by Jon Biddle
I was sitting, minding my business on Saturday night, waiting for SB to finish a Zoom call so we could watch another Christmas movie. My weekend sandwiched between a load of nights at Covid central and my social media feeds that were awash with an impending announcement by the UK government about stiffer restrictions and changes because of this new strain of the COVID-19 virus.
My cheeks blew out in frustration, the government had already announced a load of measures leading up to the Weekend that had impacted the Christmas week, although “We should still a have a little Merry Christmas,” wasn’t feesable, moreover the bleak midwinter is about to get bleaker – I wasn’t wrong.
London and the surrounding counties were to be at midnight that night shifted into a fourth tier, a tier that was mentioned back when the government announced about the tiers. This was and is a disaster to our Christmas.
All of my children, the four of them are in London, now stuck in this almost Dickensian nightmare of isolation and misery. To compound this, my daughter-in-law sat opposite a colleague in hospital midweek who then went to test positive for COVID-19, meaning that she was now in isolation and pending a swab until Christmas morning, the crescendo to a pretty shitty year.
SB and I jumped into action. My son was finishing work at midnight. Luckily, he had our other car. We hastily set up a clandestine meeting at Fleet service station to exchange presents in the wee hours and have a cheeky cuddle with my firstborn. The drive home got me curious, though. It’s a bit shit, but is it as calamitous as people are saying?
In 1989, I spent Christmas sat in the bottom of a trench on the Irish border; I did the same in 1991 and in fact, in the ten years in the army, I only spent one year in the bosom of my family.
My kids are safe, I am going to be sat in my centrally heated house with a HD TV, a full fridge of goodies and bathed in the love of my wife and dogs. Life isn’t that bad, right? But for some, they can’t get past the notion that their Christmas is ruined.
Let me shed a bit more light on things. Since being in the army and being an author and in order to pay the bills, I work as a medical professional. Working at the coalface of covid central. For those that think things are a bit of a joke, social distancing and mask wearing is a thing for the sheep of the world, let me assure you that COVID-19 is very real. There is nothing about this virus that positive. The destruction it leaves in its wake is utterly miserable.
I have seen nine people in these last ten days where their lives and the lives of their family is irreversibly changed. They are for us part of the statistic, but these people have a story. They have a history and they have a part to play in our communities and now, like a full stop; it’s over, it’s changed.
Take the conversation that I had with a daughter who was asymptotic of the disease and had passed the virus on to her parents. The father passed away a few days ago while the mother is on the same trajectory.
How is the daughter going to live with this? How do you even begin to process this?
Or the expectant mother, symptomatic of the virus and very sick with it, had to be anaesthetised in order to have her perfect healthy baby delivered. The baby will never see their mother. Her child will grow without the bond of a mother. They will never know and tread through life as if something is missing in their lives. At school, they will shrug, “she died of Covid,” will all they’ll say. And how will the history books reflect our current times?
There are so many stories, so many tragedies that we catch in our hearts. I don’t know if that’s because I’m at the sharp end of this, or that as an empath my level of empathy is higher. I could wax lyrical about the whole thing – I have so many stories that I try and leave inside the four walls of my locker, try to insulate and spare the rest of my family of the horrors that I have witnessed. To be fair, not an awful lot has changed, COVID-19 has added another stress, another dynamic to my already extraordinary life, there’s no doubt about that. The things I have seen, the things I have been part of is beyond belief. We live in a world where our life is a gift and the beauty of this world is reminded to me every time I drive home. Yet life can be cruel. Life for some can be an unending purgatory as their body or environment has let them down, and it’s this that I see every day while at work.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it here, again. I am incredibly privileged to do the work I do. Of course it takes years train and to learn my craft and I believe that things happen for a reason. But in recent times, these thoughts are being hammered home.
We are seeing the destructive effects of not just the virus, but the mental health toll it takes on our communities along with the fear of what the virus may bring. To my colleagues, fuck me – we’re tired. Like dead to the bone tired because it’s all we have to deal with and the genuine threat of catching it, this COVID-19. These stories coming from all over the world, we’re not isolated.
All of my colleagues are here because this job is a calling, it’s not just a job. It’s more than that, and that’s why we pitch up every day to make someone else’s life better.
It also reminded me the other day that parts of my regiment are serving in Mali. Fighting Islamic insurgents and defending the freedoms of the local people. In Africa, they have no base, no accommodation. Nothing. Living in vehicles, the threat of death or injury a sobering thought process every single second of the day. No one complains. No one chirps up on social media and says how unfair things are, they get on with it, with a professional dedication we all should take example from.
So, you are not hard done by.
So, while you may have to have a quiet Christmas, while you may miss the love and tenderness that your wider family brings, know this – Its only one year and these measures will ensure that we get to spend Christmas with our loved ones in Christmas futures to come.
Send your excess of food that might spoil to your local food bank of homeless shelter and enjoy what you have in front of you. Live in the now and try to have a Merry Christmas.
Much love to you all, and all the good tidings that I can give you.