ONE. Hundred. Thousand. We can’t quite get our heads around this number but we really must try.
Joseph Stalin, everyone’s least favourite Soviet dictator and mass murderer, supposedly once said that one death was a tragedy but millions were just a statistic.
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Like a lot of famous quotes, it’s not clear if he actually said it. But it doesn’t matter because, unfortunately, it’s true.
Unable to compute the extent of the devastation, we’re just left with numbers on a page.
We can’t allow this to happen. I remember reading the writer Julian Barnes reflecting on the death of his wife.
He said that as she slowly, inevitably, faded from the everyday thoughts of those who knew her, he felt that he was left in charge of remembering her. That was his role.
Well, I think this is our role now: To focus — really focus — on remembering those we have lost.
I heard a grief counsellor this week say every death would result in an average of nine people truly grieving. I’ve no idea how that was worked out but it sounds about right to me.
On that basis, we now have getting on for a million people grieving as they set about their lifelong task of remembering those they have lost.
We need to find ways of standing alongside them as they do that.
Yesterday morning, on the radio, I was trying my best to get a row going between three MPs, respectively from the SNP, Labour and Conservatives.
That is rarely hard but on this occasion the arguments abruptly stopped when the SNP man, John Nicolson, told us about the death of his mother.
In the earlier days of this crisis she’d had a fall that led to a hospital stay.
When somebody arrived at the hospital with Covid, John was advised she’d be better to leave, though she wasn’t quite ready to go home.
John didn’t feel he had the skills to care for her at home and the doctor told him if she was his own mother, he’d probably get her looked after for a while in a respite centre at a care home.
This was the decision taken. The poor woman died there.
And here we were, on the radio, listening to the MP for Ochil and South Perthshire still grieving and, even more distressingly, sharing with us the guilt he still felt for sending her to that home.
We implored him to forgive himself and understand that guilt was the last thing he should feel. He knew we were right but couldn’t stop feeling it.
God bless him. It made me realise that with the 100,000 we have lost, there will be tens of thousands grappling with guilt as part of their grief. How absolutely awful.
The same will be true for the decision makers, the politicians. Being politicians, they’ll never publicly admit to feeling any guilt about anything. But it will be there nevertheless.
Rightly or wrongly, it’ll be gnawing away at them. At the doctors and nurses too. How absolutely, utterly dreadful.
I’ve been thinking back to when all this started. First, you saw in the media someone had Covid. Then someone you knew knew someone who had it.
Then someone you knew yourself. And soon enough, you knew someone who’d died. It crept inexorably closer to each of us.
But happily, the same thing is happening now kind of in reverse — and an awful lot quicker. All in a hurry, we saw the improbably named William Shakespeare chap get his vaccination in Coventry. Then someone we’d heard of got the jab, then someone we knew, then my folks got theirs last Friday. Oh joy.
But there’s a “but”.
Sorry to labour this point but a couple of months ago, outside social media, anti-vaxx loonies were only to be seen on the box from time to time. Then a friend told us about someone daft they knew who believed in that rubbish . . . and now we all seem to know one personally.
What on God’s green earth is the matter with these people?
To rage against them and mock them doesn’t work. It only seems to give them more diesel to suck on, fuelling their paranoia. For heaven’s sake, I read of one guy who’d gone to his grave with Covid without changing his mind that it was all a hoax.
So I feel reduced to begging them — literally begging them — to park their fears or doubts or conspiracies somewhere the sun doesn’t shine and get it done.
Please, people, think of the 100,000. The. One. Hundred. Thousand. People who are dead now because they couldn’t get the vaccination which you now CAN get but won’t accept.
Vintage Foyle is my Weeks-ness
EVEN with the embarrassment of television riches available on the streaming services these days, the length of lockdown means I’m running out of current material.
I’m having to go back in time. If it goes on into the spring, by then I’ll be watching jerky films in black and white with captions coming up between shots. As it stands, I’m as far back at 2002, with the first episode of Foyle’s War.
Michael Kitchen is such a brilliant actor and Honeysuckle Weeks, pictured with Michael, is wonderful. There’s a lot more to love than just the name.
I’ve got 27 episodes left to watch now. That should at least see me through this weekend.
Proud Britain stands erect
OVER the past year we’ve been told we’re world-beaters on a number of fronts, from the supply of PPE and our test-and-trace system to rolling out vaccinations.
I make no comment on these claims but some are plainly more valid than others.
I’m all for bigging-up Britain, though, wherever I can. And there’s something I’ve been wanting to get off my chest for a good while now, ever since I worked for a year at my dad’s scaffolding firm when I left school.
It is this: Here in the UK we have the finest scaffolding in the world.
This is something a Black Country bloke I worked with called Alan used to say to me.
Alan’s job title, believe it or not, was erection manager.
And he was right. If we’re ever allowed to travel again, do take a look at Johnny Foreigner’s attempts at rigging. Rubbish.
From the half-built hotel next to yours on the Costa Brava to the skyscraper in New York, you’ll be lucky to find so much as a right angle.
Our rigs are neat, tidy, strong and geometrically perfect.
Our scaffolders are a breed of their own. And hard as nails. Trust me, if test-and-trace had been given to them to organise, isolation compliance would have been rock-solid.
On the signal of a lusty wolf-whistle, miscreants would be identified and marched back home, prodded all the way by a 7ft rigger wielding a long steel pole.
Puppy’s a party pooper
THERE’S a line in our puppy training book, Easy Peasy Puppy Squeezy, which I’d been looking forward to putting into action.
It was in the section on toilet training that the author, Steve Mann, quotes some advice he got from a Belgian trainer as to what to do when your pup manages to do their business outside.
“Make like a party!” advised this Belgian chap.
The trouble is, this was all written in the days before the pandemic.
What to do now parties are banned? House parties, pool parties, dog poo parties . . . they’re all verboten.
So this is what we’re reduced to: If and when the deed is done, we shower the puppy with treats, put on Congratulations by Cliff Richard at maximum volume and all dance around the kitchen.
If you live near me and here this Cliff Richard commotion in progress, please don’t grass us up.
We’re just trying to make like a party as best we can.
Brit villages 'booked
HOW did Facebook ever get around to banning a place name in Devon while leaving unaddressed a mountain of half-truths, conspiracy theories and blatant lies on there?
It has now apologised for calling Plymouth Hoe out of order for breaching its anti-bullying code. There was a similar problem with Devil’s Dyke, in West Sussex.
And there’s a place near where I grew up in which the residents are breathing a sigh of relief.
Somehow the village of Bell End, between Bromsgrove and Stourbridge, has escaped censorship again.
WELL done if you’ve got through Dry January without getting wet (if you know what I mean).
Just this last weekend of the month to go now and on Monday you can hit the town. Except you can’t, obviously . . . which might not be the worst thing.
I always think that while getting through Dry January can be a challenge, coming out of it is the tricky bit. If you just go back to drinking as much as you were before, the whole thing was a bit pointless.
I’ve been there and – trust me – it’s important to have a plan.
And it’s equally important, in my view, to have a drink and enjoy it while you make that plan.
So crack one open for me on Monday and give yourself a pat on the back.
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