Someone has pressed the pause button for the world. As I walked along the main road in Church Village (my one exercise of the day) I was taken aback by the absence of vehicles and people. The few people I did see simply ducked their heads and avoided any contact whatsoever as I skirted around them to maintain a minimum distance of two metres. I was passed by two cars, both with only one person who was driving. For the first time ever, it was possible to hear the birds in the trees whilst walking along the main road.
These are strange times, almost dystopian. The coronavirus has changed our lives. Many families, including mine, are living in fear as there are family members who are classed as vulnerable. There are some people who, despite the warnings and pleas, still do not get it. But that number is diminishing. The horrible reality of the global fight against the coronavirus is now a way of life. Constantly washing your hands, social distancing, the paranoia about touching a surface infected by the virus.
However, the human race is pretty incredible. Such desperate times often brings out the best in people. The much-maligned social media is playing a major role in keeping people connecting. People of all ages are embracing the digital age chatting via video on platforms such as Skype and Facetime. Last week, we had a Skype call with my parents with my son. Although we’ve spoken, we’ve haven’t seen each other for weeks and having the video call made such a difference. You don’t feel so alone.
There have also been so many offers of help. Two of our neighbours have been in touch to ask if they can go shopping for us or help in any way. Several of the Dads in our Ty Hafan group have done the same. People are looking out for each other in a way we haven’t done for years.
Sadly, as with so many events, the 10nTaff challenge for Ty Hafan is another victim of the virus and is now rescheduled for 2021. The need for isolation and restrictions on movements made training impossible for the group of Dads, Uncles and Brothers of children who are or have been cared for by the hospice. This comes at a time when Ty Hafan needs more help than ever, with fundraising collapsing during this crisis.
The effect on the economy has been terrible, with many people either losing their jobs or simply not getting paid. Hopefully, the steps taken by Boris Johnson and the UK Government will help alleviate some of the financial strain, although such massive intervention is taking time. Ironically, being forced off work is bringing families back together and I’ve seen so many posts of Dads and Mums spending precious time with their children. Suddenly, many of us have time. For many, the hamster wheel has stopped.
However, for many others, the hamster wheel is spinning faster than ever. The only people left working are those whose jobs are vital for society. Doctors, nurses, refuse collectors, the police, fire crews, and supermarket cashiers to name but a few. Even politicians. People who are very rarely, if ever, in the ‘positive’ limelight. Only now does society realise their importance. Without them, everything would collapse. Last Thursday’s (26th March) applause for NHS workers was spine-tingling. My wife and I stood on our doorstep looking at all our neighbours in doorways and hanging out of windows clapping and cheering. Even as I write this, there’s a tear in my eye. Maybe we should also applaud some of those other unsung heroes.
People more spiritual than I might say that this coronavirus is nature’s way of warning the people of the planet. With the isolation, polluted skies have cleared. People’s consumption of food and goods is more measured, focusing on need rather than just desire.
The future remains very uncertain. Accurately predicting the peak of the pandemic in the UK is difficult and even once we’ve reached that point, many vulnerable people will still have to stay isolated. Despite the fear, the incredible human race is quickly adapting to a new way of life.
Paul Fears is an industrial, commercial and wedding photographer based just outside Cardiff in South Wales, UK and can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org