Coronavirus Diaries is an FT series in which people in many different situations share their experiences of trying to work — and live — in this extraordinary time
Last week, as I sat in my study, with my back to the window, I heard the sound of excited childish voices. There was a knock on the door, just afterwards. I look out and see my granddaughter and grandson, aged four and two, respectively. “Grandad,” she cries, her face beaming with enthusiasm. This followed closely by another “Grandad” from her brother, beaming excitedly, too.
I wave and hit the windowpane, in pleasure. Their father stands in the background. Soon my wife, Alison, comes down from her study at the top of the house and joins me. “Nanny,” the children both shout, with yet greater enthusiasm. Then, 10 seconds later, already looking for something new, they turn and run off. All is still.
These two of our five grandchildren live around the corner, with our daughter and her husband. We are used to having them regularly in our house. When will that happen again?
We have no idea. That is painful.
Our other children and grandchildren live on the other side of London. We only see them on Zoom now. It is better than nothing. But it is not the same thing as hugging a beloved child’s wriggling body.
I do not complain. Many people do not see their children or grandchildren in the flesh for months, years, perhaps ever. But the physical separation from my children and grandchildren is, for the moment, the only real drawback of this new world into which we have been catapulted.
I read; I write; I email; I speak to my colleagues via video-link; and I talk on the phone. I barely participate in social media. I have never done so and am not going to start now. I go out to buy food in local shops and enjoy a brisk daily walk in Dulwich Park, just five minutes away. I keep my distance from others and wear a mask, while I do so. All this is still new.
For the moment, thank heavens, we are well. I even like working quietly at home, with Alison my sole companion, though she, poor woman, has to put up with my periodic rants over the grotesque folly and incompetence (not, alas, in the least bit surprising) of our government, on all fronts.
I do like not travelling frantically, for a change. Discussions with my colleagues work perfectly well online. I know that none of this would have been possible before the arrival of the new technologies. I am well aware how lucky I am to have a job and to be able to do it in relative safety.
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Yet I also wonder how long this state of limbo will last. A few months of confinement would be quite manageable. But we are told we are both at a vulnerable age. Maybe, we will be advised to stay at home until a vaccine arrives at the end of 2021, or even later. I would miss our summer stays at our apartment in Italy. I am also concerned about what is happening in that much-loved country now, but also that the UK may not be far behind.
Nevertheless, I know well that I am far luckier than vast numbers of my fellow humans at such a worrying time. For now, I must wait, try not to get ill and see what happens next.
Martin Wolf is the FT’s chief economics commentator
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