This afternoon I did something apparently normal. I went out of the house into the beautiful March sunshine. The roads were peaceful. Not many people about. I walked round the edge of a nearby park. The grass was fresh and green. A few children on bikes and scooters with their parents.
And yet this was not normal. Last night the prime minister told us that, apart from specific essential reasons, which were listed, we needed to stay inside, that to go outside for other reasons was now illegal.
An extremely urgent and crucial measure to protect people from contracting the coronavirus. Indeed there have been many voices saying we should have done this sooner.
I went to the small pharmacy on the corner, with the lovely pharmacist who takes such care with my mum’s medication. On my last visit only one customer was allowed to enter the shop at a time, to try to stop the spread of the virus. Today I was asked to stand at the door and indicate to the staff I was there. The staff member then came to the door, opened it, I stood right back and we talked over the space on the pavement about my mum’s medication. The topic of conversation was completely normal, the setting and context horribly not.
I exchanged a few words with a nursing assistant also waiting outside. She shook her head and said it felt surreal. I nodded. My brain was struggling, really struggling, to take it in. Things looked normal, the sunshine was beautiful, and yet there was an unseen horror, in the background, terrifying us.
Later I realised it reminded me of a feeling I’d had in a totally different context: standing outside the nuclear weapons base at Faslane on a beautifully sunny day in December. I went there as part of a group from the 15th International Conference on War Tax Resistance and Peace Tax Campaigns.
That night I wrote: “Still feeling quiet, and part of me frightened and frozen inside. Went to HM Naval Base Clyde today, where submarines carrying the UK’s Trident nuclear weapons are based. Almost impossible to take in the horror, alongside the beauty.”
In one way there’s no link, a microscopic virus, a nuclear weapons base. And yet … Finding it very difficult to comprehend the scale of a horror because it is not immediately in front of us, we can’t see it. Things looking normal. Feeling terrified in the face of a horror. Very human fear. Very human vulnerability. An unimaginable horror demanding we totally re-set our priorities. Make drastically different decisions.
The National Audit Office estimated that the UK spent £5.2 billion on its nuclear weapons programme in 2018 / 2019. We paid for that £5.2 billion through our taxes.
Now, in March 2020, what do we wish that money had been spent on?
HM Naval Base Clyde: Karen Robinson