I’ve mentioned a few times that I’m going to be blogging my beloved’s diary of the covid years. She keeps a regular journal (like the heroine of one of the 19th century novels she loves) and these blog posts are based on her entries made at the time. I think they are worth a look because we have already forgotten what the rules were at any given time (they kept changing), let alone how we felt about them. It’s probably important that we remember. Partly because we need to avoid being gaslighted by a Prime Minister who presents his partial recollections as being a truth we were all aware of at the time, but also because I think that, although we got many things right, we did make many mistakes. Some were foolish, some (with the wisdom of hindsight) didn’t work, and some were, I think, dangerous and wrong. We gave up, in an instant of panic, rights that we have spent our lifetimes claiming define the British and we did huge damage to whole sections of society (notably the young and the old) by what we did. And, like all societies that wake from a period of doing foolish and bad things, we now try to forget they ever happened.
Well, they did.
This is not an unexpurgated diary. Personal stuff (and stuff that may embarrass individuals) has been edited out and here and there bits have been added just to clarify what is being written about. (It wasn’t written for publication.) But it hasn’t been changed with the wisdom of hindsight. It is there to remind us what one person in London felt at the time and how they saw the changes in the world around them.
What is interesting about the opening pages of the journal entries of 2020 is how, at a time that we now know the world was about to change radically, everything seemed so normal. Our friends were looking forward to the year with high hopes of good times ahead.
Saturday 4 January 2020:
On Tuesday it was off to George’s New Year’s Eve party. Walked along the (much prettified) Millwall, to George’s new place – 8 floors up in a Canary Wharf development, with huge balcony and stunning views of London. The Shard was flashing lights at us, while George pointed to Tower Bridge and the Eye. The flat seemed to float it its own little bubble, suspended above the city.
Slowly, the old London Street Skater crowd arrived. What happened to the motley crew of free-wheeling souls who were told to “get a job” by taxi drivers? The talk was about horse riding in the Azores, and skiing in the Rockies and rides in private helicopters.
At almost midnight we were ushered onto the balcony, plied with Champagne and counted down to 2020. At which fireworks went off everywhere. We got a view of the Mayor’s display on the South Bank – and many others, along the Thames and right in front of us. I watched for well over 40 minutes, looking down at the celebrating city.
“Are you optimistic about 2020?” I asked R, who is a gold card carrying member of the capitalist classes.
“Yep. I’ve met Boris a couple of times, and he just wants to stay in power. He won’t try to bring down the system. This time next year we will be where we are now. Still bound by EU rules. Still trading.”
Monday 6 January 2020:
I’ve made a reasonably good fist of preparing for the first few weeks of teaching at Exeter [University]. The idea is to take the train first thing Monday and return late on Tuesday. I’ve booked the tickets and Premier Inn, read up about human rights, made changes to the first 6 hours of lectures, and even invented some seminar exercises, alongside a reading list. Not that it is 100% done, or anything creepy, but I should get through January.
So it’s two days teaching and three days [for the civil service] until I retire at the end of March.
And that was how we thought 2020 would be. Entries up to the end of February were about teaching, worries about the project she was working on for the Civil Service, trips to the theatre, evenings dancing and domestic trivia. There is no mention of disease or epidemics, let alone Covid, until about two years ago next week. Come back then to be reminded what happened next.