Goodbye New Zealand…and Hello from London. It’s my birthday today and I’m hastily scribbling lines on the Tube. This was intended to be my 2022 post, but I’m aware that my readership and writership largely correlate, so I don’t think too many people will be disappointed in the delay.
It’s hard to believe that I’m 30; harder still that 2018 was five years ago. The years really do just come and go with such speed. Of course, age is just a number, but £1,000,000 looks nicer in your bank account than £100 (mine is closer to the latter). I always thought 30 was the age you really became an adult and were supposed to have your life in order. A few months back I bought a book at the charity shop called ‘Turning 30’ by Mike Gayle, which expressed similar sentiments. It’s an amusing read and sort of time capsule of late 90s pop culture. Marriage and careers and everything else were supposed to be sorted by this date, but it seems very few people have everything together by 30 in the 2020s.
‘Growing up’ is a very individual thing. We all grow at different paces — at least that’s what I tell myself, but I do have my reasons, if not my excuses for my own personal circumstances. My twenties were marked by quite a few significant events: my father’s death, the earthquake, a very boring college experience for the first half, and for the latter part at least, my work at the family law firm.Yet it’s hard to believe a whole decade has really gone by.
I don’t feel thirty although I suppose I don’t know how it’s supposed to feel. How do you feel a particular age? It isn’t something you feel, it’s just part of you. And I suppose this is where the phrase “age is just a number” has its applicability. Because life really is all you do with the opportunities you are given; and I suppose I didn’t take enough of them in my twenties. My main insight is now really recognising that my time here is limited. Whatever you want to achieve in life, you have to just do it, because ‘later’ usually just means ‘never’.
And so in that respect, I do feel like 30 is a new beginning for me. Thirty has been a wake-up-call, or something of the sort. I have an appreciation for how quickly life passes now, and aim to make the most of the decade ahead. I also see it as an opportunity to really be able to fulfil some personal plans. Of course, my 30th birthday is probably the first I’m spending abroad. It’s been a long delayed OE. I was looking at teaching English in Korea, but then a certain pandemic hit which put paid to those plans.
I’ve moved abroad without a job offer, but thankfully have some savings and accommodation to tide me over in the meantime. I’m also very grateful to have my brother’s in-laws supporting me. It wouldn’t be much of a birthday spent alone, but we’re all going out to dinner at a place on the High Street and my sister-in-law’s sister-in-law (I hope I got that right!) Elisha is kindly making me a birthday cake.
I have been trying not to use all my savings, but the foodie in me is a sucker for Waitrose. I even wrote a poem about it (to be shared at a later date). I’m at roughly 50 job applications now, so hopefully something comes of it. If Britain doesn’t work out, I still have my English teaching plans in reserve. I haven’t been “living it up” though. I went on a brief pub crawl in Soho, and went out to an arcade, but my social life in my stay so far has really just been limited to the local gym.
London is large, vibrant, and very expensive; but it never really feels too big most of the time. I’m looking at Tube Map from my seat it’s a huge elegant mess of intersecting lines. Each stop on the Tube is its own little village (many were actual villages before being absorbed into the metropolis), and people, by and large, tend to stick to their own area — particularly so in the post-pandemic era of hybrid working.
This is my third time in London. It never really felt much of a shock to me visiting; it was always sort of akin to going to another part of my own country. America feels different (in both good ways and bad) but Britain culturally still feels much the same. London is certainly more diverse than Christchurch — or really just about anywhere else on the planet for that matter, but I’m used to living in a multicultural city. The British Winter has been much more pleasant than I had expected, with an occasional frost or two but nothing all that challenging. I’ve been told that I avoided the cold snap in December where they had a proper snowfall, which in London is about as rare as it is back home.
But what really gets to you is the busyness of London; you just can’t get away from people. Even the parks aren’t really quiet. I had a carriage to myself at Edgware, and it filled up almost completely at the next station. With 9.5 million in greater London, it’s approaching nearly twenty times as many people as Christchurch, which means twenty times more traffic, twenty times more demand for services, twenty times more people at the restaurants, twenty times the madness.
The counterpart to all the hustle and bustle is that London is never really boring. Just walking on the High Street is an adventure. In Christchurch, there barely are any High Streets; people largely do their shopping in malls, but since the majority of people drive, they don’t carry their possessions about, or walk particularly long distances. Walking down Ballards Lane, it’s like crossing a big marketplace. There are bakers carrying sacks of flour, cartons of fruit and vegetables sprawled out by the off-licence, conversations happening at the bus stops, traders hawking their wares at a second hand stall. People are unapologetically busy. My other observation is that Finchley has become noticeably more Iranian since I was last here in 2014. Just about every second business is ‘Farsi’ this and ‘Persian’ that; it feels almost like a little Tehran.
At times it feels a bit run down. Perhaps I’m just used to more modern new-world infrastructure, but the nation seems to have noticeably declined. Of course Central London is nice and modern and cleanly maintained, but there’s no shortage of litter, graffiti, homelessness, and other signs of social decline in the suburban High Streets. The inflation has been particularly hard in Britain. Groceries are still cheaper, but not as much as they once were.Takeaways are definitely more expensive than New Zealand now. There doesn’t seem to be much that has improved. As soon as my accommodation ends in a few months, I’ll most likely be heading elsewhere, but I do intend to see a bit more of South London, and do some trips around the Home Counties.
END OF PANDEMIC & PERSONAL TRAVELS
2022 not only market the end of my twenties, but the end of most pandemic restrictions. The idea of even flying to Europe seemed a distant dream at the start of 2021, when masks were mandatory and lockdowns were a recent memory. Besides a minority of mask wearers, people have largely just moved moved on.
The was was noticeable on my recent travels. While en route to London, I spent five days in Los Angeles with my Mother. Although proof of vaccination was officially required to the enter the US, none of the staff at LAX bothered with checking it. With perhaps a little more confidence than I ought to, I had booked a rental car. LA is not the easiest city to drive in, and my mother’s terrified passenger antics soon put paid to us using it. We hardly drove any further than from LAX to our hotel in Santa Monica and back again, opting to use Uber for the rest of the trip.
It was nice to see the Beachside part of LA and explore around Santa Monica and Venice Beach; trying the famous pier attractions and sampling some nice food, including the offerings at our hotel’s nearby Trader Joe’s and another In-N-Out burger for nostalgia’s sake. The class disparity is rarely more noticeable than any other place I’ve been to as it is in Los Angeles. You can walk along one street filled with luxury apartments, and turn a corner and see homeless tents encamped beneath a overpass.
Unfortunately in LA my mother developed an issue with her leg which impeded her walking, so it was a fairly limited stop activity wise.
After Christmas, we ventured to the north of Britain by train; first to York, then to Newcastle, and finally to Edinburgh. York has a deserved popularity. ‘The Shambles’ and the old city are about the closest to what you’d picture of old England, with its narrow cobbled medieval streets, charming tea rooms and sweet shops, centuries old pubs, and the spectacular York Minster. My Mother also caught up for a coffee with her York based cousin, who she hadn’t seen in decades. We stayed at the Ibis York Centre, which was a short walk to The Shambles and brilliant value for money.
One of my aims of my travels north was to try to find another city to stay in after leaving London, and I think I found it in Newcastle. ‘The Toon’ really has a lot to offer. The city (and surrounding Tyne and Wear area) has its own Metro system, it’s close to Scotland, Yorkshire and the Lake District for weekend breaks, and it still has cheap flights to Spain and the continent, and is only 3 hours on the ‘LNER’ fast train to Kings Cross.
We were staying in an Airbnb in Jesmond, which is one of the nicer parts of the city. Grey Street and the centre of the city is lovely, as well as the area along the riverside. There’s a lot of modernity and development happening, and the Geordies love their shopping, so there are plenty of malls and dining options; and it just feels a lot less stressful than London. It also feels a lot more open — in part due to the river carving its way through the heart of the city, but partially it’s just the density. The streets are wider and the housing feels less constrained than all the old London stock. I spent my New Years hammering out a draft of my novel, and so my one night out in the party town was spent on a bank holiday when most of the pubs were closed. On our sightseeing day, we saw the Angel of The North and went to King Edward’s Bay along the coast, stopping at Riley’s Fish Shack for a meal.
Our two night stay in Edinburgh was a very fleeting visit. We arrived around Lunchtime from Newcastle, and as it was raining we didn’t do anything else for the rest of the day besides having a Bratwurst lunch by the station. It was only short bus ride into the old city from our hotel, and so the following day we explored the heart of old Edinburgh, visiting The National Museum of Scotland (highly recommended) had a quick pub lunch, and walked around The Royal Mile. The old city is beautiful, but it felt overwhelmingly touristy in every street around The Royal Mile (the Tartan shops had some lovely knitwear though). I imagine the rest of Scotland has a lot more natural beauty to admire, but the soul of Scotland couldn’t be seen amongst the throng of the crowds.
The highlight by far of our holiday was our four night stay in Rome. It was a 6:00am flight from Edinburgh on Ryan Air to reach the Eternal City, and a 40 minute taxi ride to reach our hotel in Trastevere. As we entered the city limits, we were driven along the Appian Way, bumping along the cobblestones as the chariots of millenia before had navigated the route before us.
The main historic attractions of Rome are largely close to the riverside, all in walking distance from the Tiber. Trastevere (where we stayed) and the Vatican are on the left side of the Tiber, while The Pantheon, Colosseum and Forum, and The Trevi Fountain are on the right side. There’s a lot more to see further out, but tourists with limited itineraries such as ourselves tend to largely stick to the centre.
We arrived in Rome at the Feast of The Epiphany, which is the last date on the Italian holiday calendar, before the end of the school holidays. Rome is a popular holiday destination for other Italians, and so for the first two days the streets around our hotel in Trastevere were very busy, especially around lunchtime. After coming from Edinburgh, Rome was refreshingly local. It was still very much an Italian city. Even at the tourist sites, there were plenty of other Italians, and there was plenty of opportunity to practice my limited Italian.
We crammed in the main attractions, doing the tour of the Forum and Colosseum on the Monday, and the Vatican Museums on the Tuesday. The Forum and Colosseum tour was definitely worth doing and brought the ancient history to life, but our tour of the Vatican Museums felt much like we were being herded along to push us through until the next group replaced us. There wasn’t much time to really stop and appreciate most of the art, although we did stop for the most famous works such as Raphael’s ‘The School of Athens’. Perhaps that’s a testament to just how immense the Vatican’s art collection is.
The tour ended at the Sistine Chapel and thankfully we were able to stay for as long as we wanted.
It was a strange sensation of seeing something so familiar in its proper context. You spend your whole life seeing photographs of the artwork, but it’s never quite true to life and you have uncertain expectations. In a way, it reminded me of seeing The Mona Lisa at the Louvre. Certainly the crowds were just as plentiful as they are in Paris with Da Vinci’s most famous piece, but in Rome the crowds were all gazing upwards at a much less underwhelming work of art.
My Mother didn’t even recognise we were in the Sistine Chapel at first until she looked up to see the ceiling and saw those iconic outstretched hands. In the chapel, every surface is a work of art, not just the ceiling, and so you crane your neck and are left gawking around the room with all the other tourists.
And I suppose that was my personal take — It’s the Sistine Chapel, not just the Sistine Ceiling. The scenes of the life of Christ on the walls were just as impressive as the depictions of God above. There’s art at every angle in the room, which was a pleasant surprise.
Dining out in Rome wasn’t particularly cheap and there weren’t many supermarkets in the old city, although one positive surprise was the cafe at the Vatican Museums, where prices for lunch options were very reasonable. Another discovery was that cash was still preferred in many places in Rome— many of the convenience stores wouldn’t even take card payments (although that may be for tax avoidance).
There were Trams and a Subway system, but most of the stops were some distance from Trastevere. My Mother had an issue with her leg on the trip, which meant we mostly used Taxis. Uber only has the more expensive ‘Uber Black’ option available in Rome as the local taxi union lobbied against introducing the app, but there’s a great app called ‘Free Now’ for booking the Taxis (I had no luck with the MyTaxi app many were suggesting online).
The trouble with Rome is that it there is such a sheer abundance of history, that it becomes almost routine. The churches and statues that each would be star attractions for other cities in their own right are just another one of hundreds of others competing for your attention. As the Tuscan lady who we spoke to at our hotel said, “The whole city is a museum.” Even after a few days, I can see how the ‘Wow Factor’ would have long worn off for the locals. As beautiful as the surroundings are, life still goes on.
Rome is a great city to walk around, especially in the evenings. I loved the nights in Rome, and Trastevere had a great vibe to it in the later hours. My most memorable moment in Rome was walking along the Trajan Forum. I had been on the tour of the Roman Forum earlier in the day, and was looking for the path to the Capitoline Museums; and as I walked around, I realised I had found another set of ruins that were just as impressive. I was walking beside floodlit ancient columns on a stretch of ancient cobblestone. Here beneath the shelter of Mediterrannean Pines and away from the cars, it really felt like I was going back in time.
Although we did cover the highlights, I will definitely be back in Rome and to explore more of Italy. If Rome is a Museum, Italy is a whole civilisation unto itself.
END OF THE PANDEMIC
With the world now busy with a cost of living crisis and the war in Ukraine, I thought it would be apt to write a final analysis of the pandemic. I had intended to write this a few months ago to summarise 2022, which really was the last year of the pandemic for most countries. 2022 was the year the world began to open up. Even China finally gave up on its zero Covid policy in December 2022 after rare protests and widespread dissent in the preceding month.
Hindsight is 2020, but it didn’t feel like it at the time. 2020 felt confusing, chaotic and uncertain. For the first time since perhaps the Second World War, the entire world just shut down.
From reading various comments online and from watching media interviews, many peoples responses to Covid generally veered to one extreme or another. People either completely lost control of their lives, spiralling into alcoholism, relationship breakdowns, or addictions, or used the time to really make some beneficial changes to their lives. One of my relatives here in the UK took up painting, and she was showing me photographs of the amazing artwork she did. My personal lockdown hobby was starting a small record collection and starting to improve my fitness. I do remember there being a lot of food consumed in our first week working from home, from the very large grocery trolley I had stocked up on the night the lockdown was announced.
Of course, besides the direct impact to the healthcare system in cases and fatalities, there were much wider repercussions caused that rippled throughout all social sectors. Covid meant the end of many careers, relationships, and inflicted a lot of trauma that people are still recovering from.
The Guardian had a good piece interviewing younger Brits about their experiences during the Pandemic years. I sympathise with the students feeling they missed out on their university experiences, as I was impacted in a similar way with the earthquake. It’s the sense of losing some of the most important years of your life — wondering ‘what if?’ if Covid hadn’t happened.
Meanwhile, the long term health effects of Covid are likely to last for generations, and the impact will be especially felt for children missing out on socialising during their crucial early developmental years. Mental Health has been badly impacted with the psychological toll of isolation, especially amongst the elderly and those living alone, and it will take years for the wider impact of the Pandemic to be seen in all areas of society, particularly the long term health effects. So while the Pandemic may be over, the legacy of the Pandemic will cast a very wide net years from, and perhaps even decades from now.
Getting “back to normal” of course means living with Covid in the background. The disease continues to kill and will continue to impact the health services. I’ll always be grateful that my Pandemic experience was in New Zealand, which was probably the best place in the world to be living in for at least the first half of it. After the initial lockdown, New Zealand largely lived without the disease for a year. The borders were closed and all arrivals were required to spend two weeks in Managed Isolation and Quarantine (MIQ) — which were mostly hotels re-purposed as quarantine facilities.
Covid returned in August 2021 but was largely confined to Auckland, where the nationwide lockdown restrictions were extended. It wasn’t until December 2021 when the Auckland travel restrictions ended that Covid started to spread throughout the country, with cases spiking in February 2022. This was the calm before the storm. Everyone knew it was coming, but we were waiting with trepidation.
I spent the 2021 Christmas Break away in Wellington. While taking the ferry to Wellington, I religiously wore my N99 face mask, as I had been doing ever since restrictions were imposed. Masks of course were mandatory while shopping, as was the always hilarious mask requirement at restaurants. You were protected from Covid for a minute or so as you made your way to your table, and then were exposed to the virus for the remainder of your meal.
New Zealand had a mask mandate and a particularly divisive vaccine mandate, which meant unvaccinated individuals were prohibited from most social activities and from certain workplaces. People had a ‘vaccine pass’ on their phone, logged in the ‘NZ Covid Pass’ app which was scanned upon entry to just about everywhere: workplaces, restaurants, council offices, movie theatres and so on. The only places the unvaccinated could visit was a small list of essential services such as supermarkets, petrol stations, and hospitals. The anger caused by the vaccine mandate would culminate in the front lawn of Parliament being occupied, and eventually trashed by Anti-Mandate protests two months later.
I caught Covid a few weeks after returning home from my Wellington holiday. They were just beginning to distribute the Rapid Antigen/Lateral Flow tests, but the only available form of testing for most of the public was a PCR test (this was the painful one where they stuck the swab far up your nose), which were only available in a limited number of testing sites.
I had spent the whole week at work without exhibiting any symptoms, but on Friday night I began to have the beginnings of a temperature. On the Saturday when I awoke, I had a fluctuating fever, but I was mostly feeling very lethargic, and by late morning I realised that I had caught it. The fever sort of came in flushes throughout the day. It felt like my body was playing a game of ping-pong with my temperature. Thankfully I didn’t have any of the other symptoms, especially the dreaded loss of smell or taste.
On the Sunday I went to get a PCR test at Christchurch’s testing station, which was situated on Orchard Road near the airport, but the line at the testing station stretched back for several kilometres, with a queue of hundreds of people waiting in their cars. I was feeling very tired and sweaty, and thought there was little point in confirming what I already knew and left the testing site. Most people waiting in line for 3+ hours would have likely joined me in turning around, but they required official proof to get time off from their employer. I was in the fortunate position of having a family member as my boss, and so didn’t need to wait. Of course, it meant that I was uncounted as an official Covid case, as was my mother, and as were so many others who didn’t upload the results of their positive tests.
By the Monday most of my symptoms had disappeared, and I was well enough to go into the office, albeit masked and with no interaction with anyone (most client appointments were still remote at the time); but I remember thinking — that was it? All those headlines and all the time spent worrying for something so minor. I have rarely gone from caring so intensely about something to complete apathy in such a short timeframe. On the other occasions when I’ve felt unwell since, I’ve wondered if I’ve developed Covid again, especially when asymptomatic cases are so common. And while it was only my personal experience, but experience is a very persuasive thing. Personal experience tends to usually trump statistics and fearmongering.
Of course, there were reasons why my case was so minor. Firstly, I had caught the Omicron variant, which although was more easily transmissible; it was symptomatically less severe than the previous variants. Secondly, I had received two doses of the Pfizer vaccine and a booster-shot. I was well protected.
And thirdly, and perhaps this is the most salient point — I was always in the least at-risk category for the disease. And I think that fact hadn’t been well communicated. It was only after I caught Covid that I understood why other people in their twenties quickly became indifferent to the restrictions overseas. Covid, for many of them, was nothing more than a bad cold. Yet a lot of young people in New Zealand were just as terrified of catching the disease as the most at risk groups. The psychological toll of the pandemic and the media’s messaging affected every age group. It was disproportionate to the risks.
And so, I would like to retract the contents of my earlier post, written at the time of peak hysteria and admit that I was wrong. Nobody should have been excluded for being allowed from any public venue without a vaccine. It was always meant to be a personal decision. Especially when only one form of vaccination was available for most of New Zealand’s vaccine mandate (The Pfizer/Corinarty vaccine).
We weren’t “trusting the science” as it was claimed to justify all these restrictions, we were trusting the media, and looking back in hindsight it seems like it was the media that largely dictated policy. People were sycophants for authority without understanding why people could be hesitant to take a vaccine, especially those who had perhaps had bad reactions from other vaccinations, or those with a chronic fear of needles. And there were side effects from all Covid vaccines; certainly not as many as the complications caused from Covid, but at the time people claimed even acknowledging any side effects made you an “Anti Vaxxer.” You were just reduced to a label; one that was synonymous with “idiot.”
It was wrong to endorse a mandate, and I was wrong to support it. It was ugly, divisive, and unnecessary. I was sucked in by the hype. I didn’t want to appear ignorant or gullible. I trusted that those in authority were listening to the correct advice; and truthfully, I was quite afraid of the disease — because when you’ve been spending two years hearing about how deadly a particular virus is, it does tend to have that effect on you. And perhaps if I hadn’t caught Covid, I would have still remained afraid and hyper-vigilant in my masking. After that experience, I still followed the health protocols, but my commitment to avoiding Covid waned considerably. I was much more concerned when my mother caught Covid, but with two doses of the vaccine and a booster she thankfully overcame it with only a few days bed rest.
Thankfully of course, it wasn’t as bad as predicted. Hospitals weren’t overwhelmed. The scenes of early 2020’s Milan and New York were avoided. New Zealand is a notoriously complacent nation. There’s no doubt that the vaccination level wouldn’t have been as high if it weren’t for the vaccine mandate; and while it’s certain that the vaccine mandate did save lives by raising the country’s vaccination levels, I don’t think the ends did justify the means. This was a case of fear triumphing over policy or pragmatism. It was preparing for a worst-case scenario that never came.
But even if the worst-case scenario had happened. Even if the hospitals were overrun, there is still the underlying principle of bodily autonomy. Although my opinion on vaccination remains the same — I was one of the first to be vaccinated within my eligible group, and do believe it is beneficial and genuinely saved lives, even if it no longer significantly reduced transmission against the Omicron variant, but it should always have been a personal decision and not a position people were coerced into. And while I have little love for the conspiracy theorists, even if people are misinformed about a medical decision, it should always still be their decision to make. After all, freedom is about having the right to make mistakes, and God knows plenty of mistakes were made by our authorities with Covid.
It was the pandemic of everyone becoming an expert. Five years from now I suspect, very little will be heard from the recent armchair epidemiologists on future disease outbreaks. They’ll be busy discussing their opinions of future conflicts, American politics, and whatever else is in the media cycle.
And perhaps that’s the unfortunate lesson from the whole pandemic. People are very easily influenced to do things they never would have imagined when the media and politics is pushing them in one direction. People are very easily swayed. And by in large, people will mostly get in line if the media and the government pushes them in one direction. Just look at how quickly the masks were dropped as soon as the mandates weren’t enforced. Did people’s personal convictions and risk assessments all shift massively within a 24 hour window, or were people just following the rules? I suspect it was mostly the latter.
I read an interesting analogy posted online a while ago —If each day on the national news a ‘Flu Tracker’ was updated with the daily total of cases and deaths, and headlines of a “Flu Epidemic” were plastered on every newspaper, people would be terrified. But of course, this is what we lived with — an endless litany of headlines about an upcoming spike in cases each day and how terrible a toll the disease was.
It’s not a perfect analogy — Influenza was never as transmissible as Covid, but in hindsight the response was disproportionate to the disease. We spent three years afraid and living in fear; and for many people, they were just wasted years. Yes, lives were saved, but lives were ruined as well. And a lot of rash economic decisions were made that we will be paying for for many years to come.
And I suppose this was one of the incidental effects of the Pandemic — more than the physical effects of the disease, it was the toll on peoples mental health — living in a permanent state of fear where every stranger could kill you. And it’s quite hard to get “back to normal” after experiencing something so traumatic. There will be people who will never ditch their masks for years, and I don’t blame them. It isn’t easy to move on from something as traumatic as this Pandemic.
I guess that’s one of questions that can never be answered with Covid, is all the ‘What ifs’. If things had been different. If we had years of normality instead of being shut indoors. If millions of lives hadn’t been taken early — how would things have been different? What would have filled the spaces in the newspaper columns if Covid wasn’t written about, and what opportunities could we have taken if ‘2020’ wasn’t synonymous with the advent of a plague.
And yet — I suspect, had Covid never happened, many of its incidental effects would have emerged at a later point. Many of the relationships that ended, the businesses that failed, and the elderly relatives that passed away, (as horrible as the thought may be) would likely have occurred at a slightly later date. Covid accelerated the declines and expanded the cracks. Covid didn’t create much of the damage, it just made it more visible. It pushed the fast-forward button on life and took us on a wild ride, but we were still navigating a path that we likely would have followed in the future. As with every tragedy we face in life, you can’t live your life wondering what would have happened if tragedy hadn’t struck, you have to live in spite of them.
We look back and wonder how the future could have been different, but we rarely look at the present and wonder how our days could be different — how right this moment things could really change if we didn’t take them for granted. One of the lessons I’ve learned with Covid, is that little as as certain as we think it is. Disasters can come out of nowhere, and while it pays to be prepared as best as you can, ultimately you have to accept that life is always uncertain and live in spite of all the background noise. We’ll live through other disasters in the future — but we’ll live through them, just as we’ve lived through Covid. And if we don’t…. well that’s just life too. You don’t get forever…you don’t even necessarily get next week, but you do get today. That’s the main lesson I learned from this pandemic, and I suppose the tail end of my twenties — live for today, because tomorrow is never guaranteed.
Of course, it’s easy to wax philosophical and throw out Carpe Diems. That’s little consolation to those who really suffered. In New Zealand a much smaller percentage lost their loved ones to Covid than in other developed nations. We all knew someone who had Covid, but far fewer lost their lives. Our post-vaccination experience was of a much milder and much less deadly disease. This was very different to how the rest of the world experienced this pandemic.
It’s easy to be complacent and easy to forget that each statistic we read about at the end of the pandemic was another life cut short. On the South Bank in London, a visceral reminder of this can be found in the National Covid Memorial Wall. Here 150,000 hearts are painted to commemorate the lives lost to Covid throughout the UK when the memorial was painted in March 2021. Each heart has been individually engraved, featuring the names, initials, or some other reminder of a loved one lost. You can listen to interviews with people who left a message on the wall on the memorial’s website.
Courtney, a girl who lost her Nan during the pandemic, described the significance of the wall to her in touching terms — “This wall represents 150,000 ways of saying goodbye.” There is no such memorial in The United States, or China, or India or any of the other; they are all remembered silently, by the families and by the ones they left behind.
The price of moving on should never at the expense of forgetting. Every family that lost a loved one will still remember, and I suspect, will think very little of those that broke the rules or ignored the restrictions. And while we may be eager to move on, we’re not so eager to forget. Covid will become another epochal event that defines a generation. I can’t think of many other events since 9/11 that have been quite so disruptive to the world as Covid has been.
At this moment in time, it seems we’re in the prelude to something greater. With the war in Ukraine and economic malaise, and western society squabbling over unending culture wars, the future looks ever more dim. There is a general unease and discontent, that we are living in a kind of antebellum era. Perhaps this is a little hyperbolic; after all, everyone is quick to paint comparisons to Hitler anytime a petty tyrant makes the headlines, but the likelihood of a conflict with China does seem to be more and more likely with each passing year.
History is always a great teacher, but we cannot learn any lessons from the present until it has passed.
That’s the fantastic (and somewhat terrifying) thing about the future — it can never be predicted. The armchair experts the 1920s didn’t have the luxury of foresight, and the pundits in the prior decades — even the highly respected ones were often way off the mark to what actually would transpire. But if there’s anything I’ve learned from history, is that the most significant events can often be the least expected. Wherever our current path leads us, it will be the Post-Covid era, whatever form it takes.
Besides finding a job, I am aiming to make the most of my time in The UK. I will be finally releasing my first novel ‘A Life Indoors’ later this year. I completed the first draft in January, but the draft needs a lot of polishing, and a few chapters need fleshing out, so it will be months until it’s ready. Still, I’m excited to share it with you all soon.
I did also prepare a draft of the cover and a promo image (the final version will have better graphic design). More news to come in the following months. It has been a long process writing it, so I’m looking forward to finally releasing it.
I also hopefully will have some travel to write about — both of trips around The UK and some weekends away on the continent. Plus, if there’s anything that grows in my 30th year, hopefully at least it’s this blog!
Until next time,