A Hundred Years To Arras

By Jason Cobley

From a Somerset farm to the trenches of France: one man's coming of age through land, love and blood

Monday, 16 March 2020

Funny Old Weeks and TV Retreats

Sometimes retreat is the only answer.

It’s been a funny old week. The United States has closed its borders. Italy and France are in lockdown. Britain can’t decide whether to protect capital or people. Or neither. Messages are mixed and toilet rolls are scarce. We may mock those who are panic buying when there really is no need, but at the heart of it is a complicated set of emotions, even if the thinking that sits on top of it isn’t complicated. People are scared. But I’m not sure whether it’s a fear of a nebulous virus that may or may not affect the few or the many. It’s more a fear of losing control. Hoarding toilet paper and handwash is at least a form of control at a time when so many of us feel that our fates aren’t in our own hands.

But step away from the media and what do you see? People. People going about their daily business. Just today, I walked the dog, drove to work, did a day’s work, took my daughter to the shops, came home, walked the dog again. On each of those, I came across people. People going about the business of their daily lives.

I’ve been joking that I’m looking forward to self-isolation because I essentially don’t like socialising. I’m not very good at it. It makes me anxious – sometimes even talking to people at work outside of my own comfort zone brings on an internal existential panic. So, the prospect of having to stay in doesn’t worry me. Up to a point. But that isn’t what drives us and makes us work together as a society. I’m already seeing groups of neighbours mobilising to plan to keep in touch and look after vulnerable people a few doors away. As selfish as our society has become, it’s true that selflessness rises to the surface in the end.

I know that some of my supporters live in France and Italy, where much more has closed down than in Britain as of today. I’m thinking of you as we seem to be approaching the same situation. For most of us, life won’t change. For many, it will. Whether you’re self-employed or a frontline NHS worker, whether you’re healthy or sick, whether you voted one way or another, selfishly hoarding toilet rolls isn’t what’s going to get you through the next few weeks. What will get you through is human contact, and we don’t need to be physically close to maintain that. This could be when social media actually, becomes a tool that could bring us together rather than drive us apart.

But, as ever, it depends on us.

That said, if you end up housebound, maybe I can help…

I could recommend some books but, hey, if you’re reading this, you’re a bookworm anyway.

Five TV shows that you could stream to remind you that people aren’t so bad after all:

The Good Place (all 4 seasons on Netflix) – heaven is not what you expect, especially when you realise you’re no meant to be there. Wonderful, heart-warming show. You’ll fall in love with Janet.
Community (all 6 seasons on Amazon Prime) – this shows takes the formula of US sitcoms, subverts it, turns it upside down, does whatever the hell it wants, and has the genius of Chevy Chase’s Pierce Hawthorne (key line: “Good luck? Don’t need it, never had it”)
Curb Your Enthusiasm (season 10 currently showing on Sky Comedy) – as bad as it gets, you can console yourself with knowing you’re not quite as misanthropic as this fella.
Better Call Saul (season 5 currently showing on Netflix) – proof that there are no ‘good’ or ‘bad’ guys, just idiots and people.
Star Trek: Picard (currently showing on Amazon Prime) – just because.

If I have to retreat to my little bunker, I’m sorted. Keep safe, take care.


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