Interesting to read again this post I published at the end of March 2020. Now we (in the UK at least) are thankfully coming out of this nightmare pandemic – albeit tragically with 128,000 deaths to date – it is interesting to reflect on what I wrote over a year ago. Who then had any idea how long this would last? And none of us could even begin to imagine that we would have a life saving vaccine before the year was out!
I know we are among the lucky ones. Most of our generation of boomers – as we are called – those of us born immediately after the war (I imagine there will be corona boomers born one day too – what else is there to do when one is locked in and self-isolating?) own our homes or have almost paid off our mortgages and many of us have savings to fall back on. Until Covid-19 hit us we all had holidays and theatre trips planned. Many households own more than one car. And, until now, we had experienced some resentment from the young, particularly those who thought that everyone over 60 had voted for Brexit. We didn’t by the way but that’s all academic now as catastrophic world events have made everything else insignificant.
The younger generation forget that when we were their age we had to put up with extraordinarily high interest rates. When OH (other half) and I bought our first home (a two bedroom flat in South Woodford, East London, since you ask) my job counted for nothing as far as a mortgage was concerned. Women’s salaries were not take into account at all – even though, at that time, as an advertising copywriter, I was earning far more than my husband. As a result couples could only spend what they could afford on one person’s salary. At the time that seemed ridiculous (not to mention sexist – though that word wasn’t in use then) but it did mean that one was forced to live within one’s means. It also meant that when I became pregnant with our first child, we did not miss my salary – because it had never been taken into account!
Sexism was rampant then. I was accepted for a copy writing job at the Reader’s Digest only to be told that I had to sign to agree that I would not get pregnant (I assume they meant by OH) for two years. Being a woman of principle I didn’t sign. Afterwards I realised I could have signed and then got pregnant anyway. What could they have done – sued me? Today, of course, we have Twitter and I would immediately have shopped them to the world.
I digress. I wanted to talk about us comfortable middle classes who in this turmoil of lock-downs and self-isolation are able to relax in our gardens. In normal times (and these are definitely not normal times) people like us would have had a cohort of people to do our “work” for us – house cleaners (tick), window cleaners (tick) and gardeners (tick). OH and I gave away our lawnmower some time ago after it had spent many years languishing in our garage as we had a gardener to do all the work for us. Now, of course, we need to cut the grass ourselves. OH ordered a lawnmower from Amazon and it was delivered a few days later. Almost as exciting as when our online groceries arrived (see yesterday’s blog). OH had great fun assembling it and then immediately setting out to mow our lawn. At an angle – because that’s how he normally parks the car! Covid-19 is teaching us all new skills which hopefully we will retain when life gets back to “normal” – whenever that is and whatever that will be.
I hope I am not coming across to you as a smug and self-satisfied boomer. I am more than well aware how appalling things are now (our daughter only recently having recovered from the virus) and how difficult (if not impossible) they are for most people. We are also finding it hard but not in the same way as many families are. We have the aforesaid garden, our writing, our families (thank goodness for WhatsApp), our friends on the phone (thank you BT), our TV (finally signed up for Netflix) BUT we are missing (as all of you reading this no doubt are) seeing our loved ones face to face (other than on Face Time, Skype etc) and being able to hug our beautiful grandchildren. For me, that is the hardest thing of all. I find the idea that I may not see our fabulous five grand-kids for many months far too unbearable to contemplate.
Happily, after nearly 50 (!) years of marriage, OH and I still find plenty to say to one another and we still enjoy our time together. Sadly, I wouldn’t be surprised if AC (after Covid) there will be many more marital and cohabiting break-ups. An increase in divorce, suicide, mental health issues and undiscovered deaths. However, I also think and hope that something positive has to come out of all this if humanity is to survive. We’ve already seen how so many people from all walks of life are coming together to support one another – friends, neighbours and strangers.
I am hoping that AC (after Corona) we will all appreciate, love and care for one another more than we did before and – boomers or not – never take our lives for granted again.
© Text and photos – Andrea Neidle, My Life in Poems