Corona Diary, Day 5

Friday, 20 March

I start the day by translating a short divorce judgment. It’s very quiet just now but I have some proof reading and another little job about an academic appointment to keep me busy for a couple of days. It’s unusually quiet for the spring, which is usually a peak work period when I have to vigorously fend off other people’s endeavours to export their chaos.

I decide to cycle to my Shurgard self-storage facility to see how long it takes and to review how far I am away from being away to close it down.

It’s quite pleasant cycling as Uppsala has well-developed cycle paths. And changing my habits leads to me finding a letter box near my flat which I didn’t know existed before, which is a bonus in these times when thronging around the box at the post facility in the local supermarket is a no no.

It’s surprisingly rural following the cycle path to Gränby Centrum, but I then get on Vaksalagatan leading to the city centre, which is the wrong direction. At the same time realising that it’s a bit far for me, inexperienced cyclist as I am (and I have to get back too). So I swing around in a circle back to Löten, my area.

I decide that I am not going to try to wind up the self-storage facility until normality is restored. It’s tantalisingly close but it’s going to take a disproportionately great deal of effort under current conditions and probably involve risk situations. It feels good to have decided that and, if I wasn’t avoiding pawing my face, I would give my frontal lobes (where the executive stuff takes place) a little pat.

Back at the flat, I take an hour’s siesta and then dust my daily allotment of three bookshelves. I am working through the Indian section now and see that I now have over 120 books on India here (as well as a few jointly owned volumes in Kolkata). Vivid images from Bengal pass through my mind. It’s not long ago and it feels both close at hand and far away because of everything that has happened since. It’s a good feeling that Bengal is starting to feel very familiar. I haven’t restarted my Bangla studies yet but I will do tomorrow (come hell or high water, “liksom”).

I work my way through my papers – the UK Guardian, the Financial Times, DN and the local Uppsala paper, UNT. It seems that the Germans might also practice a lockdown which neither the Swedes nor the UK is doing.

I think about the different national reactions to the Corona crisis and national “characters”. The Swedish politicians say that a lockdown is not necessary here as people are carrying out social distancing as they should anyway and a formal lockdown would be counterproductive. I wonder whether this is because the Swedes, even at fairly modest levels of society, feel like citizens and not subjects (unlike the British where the distance between the individual and the state is greater). However, the French (who are very much citizens but with a much more confrontational attitude to the state) have gone for a rather advanced lockdown so there are other historical reasons at work too in moulding reactions.

It will be interesting too to see what effect all of this will have on the “zeitgeist”. Whether, among all the disruption, worry and sadness, there will emerge something like the “blitz spirit” in the UK in the war where people who lived through those awful times can still say that the war years, despite everything, were the best of their lives – a feeling of being members of a community with a common purpose, fighting against a dire threat together, which might be a good feeling, compared with the fragmentation, purposelessness, vague and sometimes not so vague anonymous threats and lack of social ambition of life under globalized capitalism, which has a rather frenzied feel to it. It seems almost as if Nature has slapped our faces to restore our sanity.

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