Developing a cough last Monday night, on the back of a head-cold, had me trying to book a precautionary coronavirus test from the following morning. I started before six and roughly every ten or fifteen minutes went on the Government website to try and manage (what many have found to be difficult) the attempt to secure a slot at not too far a distance from Swanage.
I had a few near-misses. There were ten slots free at Salisbury, but by the time I had negotiated the various questions that needed answering, they were gone. Then I was directed to one at Swindon (Where’s Swindon, Helen called over my shoulder?). He who hesitates is lost when it comes to this kind of tense computer search, and it was gone too, with our potential 135 mile round trip.
At last, AT LAST! I managed to book a home test kit to arrive the next day, and it would do the two of us. It was by this time nearly lunchtime. The sense of relief was palpable. I had undoubtably won some kind of jackpot. The achievement was not to be downplayed, and yet all I had done was book a test.
There is no doubt that the current concerns are real, and many people will be anxious as the days draw in and the long winter evenings bring us closer and inside. Listening to the directions last Tuesday afternoon, we recognised that the Government is trying the little by little approach to suppress infections, whilst keeping the wheels of ordinary life turning. Such a difficult balancing act! Few of us believe that it will be enough, but maybe some more time is being bought to increase the trace and testing system, work on the vaccine, and make the kind of experience I and thousands more have had a thing that we can manage much more easily.
Having posted the test samples, the result did come back very quickly - those in the labs must be working round the clock - and we both tested negative; so as we tripped gaily out for a walk, having been released from self-isolation, it did once again bring it home to us - in case we needed it - that even beyond those whose suffering is great because of deteriorating health, many tens of thousands more are having their lives badly disrupted, if not permanently changed. Not simply a day or two’s inconvenience, such as Helen and I had, but due to months of uncertainty, anxiety, and the misfortune of just how their life, health, job or educational prospects, or those of a loved one, have experienced major upheaval and very real problems.