Ireland has been in lockdown all this month. It feels like years. But it's working—the covid infection numbers has fallen, from 1200s in mid-October to the 200s now.
All this month I read Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. I know, light reading! The narrator documents quarantines, mass burials, shop closures, quackery, dire prognostications, the asymptomatic mingling among the healthy, frantic escapes to the countryside by the privileged, a preoccupation with numbers of deaths and infections per week. It’s the same story in the London of 1665, only the agony and panic are amplified by a lack of modern scientific knowledge.
There’s a palpable joy when the end of the plague is discerned: “It was a common thing to meet People in the Street, that were Strangers, and that we knew nothing at all of, expressing their Surprize. Going one Day thro’ Aldgate, and a pretty many people being passing and repassing, there comes a Man out the End of the Minories, and looking a little up the Street and down, he throws his Hands abroad, Lord, what an Alteration is here! Why, last Week I came along here, and hardly any Body was to been seen; another Man, I heard him, adds to his Words, ’tis all wonderful, ’tis all a Dream: Blessed be God, says a third Man, and let us give Thanks to him, for ’tis all his own doing: Human Help and human Skill was at an End. These were all Strangers to one another: But such Salutations as these were frequent in the Street every Day; and in Spight of a loose Behavior, the very common People went along the Streets, giving God Thanks for their Deliverance.”
I think, Yes, yes, this year will feel like a dream when we finally emerge from it.