Words by Ed King
Christmas is cancelled.
Or being split into three, to be exact.
It’s breaking my heart. It’s broken my family. The childhood joy I feel around Yuletide has been replaced by limitations and fear – with parlour games and presents being pushed into the cold by social isolation and shielding.
Whilst I understand why… be warned, if someone suggests a Zoom meeting on Christmas Day I’m going to start throwing sprouts (or maybe coals off the fire).
And that was all before Saturday’s announcement.
In case you’ve been living under a rock (not a bad place to be right now), on 5th November England is moving into another national lockdown – lasting four weeks or longer, we’re back to where we were in March and until at least the start of December.
People are still getting sick. People are still dying. Potentially more than we can manage – 661 new ‘lab confirmed’ cases per day (Government, 1st Nov) are being reported in Birmingham, with over a million people across the UK having caught the virus since we started taking count, leading to nearly 50,000 deaths. That we know of.
But whether you’re the Office of National Statistics or Chris Whitty’s pocket calculator, the invisible beast is rampant once again. It’s a worrying and sharp upward curve – the trajectory of positive cases looks like an alpine skier’s Christmas wish.
So, it’s back to the short, sharp, circuit breaker approach to stem the contagion – a method already adopted by both our British Isle counter parts and most of mainland Europe. Lockdown, across the country. Stay at home, protect the NHS, save lives. Game, set, match. God help us all.
I’ll be honest, I’m not happy about it. I’m not a lot of things about it. There are other words I could use to flesh out my feelings but I’m trying to stay on the right side of righteousness.
But I get it; I get the need for it. I support it, in my way. If it needs to be done, then it must be done. So, let’s do it as quickly as possible. And do it right.
And whilst the voice of reason rolls around my head, ‘coronavirus fatigue’ is spreading across the country in a way that ironically reminds me of the virus itself. I feel that too.
When we were first told to ‘duck and cover’ back in March, people responded. They shut their doors, they covered their mouths, and we all walked forward together in a show of unity that I never imagined I’d see. It was, despite all the horror, a beautiful sight – the innate goodness and kindness reaffirmed my sometimes ailing faith in the human endeavour.
It was not without its cost, however. To put it into a personal context, I lost £8000 as soon as the first lockdown was announced – by time it took me to drive from Stourbridge to Kings Heath. By the end of the week, I’d lost anther £2000. And I’m not a rich man.
Over the months that followed the goal post shifting cost me more that I can calculate – financially and emotionally, along with most of the country I started circling the drain. And I have not lost as much as many, many, MANY more people I both know and work with. I am one of the lucky ones.
But we did it. We did what needed to be done. And like the end of December dinner I hold so close to my heart, we did it together. It was quite an incredible sight to see too, the sheer fortitude that swept from bus stops to boardrooms was nothing short of miraculous. People showed their true colours and those colours shone bright.
Over the past, ghastly, few months, I’ve been amazed and made proud by people’s resilience during this pandemic – at their deep rooted kindness and adaptability. It’s been incredible and uplifting. It’s been inspiring. It’s almost been worth it just to see such compassion. It makes me want to cry a bit every time I really, truly, think about it. But it’s been awful, a waking nightmare. It’s destroyed lives…
…and now we have to do it all again.
I’m sitting in a pub writing this, my local, squeezing out the last drops of my Sunday and licensed premise camaraderie I’ll be able to enjoy for a while. It’s one of those pubs where they know your name and you can walk in alone. Where you’re always amongst friends.
All around me – amidst the conversations of armchair eugenics and headline politics, despite the sharp end of the stick breaking the ribs of the hospitality industry – I am getting a sense of that end-of-March solidarity. People are preparing for Thursday, for the lockdown, and their doing it with the honesty and humour that I saw back in spring.
So, again, I feel proud. Again, I feel fear. But if we can call on the inner core kindness that we found eight months ago… then again, I feel we’ll get through this.
And next Christmas I’m hiring a marquee, everyone’s welcome.
Ed King is a Birmingham born writer and editor-in-chief of Review Publishing, which publishes Erdington Local – alongside Active Arts Castle Vale. To follow him (and his stories) on Twitter, visit www.twitter.com/edking2210
For more on Review Publishing, visit www.reviewpublishing.net/