Text 1 (July 10th) – Write a short letter to your younger self (you can choose whether this is six months or sixty years ago, or anything inbetween). This will explain what is to happen in March 2020 and how you should prepare and deal with what is to come (tips for lockdown).
Remember that day at High Oakham School when the world was going to end at 11 o’clock? Skipping class with Diane Champion, huddling together on the top of the dustbins, eyes shut tight. Nothing happened did it? Miss found us, deducted two merits, then sent us to join the dinner queue.
Adult now; kids all grown up. But the arrival of beautiful grandchildren has sown a seed of dread. How can I protect everyone and everything that is precious, should the world ever decide to end again? Only next time, we may not know the date or time.
Mum always had spare candles, boxes of matches and shillings for the meter hidden away in a biscuit tin on the pantry shelf, even though the war had ended. “Better safe than sorry” her mantra.
Maybe I should do something similar, fit for the 21st century. After all, the Bible tells of events of fire, famine, flood or some disease, hitherto unknown, designed to control mankind. Old Moore’s Almanack once predicted the year 2020 a perfect vision for a perfect cleansing storm.
Gosh, we’re almost there now, better make a star.
Dire needs demand dire action.
Be Frugal. Be Kind. Stay Safe. Obey Rules. Respect Others.
I am sure there will be lots more – lets hope they are never needed.
No need to chase rainbows. One day it will all stop. What we thought was wholly certain is suddenly unsure and life does indeed have an off button – but you know what – it really doesn’t matter! One day you will see that the only thing of importance is those you have and hold.
Don’t worry about what you cannot change, worry about what you can. The past is a different country. Send it a postcard but live for today.
Happy Birthday Jan,
You should go out tonight, go somewhere nice for dinner.
And even if you’re full, have pudding.
Think of it as two birthdays in one!
From tomorrow, no questions asked, just do as I say…
- Go short on Carnival.
- Go long on DHL.
- Open a Zoom account.
- Get tickets for festivals, concerts, comedy gigs; pack ’em all in this Summer.
- Spend every weekend with family or friends; enjoy yourself.
- Avoid local walks and bike rides.
- Put off sorting out your photos.
- Don’t bother with all those little jobs around the house.
Oh, and make sure you’ve got plenty of pasta and loo roll in the cupboard. You’ll thank me!
I’d like to say this is the end. But it may be just the beginning.
I don’t know how to start this letter. I’ll plunge straight in.
So … here’s what I’d say.
Don’t whinge about Mum. You’ll crave being with her in the car, trotting off to Boundary Mill to return clothes she bought the week before and which now make her look ‘like mutton’. Her words.
Your exasperation with her will return gradually, and that will be the point you know you’re coming through the other side … but during the peak, you’ll find your impatience suspended, replaced with pride at how she copes, nay, flourishes.
But before … before it gets bleak I mean, fortify her for the months ahead. Encourage her to be creative again. Everyone will be on the band-wagon: baking, making, dancing, singing … and she’ll start making cards for everyone again, like she used to.
‘Do you like this one I’ve done for Sam for his Birthday? I’ve buggered it up by getting glue on the front, but I think he’ll like it. Can you find me a verse on the internet?’
Be enthusiastic, not full of your own woe. And at times you will be full of your own woe.
Lockdown is like a rehearsal for grief. You’ll miss so much. But unlike a real-world, fully-deployed bereavement, you’ll get your loved-ones back. A second chance… God-willing. And for a while, you’ll think He’s not willing; when people are dying in numbers you can’t compute in your tired brain and the news is full of science fact, that looks like science fiction.
But afterwards you’ll have a chance to ‘make-good’ with people, that some will not. Recognise it. Take it.
Some things you’ll love about Lockdown … Or ‘Lickdown’ as your predictive text will insist on changing it to; which will be amusing or embarrassing, depending on whom you send your hastily-typed, unreviewed texts to.
You’ll ponder how predictive ‘learnt’ it in the first place. In what context did you type the word ‘lickdown’, for it to become part of your phone’s vocabulary?
You’ll love the peace, the not-having-to-be-anywhere feeling; the change in air; the time spent with the dog; the meal planning and, unusually, even the cleaning.
Conversely, If I told you now, with your pre-pandemic head on, to imagine what you’d miss, you’d say the obvious things: seeing family and friends, hugging the Grandkids, etc … and you’d be right.
You’ll ache to smell Georgia’s hair as you kiss her head, or to feel Evan’s squidgy baby hand in yours as he walks on top of a wall. But you’ll miss the shops too … and driving with music blasting … and you won’t sing for a while because your soul won’t provoke it, when the world is suffering and dying on your TV screen every minute of every hour of every day.
You’ll miss crowds, and laughter, and banter, and cafes and the smell of peoples’ houses … and all the things that are, at the moment, your ‘normal.’
You’ll be angry and cry. A lot.
You’ll lose your libido. Who wants sex during a pandemic! It seems that some do, when you receive news of a longed-for new Grandchild, expected early in 2021, conceived 2 weeks into lockdown, and already dubbed the Covid Kid.
Some emotions will die. Some will rule you. Then, when for comfort, you’ve cliche-eaten yourself into a pre-diabetic coma, you’ll find joy in being free to do absolutely sod-all!
You can stay in your nightie until gone lunchtime. Not wash your hair, or make-up your face for days. You can look your age, or on some days, considerably older. You can let the dog sleep on the bed for comfort. Hers, but mainly yours, and you can spend time shopping online to get that buying rush by proxy.
Your house will be disinfectant-clean to the point where minor surgery could safely be carried out in your downstairs loo, and you’ll manage your fridge and food stores as never before.
Mealtimes will involve dubious combinations to avoid waste. Some will be remarkably tasty; others will not.
Prepare to be lonely at times, but also to hate video conference calls. They’ll start off hilarious, with you spending 20 minutes looking at the chimney breast of Mum’s lounge … because she can’t turn the camera round on her mobile.
You’ll have family quizzes and games online. But after a couple of weeks you’ll tire of the false cheeriness; and the wigs and comedy glasses won’t disguise how worried you all are about this being your future.
The questions will bombard you as you lie in the thick, heavy silence of a night unpunctuated by any familiar noises.
But at first you’ll sleep like you’re dead. And sometimes your waking hours will feel like you’re dead … and there might be times you’ll wish you were dead …
But one of the days, when you’re off guard, just walking in the garden with G… when you’re allowed to be near your Grandkids, but not to hold them or hug them, she will impulsively grab you round the waist, squeeze you tight, and with her face pressed into your belly say ‘I love you Granny’ … and in that few stolen seconds, risking everything but risking nothing, you’ll be more alive than you’ve ever felt and more happy than you probably deserve.
Weather the storm. Appreciate the uniqueness of what you’re living through. Let the dog sleep on the bed. But for now … before all the madness begins … love people gratefully, openly and with abandon. It will give you a reason to fight a way through.
I’d like to say this is the end. But it may be just the beginning.
Dear future Jane.
I remember you writing in your journal, on 11th February 2019, that it was the worst day of your life, the day Mum died and that 2020 couldn’t be any worse. Unfortunately, I hate to tell you but 2020 is going to be as bad, if not more so. If possible you should, at the first mention of a possible new viral pandemic, from Wuhan in China, stock up on most essential items, especially such things as alcohol based hand gels and toilet rolls. If you just buy enough for your current needs, then the shops won’t run out of these items because of you but other people won’t be so sensible, so make sure you do get some purchased, in enough time. Other items which you might not think were likely to run out in the shops will in fact do so, such as pasta, bread and milk. You don’t realise just how much you need things, until you can’t buy them.
For a few weeks at the beginning of February and into March, there will be much discussion/heart searching by the Government and scientists as to whether it would be best to just let people catch Covid and build up a herd immunity; or risk the economy by ‘locking down’ most of the workplaces and schools, advising people to only go out of their homes, if absolutely necessary! Finally, they will decide to lockdown the whole country, giving daily press conferences to keep people informed about the rate of infection and how many people have died, as a result.
You will hardly believe this but Boris Johnson became the leader of the Tories and after a General Election on 21st December 2019, he became the Prime Minister! Bumbling Boris! At the end of the first week in lockdown, he contracted the virus, ultimately getting hospitalised and finally put in intensive care. This means many other cabinet ministers will have to stand in for him, at the daily press conferences. When he finally recovers, his girlfriend has their baby and Boris needs time off with her, too. You could hardly make it up, could you?
It will begin to seem as if the country will never return to it’s pre-lockdown normality. Eventually by the end of July, when many people (including you – I advise you now, not to go ahead with that big family holiday you had planned, you won’t get to go on it) have been forced to cancel holidays, others will take the risk, as lockdown eventually begins to ease and go abroad, to find on return that they are forced into a 14 day quarantine, in the UK, which employers are refusing to pay them for. After insisting throughout the lockdown period, that face masks have no effect on stopping the spread of the virus, the World Health Organisation state, as most country’s lockdown precautions are relaxed, that people should wear a face mask, as a minimum in shops and on public transport
As for going to church, a big part of life for you, most have done streamed on-line services, for over 20 weeks. Congregations aren’t allowed to meet inside again, in high enough numbers to encompass church services, even in mid-August. People won’t be allowed to sing, as risk of spread is increased, neither will people be allowed to hug, perhaps the most important two aspects of meeting together for fellowship, but as we have always said ‘a Church is the people not the building
If there is any chance of you being able to avoid the year 2020, you should. Otherwise be prepared, be careful and remember WASH YOUR HANDS
Karen’s Letter to Her Younger Self
This is my second shot at writing to you. The first was a bit too dour!
As I started to write earlier, I realised my main objective was to help you skip some of the tricky times – so you could avoid the angst and trials I went through. What an opportunity that would be!
If I could just hand you the knowledge, I gathered from the experiences I have had over the years, I would. Well as usual I overthought it and have started again.
I am writing to you now, as you enter your thirties. You’re just getting your head round the AIDS pandemic. God what a nightmare! We lost so many people, and unbelievably, it’s still killing people.
And here we are again, in the grip of a Pandemic. It has been another shocker in all sorts of ways.
But; it is still playing out and so I have no pointers for you, no new lessons learned over the last 6 months, that I can hand you – and anyway this is just a paper exercise. Except it isn’t!
So, if I were you (again) I would hit your thirties like a thunderbolt, just go for it.
For us ‘Council House Kids” it’s a real challenge to get rid of the chip on your shoulder isn’t it?
But you know, maybe it’s not the millstone I thought it was back then. So, lose it sooner rather than later if you can. But not the pride in who you are – never lose that!
The 80’s was a ‘wakeup call’. The prejudices of a decade that will define who you are. Who I’ve become. You already know you’ve got strengths – play to them, not to somebody else’s rules.
“I am what I am” was becoming a gay anthem in the 80’s, let it stay the tune you dance to for all the many things you are – do it to sooner and ditch the ‘always having something else to prove’ tune.
You are going to do such a lot of stuff to be proud of.
Well, this is beginning to sound like a missive from a maiden Aunt now, rather than a reach out from your future self. Oh, and when you do get to that part remember – there’s nothing wrong with it!
If this can achieve anything, my hope is the words, these words, might just help you deal with the journey, and find a way through what we have now in 2020 -The COVID Crisis. It’s knocking people for six. So much prejudice again, so much propaganda. Don’t carry the shadows of the 80’s with you when you get here. Do your own thinking – it’s something we’re good at!
I often think of the bad times when you lost people. Should I mention that? It was a disadvantage of a big family – there was more of us to lose, more doubt, then less of us to answer. Started as a family crisis; became a personal crisis. It’s only ever a blink away…
There is so much I could tell you about it, but would it help? The main thing to tell you is, you do get through it! You did ok! It’s important you know that!
So, that’s it from me! There’s a lot still to come. Enjoy, reflect, ‘keep on keeping on’ and be kind. xx