I’m on the train, heading for the village, one of many exiting Budapest this evening. The train station was busier than usual for Thursday afternoon. It seems as if lots of people are heading home to the folks rather than riding out the state of emergency in rented flats in the city.
My trip was planned. Whether I’m back up next week is in the hands of the gods. My schedule for the next five weeks, so meticulously planned, is in tatters. St Patrick’s Day celebrations in Budapest have been cancelled. Visitors expected next week are staying at home. Workshops hang in the balance. And I’m one of the lucky ones.
With the closure of cinemas and theatres, lots of people are out of work. With a cap of 100 on indoor events, many of the city’s larger pubs and restaurants will have to close (at worst) or see a drastic drop in revenue (best case) as they limit their capacity. Companies that can arrange for employees to work from home are doing so. Those who can’t might have to stop what they do. The knock-on effects of this preventative measure are enormous. Yet the potential damage if none is taken are bigger still. Officials are damned if they do, and damned if they don’t.
My mum just messaged me. The first death in Ireland from the coronavirus was in the village next to ours at home. A few kilometres from where they live. That’s a little close for comfort. I’m worried about them. But my dad told me not to come home as I might bring it with me. I could pick it up at the airport. Safer that I stay put. He’s right.
But I’m on my way to a village full of elderly people. If Corona comes calling, it’ll be decimated. My neighbours know how much I travel. Will it be my fault? Am I unwittingly carrying the virus to them? That we can have it and not know is frightening. But I’m not coughing. Any shortness of breath is down to my state of fitness. And my fevers are really flashes or flushes. Still, I might skip mass on Sunday and keep myself to myself, even more than usual.
On the bright side, the thought of two, three, four, even five consecutive weeks in the one place is very appealing. I’m thinking of all the stuff I can get done. I wonder will this semi-enforced stay-at-homeness have a positive effect? Will we rediscover what it’s like to live a slow life, to get around to doing all those things we never had time to stay home and do? To catch up on those phone calls we’ve been meaning to make? I’ve caught myself envisioning war-time-like rationing, hearing rumours of fresh bread in the next village over, and having to walk or cycle there because there is no petrol. Fanciful, I know. Perhaps the coronavirus is wake-up call to remind us of what’s really important.
Wherever you’re riding out this particular storm, be well.