Sunday, March 29, 2020

Love in the Time of Coronavirus

No CORVID-19 FREE ZONE this time, I’m afraid. Instead, I’m going to take a light-hearted look at crises past and the turmoil that has sort of bookended our marriage so far.

I actually met my wife due to a crisis: the foot and mouth epizootic (yes, it’s a real word, look it up) of 2001, which saw the most ultimate form of lock-down imposed on over 6 million cows and sheep. Because of this, the planned hiking holiday in the West of Ireland that my future wife had booked, was cancelled and rescheduled for late August. Meanwhile, blissfully unaware of the horrific events across the ocean, I booked the same hiking holiday. The rest is history. (If you want the details: read the book.)

And so, we met in those halcyon days of late summer in 2001 when the world made sense, and everything was normal. On the 28th of August, I returned home. Two weeks later was 9/11 and the world has not been the same since.

My first visit to my wife-to-be was on 10/11, and it was a surreal affair. Hardly anyone was flying, even though flight schedules had returned to normal some time before, and London was nearly deserted. We managed to ignore all that and married five months later.

It was my first trip to London, so I didn't realize how ridiculously
and unbelievably empty of people this shot was.
Then America dragged Britain into a war. My son was caught up in it (not against his will, I might add) and I had to endure anyone who noticed my American accent immediately asking me what Bush (he used to be President) was going to do, as if I was on the War Cabinet and spent my evenings Skyping with the President about military strategy.

I did try to calm the fears of the locals (and they were genuine fears, trust me) by assuring them that—despite what Bush and Blair were saying—Iraq did not, in fact, have any WMDs. No one believed me, until the war ended, and the two embarrassed leaders had to admit that, not only were there no WMDs, but they had not even thought to bring a “drop piece.”

The Boy (RT) and his Marine buddies, fighting the Gulf War.
"It was like Boy Scouts, with guns."
Things calmed down after that, and life was good, and got better. Then the 2008 Financial Crisis came along.

This did not come as a surprise to us. In the months prior, well-meaning friends had told us we were foolish to be renting when we could easily buy a house. “You just go into any Estate Agent and make up a salary. You can tell them anything you want, and they’ll accept it, so you’ll get a mortgage.” All we could do was wonder how it was that they could not see what was coming. We saw it, but it didn’t stop it.

Yeah, I stole this.
Nothing truly awful happened, at first, but as 2008 became 2009, and 2009 turned to 2010, life got greyer and greyer.

I knew how bad things were by using the best economic indicator around: Every year, on the 5th of November, I would sit on my balcony as evening fell and listen. If the fireworks started going off, and if there were a lot of them, I knew the economy was getting better. (Because people, in the most literal sense, had money to burn.) If there were only a few, or none, then things were bad, indeed.

As for us, we crossed our fingers and hoped things would turn around, and just when we thought it wasn’t going to get any worse, the newly elected Conservative government introduced us to Austerity.  

In case you're wondering Austerity didn't turn out to be very popular.
The first thing they said was that it wasn’t going to affect front line services. I had all I could do to stop laughing. Naturally, front line services were immediately cut, budgets were slashed, and slashed again, and again, and again, and again.

As the little people do, and have done since civilization began, all we could do was hunker down and hope to survive the fallout from the ideological beliefs of those in charge. Eventually, however, it took its toll.

My company, who wrote and installed computer systems for local authorities, found themselves with fewer and fewer customers, and in need of fewer and fewer employees. I was invited to be one of the “fewer” in 2012. My wife clung on to a service that struggled to survive until it became too ludicrous to continue and, reluctantly, left in 2018. Both of us victims of Austerity.

In 2012/13 the Fifty Shades of Grey crisis hit, and previously upscale (and even low scale) bookstores became awash in sub-standard porn dressed up as sub-standard literature. As a friend of mine noted: “It’s a book for people who don’t read.”

No, no! None of that, thank you!
Still, we did not remain untouched by this epidemic. My wife’s curiosity overcame her, and she bought the initial volume. Fortunately, she’s a discriminating reader and put it down halfway through.

Over the years, literature improved, and on the odd year, fireworks went off (this is NOT a euphemism) and then, in 2016, we had a referendum on Brexit.

Once again, we hunkered down and hoped for the best and took solace from the fact that 2017 would have to be better.

It wasn’t. The Brexit decision became more and more heated, even though the decision had been made. Prime ministers came and went. We had elections. And we looked forward to 2018 when things would calm down.

The best thing about Brexit is how it united the British people
They didn’t. More confusion and mayhem ensued. Much to the delight of America, Britain took over as the world’s laughingstock. We didn’t bother thinking that 2019 would be any better.

It wasn’t. Another Prime Minister resigned. A mini-Trump with even worse hair took over. We had an election and watched as all hope swirled down the drain.

Welcome 2020!
But then we breathed a sigh of relief on New Year’s Eve, 2019, and looked forward with hope to the New Decade. Surely, 2020 would be better. It had to be; it couldn’t get any worse.

Could it?