During a Q&A with the press yesterday, the First Minister of Scotland was asked about the prospect of families being able to gather together as normal to celebrate Christmas.
I waited for her to just say “Yes, of course they will.”
So she said this
“Asked whether these long-term restrictions were likely to affect family Christmas celebrations, Sturgeon said: “I’m not cancelling Christmas. Christmas is still a quite a long way away – I know it comes round quicker every year. It may happen slightly differently depending on where we are, but we will take these things in a calm, considered way.”
If you spend any time at all listening to politicians you learn, very quickly, that the devil is always in what is not said. Sturgeon, quite rightly, drew upon her years of experience at the very top level of politics and gave a response that, on the surface, said nothing more than “one day at a time” but that, on closer examination, revealed that far from closing in on the end of the current situation we are, instead, simply inching our way from the start of it.
“I’m not cancelling Christmas” is the telling part of her answer.
It is missing one word to make it completely honest.
We know that the “yet” should be there because she goes on to say “…It may happen slightly differently depending on where we are…” which is to say that she doesn’t really believe that the current restrictions on gathering and the social distancing measures will be lifted before the end of the year.
I know, you think I am reading too much into this. You think I am being pessimistic. You think that by the summer we will all be watching cricket on the green and eating cucumber sandwiches.
Included in the Scottish Governments response document yesterday were hints that the entire way in which our society functions is about to change radically…yes, even more radically. Despite what you might believe schools are not about to magically re-open in the same form as they existed four weeks ago. It looks increasingly likely that social distancing will need to be in place there too, that will mean limits on the numbers of pupils in classes that will be way below the current upper limits. Inside of the hub schools for the children of frontline workers there are only 6 children to one staff member and they have to remain two metres apart. From the tone of the Scottish Government document it looks very likely that some form of that approach will be the only way in which schools will re-open. That could mean only pupils in certificate classes attending and even then on a rota basis. No movement between classes and, instead, teachers moving to them. Pupils couldn’t be allowed out of class at the same times for fear of breaching the social distancing measures and so there movement in and out of school would have to be staggered to avoid that.
None of that was explicit in the document or in anything said by Sturgeon but, again, it is what isn’t said that sometimes reveals more. With a vaccine still eighteen months away and with the “R” number now being seen as more important than the numbers of infections/deaths in relation to relaxing the current restrictions it seems impossible to imagine anything close to a “normal” society this year.
What do I know?
The answer is nothing.
I could simply be catastrophizing.
I’m good at that.
Misery loves company and all that.
I also acknowledge that I am afraid and fear isn’t a good starting point for a rational analysis of anything. I’m afraid for myself, I’m afraid for my little family, I’m afraid for my neighbours, I’m afraid for my friends and I’m afraid that instead of sitting around the table with my brothers, their wives, my wife, my daughter, my little nephew, my mum and my dad on Christmas morning that I am going to be sitting in front of my ‘phone looking at them on a video call.
Can I be honest?
I don’t know if I could deal with that.
“Nothing should be beyond hope, life is hope.” said Oscar Wilde and, as ever, he was right. We need hope. We need to believe that things can be better, that the trials of today will be overcome, that tomorrow will be better, that after each stumble we can rise, that something more lies around the corner. Without that hope something much darker will arrive to fill the void, hopelessness. I can feel hope slipping away.
I’ve watched events I planned to be in attendance at be cancelled or delayed…not important things, not weddings or family gatherings but silly things like a concert from a favourite artist. But those silly things where I could feel the warm embrace of strangers and friends alike, where I could sing along, where I could make new friends, where I could spill out onto the streets of a town that isn’t mine and wend my way to a hotel room…those are the things that offer respite from the humdrum and the mundane. They have gone…leaving only the humdrum and the mundane.
I’m fortunate, I have a wife who laughs every day and a daughter who, while demanding and exhausting, makes me laugh every day. I have creature comforts. There are snacks in the cupboard and there is money in the bank. I have a home. I don’t know how those without are coping and I feel guilty for voicing these misery soaked thoughts when things could be so much worse. But I am trying to be honest, trying to get these things out of my head in the hope that I can leave them here and that, maybe, they might help someone else who feels the same way…
There must be other people who are struggling to “work” from home?
There must be other people who are worried about their inability to prise much more than an hour or two of “school” from their children?
There must be other people who feel guilty about the amount of screen time their kids are having?
There must be other people who are filled with rage at the smug noises from people who don’t feel those things?
I can’t be the only one.