What stories are we missing?

In amongst all the written stories of the pandemic so far, tragedy and outrage are dominant.

Rightly so.

The UK government – and others – spectacularly, disastrously failed to address the problem in a suitable manner. Tens of thousands have died, so far.

Stories which grab the headlines are not in short supply.

It’s fitting that we share the stories of those who have suffered, and you don’t have to go far to find them underlying all the grim statistics. Most of those who died, did so needlessly. Most of those who live with long COVID need not have caught the illness in the first place.

All through the pandemic (so far) I’ve watched the stories in the media play out, tugging attention one way or another, broad generalisations which are meant to apply to the population as a whole without dissent. And I’ve yet to see much that reflects my own experience, and perhaps that means my household is an outlier.

I have not partaken of a single Zoom meeting. I didn’t Eat Out To Help Out (madness), didn’t rush to the pub the minute the doors opened, didn’t hasten back to the shops or the gym or the hairdresser.

Much of that lifestyle didn’t apply before the pandemic arrived, and I ain’t changing my habits now just because there’s plague in the air.

But the stories are there, untold.

Those of us who stayed at home, not chafing against the boundaries suggested to us. Those of us who had a safe home to stay in, with people we love and like, and enough put by to tide us over until restrictions were lifted. Those of us who were not furloughed or trying to run a business, nor in dangerous work, or important jobs which kept the NHS and the economy ticking over.

Those of us who were lucky.

A year before COVID appeared, my situation would have been very different. What seemed like catastrophe (health-related) in 2019 forced changes to our lives that resonate with us still.

My household was lucky.

More than a year later, and as long as COVID is around, that luck may change in a moment with an unguarded breath in a busy place, or a visitor to the house unknowingly infectious, or an unforeseen event that takes us unplanned into a crowded location.

Our lives are not spectacular. Our stories are not told, the headlines given over to those who need action or rescue or simple attention. Quiet, ordinary, cautious, we endure.

And yet we fume against the mass injustices performed upon our fellows.

Let not our quiet watchfulness be taken as approval.

In the meantime we stay alert and stay at home and wonder what the world is like outside. Will there be time, one day, to hear the stories of those like us in times of plague?

The Procession by Bertha Lum

This week’s links:

Life Beyond Act One: Why We Need More Stories About Older Women – Why have so many authors, past and present, refused to let their heroines age? (Note that the beloved Granny Weatherwax and Nanny Ogg began as older women, and just improved)

The Charitable Brotherhood of St Eloi – a Grauniad article from 2020, on “the French brotherhood burying the dead – rich or poor – since 1188”.

Workhouses – an incredible website on workhouses and their ilk, including stories of emigration and destitution from centuries of small lives lived in the shadow of misfortune and poverty.

Published in: on May 30, 2021 at 12:00 am  Comments Off on What stories are we missing?  
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