The plight of one group of workers affected by the lockdown has been ignored. I mean those who work at home. Not those who work at home now – but those who usually work at home and whose domain and routine have been invaded by other members of the household banished from their workplaces elsewhere.
I mostly write and broadcast about Scottish football and the bulk of my work is done from the desk beside my study window. In normal times, I attend three or four – maybe even five – games a week, plus associated media conferences, which gets me out of the house, but it is at my desk that I write scripts that can be relayed to BBC Radio Sport in Manchester, or Radio 4, BBC Scotland, BBC Northern Ireland and RTE in Dublin vis the ISDN connection on the other side of the room.
For the Daily Telegraph
and its Sunday counterpart – or for the Scottish Review and other esteemed outlets – I rely on that universal means of communication, the Wi-Fi router on the adjacent bookshelves. Or rather, I did.
This now being the designated workplace of my wife and younger daughter – plus periodic appearances by the elder daughter – have placed unprecedented pressure on space and bandwidth. We are fortunate to live off Byres Road in Glasgow's West End in a fairly roomy flat, but the demands of three or four laptops – and the newly exposed limitations of our Wi-Fi provider – prompt periodic eruptions of loud frustration from each of its corners.
At this point you, the equally harassed reader, may say: 'Football – what football? How can you report on a sport which isn't played?'
Well, there might be no football but there is an abundance of games and they are being played out as trials of political and tribal strength behind the scenes, every bit as competitively as anything you would witness on the field of play. The Scottish Professional Football League is trying to settle this season's truncated competitions and pay cash rewards which, for some clubs in the lower divisions, will mean the difference between existence or liquidation.
The task is proving intensely, but predictably, difficult. I have a comprehensive black book of contacts but, with everyone confined to barracks and the air thick with intrigue, it takes very repetitive efforts to cajole – via voicemail, text, email and Messenger – a reply in time for deadlines, which are still being observed in print and on air.
In normal times, I like to take a daily walk, if only to Byres Road, where Waitrose, Tesco, M&S and Iceland – plus a branch of Boots and also Barratt's, Glasgow's best stocked newsagents – are all within a five-minute stroll. Now, during the prescribed exercise break, I keep clear of those pavements, with their long, widely-spaced queues.
Instead, Mrs F and I perambulate the back streets and lanes of the West End, preferably down the middle of the road, to catch unaccustomed views of familiar buildings. Increasingly, though, during the first two weeks of lockdown I was niggled by a vaguely uncomfortable association, which I could not identify. Then it struck me forcibly. The near silence of a de-commercialised world, blessed by distinctly audible birdsong, but populated by passers-by who (usually) keep a careful distance from one other with what has become our new ritual of insistent acknowledgement, is Margaret Atwood territory.
We are in Gilead.
Yet, a mile away in Cadder, single mums try to cope with fractious toddlers in council flats without the luxury of a garden or communal space where social distancing is so simple. These heroic women are the true narrators of The Handmaid's Tale
for our latter days.
In one respect, though, COVID-19 has come at the best time imaginable for all of us in Scotland. What if it had first struck six months earlier, just as the days began to darken, the temperature slumped and the weather began its annual scouring of the population? What would have been the economic and social consequences of lockdown on Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year? And of waiting for 20 minutes outside a store in freezing, wind-whipped rain or sleet?
It could have been so much worse. It might yet be so. But the darling buds of spring are signifiers of the power of rebirth and the earth's renewed vivacity. Hope we see you on the other side.