By Alasdair Cunningham
I thought I’d be ready for it. I felt that a lifetime of comics and books, zombies and sci-fi would have better prepared me for what was to come. I thought I’d be that guy we all hate in the movies, the know-it-all with the high-pitched voice screaming “See! See! I told you so! We’re all doomed!” while the monster lurches up from below to finish us all off. But I was not, not even close; it snuck up on me as much as the next person. I heard it from my kids first, whenever someone coughed or sneezed or stood a little too close to them.
Then I heard it on television. It was vague at first, rumour, innuendo. It seemed as if it was on the other side of the world, a million miles from where we were, and then all of a sudden, it wasn’t. It was here, in the streets, lurking. I saw genuine fear on the faces of people in the shops while stocking up for the inevitable. I was shocked at the rows of empty shelves in our country‘s most significant retailers, and I was humbled when someone gave me half of their loose toilet rolls because there were simply none to be had. I grew angry at those people with large bulging trolleys, holding enough supplies for months and months on end, leaving nothing for the rest of us. Was it selfishness or survival?
These are the same kind of people who text and drive; I’m almost sure of it. It made me think. Would I have done the same had I got here sooner? I want to say I wouldn’t, but I don’t know for sure. When it comes to survival and protecting your family, you’ll go to the ends of the earth to keep them safe. I asked my boys what they would do. They said they would only buy what they could use and leave the rest for other people, or better yet, limit the amount that people could buy. Brilliant! Such wisdom from the mouths of babes. I wonder why our local store manager never thought of that. I told my Mum about what I had seen. She just nodded and said she had seen that behaviour during the War, and to be honest, I’d also witnessed it during the drought when there were fisticuffs over spring water. Then, the schools were cancelled and the long wait began. My boys took it in their stride.
Youth, naivety, and their teachers doing a damn fine job in telling them what to expect. Most people donned pyjamas and began to work from home, revelling in the newfound freedom it gave them. I work from home anyway, so it didn’t bother me in the slightest. However, I’m also the kind of person who would be comfortable on a desert island with nothing but a basketball called Wilson for a friend. So, with all these extra bodies around they were beginning to cramp my style. The boys had a good time. Sure it was weirder than usual, but they did what kids do. They played, fought, cried, and drove us up the wall. Then they kissed and made up before starting the cycle all over again. We grew close as a family, and I realised that there is nothing we can’t get through together.
I also gave up feeling guilty about anything. Screentime? Who cares. Less than healthy snacks? Who cares. You do what you do to get through. You have to keep the machine running, and if that machine puts food on the table while young Timmy watches Pepper Porker for the umpteenth time? So be it. Night after night we watched the world burn, and I hoped that something new would be born from out of the ashes of the old one, but I’m yet to see the green shoots poking out the ground. I sat watching dumpster-fires envelop “First World” countries that are still smouldering today, and I watched ours do what it could with what it had; although some of the decisions left us scratching our head.
Days came and went, morphing into one endless week, month, year of existence. I don’t even really know what the date is today; the sun’s up, that’s all I know. And sadly, with every passing day, everything we had built up as a country seemed to vanish.
Businesses and jobs in all sectors gone, or dying slowly on the vine, while the chasms between us become vaster and even more unfixable. We’ve borrowed eye-watering amounts of money from institutions you don’t want to be borrowing money from.
Let’s face it; these are the kind of places that will send large burly men to your house with a bat to tickle your knees till you pay up. In closing, all I know is this: I love my family, my friends, and everything I have in this world. We have our health, and our jobs, which is more than most can say, and we’re doing what we can for those who need it now more than ever. Oh, and no matter how hard I try, my boys still tell me I look like an overweight superhero with my mask on.
By Alasdair Cunningham