In ascending order:
19. “I’ll do it when I have time.”
The millions of women who have spent decades collecting these moral IOU’s will now come into their own. Spare a thought for the men more profligate than wise with these cheques they never thought would fall due. But “happy wife, happy life,” I believe the Aussies say.
18. “Throw that away – you’ll never wear it again.”
Let the women not be too smug, and instead note the outfits in which these overdue fixings and tidyings are performed. Now is the day of each man’s home-use-only wardrobe. Upon all the earth’s frayed sleeves and collars, holed socks, threadbare jeans, veterans of honourable service plus the mishap casualties torn or stained before their time – upon all these, long since condemned by callous womenfolk, has dawned a blazing Indian summer. ‘Waste not, want not,’ we were always told, and now to make up for lost time.
17. No more B-word.
Cultists of both blue-yellow and red-white-blue stripes have finally, finally, shut up about Brexit. A divide-and-conquer establishment Trojan horse that never deserved a tenth of the fuss and rancour it caused – to say nothing of the demons of white supremacism it awoke from some stagnant part of the national psyche – it now appears in something like its true proportions.
16. Cold turkey surprise.
The drug trade is, naturally, hit hard – a pity for the stir crazy who’ll be missing their smoke, but what of the harder stuff? More than a few struggling souls will go into lockdown as addicts and come out of it clean, or at least with the shackles broken. The process will be horrendous, but for someone somewhere it will be salvation.
15. Vorsprung durch Korona.
Speaking of the hard but good-for-you, a lot of middle-aged professionals are now scrambling to drag themselves into a new decade when they’d barely set foot in the last one. Fret as they might, it’s surely easier to catch up ten years’ technology at the age of forty-five than twenty-five years at sixty. Get on those conference calls and virtual whiteboards now, Nigel, and you might make your pension before the robots come for you.
14. Teacher leave those kids alone.
What parents would not want to spend extra time with their little angels? And which of them don’t secretly fancy themselves as teachers? (I’ve never met anyone who on the whim of a midlife crisis anointed himself a dentist or an architect, but plenty who no sooner decided to turn educator than set themselves up as such.) Now, in this chance of a lifetime, these pedagogical backseat drivers get a turn at the wheel. Not all will take to Twitter after half an hour, as I saw one do, to ask why teachers’ salaries are not calculated in the millions, but some increase in empathy lies not far ahead.
13. Come on in my kitchen.
How many fat kids were in your class in school? And how many in your son’s or daughter’s? With the closure of the bright-lit minimum-wage cholesterolmongers that have spent half a century poisoning all comers, thousands upon thousands of youngsters and young(ish) adults will now learn to cook actual food. Offal Nuggets and Sugar McFlurrys may never have quite the old appeal.
12. Health & Safety.
Had I a pound for every time I’ve been stood at a sink in a public lavatory – in an airport, stadium, shopping centre or wherever – and seen in the mirror a man march straight past and out through the door, the sum would fly me anywhere in the world. No more, it seems, to judge by handwash overtaking BitCoin. A local doctor here says stomach bugs have all but disappeared from her beat. It’s amazing what the threat of death will do for a slob’s personal hygiene.
11. Equal opportunities.
What would it have taken, if not this or nuclear fallout, for companies to allow most staff to work from home? And when it’s proven perfectly feasible, what reason will remain for excluding the physically disabled? Broadband doesn’t need a ramp.
10. Love in the Time of Corona
Hard times have a way of clarifying priorities, and a relationship that survives months of separation or unrelieved proximity has something going for it. Many won’t, but better they fail now than in a messy divorce later. When 2021 dawns with the advent of the Quarantine Kids, the parents will be adults – and not just because teen pregnancy will be down.
9. “What you reading for?”
Book sales are supposedly booming – not that you’d know it from this writer’s figures – as are online film sites. This of course is only as good as what’s being consumed, but in times of trouble and convulsion people have always sought meaning, and meaning is not to be found in EastEnders or The X Factor or Hollywood popcorn flicks or whatever succeeds wizards and vampires and street cats as the trade publishing craze. There’s also a sudden proliferation of free content from all manner of artists (yes, some strategising for market share) as the instinct to entertain themselves and others survives the absence of the profit motive. If isolation restores the campfire spirit of doing something for fun rather than money, might this also be where folk culture gets a resurgence?
8. Proper Jobs.
Was this what it took for the lowest paid and least respected to be proven the most important? Surely even the best efforts of the BBC & co. will not soon wipe from memory that the ‘unskilled’ kept the world turning while billionaires threw their staff overboard and demanded handouts for themselves. (Some of us have been boycotting SportsDirect, Virgin, Wetherspoons etc. for years, but it’s felt like a lonely endeavour.) So let it be set in stone once and for all: a proper job is one you can explain to a five-year-old in five seconds. Pretty much anything else is bullshit, a con trick, or a job for jobs’ sake.
7. Doctor, doctor…
Governments rich beyond the dreams of Croesus have spent decades convincing the gullible that a public health service is profligate socialism and a magnet for undesirable immigrants, that doctors are overpaid and nurses greedy, and that all hospitals’ problems stem from their own incompetence and not from underfunding. Those bastards have their work cut out now.
6. Daddy’s home.
Millions of children across the world are getting time with fathers not already irritable and dropping from exhaustion. As one who works 1-to-1 with teenagers and has been many times adopted as a temporary uncle, I see first-hand what a luxury an hour’s individual attention from an adult can be. Some kids really needed this. Some dads probably needed it too.
5. Love thy neighbour.
In an England more divided than at any time since the civil war, this disease seems to have cured rather than caused a foaming at the mouth. And at a moment when Britain has just reverted to being a US-style one-party state – for empire is always bipartisan – the realisation on working-class streets up and down the country that “we’d better help each other here because they’re useless and don’t give a shit” is worth more than a discovered continent. Wild reports allege that people are even indulging in acts of kindness to complete strangers in this newfound solidarity. And if that were not enough:
4. Truth or dare.
Comrade Corona has wrung from the mighty, by actions louder than words, the admissions that homelessness is not in fact unavoidable and that there is after all money in the coffers to guarantee basic necessities to the entire population. This is literally more than the US Democrats or the UK Labour Party have achieved in a hundred years. All that was needed was some form of threat to rich people. Pandora’s box is now open, and whether it can be closed again might depend on how much of their media survives. And on that there’s more good news: the Sun and the Mail, which have done vastly more damage to Britain than any coronavirus ever will, are currently begging for money with #buyapaper hashtags to save them from their long-deserved dishonourable graves.
3. Blue skies over Beijing…
…and Delhi, and Paris, and everywhere. Much of the talk about getting ‘back to normal’ seems to forget that that ‘normal’ was killing us. If even this brief respite gives a glimpse of what’s being thrown away, it’s a timely spur that the cause is not yet lost.
2. “I see trees of green…”
Or, as a hadith has it, ‘Whoever among you wakes up safe in his property, free of disease, with his day’s food, it is as if he were given the entire world.’ Who would have thought it, to listen to most of the most fortunate? Will it not be a marvellous, a wonderful thing, to live in a world where people realise how lucky they are?
1. Peace be upon you.
Given the economic cost, is there not at least a hope that a fair dent might be put in the budget for the next imperialist venture, the next wave of fighter jets, bombs and missiles? If it’s enough to stop the next Vietnam/Afghanistan/Iraq/Libya/Syria/Yemen, COVID-19 is all but guaranteed to save more lives than it takes.