a little older, a little more confused

It’s October and we still don’t have a vaccine. We still don’t have a clear and easy testing regime. We still don’t have contact tracing in the UK, just tattered signs with square barcodes posted up in food places for phone scanning. I have yet to scan one successfully. We still don’t have a proper description of the virus and all its variants, pathways and prognoses. We still don’t have a workable plan.

The Ipswich Bookcrossing meeting was held again in person, split up into groups of regulation pod size. You can see I’m still trying to give away Mary Ann in Autumn, whose beautiful cover does not make up for the Dune-like decline of the Tales of the City gang across the series. Other than monthly Bookcrossing, and weekly radio when I’m home, and trips to the shops for necessities, I have not been going out in town.

I have however begun weekly trips across the UK for teaching, via much depopulated London. The number I pay attention to now is the cases reported by the university. Today it is 68. The rate of doubling is a bit slower than weekly. At least one student in my classes has had to quarantine because of a housemate’s contact and another has gone home, and those are just the ones who wrote to me. We’ve gotten off very lightly so far compared to other universities. Every time I come home I have a migraine or stomach upset, but it’s quite likely this is due to eating garbage on the road, whereas in my flat with a stove twenty feet away I can eat like a Buddhist nun.

This campus is plusher than any I have taught at previously, or indeed any I studied at. (MIT has now redecorated lavishly, but in my day it still housed crucial departments in an extended shack left over from the war.). However many of the amenities are now off limits. The student lounges are empty, entire atria of casual furniture turned upside-down and taped up to prevent use that would require extra cleaning. Drinking water stations are disconnected, and the dehydration has probably contributed to my migraines. Students are still permitted to congregate at picnic tables outside. Incredibly, there are sports games going on on the lush playing fields, which seem to be a joint town-gown venture. Men who look too old to be students are out under bright night lights playing, of all things, field hockey. If singing with others is too dangerous, I wonder why running around in teams is all right.

Thanksgiving is cancelled, or it should be. Christmas, Hannukah, Festivus and the rest are cancelled even if we can’t admit it yet. The Suffolk Show, normally held in May, has already been cancelled for a second year. I guess draft horses and goats and WI flower arrangements aren’t considered very Zoomable. Private companies are telling people to plan to work from home until March or until next July. There are hints on social media that next year’s Worldcon in Washington (late August) may be virtual.

That’s not the point though. The point we need to pay attention to is that the UK daily new cases figure has been setting records for the several weeks (global cases are still rising too), hospitals in the North are said to be reaching capacity, the virus is spreading in care homes again, and we, the state “we,” seem to have neither the technology nor the resolve to fight it. And here comes no-deal Brexit.

Posted on by Diana ben-Aaron
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