Monday, May 27, 2024
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Talking to strangers – those were the days


HAVE you heard about the NHS Resiliency Project? The plan to bolster the service to ensure the nation never has to be locked up again? The one that Keir Starmer is demanding be delivered with extra funding to the government’s already ambitious plans?

Neither have I. They are arguing over a 1 per cent pay rise for nurses. 

Lockdown isn’t up for negotiation. It isn’t a means to avoid a medical disaster. It is quite clear now that lockdown is a deliberate policy, pursued for its own sake.

To get away with what they are doing, we are being demoralised. Gradually. Meaningfully.

Our individual and shared humanity is being crushed through enforced separation. Why do you think they have kept the pubs and gyms closed? We might talk: share those lurking thoughts that the NHS-guilt-rainbows are intended to suppress.

On paper, life’s great. My credit score has never looked so good. I’m learning to play the cello. The balance of read vs unread books in my growing pile is tipping towards the former. I no longer commute.

But I feel a deepening fatigue. An exiling of individual purpose. I need connection. Human connection.

The thriving world of acquaintance is lost. Does anyone talk casually any more? Colleagues in the corridor. Mates on the gym floor. The stranger you shared a joke with about the late bus at the stop. Small insignificant moments that bound us. Now kept at an anxious distance. Sanitised away through masked compliance. Spontaneity has been replaced fear of contact. I’m living a lonely monotony.

I’ve survived this time round with walking. I’d never walked. But this year I have. Ten miles is enough. And coffee. Every day a shop-bought coffee. This is my freedom. How I live. But it’s no real freedom. No real way to live. It is denial.  

After the lie of ‘4,000 predicted deaths a day‘ I knew who and what we are living under. Cheery, grateful Hancock is a juxtaposition to our suffering. Their policy has created a nation of neurotics.

I wear a mask to be polite. State-imposed neuroticism has got me too. I fear not doing it. I fear being challenged by a stranger. Shamed in public. I’m depressed and I only wanted some salad. Not a barking policy fanatic.

I have built a bond with a few staff in the local Costa with its miserable piled-up and taped off tables and chairs and baristas behind masks. These are the only people I talk to in person with any regularity. I’ve started to drop my mask. Just slightly. They don’t seem to mind. Maybe I’ll drop it completely. See if they care.

I watched a cowering woman in Sainsburys. Paranoid. She handled several broccolis, looking over her shoulder: would anyone notice her selfishness? There was a time when feeling for the best broccoli was a given. Not now.  

There’s awkward unease where what we really feel is unrest.

I feel unrest. Deep unrest. This oppression is placing lines around my eyes. It hurts too much to comprehend what’s been lost. What they’ve taken.

We need life.

I’m considering wearing a rubber ring as a precaution. I am under 65 and more likely to drown than die of a coronavirus. But I still have to take their vaccine, right?

I feel deeply uneasy about what’s coming. A Microsoft injection for a Blair ID tag to be granted access to ‘freedom’? Has this sunk in?

State mandated injections. State issued passes. No freedom without. Possibly no job.

I feel as if I am on a plane heading towards a mountain and mine is the only oxygen mask working. I can see what’s coming. Everyone else has passed out.

A democratic government is the custodian, not the owner, of our rights and freedoms. Johnson has hijacked us with that lent power. We are hostages. It is tyranny.

Towards the end of the first lockdown. I witnessed a then surreal moment. Children walking in their red jumpers, late spring sun making them even brighter. On their way back to school at last. They were rediscovering their bond. There was a naturalness about this moment. It meant so much. Their spontaneous growth was finding its way back to order.

Children need connection. They shouldn’t be masked.

Children need life.

So do I.

So do we.

Our given freedoms. Our medical consent. Our bodily autonomy. All being violated by a project none of us voted for. 

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Nicholas Orlando
Nicholas Orlando
Nicholas Orlando (pseudonym) works in the private sector as well as independently as a counselling therapist.

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