I have always been angered by people who try to stop other people from wearing masks and taking precautions against Covid, but I've always know that there was nothing I could do. Maybe if they knew someone who had died, they might not be so irresponsible? But a lot of these people, journalists and the like, have very wide friendship groups so must have experienced bereavement directly. I think reading Cristina's posts about getting ill, then iller, and then a post from her nephew saying she had passed away, followed by the same with Julia Craik, followed by her husband (you see, it creeps up on people so innocently, and social media lulls us all into a false sense of security) right at the beginning of the pandemic, taught me what a vicious and terrifying thing this virus is. Then my brother's partner's Mum, and the people that I know with Long Covid.
These were the thoughts that passed through my head as I leafed through the Guardian this weekend and read an article about bereavement. Blustering Johnson pretending the vaccine has solved all our problems? Keep it! That's not going to bring people back to life, the people who have been loved so much and who are so much missed.
Abstract but deeply emotional thoughts, and then I saw the photograph of Sean Mitchell and his partner, with a heartbreaking account by his partner of the ritual of saying goodbye in full PPE: a ritual that must be so familiar to thousands (yes, thousands, Johnson!) of bereaved families.
But this photograph was of Sean, one of my favourite ever students, who I thought had returned to the Caribbean. Funny, talented Sean with a sly way of looking after himself. The guy who taught himself to play guitar in eight weeks so he could play the songs he'd written to comfort his own bereaved friend. Empathetic Sean who felt my anxiety when the external examiners were in, saying 'Don't worry Helen, you ran a normal class and it was great, as always'. Sean who smiled a lot, a real lot: a self-assured, tall young man who wouldn't stand for any racism that came his way, calm and sometimes daydreamy. He was a man who knew himself.
In all honesty, I don't know what to do with this anger. The sense of helplessness as a greedy, dishonest, amoral bunch of people help themselves to the contents of the national coffers and simultaneously try to slash and burn our civil liberties, is almost unbearable. I don't want to hear of any more lovely people being slaughtered by government incompetence. No more! That's enough!