The internet and mobile devices have created complete global interconnectedness and social media has made all our voices equally loud and valid. That this is a great step forward is open to debate but certainly it is a perfect field for division as exemplified by a single word almost no one had heard of only a few years ago.
Possibly the most divisive word in the English language. A disease which visited us all so quickly, took everyone unawares and wreaked untold harm and hurt.
The disease that came from a lab or evolved naturally from an animal?
Masks were good or masks were bad. How about masks on children. Schools were shut but food shops remained open. Lockdown or no lockdown. Vaccine mandates and passports. Vaccines for toddlers because they either saved lives or they jeopardised life. How about the unseemly fortunes made by certain companies and specific individuals . And on and on it goes…
Even the deaths from the disease are rancorous. Total worldwide deaths are put at more than 6 million souls but aggressively disputed on twitter where Elon Musk is allowing debate that was forbidden by his predecessors.
Died of Covid or died with covid…
The arguments are endless and continually dividing and compartmentalising us with unkind language hurled back and forth. Covid death ‘Top Trumps’ is a game we unwittingly play and is always unedifying. The listing of people we know who have died (or not) to make our point.
I lost one of my oldest closest friends because of Covid. Suicide numbers being another metric for us all to reconcile and wrestle with.
Some people enjoyed lockdown and even welcomed it. The notion of ‘free’ money, which is not so free after all, now we are enduring ‘inflation’, another word which millions of us might never have used before because emergency zero percent interest rates somehow lasted for longer than a decade.
The lockdown appears to be have been a boon or bust. The new ‘normal’ as some professional classes announced it and only made possible by delivery drivers who didn’t enjoy the option of working from home. But it was not welcomed by everyone. The self-employed like my friend. Lockdown affected him badly. It created new problems with loneliness and compounded old sores already tormenting him, so he opted for the bleakest of all options.
I mention this maudlin story because this week I met up with another old friend in the pub where we had met as a trio since leaving school all those moons ago. A perfect London pub with beer, a garden and great Thai food not to mention excellent company and kinship. As it was last week with just the two of us but now joined by our wives to boost the numbers.
This is not the first time we have met in the pub since his death, but it was the first occasion that he wasn’t specifically referenced, although, no doubt, we all thought of him privately. This pub is full of memories for me. It was here that he and I met for an impromptu drink when his marriage first began to falter and again, when he had finished reading the completed manuscript of I, Gabriel. He wanted to buy me a pint and congratulate me on becoming in his words a ‘proper fucking writer’.
But the other night he was not remembered in any official capacity. No glasses raised with nods to the above and the great unknown and I don’t know what to make of this. It seems a little unkind and disrespectful. As though he has been forgotten, that we have simply moved on.
And I suppose we have. Our lives continue with incoming good and bad news which we enjoy and cope with as best we can. Writing this now, what strikes me is our capacity for renewal. The human ability to move on.
I never anticipated his actions. Like a lot of people, whom we know, he was just a little low. Going through a rough patch, something which we all experience and will pass with time and a little patience. How wrong we were. His death had me reeling with remorse, sadness, guilt, and anger. And yet here we are in his boozer just a few years later having a lovely evening in his absence and without even referencing him. An indictment on human nature or an example of human resilience, who knows?
Outside the pub, my pal and I did catch up on some specific memories of our mate. It was the last place we both saw him and enjoyed his great company. We both reflected on our last evening all-together and how we had both remarked that he appeared to be much happier and on the mend.
He played a big part in my life and career. He encouraged me to start blogging all those years ago – which has become the kernel of my Takes on Life series and it’s accompanying podcast, the recording and editing of which is almost killing me. He loved technology and would have enjoyed helping me with this new venture – and who knows, it might have distracted him just enough for him to enjoy better days ahead.
And speaking of divisive subjects – today is Easter Sunday – the most important day in the Christian calendar – the day a certain individual confounded death altogether and appropriate then for me to remember my great friend, Michael.