How much more menacing “Covid 19” sounds, James Bond villain-like, than the pretty almost poetic “Coronavirus”! I imagine that you have all been struck, as I have, by the extreme strangeness of our present predicament – being “locked in” “self-isolating”, while the fearful spectres of death and disease dance invisibly around us. Do you too feel strangely vulnerable, un-skinned as it were, alert in every pore to our changed circumstances? Actually as a natural “social isolate”, apart from missing routine meetings with friends, family and writing group, I haven’t much missed the enforced cessation of social life. And this “lock-down” does have other advantages. For instance where the early morning commuter traffic used to grind monotonously over a nearby bridge there has been a quietness in which the dawn chorus, led by thrushes and bass-grounded by crows, can be clearly enjoyed. And with that quietness we have often been able to enjoy a newly blue-rinsed sky unpolluted by vapour trails (as when that volcano in Iceland blew its top and all aircraft movement was similarly diminished). Another change which I’m sure most people are noticing is an improvement in neighbourhood civility. When Vic and I take our walk each day, yes, we carefully skirt around approaching couples, giving them a broom’s swing worth of wide berth, yet we do it with a kind of apologetic friendliness. “Take care” seems to be the new social greeting. I continue to garden, even though there has been a lack of seeds and plants to be ordered from the on-line seed merchants; presumably many others are sharing our survivalist instinct for “growing our own”, playing at “self-sufficiency”? Surrounded by such drastic changes, it is difficult to resist the feeling that we are living through some kind of moralistic world drama, as in Camus’ Plague or like our forebears’ historical experience of worse pandemics, from the Black Death to the Spanish flu of 1918. It is as if the developed world is on the point of undergoing some shift in consciousness, is being taught some kind of lesson. But a lesson about what? My own feeling is that if there is such a supernatural entity as a behind-the-scenes Universal Dramatist – and I half believe that there could be – He, She, or It may be teaching us a lesson about our materialistic expectations,- the kind of rampant Consumerism which has been slowed down, paused, by this new epidemic. In developed countries we have become so spoilt, so used to the idea that those of us blessed with money can have/enjoy/ grab almost anything and any experience that we fancy. And all, literally, at the tap of a finger, the touch of a button. New car? Delivered gourmet meal? Foreign holiday? “At your service” our close-held phones seem to reply. Encyclopaedic Information? Transcontinental communication? “All readily available” whispers my Smart wrist phone. Extraordinary access to films and most other kinds of culture? Via Netflix and Amazon of course. An ever-widening – but not ever deepening – pool of new “Friends”? We can thank Facebook for that. Yes, it seems that we can have almost anything and everything we desire … like those instantly down-loadable meals from the transporter hatches of Startrek? And like those virtual feasts unsatisfying in reality? Having been brought up as the child of medical missionaries in Northern Nigeria (thus the preachy nature of this prose?) when I look back to the “deprived” aspects of my childhood (no toys or TV, few books, no magazines or sweets, for instance) I can’t think that the real quality of our lives, our relationship with our natural surroundings and friendship with each other and our fellow Africans, could be improved by the kind of non-stop shopping that we have come to take for granted in 2020. Will this Covid 19 pandemic kick-start changes in our ways of thinking about ourselves and our frail place in the planetary Eco-verse? Or “when this is all over” – another phrase of the moment – will we return to our unthinking hyper-developed habits of self-indulgence?