IAIN ROBERTSON 

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The car needs a wash, the garden needs to be tended, the windows need to be cleaned and Iain Robertson awaits a clothing delivery from California, which suggests that life is fairly ‘normal’ in 2021 even though it is sub-normal for much of the rest of the population.

Shuttered away in a south-facing upstairs office, had I not viewed, or heard, or read the media coverage surrounding the arrival of the ‘new influenza’ in March 2020, I might have wondered what all the fuss was about. The life of a self-employed scribe is more isolating than most observers may care to notice. Yet, apart from receiving ‘concerned’ telephone calls from colleagues, friends and relatives, with head down and PC whirring gently, it was business as usual…but then ‘lockdown 1.0’ was announced.

A novel virus demanded novel attention and the novelty reared several novel words to increase my word power: furloughing and lockdown were just the start, neither of which had formed part of my expressive vocabulary in the past, although the former would have an active outcome and the latter something more passive. Perhaps I ought to explain that residing (by choice) in the relative quiet of the Lincolnshire countryside, where external influences and diversions are truly minimal, may seem idyllic in most respects. Yet, the creeping detrimental impact of self-imposed isolation was yet to be felt in spring 2020.

As an automotive, food and travel writer, much of my subject matter was about to be stymied. With personal mobility restricted to a once-a-week essential grocery shop, with restaurants and eateries closed and a virtual travel ban on media trips and gaining access to the latest motor vehicles, isolation soon developed into a prison sentence. The very outlets and suppliers upon which my successful enterprise had relied were shut. A rule about ‘no mixing’ meant that my manufacturer contacts were forced into working from a home environment…like I do, except they were unfamiliar with the self-fired regime, which created non-contact issues of a different kind.DSC_6643

As a member of the tangential media, I fast became aware that journalism was under fire not all of which was friendly. It became abundantly clear that our national broadcaster (Auntie BBC) was toeing a British governmental line, from which deviation was unlikely and all but impossible. Yet, the independent alternatives were developing into centres of opinion, as though ‘The News’, previously sacrosanct, was now magazine editorial and worthy of a newscaster’s view. In truth, they have been moving in that direction since the turn of the New Millennium but, when a demand for information exists and not much is available, recognising the sea-change becomes more obvious and less of a wash-over. I would like them to return to the sanctity of a neutral news stance.

However, our relatively new government, which had come to power only a few weeks prior to pandemic, had been tasked onerously with removal from the socio-political shackles of the European Union, led by our own flaxen-haired version of the US President. For it to be struck down and, in some ways, struck dumb by an incomprehensible threat meant that its learning curve could hardly have been steeper. Cracks in the administration were already and inevitably evident and some quarters of the media, let alone the general public, were already pointing accusatory fingers. I could sense a body politic growing within.

Isolation grew with surprising speed to transmute quite rapidly into a case of minor lunacy, blended with upset sleep patterns and dreams of which novels are made. Fed relentlessly by just two main streams of domestic news (online and on-broadcast), much of which amounted to little more than politicised smoke-and-mirrors, ensured that, apart from some White House ‘tweets’, which suggested that US problems were equally prevalent, albeit for somewhat different reasons, nothing, NOT A SAUSAGE, of any relevance was occurring elsewhere…well, not so as you would notice. The very world that I have craved and created was closing in about me…but the isolation would soon cease.

Little more than ten weeks into a state of self-preservation, a government contractor, actually the Prime Minister’s primary strategy consultant, Dominic Cummings, broke all the rules by making a 250-miles familial trek northwards, from London to County Durham. The media jumped on the story, especially when the arrogant fellow stated that he had visited a locked-down town of Barnard Castle to ‘carry out an eye-test’ unofficially. For whatever specious reason, he remained the PM’s aide, despite calls for his resignation. Intriguingly but understandably, lockdown 1.0 ended abruptly. The consultant had cast a die that was not going to keep the population at home and the big gamble commenced.IMG_0004

Beach parties, raves and a resurrected Black Lives Matter campaign occupied the headlines. Hardly a second string, Covid casualties grew in number; deaths doubled. While hugging and even contacts with relatives were still off the cards, a devil-may-care attitude gripped the nation. I had secured timely extra work, earning just enough to keep the wolf from the door. ‘Mismanagement’ of most aspects of life political, social, medical and general made the banner headlines. Confusion reigned. Announcing a faint promise of a curative vaccination probably made things worse.

Yet, with 2020 year-end, not one but two potentially viable, injectable and rushed-through pandemic antidotes were in prospect and the nation would be removed formally from the EU. Yet, every step taken by the government seemed to miss the target. Cosy backhander shenanigans were suspected for everything from PPE to food parcels and China was only receiving the blame from Trump. Things should have looked up for the British PM but, instead, rumours of his resignation spread, just as Joe Biden was confirmed as the replacement for the intransigent, impeachable and troublesome Trump.

As we slip almost imperceptibly into 2021, changes have been made, some irrevocable, at least two of major proportions. Yet, many aspects of the ‘new normal’ remain unresolved. Personally and positively, I can see some light on the horizon, even in lockdown 2.0 that now has viral mutations to worry it. In many ways, it is more of the same, with the exception that it is different, modified by a nation fatigued about and reacting against conditional legislation. The pandemic had potential to be a leveller, perhaps even an opportunity to stop the world for just long enough to make necessary tuning alterations, except that its impact seems without end and its invisible touch is yet to wreak its worst on what remains.

Conclusion:       Of course, this is how the pandemic has affected my life, exacerbated by a house move that has left me doctor-less, at a fairly critical moment in time. I think I am free of the bug but unless testing (forget tracing) becomes unconditional (I do not have a mobile-phone), I remain in limbo.