It’s an increasingly unsettling time for everyone. It doesn’t feel that long since we were all planning our year ahead. Then, slowly, the severity of the new coronavirus outbreak has crept up on us until it became impossible to ignore.
I was vaguely aware of something happening in China but didn’t pay too much attention. I’d done some reading online, reassured myself it was like a virulent, particularly nasty flu a degree or two worse than what we encounter all the time.
It’s only really over the past couple of weeks or so that the enormity of it and what it means for the world has hit home. I think it’s been the same for everyone. I’ve noticed a sense of creeping dread and anxiety. It’s what prompts but doesn’t excuse the panic buying. On Monday the man who cuts my hair tried to justify the toilet roll stockpiling out of fear of there ‘not being the bodies to man the factories.’ An irrational fear, but not a completely outlandish one.
So now we’re in the midst of it. Life is changing for everyone, at least for a while. The valley and the plot feel a long way from it all. There have been 10 recorded cases in Cornwall. It’s likely there’s a lot more of it out there that isn’t being recorded. Mild and asymptomatic cases which whilst not being too troublesome for the sufferer are another opportunity for the virus to spread to people for whom it might be serious.
The world feels a lot stiller than before even in these pretty quiet rural parts. I’ve noticed things a bit more keenly over the last few days. The volume of the bird song as they settle down in the evening, the colours on the magnolia flowers outside the study window, the way the light hits the Hamoaze and the Rame in the distance as I cycle over Hingston Down. There’s so much peace and beauty here. Nature carries on as before, the virus is a part of it, as are we. We live in a beautiful generous world and in historical terms we’re probably the luckiest people who have ever lived. We do at least have a chance of beating this virus, which to our ancestors would probably seem pretty small beer compared to some of the more voracious foes they faced.
Anxiety is understandable though. Working on the plot I forget about everything else that’s going on. It’s probably what some might call mindfulness or flow. I don’t care what it’s called I just know it’s beneficial and I find perspective. Sowing seeds, working the soil, continuing with my preparations for spring. There’s new shoots. Flowers and weeds grow oblivious. The pheasants still busy around the edges of the plot, I still sometimes disturb the deer. I find the tell tale indentations of mice on the surface of soil as they search for plump delights like sweet pea and honeywort seeds. Tiny self contained worlds.
My plans have changed a little. I was going to try and sell some flowers to local florists but I suspect this year the market will not be there. Instead this year is all about focusing on the core of the business; flower seeds for online sale. When that’s established I’ll look at what else I can do, but not until then.
I suspect this will end with either herd immunity or a vaccine. In the meantime health planners will try and manage the numbers and slow down the infection rate so as not to overwhelm health services. In Hubei province, China, where this began recorded new daily cases are now just a handful. They are starting to relax the control measures and the test will be if those recorded daily cases start to tick up again.
I think we all need to keep a sense of perspective about what’s happening. It’s not if we have a vaccine, it’s when. The first human tests are already taking place.
In the meantime we should all look out for one another and listen to the experts. Something that hasn’t been very fashionable over the last few years but disease doesn’t take much notice of hubris. Hope is in the quiet things and we’re all going to get opportunity to notice it a bit more over the coming weeks and months.
Look after each other.