It is just before four in the morning.
I have tried to sleep.
I really have.
She felt a bit “wheezy” on Sunday.
Then she started coughing.
It didn’t seem persistent.
By yesterday afternoon the coughing was more frequent.
Her sister is a nurse.
Or she was until some point in the last week or so when she became a shero.
Even in the midst of a global pandemic pronouns matter apparently.
She said to call 111.
So we did.
We both knew what they would say.
We both knew that this was the start of something.
“A doctor is going to call back within the next four hours” she said after she had spoken to the person on 111.
A doctor called back within an hour.
When she finished speaking with the doctor she hung up and came back into the sitting room.
She didn’t need to tell me, not really, but she did; “They said I should act as if I have it”. Then the crying started. Both of us. But before the first tear had had a chance to roll I had her in my arms. To comfort her, to comfort me and to try and stop her from seeing my own tears. Big boys don’t cry. Real men do.
Then the details.
We don’t have another bedroom.
The sofa bed for me.
Minimise contact and the amount of time in shared spaces like kitchens and sitting areas.
Minimise means something different to what you think it means.
It doesn’t mean “a little bit of time”.
It means “don’t”.
Don’t spend time in those spaces together.
To help “minimise” the time we put the kettle into the bedroom…and teabags…and bottles of water…and cereal bars…and paracetamol…and cereal…and two mugs…and two bowls…spoons…tissues…anything we think can help her to stay in the bedroom.
I take out clothes and underwear.
The bathroom and kitchen must be cleaned after she has been in them.
Then I tell her to go and give our daughter a kiss before we “minimise” the contact between them.
Because we don’t know what to do and because we are really afraid she wraps a scarf around her nose and mouth before she goes into the bedroom…despite the fact that three hours earlier she had been laying in bed with this seven year old bundle of wonderful reading “The Sheep Pig”.
Then we are ready.
Ready to isolate.
In the same house.
None of us can leave the house.
The doctor has said that it is unlikely I don’t have it already.
I don’t have it.
But I will now.
The isolation won’t stop that.
But you have to follow the advice.
Do the right things even when they are not the easy things.
I know she will be fine.
She isn’t febrile.
She feels fine.
It’s just a cough.
It may well remain just a cough.
It might not be…it.
But you cannot play that game.
Part of the solution or part of the problem.
I know she will be fine.
She will be fine.
Despite what my brain is telling me.
Here comes the fear.
I have to explain to my daughter why she won’t really be seeing much of mummy for the next seven days. You can’t bluff your way through isolation. You can’t pretend everything is normal when everything is anything but normal. This isn’t Santa or the Easter Bunny, lies you tell because of the magic and joy they bring. This is something ugly and real. But what can I really tell her? She’s not a baby. She was watching Newsround every day at school. Remember that? When school was open? She knows what Covid-19 is, she knows that school is closed, she knows that she cannot see her friends…now she will have to know that she cannot see mum, at least for a few days. It’s going to worry her, make her anxious…her mood will swing.
“It” is responsible for this.
Then it will be my “turn”.
I have a compromised immune system.
I’ll be fine.
I’ll be fine.
Speak to the doctor.
Neither of us is going to hospital.
That doesn’t happen to people like us.
She’s not going to hospital.
I’m not going to hospital.
Toby Young has set up a new website for “lockdown sceptics”. He reckons the governments valuation of my life at £1.5 million pounds is ridiculous. The lockdown is an over-reaction to people who would probably die soon anyway.
“…spending £350 billion to prolong the lives of a few hundred thousand mostly elderly people is an irresponsible use of taxpayers’ money. That may sound cold-hearted, but this isn’t a straightforward trade-off between public health and economic health…So at its simplest, the Government has valued each life at £1,521,740 (£350 billion divided by 230,000). Now, that’s almost certainly over-egging it…”
The cost to the taxpayer (me) of saving my life or my wifes life…of ensuring that my daughter grows up with two parents…of working to maintain me as part of the workforce…of keeping alive someone who has a contribution to make to society is, for Toby Young, “irresponsible”.
My wife is forty-four.
I wonder if he thinks my life is worth £1.5 million.
Maybe £1.4 million?
Right now I couldn’t put a cost on the life of my wife.
I reckon if Toby Young starts to cough tonight and ends up in hospital fighting for his life that he would be happy enough for me to make a contribution towards saving his life. He would wail to whatever God he believes in for the resurrection of any of the doctors or nurses who have died in their efforts to save others…never once reducing them to a sum of money, seeing each and every patient as a living person, as a mother or a father, as a son or daughter, as a friend, their value lying in their being.
I wonder if Toby Young has a million pounds in the bank.
Would he spend that money to save his life?
I don’t have a million pounds but I would give every penny I do have to save the life of my wife, my daughter or myself. I am happy to have paid my taxes for the last thirty-one years so that the lives of strangers could be saved.
I don’t feel like a one and a half million pound valuation on the life of my spouse is over-egging things.
She is lying in bed, tired and afraid and I think she is worth whatever it takes.
She has a cough.
Just a cough.
The other lockdown sceptics think I am ridiculous.
I am not thinking rationally.
They have questions about the reliability of the modelling.
They can show how few “excess deaths” there are as a result of Covid-19.
They have done the sums on how much human life is worth…interestingly on Young’s website the article about how we value human life is both written by Young himself (ahem) and out of the six articles suggested for further reading…two of them were written by Young. You do the math(s).
On and on they bray and bleat.
I do get it.
I understand the impact of these measures.
I am not someone who is opposed to capitalism or who sees capitalism as some force for evil.
But I also understand that the risks here are not just about people dying “from” or “with” Covid-19…they are about the wider costs, the greater costs, of trying to carry on as “normal” when things are not, in fact, “normal”. The potential strain on the NHS, the loss of working hours, the devastating impact on families of fathers, mothers or children dying…these would all bring untold damage to the economy too and so, to attempt to mitigate, we are taking the steps that we are.
Then again, what do I know? Nobody has made a dreadful film about my life. “How to Lose Friends and Alienate People” indeed. I am not sure that anyone, other than someone with Narcissistic Personality Disorder, would wear that label like a badge of honour. But I don’t see myself as a contrarian or as the sort of person who is “just telling it like it is”…I see myself as someone who is concerned for his wife, his daughter, his neighbours and his friends.
Now it is a little before five in the morning.
My daughter is going to wake up soon and our long, probably fraught, week together is going to get started.
There will be rows.
There will be tears and tantrums.
There will be too much screen time.
There will be too little work.
There will be too much junk food.
There will be a lot of cleaning.
There will be little, to no, time outside…maybe into the communal back garden if there is nobody else in it.
I’m really frightened.
Afraid and upset.
I want to go and lie down beside my wife.
I want to go to the swimming pool with my daughter.
I want to get in the car and go and see my mum and dad.
I want someone to hold me in their arms.
I want to feel something other than the things I have been feeling for weeks.
I want to go back to the way things were.
My wife is in a room less than six feet away from where I am sitting…behind a closed door and she is sad and she is afraid and I can’t go and hold her and tell her it’s all going to be OK.
I know that’s the right thing to do.
To stay away.
To follow the advice.
But it hurts.
It really hurts.
There goes innocence.