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Blue Monday

Today is ‘Blue Monday’ – purportedly the gloomiest day of the year, in the UK at least. I was going to try to cheer everyone up with an uplifting picture. But then I read that the UK had suffered the highest rate of Covid 19 deaths in the world in the past week. And so it just didn’t feel right.

Yes folks, for once the government isn’t lying – we ARE world-beating at one thing – at killing people. Now you may have been told that actually we are all to blame – because we haven’t been careful enough; we haven’t kept our distance enough; we haven’t worn our masks enough; we haven’t stayed in enough. But please don’t fall for it.

We have largely done what we were told, because we all want this ‘non-life’ to end – so that we can see our grandchildren again, meet up with our mates, hug those we care about, plan holidays, or just head out the door without feeling guilty about it. And we are doing our utmost to make it happen, even if that means doing very little at all.

But we don’t get to decide when to shut down the airports, or to at least insist on a negative test result and quarantine for arrivals (the government is finally implementing that, a year after the virus was first made known to us). We don’t get to stop probably the most important facet of virus control, the Track and Trace app, from going to cronies of our so-called leaders, with track records of incompetence. (Dido Harding, don’t insult our intelligence by telling us that you’re overseeing the app through some kind of call of duty – you are doing it for the billions of pounds that your Tory mates wafted in front of you).

We didn’t get to decide that Christmas was cancelled, even though most of us would rather not have hugged our loved ones on Christmas Day and potentially buried them in January. We didn’t get to decide that students were better off not travelling across the country to attend university in person, packing their virus with them, so that universities could charge them for the accommodation that they would then imprison them in. We didn’t get to decide that children were better off at home as the virus spread through schools like wildfire (a couple of Boroughs tried but the government threatened them with fines if they didn’t stay open). And we didn’t think it a good idea to release elderly people from hospitals back into care homes without checking first if they had Coronavirus, so that they could kill their fellow residents, but we didn’t have a say in that matter either.

I can go on and on. But instead I’ll say this: for those looking in on this country in horror, and wondering how it could have gone so terribly wrong, then please don’t point your finger at the people. Point it instead at those responsible for keeping us safe, those who have failed us. A century ago our leaders sent men over the top like lambs to the slaughter, knowing that they would die. It seems that nothing thing has changed.

Nothing has changed.

It’s the third Monday of January and we should all be feeling blue this year. That’s not because of a marketing meme, or a silly media story. It’s a fact. Over 100,000 people have died from Covid-19 in the past 10 months in the UK. Meanwhile, New Zealand has suffered 25 deaths. Let that sink in – and don’t tell me it’s a population thing. Because that way you’re letting the government off the hook again.

In America, Trump has been showing his true colours, through the ugly, angry mob that he incited. Here it’s being exposed by our death tally. We have the advantages of an island; we have managed to keep rabies out of the country for decades. And yet our government has allowed Covid-19 to run ravage through our population. And all we can do is wear our mask, wash our hands, practise social distance, and pray that the vaccine will save us.

But will we finally see where the culpability lies? Or will we just blame someone else – the Chinese, those kids fined for organising a party, that neighbour who was spotted without a mask – and then reward the government for their negligence by voting them in again next time?

So this is no time for heart-warming pictures. It’s a time for truth, self-examination and questioning. Then maybe the government won’t keep on getting away with it. It’s a time for all of us to feel blue – bcause maybe then change will start to come about. Sometimes it takes a wildfire for new shoots to appear. If we had to have the fire, let’s now at least let the new life be different.

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Life. It’s what this pandemic, and all the measures to fight it are about. Ending life vs preserving it. Fighting for our lives; mourning lives lost. Limiting our own lives so that someone else may live.

Over 1,000 Covid deaths were recorded today, in the UK alone. And how many more were lost through delayed hospital treatment, or fear of going to hospital? How many lives are slowly ebbing away through loneliness, and a sense that life isn’t really worth living anymore?

We now understand the fragility of things we have taken for granted – even our ability to breathe hangs in the balance. Are we going to be lucky when the virus strikes? Or are our cards numbered?

Life for us is frozen, and yet it thrives. Nature is testiment to that. And as we suddenly marvel at the natural world, now that the noise has been turned down again, we begin to question our own existence.

Maybe it is good to pause a while. Everyone needs to be put in their place when they get above themselves. We are not invincible. Let us remember that. But still, let us fight for every breath for everyone. By just doing nothing.

This image forms part of my Daily Print series, and is available to buy here.

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Another Time

Every time I see the Gormley statue ‘Another Time’ I think that he must have had a premonition of Covid 19. There’s just something prophetic about the lonely person standing stoically on the shoreline, knowing that the tide will inevitably come in and engulf him, and that he must just hold his ground and take it, until gradually it goes out again. But then it will be back. There is nothing he can do but take it, again and again. He can’t beat the forces of nature. All he can is hope to survive it.

As inevitably as the tide will come in, I will keep photographing the statue, as I’m fascinated by it. For a change, this one is taken from a lower angle to show the seaweed, with a nod to T. S. Eliot’s poem ‘The Wasteland’.

The image forms part of my Daily Print series, and is available to buy here. You might also like this palette print