Recently, I’ve begun to resist the charms of Downing Street’s daily presser.
Nothing personal, you understand, Messers Sunak, Hancock, Vallance et al.
When lockdown begun, the 5pm announcement was a pivotal daily moment, the point on which all other household activities hung.
BC (before Covid) it was The Archers at 7pm; rapidly bumped-off our timetable, there’s always BBC Sounds.
The gravitas of the Cabinet announcements merited hearing live and first hand.
But I had to give up. Not just the daily ambush of dreadful news, but the increasing sensation of not doing enough to help in this crisis.
I’m not a medic, a lorry driver, a care-worker, a policeman. I’ve not made masks or served at food banks. I did volunteer to ‘Adopt a grandparent’ but no one’s come back to me.
Survivor guilt is a phrase often uttered after terrible events; the sense of astonishment for having passed through the dark tunnel when others did not.
I wanted to do more, but felt powerless; the daily conferences only added to personal guilt. Friends tell me I’m not unique, many are experiencing a sense of uselessness when thousands are putting their lives on the line.
Each morning, we, like millions of others, put a teddy up in the window. A whole row of furry friends given a new lease of life. Democratically, everyone decides ‘who’ should make the cut. Olaf’s (Frozen) quirky expression makes us smile and bunny girl, well, her place was seasonally guaranteed.
Each night, they are carefully removed. During the process of this task, a young couple, pushing a pram, walked by.
They stopped, bent down, pointed to the teddy (I forget which one). The contents of the pram looked up, beamed. Such a joyful ‘whoop’ ensued that mum picked her up for a closer look. I waved. They waved. We all smiled. An almost imperceptibly small shared experience, invisible to most.
On one of the many walks last week, we crossed a quiet bridge over a motorway, casually waving at a passing Tesco lorry.
To our astonishment, he let rip with the horn. What a thrill.
For the next half an hour we clapped, smiled, waved at juggernauts delivering our food, taking away our rubbish and generally keeping the country running.
Hit rate? Almost without exception, each responded, creating a momentary bond that said: “Yeah, we’re together in this.”
Common positivity has also been found in another unlikely venue. Our garden.
Far from grand, but it is cheerful. As if to say ‘Up yours virus’, bulbs by the dozen have pushed to the surface, creating a Monetesque swathe.
Passers-by, en route a popular walking track, appreciate the rainbow: “I’ve taken a picture most days,” one lady told me (from a distance), “It really cheers me up.”
It dawned on me that there are many little pleasures to be sought and offered during these most unusual times, often in the most unusual of places. Frequently we can be overwhelmed with events, losing sight of what’s in front of us. Many say, “Don’t sweat the small stuff.”
Normally, I would agree. Right now, though, it’s the small things in life that mean so much.
Mairi Fraser 23.4.20