The Corona Chronicles: Week 27: Turning into caged animals

This is the week when I finally succumb. But is it to Covid or mad cow disease? All I know is that I’m very confused. Lockdown rules seem to change hourly and you need a PhD to make sense of them all. It’s very stressful and the threat of a £200 fine for getting it wrong doesn’t help. It’s no wonder then that the BBC Corona update website now includes calming meditation tracks.

But it’s too late for me. I’m beyond help now. Months of social media bombarding me with conflicting viewpoints has convinced me that either the world is about to end or it’s being run by alien lizards. Maybe Bill Gates has actually managed to plant that micro-chip in my brain, as I now find myself in a David Attenborough wildlife documentary where we’ve all metamorphosed into animals.

Back in March, we experience the zoo conditions of yesteryear, all caged up with no room to move. But then our horizons open up so we can roam unchained once more. We have a sense of freedom. We’re allowed to re-join our packs. And some lucky birds even manage to fly away to warmer climates. But with the news of a further six months of restrictions, a Zoom-based winter and a Grinch-style Christmas, we realise that it’s all been a safari park illusion.

Some more timid, vulnerable creatures are happy to retreat into their enclosures but the young have had enough. Like wild-eyed tigers, cooped up too long, they pace up and down, waiting for a chance to escape. They might be kept in check for now but will the long-term effects be worse than keeping them locked down?

The under-18s can still be controlled. They are the lab rats of this pandemic experiment. Sick specimens can be sent home to be isolated, and as long as the rest are regularly fed and distracted by Tik Tok videos and online gaming, they are happy to run round their familiar maze. But the university primates who trusted their keepers to take care of them, rather than incarcerate them, are now beating their chests and demanding to be set free.

And what of our leaders in this Kafkaesque world? Are they trustworthy sheepdogs herding their flocks to safety? Or are they coiling pythons, squeezing out their victims’ last breath of freedom? Let’s just hope it’s not the lemmings who are in charge, blindly jumping off the cliff top.

As regards the general public, they also divide up into different zoological species. The selfless Emperor penguins huddle together in sub-zero temperatures for collective warmth whilst the hyenas run riot, laughing at authority. And then there are the creatures of the Galapagos, so unaware of any threat that they mill around happily with no concern for the potential danger facing them.

So maybe it is better to stick with our trusted pets? For, closer to home, the domestic animals in my life provide some comfort. The Nearly-Beloved is a faithful guard dog, loyal and true. He’ll always obey commands until his nearest and dearest are threatened – then beware his growling bite. As for Darling Daughter, she’s the feline of the home, happy to purr and curl up on a lap yet careful to retain her independence. Meanwhile Grunting Teen is the family’s hamster, sleeping all day, active at night and forever stuffing his cheeks with food.

Yes, I fear that human life has finally got too much for me. From now on I will have to take my cue from the giant tortoises of the kingdom of beasts. So, I’m just going to stick my head inside my shell and go into a long hibernation. Hopefully when I re-emerge the animals will be leaving the Ark two by two.

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