So that was January. Turning over in bed onto my left side, I feel a slight discomfort and remember that, jostling for position in the month’s high notes—with snow, some of the Ford Madox Ford material I’ve been looking at, the cat’s developing relationship with a table tennis ball and probably the best venison spaghetti Bolognese I’ve yet made—is my first shot of Pfizer vaccine. That is, the one made by BioNTech in Germany, then sent to Pfizer in Belgium to be formulated and bottled.
I went to the local surgery rather than a football stadium, and it was all very efficient, though every patient had to wait for fifteen minutes afterwards, to make sure there were no serious reactions to the vaccine, so I was in close proximity to more people than at any time in the past ten months except, possibly, when I had my flu and pneumonia vaccinations in October. But everyone was masked—medical grade in my case, at least—and sitting a safe distance apart.
A positive touch in these strange times, for sure, and the whole vaccination process so far is a huge credit to the NHS – though here’s Jeremy Farrar, head of the Wellcome Trust, pointing out that 2021 could be a lot less predictable than 2020:
‘From last January onwards, we knew this was a novel virus for which we had no immunity. We knew it was transmitted from human to human, and while it often triggered no illness at all it could also end in death. Once we knew that last January, then 2020 became predictable. Unfortunately, we are now entering a year whose outcome is far less predictable. The virus is evolving and changing, and so that is reducing our capacity to cope with it – and that means we are really going to be stretched.’
In Elizabeth Bowen’s The Hotel, Sydney Warren thinks: ‘“It is all very well to escape to the future and think it will always be that; but this is the end of the future.”’ More encouraging, perhaps—and not in a novel— George Yeats (Georgie Hyde-Lees), electing to remain for the present in Dublin, wrote to her husband, W. B. Yeats, then in London, on 1 February 1923. ‘It seems strange to me that I have no feeling of fear over the future, but this very lack of anxiety increases my belief that there is no need for fear, for if I do not fear for you when you are my whole world surely my instinct is right?’
I like the incident that Alice Miller mentions when discussing her first novel, More Miracle Than Bird, which centres on George Yeats. Approached by a man who asked her how it felt to live with a genius, George answered: “Oh, all right, I never notice.”
I think, on the whole, I’ll try to balance a fair bit of noticing with not too much prediction. Until March, at least.