The world has changed . . . but we are still here

The Silver Line’s founder, Dame Esther Rantzen, shares her thoughts on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on life. 

The world has been turned upside down. Even those of us with long memories have never known a time like this. I can, just, remember the war, but at least then there was a visible, identifiable enemy who could be defeated with tried and tested weapons.  

This covid virus which has locked me in as I write is so devious and cunning. Can it really sit on my door handle and lie in wait for me? How long could it last on my parcels, my supermarket bags, my cauliflower? My daughter (who sadly has M.E. so is like me in a vulnerable group) turned to me this morning and said that we’d better get used to it, because coronaviruses are notoriously difficult to eradicate – look at flu, look at the common cold. Let’s hope they can discover an effective vaccine soon, but if they don’t, and we in the most vulnerable cohorts have to keep distancing ourselves from life as we once lived it, have we anything to look forward to, to cheer us up?

I think we have. This new world we’re getting used to may turn out to be very good for our values! Never has the dustman been more prized, (should I refer to him/her as a rubbish operative?), and the check- out person, and the grocery delivery person. And of course the healthcare professionals who are fighting to treat and save us, that goes without saying.

But perhaps above all, the nation’s carers, so often underestimated before the pandemic, and underpaid, and  overlooked. Well, not any more. Let’s hope the world has learned what so many of us oldies know already, that carers are life-givers and life-enhancers, that now they have been risking their own lives to look after us, we know they are invaluable and crucial. So thank you carers.

Then there’s the importance of technology. When we can’t meet face to face, it’s really great to talk, and thanks to the telephone, we can. I ring my sister in Australia far more often than I did, and all the old friends who mean so much to me, but I’ve been far too ‘busy’ to contact as often as I should, I’m ringing them regularly now. 

And there’s that overused word, ‘busy.’ Being forced to stop, as the Queen pointed out, and reflect, to watch spring bursting into bloom, and listen to birdsong, makes you realise that most of that ‘busyness’ was far less important than conversations with the people we care about, or reading a book that gives us pleasure, or sharing a joke with a delivery man.

Another unexpected joy is the laughter we are sharing virtually, via the internet. Some WhatsAppers have cleverly remembered the best old jokes and dug them up to pass them around again: the stuffed cat on That’s Life, Ronnie Corbett and his blackberry, Yes Minister which never seems to date or grow stale. And there are fabulous new jokes which thanks to the internet are spreading even faster than the virus, and so far the jokes are mostly at Trump’s expense. There’s something we can all thank him for.

But I have one huge favour to ask you as you read this. We know that a good many Silver Line callers, our Silver Liners, are not comfortable with the internet, and many of them don’t possess a computer. But all of them are on the phone. 

So please, if there are older people in your family, or your street, or your clubs, or churches, or mosques or synagogues, could you ring them up for me, and say Esther sends her love with one Tim Vine joke: “I got home and the phone was ringing.  I picked it up and said Who’s speaking? A voice said: ‘You are.'”

Esther's signature with three kisses

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