Another Day at the Office by David Aitken

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The princess locked away in an ivory tower will no longer be pining for some charming prince to rescue her from enforced isolation
The princess locked away in an ivory tower will no longer be pining for some charming prince to rescue her from enforced isolation

A famous man… I’ll be forgetting my own name next… once said, “I can stand anything except a succession of indistinguishable days.”  Sounds like he wouldn’t cope well with lockdowns.

Since the speaker was a poet, playwright, novelist, scientist, diplomat and natural philosopher, he probably didn’t have many identical days.  Wolfgang Goethe — I’ve remembered his name — planned botanical gardens and rebuilt royal palaces in his spare time, which makes me and my stamp album seem rather shallow.  But he did take 60 years to complete his play Faust.  (It was in two parts, but that doesn’t really cheer me up much either.)

My point is, and this is a quote from a James Bond film, “Be careful what you wish for, Mr Goethe.”  (Not that last bit, obviously.)  The supposedly ancient Chinese curse ‘may you live in interesting times,’ is neither Chinese nor ancient but recent and western and has become globally relevant, more’s the pity.

Vague anxiety concerning our possible future has been replaced by specific worry about the arrival of our next vaccination or the duration of our immunity before a booster shot is required.  ‘Viruses mutate but vaccines can be tweaked,’ has become our new mantra, replacing my own obsolete mid-air favourite, “Planes never crash on a Monday,” which had 6 possible variations, I can’t remember what they were.

Worry is like a rocking chair, it gives you something to do and doesn’t get you anywhere — but at least you know the wheels won’t come off.  Talking of going nowhere, the pandemic has changed so many facets of our lives, it’s difficult to know where to begin.  Home is where, if you go there, they have to let you in?  No longer strictly true, replaced at least temporarily by “You can wave to us through the kitchen window.”

In future tales of derring-do, the princess locked away in an ivory tower will no longer be pining for some charming prince to rescue her from enforced isolation.  She will most likely shoo him away as he approaches, even if he produces a Covid passport from his doublet and waves it in the air.  (The passport, not the doublet, although that might work too.)

No one who can still hear may honestly claim to have experienced a deafening noise, but a woman sneezing uncontrollably in a supermarket sounded that way to me the other day.  As she was hustled off by security attendants, like the sort of wrestler who used to be goaded towards the ring by men brandishing chains and pitchforks, bystanders looked on in gratitude rather than astonishment.

What is the world coming to, I thought as I turned and ran back to the Disinfectants aisle.  I couldn’t wait to reach home safely and resume a succession of identical days, sorry, Goethe.  Sometimes, happiness is a sanitized stamp album.  Or an evening glued to the telly.  Which is just another day at the office for many of us now.