The Corona Chronicles: Week 44: Hope on the horizon?

Is hope finally on the horizon? Updates about vaccinations are occupying almost as much air time as infection rates, which are finally falling.

However, the nightly news never likes to encourage too much positivity and so is currently promoting ‘vaccine anxiety’ just to keep us on our toes. The headlines delight in our clashing with the EU over who receives priority shipments of the life-saving drugs and the possible creation of post-Brexit border difficulties. With relations between nations now focusing on competition rather than cooperation, the world is participating in a shameful playground game of ‘I’ve got more vaccine than you. Na-na na-na na-na!’

And if that doesn’t work us up enough then let’s introduce a vaccine hierarchy. Instead of celebrating the achievement of having so much choice of preventative medicine in such a short space of time, let’s create anxiety about which type is more effective. A different game of ‘My vaccine’s better than your vaccine. So there!’

My mother-in-law received her Oxford-AstraZeneca injection over a week ago. At nearly ninety she wasn’t impressed at having to travel to a local stadium to get it, whilst much sprightlier seventy-year-olds simply walked down the street to their local GPs. And now, as well as worrying whether her next dose, not due for another twelve weeks, will give her proper immunity, she’s also concerned that it’s not as efficient for her age group as the Pfizer version.

And then there’s the new Covid variant to throw into the mix. Will the current vaccine do its job against that, or is the latest Moderna offering the jab to hold out for? And who should we prioritise in this roll-out lottery? The current thinking is to safeguard the elderly and infirm and so take the pressure off the NHS. But there is also the case for protecting our key-workers and immunising teachers so that we can get our youngsters back into education.

Indeed, both parents and children definitely need a dose of something stronger than mere optimism to survive ‘Home-schooling 3,’ the movie with the worst reviews in history. With the announcement that schools are not re-opening their doors at half-term as expected, wine-o’clock in many houses is getting earlier and earlier.

Grunting Teen, who has so far been quite resilient, finally gives in to full-blown despair. ‘Mum,’ he groans, ‘this totally sucks. What’s the point in it all? I hate my life.’ I try jollying him out of it, bringing him regular treats and even randomly tickling him but none of it does the trick.  He’s not sleeping well. There are dark circles under his eyes and he’s looking pale and pasty. The Nearly-Beloved and I take it in turns to cajole or physically force him out for daily exercise but a forty-minute walk round the streets with uncool parents does little to lift his spirits. He misses his routine, his climbing and his mates. Yet when I suggest he meets up to exercise with a friend, he rolls his eyes. It seems that teenage boys are pack animals. They don’t do ‘talking and walking’.

And so, his only survival strategy is to connect on-line. No wonder then that we are producing a generation of ‘bedroom boys’ – young males, cocooned in their PlayStation safety blankets and increasingly reluctant to set foot outside into the real world. Will there be a vaccination against that, I wonder?

In the meantime, I’ve read too many self-help books to give up on my adolescent.

‘You need to be the light for others,’ I encourage him, as he tells me some of his friends haven’t left the house in weeks. ‘Don’t let them drag you down into the hole with them. You need to help pull them out.’

He doesn’t look convinced. ‘What’s the point?’ he moans, when I remind him that he’s meant to be paying attention to the science teacher’s PowerPoint slides rather than scrolling aimlessly on his phone. ‘I don’t understand any of it and don’t tell me to ask the teacher. As if!’

In fact, trying to tell him anything at the moment is not working. Sometimes you just have to sit with how you feel. ‘Look,’ I point out, ‘it’s okay to invite an unwanted guest into your house. But that doesn’t mean you have to make them a cup of tea.’

He raises his eyebrows. My zen wisdom is lost on him. But thankfully my mother’s intuition is not. ‘You know what,’ I say, ‘how about we ditch school for today? I’ll rustle up some popcorn and hot chocolate whilst you pick out an age-inappropriate comedy on Netflix.

And a dose of laughter later, Grunting Teen is back in recovery, with a pre-pandemic glow about him. He even has a smile on his face again as he responds to a text and unexpectedly fetches his coat and shoes.

‘Where are you going?’ I ask.

‘Just off for a walk with a mate,’ he replies, as if it’s a daily occurrence.

I smile back. Hope is still on the horizon.

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