57 minus 02: Covid consequences – time

Posted: 15 August 2021 in 57 minus, London, travel

Housekeeping Note: As mentioned the other day, I’m going to keep running this blog past my birthday; as usual on such occasions, the titles of the posts will switch from’…minus…’ to ‘…plus…’ And there’ll be 57 posts entitled that. Though I guess I’ll have to come up with a different tag line to: Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

There’ll still be old fiction on Tuesdays, new fiction on a Thursday, and the usual nonsense you’ve come to expect.

OK, on with today’s entry.

As with previous entries on medical stuff and travel, this post won’t be on the macro stuff, on national policy or anything, but how covid has changed what I do, what consequences it’s had for me.

And, maybe, on what it’s going to affect for me during the next couple of months.

So, time.

Time has been weird the past 18 months or so. We haven’t had the shared anniversaries we’d usually have; we haven’t been able to celebrate birthdays and annual successes… or, equally importantly, maybe more importantly, comfort each other on deaths, and the anniversaries of deaths or losses.

Because some people had their final birthday during covid, and nothing I could say here would possibly even slightly ease the anguish their family and friends felt and continue to feel. It’s fundamentally wrong, just wrong, that the dying couldn’t be comforted by, surrounded by, their loved ones at the time. And those who grieved coukldn’t even do so communally.

Moreover, no matter how advanced the technology gets, no matter how good the video streams become, there’s a distinct and definite difference between ‘being there in person‘ and ‘not being there in person‘.

There are times when ‘not being there’ isn’t that important, to be brutally honest. A friend celebrates their birthday, and arranges a zoom session for folks who can’t make the party? That’s cool. Same applies for weddings, and confirmations and bar mitzvahs. Hell for celebrations in general.

Someone’s grandfather is buried, in the same city, and they have to watch it on a screen? That’s not the same. At all. It’s not cool in the least. It’s heartbreaking, at best. I struggle in fact to see it as anything other than callous and cruel, and I wouldn’t blame anyone in that situation who felt like they were being punished for others‘ actions.

(Or if the others are elected politicians in power? It must have felt like you were being punished for others” inactions.)

My own birthdays are about as trivial an example as it’s possible to use… and it’d be meaningless and silly to use that as an example of missing a celebration. So of course I’ll use that.

I’ve never really been one for birthday parties. In part because I wasn’t exactly a popular kid in school. So, whether I decided early on that I didn’t want birthday parties because no one would want to be there, or whether I decided that after having had parties where it was obvious that no one else wanted to be there, I dunno. Either way, big birthday parties ceased fairly early on in my life.

(Having a birthday in the middle of the school holidays aided that, to be fair. It’s about the only reason I had until my 50s where I’ve been pleased that my birthday’s in August.)

Because of course, for the past decade or so, my birthday has taken place at the same time as The Edinburgh Festival. (Well, yes, ok, if you want to be pedantic, it’s always taken place as the same time; it just never really mattered to me that it did.)

Now, not all of my birthdays have taken place at the Edinburgh Fringe the past decade, but it’s usually played some part in the celebrations, because either because I’m up there for it or a couple of days after my birthday, I’m heading up north of the border,

In 2014 – for my 50th – and in 2019, of course, I was lucky enough to celebrate my birthday at the Fringe, and enjoyed both days enormously.

The past two years have left me feeling a bit weird about my birthday, and about birthdays in general during the pandemic. There’s a certain element of ‘birthday blues’ attaching to this one, I’ll admit, as I formally enter my ‘late 50s’.

There’s no general agreement these days as to what constitutes ‘middle-age’, is there? Whenever it comes up on Twitter, the discussions quickly devolve into arguments between those who [reluctantly] insist they are now, or still are, middle-aged, and those who want to avoid the label, so claim it’s always ‘ten years older than I am right now’. Me? I figured I entered ‘middle-age’ the day my son became 18, when he became an adult. But then I didn’t get married until I was 30, and I was 31, fifteen months later, when he was born. So, y’know.

But there is, shurely, a consensus on what qualifies as early-, mid- and late- of whatever decade you’re talking about.

A ‘zero’ year – 30, 40, 50, etc – isn’t part of early. It’s its own category. No one claims that being 40 makes you ‘in your early 40s…’

No, you’re just… 40.


    31-33 – early thirties
    44-46 – middle forties
    57-59 – late fifties

And, in a couple of days’ time, I’ll be 57. In my late fifties.

And for the second year, I won’t be in Edinburgh for it. Which annoys me. I’d hoped to get up there this year for it, even if the Fringe wasn’t going ahead, or not in any recognisable way. I’d hoped to make it up so that I could finally discover whether it’s Edinburgh I love, as a city, or whether it’s the Fringe that I love.

Last year, although restrictions had eased a bit, things were far from ‘normal’, and everyone knew it. Someone suggested, only semi-jokingly, I suspect, that everyone should get to pause their birthdays for a year, and pretend 2020 never happened.

But yeah, I’ve had better birthdays, and I suspect this year’s won’t be great either. I’m… not looking forward to being 57. For all kinds of reasons. But I’m not. And no, it’s nothing to do with – as one person suggested, not unkindly – that ‘time is passing if you ever want to be in another relationship’.

I gave up on that possibility long, long ago. Without too much bitterness, I assure you… and…

(No, wait. I’m not going to do that now; that’s part of that very personal post I mentioned I’m writing but still never got around to posting. Maybe in the ’57 plus…’ We’ll see.)

Anyway, time and my birthday. I’ll be spending the day alone, for various reasons, which shouldn’t matter in the least; it’s just ‘another day’ as they say.

I should say that I’ve always been genuinely amused by those who decry others marking the turn of the year, claiming ‘it’s just another day, another 24 hour period’. The same people rarely take it in good humour when people ignore their birthday with ‘eh? It’s just another day, another 24 hour pension, isn’t it’.)

But yeah, while it doesn’t bother me that much now, today, I suspect it might well do so in 48 hours.

ANYWAYS, moving on…

Back to talking about time over the past 18 months that seem both to have lasted five years and yet also only 6months.

So many things that were ‘the norm’ back before the pandemic struck seem… odd now, seem weird, and frankly, seem flat out strange to me now.

I can’t remember the last time I went to the movies, in a proper cinema. Now, that in and of itself is ok; I can’t remember the last time I did lots of things. And only some of that is because I have a shit memory for lots of things.

But there are a couple of warring desires in my head: (1) the genuine urge to go to the movies just because I now can go to the movies, because they’re open for business, and because I’ll probably enjoy it… fighting against (2) the urge to avoid going into crowded places, no matter how ‘covid safe’ they protest they are.

And part of that last bit is because the very idea of being in a crowd seems to belong to a far away time, the old ‘the past is a different country; they do things differently’ thing. But it was only 18 months ago.

Only 18 months ago.

Time. We’re almost two-thirds of the way through 2021. We’re 227 days through it. And yet, it still seems like 2021 both has barely started, while also I’m kind of asking “we’re ONLY 227 days through it? How the hell are we not almost at Christmas?”

I mean, ok, I know March 2020 seemed to have 227 days on its own, but surely we’re more used to how time passes than that?

Because it’s not just the birthdays and anniversaries that matter, It’s – depending on your religion, Easter and Passover and Eid and Diwali – and it’s dozens of family occasions, hundreds of sporting events, including those that are taking place in 2021 yet all the coverage and merchandise says 2020. And yet more things; there are dozens of cultural events, hundreds of those little calendar markers through the year, anniversaries that pop up on your individual, personal diaries. “Huh, I started at this job two years ago”, “Oh, Timehop reminds me I was on holiday on a Caribbean island three years ago”.

“Oh, I broke up with him on the day of lockdown.”

The days of the week tend to run into each other. I’ve seen more “I thought it was tomorrow all day” and “I keep thinking tomorrow is the weekend, it’s not” online than ever before.

And while it pales compared to those who’ve lost people during the pandemic, it does… irk… that we have no idea when it will be… over. Even if we’re told when, and we believe them, it’s now hard to accurately judge the future, judge what period of time a week or a month is.

I don’t mean the formal lifting of restrictions. Hell, if the past few months have shown us all anything its that “the formal lifting of restrictions” and “things getting back to normal” are not only two very different things indeed; they’re talking about two entirely different things.

My friend Mitch Benn, the comedian, had a bit in his 2014 Don’t Believe A Word’ show about the difference between atheism and agnosticism. People confuse them, think they address the same thing. They don’t. Theism/Atheism are about belief, or the lack of it. Gnosticism/Agnosticism address knowledge.

In the same way, the formal lifting of restrictions addresses what you can now do, legally; a simple (ok, complicated but it should be simple) list of facts: you can do this, you can’t do that. Whereas things being back to normal is about how it all feels.

And time feels odd to me; it has for months. Not for the full 18 months since the first lockdown, but yeah, the past year or so.

If someone says “this will happen in a month”, I’m no longer exactly sure I know what a month feels like.

And that’s not right. That’s not… good.

And it’s going to take something to fix it.

Oddly enough, it’s going to take time.


See you tomorrow, with… something else. And since it’s the final entry of this ’57 minus…’ run, you might well think you know what’s coming. You probably don’t.



Fifty-seven days. Fifty-seven posts. One fifty-seventh birthday.

I’m trying something new with this run. I’ve signed up to ko-fi.com, so if you fancy throwing me a couple of dollars every so often, to keep me in a caffeine-fuelled typing mood, feel free. I’m on https://ko-fi.com/budgiehypoth

This post is part of a series of blog entries, counting down to my fifty-seventh birthday on 17th August 2021. You can see the other posts in the run by clicking here.

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