During one of the last days of 2020, with daylight in short supply, Maureen and I drove about 15 miles out to Coggeshall, a small town in north Essex where some friends had lived a couple of decades back. Still allowed to exercise by walking, we went primarily to beat back the coronavirus ennui and sense of isolation.
Coggeshall is a beautiful town, with hundreds of listed buildings that are delicious on the eye.
With few people out on the streets, the architecture dominates. Alleyways, shops, houses and pubs with facades and features that take you back in time. Ghosts lodged in the freezing air. It made me sad to never have lived in a visibly historic town. But that’s another story.
In this one, I realised at some stage that nature was calling. Left my wife browsing shop windows and followed a sign indicating that relief lay ahead. No surprise, though, that the public conveniences were closed. I saw two elderly couples chatting, and assumed they were locals. Walked across the road and spoke to the nearest woman. “Excuse me, do you know of any nearby public toilet that is open.”
I started my question about two metres away from her, as recommended. I have been shielding my father for almost a year. Hence I stay distant from anyone except family. Nonetheless, with each word she shuffled backwards. When I got to “here” she had at least doubled the distance between us.
The fear in her eyes, above her mask, was palpable. I don’t wear a mask in the open air. Maybe that scared her, which would never be my intention.
The poor woman knew of no other public facilities. Thanking her, I set off for a small park I had seen earlier. Hoping to discover a large bush that might shroud my debladdering.
No good. Bush-free. Coming back, a woman (also masked, maybe in her late 60s) appeared at the other end of a path that skirted a small grassy area. It’s best to be kind whenever you can. I decided to walk out onto the sodden grass before we passed so that she would not have to come close.
I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry at what happened next. Well before our passing point, she stopped, turned, and bent over the waist-high fence bordering the path. So that her bum poked up and her head was as far away from me as possible. So as not to inhale any of my breath.
I found out later that Coggeshall was hit by the Black Death back in the 14th century. Maybe those ghosts were urging her to avoid me like the plague.
“Thank you”! I said. To her buttocks.
The only suitable place I could find was a path alongside a Presbyterian church, away from public gaze. Gratefully emptying my bladder, I thought about the coronavirus for the thousandth time.
Being alive comes with risks. Always has done. One option that I choose is to take Vitamins C and D3, combined with zinc, to strengthen immunity to respiratory illness. Walk long distances. Eat well. Avoid close contact with strangers. Simple common sense.
If SARS-Cov 2 does somehow come knocking, then such is life, or perhaps death. The Grim Reaper comes for us all in the end. But when he swings a cleaver stained with Covid, his victims have already lived one year longer on average than those who expire from other causes. Encouragingly, there is something like a 99.7% survival chance, for those contracting the virus. In a life that comes with no guarantees, those are good odds. Happy odds. And so I worry about passing the virus to Dad far, far more than for my own wellbeing.
The image of the protruding arse will stay with me. To repeat a past opinion, the widespread depression and other forms of mental illness stemming from the government’s Covid-19 lockdown policy are affecting so many more people than the virus itself. Including the woman who kindly bent over for me.
The prime culprit behind the terror some people are experiencing is in many cases not the virus itself. It is the unsubstantiated fear porn vomited out by local and national media, underpinned by government sponsorship, and perpetuated by people still paying heed to the fuckwits on the TV.
And now the promise that vaccines would end lockdown is gradually being reined back, a notch here and a tweak there. But that’s another story.