Firstly because viruses can’t be wished away, however much we wish they could, and second because I think I might have become institutionalised, which first happened to me when I was aged about six and which I wouldn’t want to go through again.
I was admitted to hospital with a big lump under my chin which everybody called ‘swollen glands’, although nobody told me what glands were because it was none of my business.
It was decided that I would have to have the swelling, or maybe the glands, surgically removed, which I’m sure would now be done in a day, but which then required me to stay in hospital for what seemed like half of my short lifetime – maybe a fortnight or more.
My mother explained to me later that this was due to an administrative oversight – the hospital forgot to discharge me and my parents forgot to ask for their son back.
I was the only child in a men’s ward, probably because, this, being the 1950s, the children’s ward was packed with victims of polio, TB, diphtheria, rickets and other diseases a lot more dangerous – to children at least.
This gave me a special status; I became, for the first and last time in my life, a kind of novelty or ward pet, particularly to the nurses, who must have welcomed treating a patient who felt perfectly well and asked for no more medication than a daily dollop of yeast extract, a thick, syrupy substance once given to all children to ‘build them up’ and now almost certainly now banned under obesity guidelines.
When things got sorted out I remember sobbing uncontrollably on the way home from the hospital. I had become institutionalised; so used to living on the ward, that I couldn’t imagine life outside it.
Now I wonder whether my unease over relaxing the coronavirus rules is connected with this institutionalisation. Perhaps I have become, over the lockdown months, so comfortable with the present limitations that I’m frightened of moving on from them.
On the other hand, it could be that, having invested so much time and effort into the collective effort to stem the disease, I don’t want to go out into the great wide world and walk straight into a stray coronavirus particle.