There have been worse pandemics, although not for us, of course.
The Black Death in the 14th century killed 75-200 million people. Little wonder it was also called the Great Mortality and the Pestilence. And we have all heard of the Spanish flu, but did you know (I didn’t) that between 1918 and 1920 it ended almost 100 million lives worldwide. Get your flu jab this winter.
The Babylonians suffered from flu as long ago as 1200 BC. Is any of this making you feel better? The less said about Sars in Hong Kong… I was there undergoing a sort of early Covid-19 experience, although I was unaware of it at the time. Public health warnings, facemasks, advice regarding large gatherings — but whether there were fewer people on the streets, it was difficult to tell. Hong Kong’s subway system isn’t called the Mass Transit Railway without good reason.
I suppose what I’m trying to do — without much success so far, it seems to me — is to offer a piece of writing that will act as a sort of comfort-food for the eyes (or brain, or imagination, or psyche — you see why I fear I have failed?) Perhaps I should have just said, “You think we’ve got things bad? Those Great Mortality people didn’t have it so great — they didn’t have vaccines!” Or tiramisu.
Everything is relative, you’re going to remind me, and you’re absolutely right to quote Einstein, I’m impressed. How we see things depends on our point of view and (often) our birthplace. What is mild for you might be bitter for me, I can hardly remember. What is a success for you might be a failure for me… I don’t think I’m going to pursue this line of thought. Let’s just agree that life is all about perspective — the sinking of the Titanic must have seemed like a miracle to the lobsters in the ship’s kitchen.
Our planet sometimes seems to have suffered almost as much as we have, what with bombardment by meteors (aren’t you glad you weren’t a dinosaur?), earthquakes, volcanoes, tidal waves, erosion, solar flares, geomagnetic storms, and pop music blaring at all hours of the day and night. (How do owls manage to get any sleep?)
And us, of course — our blue sphere has to put up with us, melters of ice caps, fellers of trees, serial polluters, strip miners and rainforest assassins. Distributors and sometimes exporters of trash. The Polystyrene People. What on earth must Earth think of us?
I had my second vaccination in the Caird Hall in Dundee in Scotland, where Sinatra and the Beatles once sang, not together of course. After the jab, we in the mainly elderly audience were asked to go and sit for 15 minutes on the stage, where we must have resembled an ageing casting call, waiting to audition for some play or musical — From Here to Eternity, perhaps. The first night might turn out to be a flop, but the second vaccine received rave reviews.