Saturday, 20 March 2021

Diary: A Farewell...

Open-air, woodland burial funeral for an old friend far too young to die, another of cancer’s many early victims. The ceremony is arranged so various people speak about his life from each of the spheres in which they knew him: work, music, village, volunteering and so on, the common thread being that there’s so much of the man that none of us alone can do him justice. 

Later it occurs to me that today was unique in another way in being all about him, because this polymath of a man was never known to put himself first. He was interested, curious, inquiring and inquisitive of everything and everyone around him. The only time, ironically, I ever knew him talk about himself first was at work (we were teachers) when his attitude to troublesome students, uniquely among staff at the time, was always a genuine “what more can I do? What else can I try?” 

If a student wasn’t engaged, didn’t produce work or was generally lacking in any way this man’s default position was always to look to himself, not the student, not the Year Head, not to parents or to God (in whom he had no faith anyway) but always to ask what else he could do or try. A remarkable man and a great loss.


In other news I caught a train. I know, I know... but it was the first time in over a year, and I realised that - apart from swift forays into supermarkets planned with all the precision and timing of a raid on a nuclear power station - I'd been nowhere 'public', apart from the pavement, in all that time. As the train pulled in to the station I almost began hyperventilating. My heart rate certainly started rising. All very worrying. And yet, mentally, I felt strangely disconnected from my own exaggerated physical responses. It was rather like observing someone else: look at him! Oh dear! Once aboard (thankfully the train was almost empty) and once I'd wiped the table with my antiseptic wipe I felt ok. I felt even better when someone with a "Covid Cleaning" tabard came and started wiping down the other tables. I'd wondered why they looked so clean. No crumbs, no coffee rings, no sticky patches of... god alone knows what. 

I used to catch the same train, early in the morning, to a school where I once worked. I'd always try and bag a table so I could spread out and do some last-minute marking. I know whereof I speak. So, Covid has this, at least, going for it. And not for the first time I find myself really hoping that things won't go back to "normal" once this awfulness is over. 

We need to do better than that, after all this horror. 

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