Monday, March 23, 2020

East wind

We live under the Heathrow flight path. I've been sitting here grumbling about it for 22 years. Plane noise. Plane pollution. Appalling for health, mental and physical. Still, you can always tell what time it is when Singapore Airlines wakes you up at 4.30am with the first arrival of the day.

It's all gone quiet. This, above all, makes one realise that everything is not as usual. Business is closed. The music has stopped. The world has stopped. Words I thought I'd never say: it is too quiet.

Only then you realise...it's east wind. We don't have planes overhead with an east wind. That's when they come in over Windsor instead. It's only temporary.

There is, therefore, a difference between illusion and reality. Our imaginations sometimes run away with us. This will finish, one day, however much it feels as if it won't. The casualties will of course be enormous, and not only from the virus: I am almost more worried about the effects of the stress caused by the situation in which we all find ourselves. Isolation, destruction of livelihoods and panic buying at Waitrose do nothing for health, mental or physical, any more than the planes do. (Having so said, Waitrose mercifully seemed to be settling down a bit yesterday.)

I am trying to be selfish and to count my blessings: I have a roof over my head and I bought an extra pack of loo roll months back when I thought we'd be getting a no-deal Brexit and it would lead to national collapse... But there are musicians, actors, artists of all kinds, who a week ago had a full diary, a healthy income and good management, and it has all gone at a stroke. If it hurts them, it hurts us all, because everything is interconnected, much more than we fondly imagine.

If a virus outbreak proves anything, it is the uselessness of ideology in the face of something that shows the basic truth: we are all human beings and we are all the same when it comes to mortality. That is the bottom line. The virus is the bottom line.

And suddenly 40 years of the UK's dominant political outlook has been swept away in ten days flat. Bye-bye, Thatcherism. What a shame it had to take this to get rid of you.

That aspect is not east wind. It will change the direction forever, and ultimately for the better, if we can just get through to see it happen.