I have taken the day off completely because it is my wedding anniversary.
When you are married you inevitably mark the major occasions of the year together. Easter, the Glasgow September Weekend, Christmas, New Year. But you do that alongside the rest of the western world, or at least alongside the rest of the west of Scotland. And you also obviously celebrate each other's birthday and, if you are fortunate enough to have them, your children's birthdays. But these are more or less randomly arrived at dates and even when, in respect of the latter, if they have to be chosen, chosen out of necessity rather than pre-determined....... choice.
But your wedding day is different. It is the one day that you have chosen together and the one day that will forever be uniquely yours.
So, since my wife, Maureen, died in April, this is a date I have particularly dreaded, and I suspect will for the rest of my own allotted span.
I'll shortly go and lay flowers at her grave, a task I have been putting off. Supposedly, in my own rationalisation, because of the weather but in truth because it will be very difficult. Then, I will probably get very drunk.
But you can't separate this melancholy from what is happening in the wider world. Maureen died, for reasons totally unrelated to Covid, just fifteen days into the first lockdown. We couldn't have a proper funeral, just a small gathering outside the house who walked behind the hearse directly to the cemetery. None of her brothers, or nephews and nieces, who lived further than Glasgow, could attend. Her best friend of sixty years could not attend, as she was shielding to protect her own husband. We didn't get to go the pub after her body had been received into the church the night before the funeral, as it couldn't be so received anyway. Nor to enjoy a purvey and some inevitably black humour after she had been laid to rest.
But there was more. The last major bereavement I had was when my mother died in 1979. Even between her death and her funeral, I recall I went out campaigning in the forthcoming general election. Not because I was a political fanatic (although I probably was a bit at the time) but because that meant activity, and company, and diversion. And I went back to my work the day after her funeral for that very same reason.
Here I could do none of that. I couldn't go to the court and shake hands and exchange hugs with my close colleagues or accept the condolences of others. I couldn't even speak to my friends and business partners, (not mutually exclusive) except on the phone.
And this has just gone on and on. It was nearly over. I was beginning to think we might finally get our requiem mass and commemorative event, possibly even on the first anniversary of Mo's death. But then of course it started up again.
Earlier in the week, there was a report on Channel 4 news featuring the conservative MP, Sir Charles Walker. He certainly didn't seem to me to be a frothing Coronavirus denier and nothing I have read since suggests he is. But he had a more rational point. At some point we have to consider what the continued lockdown is doing to wider health, particularly but not exclusively mental health. And also what it is doing to the general wellbeing of children.
And we have to apply a cost benefit analysis to continued lockdown. As, I learn from Google, the self same Charles Walker said last Autumn, I paraphrase slightly, no Government can ever entirely abolish death.
Twenty plus years ago, I was on the Board of the Cumbernauld & Kilsyth Addiction Service. I was mainly engaged by the drug side of its work but I met a lot of people doing sterling work on alcohol addiction. They obviously had hugely disproportionate knowledge of alcohol abuse and addiction, sometimes from tragic direct personal experience. But it became clear over time that many of these people were effectively abolitionists, or at least would have been, had U.S.experience not demonstrated the impossibility of that. But while nobody doubts the negative effect alcohol can have for some you have to set it against the positive effects, in moderation, that it does have for many. That's what has led Government's of all complexions to proceed on the basis of regulation alone, disagreeing only on exactly where the balance of that regulation should lie.
You can't let the rules be set by those with the worst experience.
So in considering the pace at which the lockdown should be lifted the government has to listen to more than virologists and immunologists. It needs to listen to psychiatrists and paediatricians and simply general physicians of every discipline as well. "But" I hear some protest "there might be new strains, you might get long Covid, you might be someone in a vulnerable category for whom the vaccine isn't effective!" Well yes you might, just as you might be someone for whom an initial half of lager at 16 leads to you drinking a bottle of vodka a day when you are thirty. But you need to calculate that "might" in determining public policy and never confuse "might" with "will". For the avoidance of doubt, I write that as someone absolutely of the opinion that alcoholism is a disease and not simply a failure of character.
And Government also has to listen to the public. Once the most vulnerable are all vaccinated, and that appears, thanks to herculean effort, to be possible by the end of March, then if you ask those left whether they'd risk what for the overwhelming majority would be a mild, non threatening illness, which, the odds are, they won't catch anyway, in exchange for fully re-opened schools and colleges, shops, restaurants, sports stadiums, cinemas, theatres, music venues, hotels, airports, and, yes, pubs and clubs, I suspect you'd get a pretty overwhelming response. I say that, I concede, as someone of 62, who would by then have had the jag, but I am equally certain it would be my view if I was 42, never mind 22.
I finish where I started. Huge numbers have been bereaved during the pandemic and, in truth, their getting over that bereavement has been hugely hampered by continued lock down. They should have a voice here as well. And I declare an interest.