Welcome to the zombie apocalypse. Dystopian fiction made real. Hunger Games re-imagined for toilet roll battles in Morrisons. The very end of days indeed. Grab a bottle of your favourite medicine, a copy of The Road and consider which household items might be reclassified as food.
Or not. Let’s not trivialise the facts here.* People are dying. Many more will follow. As ever the poor, the marginalised, the desperate will suffer more. History teaches us disease has no class vector, reality suggests otherwise. The virus has snared royalty and heads of government but let’s not confuse their treatment with some poor bastard on a sink estate struggling for breath.
But we have new heroes. No that’s not right, we have old heroes properly dragged into the light. Sure there’s a government, whose welfare policy can be neatly summarised as fucking the NHS up the arse for ten years, is now apparently in awe of what’s left.
Forget them and their frankly embarrassing attempts at empathy. The irony that the saviours of our world are not running banks or financial scams, rather those on the front line of what is essentially a war without ordinance. Doctors and nurses, thousands of committed researchers, decent souls stacking shelves, school ‘failures‘ driving trucks, ranks of forgotten minimum wage slaves stepping up in a way their more privileged contemporaries entirely fucking avoided.
And they are dying as well. Because ‘getting Brexit done’ is a ‘look at me’ slogan while basic PPE is a bore. Still got to give the ruling class some credit for a bail out that’s basically nationalisation and socialism hidden under the banner of an emergency measure. A tory government massively expanding the welfare state? Fuck me it’d be funny if it wasn’t for the whole people dying thing.
At some point in the distant future, there needs to be a reckoning. Not just finger pointing of who didn’t do what, but also if we learned anything. This is what I’ve learned so far.
Most humans are decent individuals. Those who don’t monopolise the news media. Stuffing blogrolls into trolleys, picnicking on the beach and essentially mainlining the selfish gene. Through stupidity or hubris, who the fuck knows. But these people are not important.
Who are important is everyone else. Mostly everyone else is synonymous with not being a dick. Quietly doing the right thing and not wanting some kind of social media medal for it. Of course I counted myself amongst their number until around 3pm today.
After 10 days inside** most of which has been lost in virtual conferencing*** or finding new friends on on-line platforms, I cracked. So all my virtue signalling up there isn’t worth shit when, after FIVE MONTHS of riding in the grim, the trails dried up.
Oh irony again. It’s been literally seconds since we last met. Our freedom gave us Carte Blanche to slog about in a festival of slurry. And when that freedom is rightfully restricted it’s all bloody lovely weather, t-shirts and dust, dry lines and new flowers. You know the gig. Spring spinning the season ratchet. But like most things it’s less fun watching than doing.
I’m no rebel nowadays. I get the social distancing thing. Both because it’s absolutely the right thing to do and – as an asthmatic – I’m keen to swerve a dose thank you very much. So riding now isn’t like riding used to be before all this started. Was it only a month ago? Already feels like a lifetime.
I’m opening any gates with a jauntily angled elbow. I’m making judicious use of a small bottle**** of hand sanitiser. I’m acknowledging my fellow trail users with six feet of good natured hellos. I’m two hundred miles and a million light years from my brother living in a small flat in Ealing.
I’m also not a total bloody idiot. The NHS is kind of busy right now. It doesn’t need entitled mountain bikers to rock into A&E with wonky body parts. So riding downhill is more about precision than speed. Crank not, brake not, find some flow. Pump the trail, don’t bend it to your will.
Then stop. Sit on a stump. Pig out on a bag of sweets. Listen to the birds. Remember all this will pass. We may lose a summer but most people are losing a shit load more. Maybe the world turns so we can learn those lessons about what’s important. And who. And why.
Maybe we don’t. Maybe it snaps back to survival of the assholes. I just don’t know and there’s nothing I can do to influence that. But we are not powerless. There are things we should do.
Spend time with your own family. Catch up with everyone elses. Help out those who may not even ask for help. There’s something about the stripping back of our vocational and social veneer which feels important. I’m not sure there’s any such thing as over-sharing right now.
Above all observe rule#1 ‘don’t be a dick’. Closely followed by rule#2 ‘be kind’. We’ll get through this. Even though the other side looks pretty scary. Still anyone making predictions is merely selling snake oil.
So let’s stick together. These last three years the politics of division have set the agenda. All of us should feel pretty bloody motivated to do something about that.
*a Venn diagram not including experts on Facebook, conspiracy theorists and shouty nutters. The media is doing a decent enough job aiming at the heart of the periphery.
**and we’re very lucky. Healthy family, large if unruly garden, walkable paths into open fields, customers who still want to buy things, significant stocks of alcohol etc.
***We’ll so be back to this. Many years ago I wrote a very cutting article on the desperation of ‘second life’ and now I’m living it. Karma is indeed a bitch.
****Like bitcoin it’s worth about a million pounds today. And peanuts in two months.