Home > The Monday Musings Column > on living through interesting times

on living through interesting times

My parents, and their peers, used to tell me how good I was having it not facing living through a war. With the generation gap in full swing I would reply that it wasn’t my fault that we didn’t have a war on and, more often than not, would get a clip around the ear for my pains. One’s elders could do that then with no fear of being charged with assault…

It did not occur to me that I would ever live through a war. Even in the darkest days of the Cuban missile crisis, although then we did not expect to live through what we seemed to be on the brink of; we were all going to die. But all of that faded away and life was generally fairly quiet on the home front and, having avoided National Service by dint of age, I had not expectations of facing too much strife here. Yes we have had various terrorist threats and I have twice found myself holding a ticking package in my increasingly sweaty palm, but nothing like the sustained threat of death that my parents generation went through.

When my mother and father talked about the war years it was more that often about the pulling together; they community spirit that a common danger brought to people, but if I was to dig a bit deeper there would be the stories of those who exploited or flouted the rules and regulations for their own benefit. Beneath the veneer of good there was always a a darker side.

It is almost a year now since the world was plunged into the Covid-19 crisis and we found ourselves at war with an invisible killer. I make no comparison with what my parents went through, but this is probably as close as I am ever likely to get. None of us know whether today is the day that the virus will infect us or, if it does, whether we will survive. Working on the front line as I do now I see first hand every day examples of how different people are affected and, in the people that I see regularly, how the accumulated strain of living through these times is taking its toll.

There is a lot of irresponsible behaviour and a lot of anger. Some of the latter is driven by fear and some by frustration, but the majority if people are just trying to live as normal a life as they can. The world is always changing and very now and again we get a period of accelerated change, Covid-19 is an extreme example and it has changed our lives forever. Personally I doubt that we will ever get back to what we had this time last year if for no other reason that too much has had to change. Shopping, leisure and working habits are good examples and I think that we need to be looking towards a very different future rather than longing for a “return to normal”.

Perhaps it is appropriate, given the source of this plague, to consider the old Chinese curse of “May you live through interesting times”. We certainly are.

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