Events seem to be accelerating at lightning speed. It seems a hundred years ago that the Queen came on to the television and spoke her graceful and reassuring words, yet it was only twenty-four hours ago. It’s as if the space-time continuum has become warped.
I was thinking of all this and feeling rather overwhelmed and not knowing what to write for this diary, so I went to check on the horses and took the dogs out and stood for a moment under the visiting moon. All the madness fell away and everything was very quiet.
Then I came back inside and turned on the news to find that Boris Johnson has been taken into intensive care.
This feels profoundly shocking. I’ve seen the numbers, I’ve read about some of the individual heartbreaks and tragedies, I know that this thing can get anyone. But there is something irrationally unsettling about it being the Prime Minister.
Britons adore bashing their politicians. It’s virtually a national sport. I remember it feeling slightly strange when Tony Blair had his honeymoon period and even dedicated old Tories decided he was a shining light and a hope for the future. The usual default mode soon kicked in, but there was a definite sense, for quite a long time, of normal service being suspended.
Boris Johnson got no honeymoon. Everyone was already too busy being furious about Brexit. They were bashing away before he even took office. I’ve done a bit of bashing myself. I’ve criticised and doubted. That national sport was too tempting. (And maybe some of the criticism was fair, and maybe some of it was just me being in a bad mood and needing a convenient Aunt Sally to throw my brickbats at. Any Prime Minster, especially in times of upheaval, is the most auntish of Sallys.)
But I suddenly realise, as this news comes in, how much a country does need a leader. And, even more, that when something like this happens, one is reminded that the leader is human, a person who is loved by family and friends, a person just like you and me, vulnerable to all the thousand natural shocks that flesh is heir to. Someone elegant said something like this on Twitter – that whatever politics you have, this is a man who is in trouble.
Humanity is humanity, and in most places, the traditional bashing has been suspended. People from left and right, old foes, devoted opponents, are uniting in sending messages of support. I see one or two outliers, who have built a virtual bonfire and are dancing around it. This feels very ugly, although I understand that frightening times take people in different ways. (I try to understand.)
I have been tweeting a lot through this crisis. I’ve got a lovely timeline, and I find good company there. Even though I’m an introvert and I love solitude, I have been finding this forced isolation quite difficult. It’s just me and the dogs and I will often have a lockdown day without seeing another human form. The good part of social media gives me the sense of community that I’ve lost. But I don’t go to Twitter for this, because anything I can write in three lines feels paltry and inauthentic. Some people are doing it beautifully, and I leave it to them.
I wasn’t even going to write this, but I’ve made some mad promise to myself to record every Coronavirus day, and I don’t want to break it. The news is strange and getting stranger. I hope, as I do every night, that one day we will all look back on this time as if it were some strange fever dream. I hope the Prime Minister will get better. I hope that the people all round the country, all round the world, who are fearing for their own loved ones, will one day be able to rest easy. I hope that there will be other moons, on other Scottish nights, shining down once again on what I nostalgically call normality.