From one day to the next

Just a few days ago I enjoyed a long telephone conversation with a cousin in a rainy northern European country. We were discussing details of the holidays we were planning for this coming summer.

Later I went for a walk on the busy seafront - people were happy, the sun was shining, the sky blue and the sea twinkling. It was so lovely I sent my cousin a photo; she replied with the raindrops on her window. All was well, but nevertheless I had a nagging feeling of unease: I had just committed myself to organising a complicated trip for a family group in a country that was nothing like their own. I could feel the stress building up already.

Yesterday, my cousin sent me a message. Was I OK? Well, yes, I said, but confined to my home, as she was, although in her case perhaps without the threat of police fines if she leaves her house.

I wish the only thing that was bugging me now was how I was going to organise a summer holiday! Since that conversation, since that sunny day, the world has turned on its head. Everything changed from one day to the next.

We are at war. More and more warlike vocabulary is slipping into our conversations: frontline, battle, victory, attack, defence... But the enemy is that cute-looking thing at the top of a lot of the pages in this edition. We are at war with a toy you would buy for your cat. And all we have to do is stay at home.

Next week some say we'll be seeing signs that we are all going to come out of this with better family relationships, more concern for humanity and cleansed of all consumerism. I don't think that will happen somehow, but at least now we'll test our capabilities of living without things we thought were essential.

Scrolling up from the most recent message from my cousin today, I saw that photo of the promenade, the beach and the shining blue sea. That freedom has temporarily been taken from us; there's a war to be fought... then I'll plan a holiday.