Living In Uncertain Times

By Bernie Bell

We watched a recorded episode of ‘Derry Girls’, in which Gerry and Mary go to the cinema, meaning to get some time to themselves. Then Mary’s sister and her boy-friend turn up, then Mary’s Dad and Uncle turn up, and it ends up being more or less like an evening at home.

Then, the light goes on, and the Manager of the cinema says that there is a security alert, and everyone has to leave.

I was thinking, that’s what life was like for people in Derry and Belfast, for decades.  They didn’t know what might happen if they went out – to the cinema, shopping – or to school. The agent of their death or maiming could be a bomb, a British soldier – or a man in a balaclava.

Staying home wasn’t necessarily the answer, as there could be a knock on the door, and a man in a mask could be there, and…….

The uncertainties of life in the present times, are sometimes likened to the War years.  Ian Collins has an exhibition in Northlight Gallery, Stromness, entitled ‘Signs of  Uncertainty’, in which he presents images which get us thinking about when things are……not quite right – a bit unsettling.

Ian has had previous exhibitions of images of some of the ‘strangeness’ remaining from the war years – those, now empty, structures, still in our landscape today – sometimes hard do tell what they were for originally.

I think there are comparisons to be made, and those comparisons can be extended out, to other times and situations of uncertainty – and we have always got through them.

There are differences, now, as the ‘enemy’ is invisible. Not a soldier from another land, something from the sky,  or even one of our own people – but a virus – invisible.

The feelings of uncertainty introduced into our lives, which this constant state of threat produces, can be similar.

A big difference is that it is, to some extent, with us, to take action to defeat this enemy.  In war-time, and in the Troubles, what happened was mostly in the hands of those in charge – the Government and military.

With the Coronavirus, it’s up to us – to wear a mask, clean our hands and surfaces, keep our distance from each other.

These are uncertain times, but we can do something about it. In the other times of uncertainty which I’ve mentioned, people, the public, played their part by holding life – and a semblance of normality – together as much as they could, providing a ‘back-up’ for those  actually involved in the fight – whatever form that fight might take.

Now, Governments can make sensible rules ( or not!), but it is down to us, the people, to behave in a way which can defeat the virus, by taking some simple steps to protect ourselves, and others.

We are the ultimate ‘front-line ‘in this situation, and it could help us to feel less uncertain, less a prey to happenstance, and more like the agents of our own fate, if we adapt how we live, to avoid giving the ‘enemy’ any in-roads into our lives.

Having said all that  – I listen to music and wonder when I’ll get out for a dance again.  I’m pining for Lucano’s, Helgis, The Indian Garden, and…….. the Peedie Chippie. Lord, but I miss the Peedie Chippie!

I took all the maps and books which we’d got for our holiday to Skye, which was meant to happen last April, and put them in a cupboard, as seeing them was just making me feel glum.

“What the eye don’t see, the heart don’t grieve over.”

It looks like we won’t be going to Skye this coming Spring either.  I’m hoping that we will do so, before I’m too knackered to enjoy it!  Meanwhile, we stay home, and we persevere – which is a good strategy in times of uncertainty.

These are hard times, and uncertain times, especially for the young, but a difference is that, to some extent, we can take control. Each of us, personally, can fight this enemy.

Taking action, feeling that we can each make a difference, can help a lot in a time when our way of life and our usual certainties have been shaken.

So, here it is, you’ve seen it many times, but it is the basis of how we can each take action – take positive action – to try to restore some kind of recognizable order in our lives.  It’s  the sign for our uncertain times.

In the war, and in the Troubles, folk could still go out – to the cinema, go to dances, get together – but they might then become a target. They had to make that choice, whether to chance it, or not.

For now, we need to stay apart, then the microscopic ‘enemy’  shouldn’t be able to get to us. And that choice is for us to make, too.

I know, you’ve heard it all before – but seeing ‘Derry Girls’ made me think that we’re not so badly off, after all. 

We’re all Derry Girls now, even James.

And here’s what might be Sister Michael’s version of the FACTS sign…..

Feckin’ behave yerself.

Act yer age.

Cop yerself on.

Try not to be an eejit.

Stop feckin‘ moaning!

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