Things I’ve Learned During the Pandemic (So Far), an essay by Selina Eagney

My best friend is a nurse. My cousin is a pharmacist. I am a coward.

I am flimsy but fortunate, a little chick cocooned in cotton wool. I realise how lucky I am to be insulated from the worst of what so many people are facing. I don’t have kids, or a “career”, or a body that works very well (google “systemic lupus erythematosus” if you like, but if you can spell it correctly the first time without autofill, we can never be friends). What I do have is time, more than before, so I’m trying to quell the seesawing panic/boredom by reading, writing, and compiling redundant lists.

Here are eleven things I’ve learned during the pandemic so far:

• There’s an eclectic selection of words that you typically only get to use during a crisis like this, including liminal (relating to an intermediate phase, condition or space); lusk (to tuck oneself away and laze); and ultracrepidarian (one who is presumptuous and offers advice or opinions beyond one’s sphere of knowledge). The best one, though, is kummerspeck, the excess weight gained from emotional eating (the literal translation from German is “grief bacon”).

• The collective noun for a group of hippos is a “bloat”.

• Just because you can video call doesn’t mean you should.

• People are awful. People are selfish, irritating, myopic, lazy, craven. People insist on walking three abreast on the pavement and refuse to move over so you have to stray out on to the road to keep the two-metre distance. Some of them – GROWN ADULTS – say things like “my bad” or “me likey” without a trace of regret or apology. People are awful.

• It is entirely possible to have a full-blown existential crisis sparked by the temporary unavailability of Drumstick Squashies.

• That gif you get of a grizzly man, the one with the beard and the bob and the wistful half-smile, that one you get when you gif-search “yes” or “respect” or “nodding”, is not some anonymous seventies character actor with a low-key but consistent career that you think you recognise from that other thing. It is not Zach Galifianakis either. It is Robert Redford. It is. No, it is. Look at the eyes.

• Electric dog clippers work quite well on human hair.

• Podcasts are essential for surviving quarantine. They are radio but better: aural kaleidoscopes of infinite topics, wherever and whenever you want to listen. “Without podcasts, life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Nietzsche (slightly paraphrased).

• Once, on 18 April 1930, the BBC’s newsreader announced that there was no news, and piano music was played instead for the rest of the 15-minute segment. Obviously I wasn’t alive at the time, but I’m still fairly confident it must have been one of the best days in all of recorded history.

• William Shakespeare lived through multiple outbreaks of plague, and wrote some of his greatest plays while in quarantine. Sir Isaac Newton developed his theories on calculus, optics, and gravity during a period of isolation induced by the Great Plague of 1665. There is hope for your nascent poem/novel/list.

• People are amazing: kind, generous, thoughtful, compassionate, brave. People get up in the morning and head straight into catastrophe, willfully, to re-stock shelves, or make deliveries, or nurture you back to health, even if you are being a bit of an ultracrepidarian. People venture out into the strange liminal world while you are lusking, and somehow procure the last remaining bags of Drumstick Squashies for you, without a care for your kummerspeck. People are nurses. People are pharmacists. People are amazing.

Bio & Link
Selina Eagney lives on the west coast of Ireland with one shih tzu and too many books.

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