Drink up – the story we’re in just changed, mate.

Calling time on motion. For a time. Before we lose the plot. And control of the narrative.


From the cocoon of a car yesterday, I saw high street life that appeared unchanged, people filling Thursday evening pub street tables. To bed in a project I think could be significant, I slightly awkwardly agreed to a public meeting that hadn’t been cancelled. I sanitised a lot.

I also ended up meekly waiting in a pub. It didn’t give me that usual nice local feeling.

We’re living through global crisis without real precident. How are dumb ol’, well-meaning, waddling, wonderful you and me meant to make sense of it? From what can we learn, right now? Shouldn’t we be told something certain? I’m not sure we are being; news and information is fast-moving and rather open to interpretation, just as much from government teams as the rest of us.

So here’s a question: Without harder edged central government leadership, what will we all do? Work the circs to keep our own wheels on – financial, social, supply. We’ll do what life does – blur the edges until the borders are shut down. But leadership is more than being unambiguous about work. Leadership is about story. Really painting a picture to live in. Perhaps the only shared adversity our close-to entire living generation knows is terrorism. And it’s based in war language we didn’t live through: “Keep calm and carry on.”

The WW2 generation knew what keeping calm and carrying on really means – that you are part of a whole. How much you consume, what work you do, what lights you switch on affect everyone. Their security, their war efforts. It didn’t mean making the pub quiz your hill to die on.

Everyone had to hustle, in a nation at war. And war efforts are unrealistically mythical, sanctified almost, in populist folklore today. But at the time, everyone had to learn fast what story they were suddenly in, to play some new parts within it. Because: life and death. The terrorist story is closest peace time has had to this. Violently disruptive behaviour, ideologically targeting “our way of life”. Told it often. In the face of that, Dunkirk spirit, as the British call it, surfaces fast; “We mustn’t let them win.” Normal life must continue.

Imagining a coronovirus to be a terrorist threat is totally the wrong story to picture ourselves in now. The worst thing we can do is keep life going quite “as normal”. It shouldn’t even try to LOOK normal. Normal human transit is how viruses win fast.

We need to show ourselves some radical un-normalities. To shock our behaviours a bit and truly curtail how those sticky little coronal molecules pass around and fly up into our soft, gooey human intakes. We need to help each other by manifesting what response looks like. We need to really get on changing our behaviours now, not simply to avoid getting ill ourselves but to help all of us avoid a truly unhealthy lengthy un-normality. A societal shut down that can’t recover fast enough for us to stay resilient. Mentally, nutritionally, economically.

#Covid19 is not a terrorist threat. It is a biological threat. Terrorism can bite me – I’m going back to the pub. Biology can infect me and everyone I touch – so I’m going to keep my physical distance from you. For us both.

What I need, living under threat, is clear help to do the right thing. Because I am life, I will leak out. Where government fails to tell us what story we’re in, we have to write one – partly by acting it out with our bodies. To stay as sane as sanitised. That is how we square up to the new normality. And to its opportunities and need; remote working, delivery models from shops, community gap filling, checking in each other much more via devices, lightening strain on the system. Facing some personal shadows.

This is a phase. It will pass. But we have to be as present in the moment as we do mindful of bigger context. We can be okay, but maybe we can find more calm sooner by helping each other embrace the story we now find ourselves in. One with some bloody interesting plot twists.

I’m really looking forward to being able to share them down the local as soon as we can make it happen.

Photo by Sergey Isakhanyan on Unsplash

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