and friends, but always, always with a weather eye on today’s tallies and with a sinking sense of dread about what awaits when the lockdown is lifted and the economic toll becomes truly apparent.. We live in sobering times.
    Stay safe x

  3. haitiruth Says:

    Reading in Haiti and nodding my head. Ruth, thereisnosuchthingasagodforsakentown.blogspot.com

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