Letter to my granddaughter: "My darling girl – I miss our early, early breakfasts"
It’s got to be a busy time for Big White Wall, the purpose-driven mental health enterprise offering online support for millions of people suffering anxiety and depression. But for its chair Liam Black, the global existential crisis we’re facing is expressed in a more personal way much closer to home…
My darling girl,
The country’s locked down. Millions of us cooped up. Jobs lost. Planes grounded. People dying. The biggest, fastest shock to our systems ever. Our culture of contentment shattered by this invisible virus swirling among us which we fear clings to every hand, awaiting its chance to jump into our throats and eyes and rip our lungs out.
Your dad told nana you asked him what happens when you die. You told him one of your little friends said you become a skeleton. Another said a shooting star. You were certain you wanted to be a unicorn. Maybe this is just a 4-year-old's randomness or maybe at some level you’ve decoded the words the adults are passing over your head. Maybe you can understand some of the messages coming from the radio and television before they get quickly switched off. Do you sense our deep fears and uncertainty?
You have brought such happiness to me, reminding me what unconditional love feels like, your innocence and flowering personality a joy to be around – even at 5am. I miss our early, early breakfasts, just you, me and your little sister. I pretend you’re in my restaurant as I serve the Weetabix and toast smeared thick with Nutella. My restaurant like all the others in the country is closed for now but you will always have a reservation.
I miss our early, early breakfasts, just you, me and your little sister.
Amidst the fear and anxiety, I’m pleased to tell you that community solidarity – long buried beneath the foul dead weight of our politics – has burst back to life all around us. The ‘Don’t Panic!’ WhatsApp group in our street offers shopping delivery slots and gallows humour and a sudden army of people of thousands has sprung up to form the National Help Service. Last night me and your nana stood outside the house and clapped, whistled and clattered pots and pans as a way of not only thanking health workers but as an expression, for me anyway, of defiance against this damn disease. Luckily it was dark, so my neighbours couldn't see me cry...
Covid-19 makes us all feel small and vulnerable but in helping others we find strength and each small act of kindness forms the vaccine against powerlessness and despair.
I miss you but I know you are safe with your parents in London. But what of the untold numbers of 4-year-olds across Africa and Asia with little or no protection from the wave of suffering about to engulf their parents and grandparents? I can’t watch.
And after the angel of death has past us by? Will we remember the lessons we are learning the hard way right now? That an injury to one is an injury to all? That all we have is ourselves and our collective will to do the right things? That power and money must be deployed to build a society which can withstand the climate crisis shocks hurtling our way – prioritising the interests of the least powerful because if they are not protected no one is?
What of the untold numbers of 4-year-olds across Africa and Asia with little or no protection from the wave of suffering about to engulf their parents and grandparents? I can’t watch.
I really don’t know. As a species you'll discover little girl that we’re experts at denial and selfish complacency. If we get through this pandemic we have the complexities and divisions of leaving the European Union to deal with. How long will our newly discovered sense of national solidarity and shared purpose last?
When you’re old enough to read and understand this I hope we can say we did come through and that the world’s systems were consciously reset in the interests of all humanity.
God I hope so.
PS I scored a jar of Nutella at Budgens. I won’t open it until we meet again, okay?