Pandemic Edinburgh

people rule the roads during the pandemic

We are now more than a quarter of a year into the Covid-19 pandemic and the first wave of the outbreak has subsided. Time to reflect about the state we are in.

News of a new viral disease came at the end of 2019. It quickly became clear that the outbreak of Covid-19 in Wuhan would become a global issue. While the first cases appeared in Europe at the beginning of February we went on a trip to London to check out the capital and visit the Tutankhamun exhibition. We had a great trip but were well aware that this is probably our last chance to go anywhere in a while.

March started with another round of strikes. The dispute on pensions, better pay, working conditions, workload and pay gaps was not resolved. During the 14 strike days we had plenty of time to discuss the dispute, politics and the ever expanding Covid-19 outbreak. By the end of the strike the pandemic was topic number one. We were wondering if we would go back to the office after the strike or if we would go straight into lockdown. The after-strike party was cancelled due to Covid-19 concerns and I could only convince one colleague to join me in the pub at the end of the strike on the 13th of March. Irrespective of any government plans I decided I would stay away from the office and work from home.

On the weekend of the 14th of March my wife's asthma flared up. Since the symptoms are similar to Covid-19 we self-isolated for the next 14 days. Covid-19 managed what looming Brexit chaos didn't: we had stocked up on essentials such as tinned tomatoes, pasta and rice beforehand. The period of self-isolation was fairly straight-forward. We had enough food, I had work to do and it was unlikely we had actually contracted Covid-19. We worked. played games, tided up, baked and looked out of the window wondering what the outside would be like.

By the time our period of self-isolation was over, we were in lockdown. Empty steets not seen since the Beast from the East. No traffic, few people out and about, no tourists, the city suspended. Museums, shops and pubs are closed with signs and notes appearing in their windows. To keep the boys occupied we started a couple of electronic projects. One of Max's model railway locomotives needed a new encoder. Felix built a new music streaming client based on a raspberry pi.

We settled into our new routine. Get up at the usual time, yoga in the morning, followed by coffee. Get the boys out of bed and start work. We are lucky in that all four of us have a laptop (mostly hand-me downs) and a desk to sit at. It is funny how all our work converged onto teams. The boys use it for their school work, Rowan uses it for her work and I use it for mine. Although, at work we had been using teams for a while now.

We are not particularly keen on shopping so we don't mind the new world of only essential shopping. Our favourite shops have been open throughout the lookdown. The one thing we did change was the frequency at which we stocked up. We used to go food shopping more or less every day. We now go twice a week. Other than our walks to pick up essentials, we are going for walks and bike rides. We even have managed to find some new bits of Edinburgh we hadn't been to before.

I think the kids are doing ok. Max is well established at school and is doing his thing. He seems to be getting on with his stuff in his usual way. It was a bit more tricky for Felix since his exams were cancelled. Having said that I think he is not missing the stress and seems to be quite happy with reduced number of subjects during his final year at school.

Personally, the lockdown meant slowing down. The atmosphere at home is a lot more relaxed. I think the boys must have been under huge pressure at school before the pandemic. There are fewer reaons to be argueing with them. We also seem to have a little more time even though we are as busy as always. I do enjoy our shared lunch times. We are lucky. We are healthy and have escaped Covid-19 so far. We both have our jobs and the boys are getting on with each other and us.

After three months of lockdown traffic has started to pick up again. Although I am not sure where everybody is going. The summer looks like is going to be a cracker. It is nice to see people outside enjoying the sunshine. The Meadows are busy with mostly young people. But it is not as busy as you would expect given the weather.

Politics in the UK is still insane. The government has been found as incompetent handling the pandemic as suspected. There is nothing beyond the slogans, similar to Brexit only that the effects are more directly obvious with the excess death toll running around 40000. Although Brexit has happened it is not clear what will actually happen. Unsurprisingly, the pandemic situation in the US is no better. Although the US is shaken by civil unrest due to the murder of George Floyd by the police.

I suspect that all these issues, the pandemic, Brexit, rise of populism and civil unrest are related. The old system of capitalism is failing. I had expected that there would be wars over resources or that climate chaos would be really biting. I hadn't anticipated a pandemic. It does make sense, though. The virus is helped by the way we consume and is spread by globalisation. It is related to our food production. The poorest people in our society are affected most. They are the first to loose their jobs or have no options but to return to work to be exposed to the virus. Their general state of health is not as well as that of the well-off. They don't have the luxury to self-isolate. I am convinced that this is part of the German success in having relatively few deaths and why BAME people seem to be disproportionally more seriously affected.

I really hope that we, as a society, use the pandemic as an opportunity to rethink how we do things. I would like to keep the slower pace of work and the reduced traffic. It is great to see people out and about on bikes. It is also clear that we got our priorities wrong. Essential jobs like supermarket workers, shop keepers, nurses and care workers tend to be poorly remunerated. These jobs have a relatively low climate impact and are absolutely crucial in improving our lives.