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Life in a time of covid-19 - part 10: being first

There's a first time for everything. Some firsts are met with deserved celebration. Some with derision. Some with despair. Some with a 'Huh,' and a shrug and a 'well, there you go - it was bound to happen.' That my laptop didn't try to correct covid-19 in the title above, or just now for that matter, is one of those shrugging, almost sighing but actually can't be bothered to expend the energy that a sigh would require firsts. It was inevitable. Say something or type something enough times and it becomes the norm. Which is an intriguing thought - maybe we could invent a word and see how long it takes to get picked up by others. But hang on a minute this happens already. Lexicographers such as those working for the OED make their living out of tracking the evolution of language - the appearance of new words and the loss of old ones. As the coronavirus pandemic marched across a stricken world, covid-related words splurged all over our inboxes; social media; news channels and what's left of our newspapers. Our lives have changed and with them the language we use to describe that change. We have become amateur epidemiologists and political scientists. We understand social-isolation and flattening the curve and acronyms like PPE (personal protective equipment) and WFH (work from home). Who outside of the workplace knew what Zoom meetings were? Before social-distancing we had elbow bumps and before that hugs - remember those? And now we have furloughing and job retention schemes and ways of working that feel alien and lonely. And a lockdown that pauses life while we wait for the R number to drop. It's a confusing and frightening time that needed a new language to describe it. When it has passed, we will welcome our old words back, like the friends we haven't been able to see. For now - just for now - the new covid-19 words will have their time. If we hear them and listen and #staysafestayhome, there is hope that their time will be not be our time for long.

Back to firsts ... not the sighing, shrugging and frankly depressing type but - yes, even now - the joyous ones ...

Some firsts are so incredible that inspiring and awesome are inadequate words to describe them. That a 99 year old, Second World War veteran has raised over 27 million pounds for the NHS by walking laps of his garden, is a first. An utterly astonishing first. It's a first because his is the biggest, fundraising total by an individual person on the JustGiving website, ever. And he's now well on track for the single, recorded with Michael Ball and the NHS choir, to still be at Number 1, in the UK charts, on his 100th birthday, in a few days time. Has anyone, before, had a number 1 single on their 100th birthday? Or might this be another first? Captain Tom Moore appears to be such a humble man, surprised at his own success. Shortly after completing the 100 laps of his garden, he said,

"we will get through it, in the end it will all be right. For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away." 

He is a true legend. There will be more: when we emerge from this pandemic, more legends will be recognised. We will remark upon them. We will feel pride and awe in equal measure, but we should not forget that being a legend is in us all. We are all contributing to the collective effort to get through this. We will all work hard to recover. We have to. We will turn ourselves into legends every day by staying at home and caring for ourselves and our loved ones. And we will make up words to describe the things we have done. We will be covid-warriors and covid-quashers and covid-champions and like Captain Tom, covid-heros and covid-legends.

So, we are in lockdown for three more weeks. Three - another 21 days; 504 hours or 30, 240 minutes. It already feels like April is about 53 years long.

But the world as we know it will go on.

The clouds will pass; the sun will shine. And the moon will continue to wax and wane. No virus will ever stop these things. At night, look to the stars and marvel. They will be back tomorrow and the next day and every day of your life.

If you, like most of us, feel a bit lost, try practicing mindfulness - for tips on this, see parts 1-8. Find what fits you and what helps. Then do it. Perhaps try daily gratitudes; breathing exercises; find your happy place; go for walks; sleep, exercise and eat well; and make contact with family and friends. Don't lose sight of who you are and who you want to be. Call for help if you need to - I've shared contact details for the UK in part 8 - and don't suffer in silence. These are extraordinary times and it is ok to feel anxious, distressed and afraid. It is ok too, to look to self-help and online and professional help. Do it; practice it and, as Captain Tom said, 'in the end it will all be right.'

I'm not sure if it would be a first to post words in this Walking The Dog blog without an accompanying picture of Four-legged-friend and Bertie Baggins. It it were, it wouldn't in my opinion be a first to celebrate, so I share these with you


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