I long for those heady, happy days of 2019 when ‘cancelled’ innocently referred to someone being hounded out of their job by thousands of ideological fanatics because of their opinion; rather than its 2020 meaning of “being called off”.
Everything has been cancelled until at least June. Literally everything. Hundreds and thousands of weddings, holidays of a lifetime, sports events, plays, TV programmes, concerts; everything. I feel for them, even for those things that usually irritate. I’m not a fan of Eurovision, for example, but I can appreciate that so many people have put their everything into the event, and for many it will be a crushing blow.
I sort of empathise to some degree because I’ve been working on a book for years and years, hours upon hours, and which was finally finished around the last days of 2019. I put a lot of work into it, to the detriment of everything else. My father cut off his head and fried it in garlic in the hope of attracting my attention; I scarcely looked up from my work. Etc etc.
But just around the same time as those final corrections were being put in place, medical authorities in a Chinese city called Wuhan began noticing a cluster of pneumonia cases – and the rest is history. Now we’re in this strange new situation, and I’ve finally started to appreciate that cliché “like living in a bad dream”.
Like other authors, I cancelled my book launch because I didn’t want to spread the virus and risk more lives; all TV and radio interviews have been cancelled, and now Amazon will stop restocking books.
I don’t feel at all hard done by. Every author is in the same position and it’s far, far worse for people in other artistic industries; for playwrights and theatre producers it’s just heartbreaking. And, of course, this all pales compared to what medical professionals are going through.
While I was very anxious about the publication, of scathing reviews, terrible sales and general public humiliation, this crisis has at least had a small salutary effect, making me appreciate what’s important; if everyone I love comes out of 2020 healthy, I will consider it a good year for me. Besides which, not everything is in our hands and sometimes, for all our great abilities as a species, we’re still at the mercy of powers and forces greater than us.
When these dark times are over, we will also really appreciate normal life in a way many of us haven’t for some time — the freedom, the company, the prospect of watching the football or seeing a band, or enjoying a beer on a sunny day with friends. And that day will come. And when it does, you will all buy my book.