I’ve made contact with a few old friends recently and they have all asked this question. I find I don’t know what to say. They’re probably only expecting “I’m fine” or “OK thanks” – or even nothing as when we say ‘Hiya’, ‘Howdie’ or ‘How do you do’ or even ‘Ça va?’ or ‘Y’a’right’ – which are all versions of the same question – though to be fair, the French do like a ‘ça va bien’ back!
No, I think these people were actually asking, “How are you?”, interested and caring enough to want a meaningful answer. Nothing came into my head that made a sensible, let alone honest, reply. I’ve had to go away and think about it.
How are we all? After all that’s happened in the past 2 years, the almost one whole year since I blogged here, how are you? 2021 was going to be so much better than 2020 – we had high hopes of a return to some sort of normality, expectations of relief from the strictures of the pandemic. Instead it immediately got worse! The Alpha (Kent) variant locked us all down for three months – the worst lockdown of them all. As Spring arrived, along with the vaccine rollout for the most vulnerable, we were restrained by the very gradual release with it’s monthly checks and balances. Finally May 17th arrived and we were allowed to go on holiday in the UK – and we had one booked for May 24th that had been postponed 3 times! It was like a mini-miracle! The Isles of Scilly was like paradise for that one week – freedom at last and THE SEA! – but it also served to show how tired we really were after the months of tension and disappointments.
Everyone was waiting for June 21st, to be allowed to travel abroad, to have a proper holiday… the summer was full of traffic light lists, complicated requirements for travel, huge amounts being paid for tests and quarantine and the arrival of the Delta (Indian) variant and if you were caught abroad when your chosen country changed list, woe to you! Not the best summer ever, not very restful, even those who stayed in Britain paid over the usual odds for accommodation – the hospitality sector was on it’s knees.
You’ll have your own stories and memories. We had already decided, having missed the early June window, we’d go to our Breton home at the end of July. By then travel to France was allowed with only a lateral flow test for the fully vaccinated, though we did have the stress of organising a thick bundle of Brexit documents that none of the border staff were at all interested in looking at.
So how are we after all that? How many of us have post traumatic stress, longstanding anxiety, even fear of mixing with people? I’ve certainly lost my confidence, preferring to stay at home and be quiet, avoiding making plans. I am already on long-term anti-depressants to keep my mood level, since our son was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour in 2010 and I have a wonderful caring GP who checks up on me, makes sure I’m eating and sleeping properly, encourages me that I’m bound to feel sad at certain times and telling me when she thinks I should make an appointment with the counsellor. Apparently many more people without such an obvious reason are encountering mental illness since the traumas of Covid, not to mention those who lost loved ones or had frightening hospital experiences or have to live with long Covid. Many are fearful, especially the vulnerable. Others have had enough of all of it so are pretending it is all over, when it clearly is NOT! Winter and ‘flu are coming: I read an article yesterday saying there are already14 times as many coronavirus patients in hospital than this time last year. Many remain unvaccinated and the current government drive is to roll out boosters for the over-50s as fast as possible and warn us to be careful – to avoid crowds and wear masks voluntarily. Is anyone listening? What’s your escape mechanism? Denial? Hiding in a book? How are you?
Oh we had a wonderful time by the sea – I was so happy. We made the most of it, staying as long as we possibly could (working from second home worked!) We saw all our French friends and had English ones to stay, then did a short tour on the way back via other friends, gradually acclimatising to more autumnal northern weather. We didn’t want to leave. We didn’t want to return to lack of lorry drivers, hikes in fuel costs and difficulty getting fuel – to a country we are part of whose mood, struggles and problems we are connected with and pulled up and down by in a way we can never be in a foreign land. Back to the city, the dirt and cars, the grey damp and lack of light – to a 24 hour power cut on day 2 and a positive PCR test result, illness and 10 days isolation! So much to adjust to after 2 months away…
My experience with Covid wasn’t too bad, having been double vaccinated. I have no idea where I caught it, my husband didn’t! All in all October was a struggle and for me November dawned as a new beginning – unusual for the least favourite of all months in this household. It’s 7 years this year since Sam died – I’m going to try and ignore it more, going to make an attempt to move on instead of falling into the same old pit. It may or may not work.
I suppose the question for all of us is do we have hope for the future? Isn’t that what COP 26 has to be about – a way forward? Perhaps the answer to how am I is, “exhausted, but persevering and feeling a glimmer of hope”.