Monday, 16 March 2020


There’s a sense of giving up amongst many I know and it won’t do.

The other morning our doorbell rang at 7.15. It was a neighbour holding half of my wing-mirror and saying apologetically “I’m afraid someone’s vandalised your car.”  I shrugged and said “oh well, high spirits and too much to drink I suppose” but as the day wore on the outraged reactions from people seeing what had happened interested me …”bastards! Utter bastards!” “What’s wrong with people?” “Such a lovely car – how could they?”

Whilst entering a critical phase of the pandemic, these people’s focus had temporarily shifted to decrying unsociable behaviour. Our values and how we behave matter more than trying to interpret the indecipherable.

Prudent buying, which in a just-in-time world is having constantly replenished minimal stocks, has changed to what the media call “panic buying” or providing enough to withstand a two week lockdown. Meanwhile at Kimberley Clark the brand manager of Andrex Toilet Tissue is daily going to church to kneel and say: “thank you God for making me a famous success story”.

There is, as ever, a backlash against whatever government does. Gordon Brown said, with that grave authority that defined his short premiership, “the government is behind the curve.”

Given this is where he himself was most of his political life I suppose he feels highly qualified to make this assertion.  Yet ghastly as things are we are much less affected than anywhere else in Europe and are behaving as though we’re worse off. I’m confused by that.

Start-Ups, Pivots and Pop-Ups has been shortlisted for an award at the “Business Books Award Event” but I’m not going.  I said to Helen Kogan, the  MD of our publisher: “People should be at home reading our book not carousing at a black tie event off Trafalgar Square.”

It’s foolish to predict and dangerous to be categoric. We are in unknown territory. Better perhaps to think small. Think neighbourhood. Think checking on older, single people. A month ago I was a catastrophist frustrated by the laissez-faire attitude to what I detected was a major global event, today I think we need to restore balance, cheer up and become communally minded, kinder human beings.

Many years of experience, which mean I’m categorised as “most at risk”, allow me to suggest stop regarding every piece of breaking news as another obituary. We are going to get through this and if we use this period of uncertainty to reflect, we can do so in good shape.

We could do worse than to think constructively about our lives, our priorities and the way we spend our money and time. Just about the only thing that frightens me is the thought that listening to the news might negate all those good intentions.

On Sunday I heard a doctor on Radio 4 say “you need your 5-a-day not just of vegetables but also of fun because laughter is a great medicine. People in good spirits recover faster”

Right on Doc.

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