A nation of eccentrics reacts to the unprecedented
We’re an odd lot, we Brits, there’s no denying it. What other people will avoid their compatriots when on holiday abroad because they’ve ‘heard them talk’? Who else could cram so many regional accents and dialects into a country smaller than most American States? Who other than the British can stand at the same bus-stop, with the same people, for ten, twenty or even thirty years and never exchange a word beyond a laconic ‘Morning’?
So, of course, we handle Covid-19 with the same approach. Not with proud, stoic, uncomplaining compliance, but with cheerful grumbling, dark humour, an acknowledgement that we’re all in this together and a bloody-minded determination to find a way to enjoy the experience!
Podcasts proliferate, some serious, some light-hearted, others completely bonkers! The same goes for Instagram, Facebook and Youtube postings. Postmen deliver letters dressed as Spider-Man, Postman Pat and even Darth Vader. Grandparents master Skype, WhatsApp and a dozen other platforms and apps in order to see and talk with beloved grandchildren. Virtual Sunday dinners, birthday parties, boardgames, pub quizzes and play-dates are all happening. But that’s just the day-to-day stuff.
People who haven’t spoken for months are getting in touch “Just to make sure you’re OK”, anything from long-lost relatives to far-off exes. People who’ve been taken for granted for so long are now an object of genuine concern.
The neighbours who’ve ignored my daughter - and been ignored by her, in the great British tradition of never being the first to approach -are now knocking on her door to ask if she needs errands running, knowing that she’s a single mum, trapped at home with a vulnerable four-year-old.
Then there’s the ‘eight o’clock clap’. A campaign called Clap For Our Carers’ urges people to open their front doors, windows and balconies (those who have them) and come out at eight pm every Thursday and give a round of applause for NHS, Emergency Service and other key workers who are putting themselves at risk to keep things going. This has developed over the weeks into a near-extravaganza. it began with the Scots who encouraged bagpipe players to come out and play (presumably as a way of terrifying people back indoors as soon as possible). The Welsh promptly began singing, as is their wont. Now musicians of all kinds are bringing their instruments out and performing in front gardens or porches -Somewhere Over the Rainbow is popular, as are I’m Still Standing and the old WW2 standard We’ll Meet Again. People are letting off fireworks. Soldiers stationed overseas, crews on Royal Navy ships, everyone is joining in, and the national TV networks show a montage of various scenes and places.
Her Majesty the Queen has made a rare address to the public, something she usually only does on Christmas Day.
A six-year-old girl now spends her days chatting, either online or sitting on the front garden wall, with isolated elderly people.
A 99-year-old Army veteran has walked, on his frame, 100 times round his garden and raised over £21 million for NHS charities. An honour guard from his old regiment turned out for the final lap.
A herd of wild goats invaded the empty streets of a Welsh town.
A Dalek has been seen patrolling the streets of an English village, announcing “All humans must self-isolate! All humans must stay indoors! By order of the Daleks!” Nobody is going to argue with a Dalek!
Finally, I overheard two young men talking in the ‘socially- distanced’ queue at a local supermarket the other day. One asked “Do you know what to do if you start having symptoms?” The other replied “Yeah. Go and cough all over the mother-in-law!” Brits will be Brits.
Stay safe. Stay well. Don’t take things too seriously or you will go mad!