Lockdown from London - Nic McBride
Watching New Zealand from Afar.
Reading on the roof.
John Clarke never could have realised how accurate he would be when he sang ‘We don't know how lucky we are’. New Zealand doesn't realise how lucky it is. Watching New Zealand from afar I have a degree of pride, but also an eye of jealousy and warning of caution. Because the thing about luck is that it's often easy to take for granted. Living in London, I’ve woken up the past few mornings knowing hundreds of people will die from coronavirus that day. I’ve gone to bed to the sound of sirens that pierce the now unusually quiet London nights. When you know there are hundreds of people dying everyday, including children and young adults, it makes the stakes for a simple visit to the supermarket feel a lot higher. Yet it’s both concerning and bizarre at just how normalised by the public it has become, to have unseen hundreds die every day. Which adds to the frustration as some still ignore basic distancing rules. New Zealand at last count had 1489 cases. By comparison The UK has had over 33,000 deaths. Adjusted for population that is more than one death for every 2000 people in the UK. New Zealand’s death rate is one for every 228,000 people. London alone has now had more people die than the entire population of the West Coast. The UK recently rolled back it’s quarantine measures - a decision that’s been scrutinized for being too confusing, coming off the back of a faux-lockdown, and now bearing Europe’s highest death toll. New Zealand by comparison receives nothing but praise for its early intervention and clearer messaging. The UK is even set to copy the bubble system. Lockdown in London is probably quite different from most in New Zealand.
Many, verging on most, people in London don’t have their own backyards. London is a dense city, where houses are typically small and built close together. So Londoners usually go to the local park to have a barbecue and enjoy the sunshine. In simpler times heading to the park was harmless. Now, not so much. Suddenly any flat or house with outdoor space, or even regular sun, is a sign of status. My flatmate and I have often resorted to venturing onto a small square of roof to take in the sun. Lacking a garden we’ve started to grow plants in jars, sitting in a patch of sun in the kitchen. We’ve adapted in what ways we can, as have others, and amidst a global pandemic, I often find myself appreciative that my circumstances are not worse. As New Zealand reopens shops, bars and more, the prospect of a return to ‘normal life’ in the UK still seems distant. So I’ll keep enviously watching New Zealand from afar. Just don’t take it for granted. You never realise what you’ve got till it's gone.
Nic McBride pictured far right working at Ferrari's Lounge Bar when last living in Greymouth.