Ball practising social distancing
I had an embarrassing realisation earlier this week.
I’d been following the news closely for months, keeping an eye on the COVID-19 cases map, and responding daily to its escalation at work.
But I still wasn’t taking it seriously until last Friday, when they cancelled the sport.
For a certain kind of person, news of global contagion and measures to stop its spread don’t hit home until the Premier League is postponed or the cricketers fly back home. It turns out I am that kind of person.
Tens of millions of people in lockdown overseas? Well, that’s a shame. Crystal Palace v Norwich has been called off? Oh my God, I need to fill the cupboard with tins and stop touching my face and talk to the people I love, slowly and clearly, about this not being a drill.
Embarrassing, as I say. But I know there were plenty of other people the world over twiddling their thumbs on the weekend and thinking the same thing.
And it’s not even the best wake-up call in our house this week. For Tara, the pandemic wasn’t a central concern… until they closed Disneyland.
Who’s the leader of the club that’s made for global stress?
‘Door to Hell’ cave in Turkmenistan. Image by Ybrayym Esenov
“I don’t know if you know what’s happening back in my country,” said Natalie Mering aka Weyes Blood in a whispery Pennsylvania drawl, “but we’re all… kinda… freaking out.”
It was Friday March 13 2020, a day when a lot of people who weren’t already freaking out about COVID-19 began to do so in earnest. The bog roll all left the shelves days before; now people are realising it won’t be enough.
“I’ve spent most of today crying,” she said, as laconic as ever. You wouldn’t know it from her singing voice, sharp and true, as certain as anything in this wild time. Some artists — Weyes Blood above all for me right now — give me the impression they observe the Earth as a pale blue dot from space, seeing and understanding and making sense of it all for the rest of us. I often marvel at how her lyrics cut through the muddle of human existence to coruscate with clinical beauty:
Lift the heart from the depths it’s fallen to
We all want something new
But can’t seem to follow through
Some people feel what some people don’t
Some people watch until they explode
The meaning of life doesn’t seem to shine like that screen
Lost and tangled up in you
Everyone knows you just did what you had to
Burning much more than ever before
Burning down the door
It was hard to believe someone seemingly so plugged into ecstatic truth could be so vulnerable. But there she was, a person, imploring us to get on our feet and move with her in this frightening time.
A couple did. I wish I had. But I’m a shy Kiwi; it’s not in our nature to push our way to the end of the row and boogie in the aisle when overcome with the music. Instead, I sat there and let it fill my heart.
I hope everyone gets home safe.