Days are grim indeed… The PM has been admitted into intensive care, and the Queen spoke to the nation. If anyone was in doubt about how serious things are, that should be enough to put their mind straight again. All we can oppose this virus with is our best British values that were so brilliantly summarized by Her Majesty : “self-discipline, quiet good-humoured resolve, fellow-feeling”. Those words, while being so absolutely true, are so rarely used today. Well, actually, maybe that “self-discipline” and “fellow-feeling” are shared by other heads of state elsewhere. But no one abroad ever spoke of keeping up a “good-humoured resolve”. Would you imagine the French President asking his fellow countrymen to maintain “une determination pleine de bonne humeur” ? If he did, all medias and medics alike would think the Corona virus has damaged his brain. In other words, no one would understand the message. But in Britain, this rings a bell. It echoes like a contemporary version of the “Business as usual”, so famously used during the Blitz. Not quite sassy, but certainly cocky in the way it defies the odds with the least probable weapons: normality and humour. Yes indeed, things may be going very wrong, looking very dark, we love to keep them at arm’s length with just that, a strange capacity to smile and stick to day-to-day life. In times where “social distancing” is so vital, “problem distancing” is no different and just as necessary. To that end, keeping a “good-humoured resolve” is exactly what is needed.

Over here in France, the Queen’s address was surprisingly well covered by the medias, and even more surprisingly well spoken of. Usually, anything from the Crown raises ironical comments from the French, but not this time.  One could even sense a feeling of envy that a country should be blessed with such luck: having a historical character to rally the Nation together, miles away from the usual politics and their global insincerity.

So, when the figures of the daily dead soar, that one gets the feeling that death could pick one’s life anywhere, anytime, it is wonderful to be reminded that a good-humoured resolve is most needed. Such a reminder gets you back on track, like a good pat on the back, a familiar feeling that, yes indeed, we are right to keep an interest in the bees, the birds and the weather, in the silliest of books, in cooking and poetry, in any meaningless little thing that puts a smile on our faces. Just that and carry on. Laugh at yourself and at your confinement days, smile at the red-robin’s spring parade, sip every drop of morning dew because it is so wonderful, help who you can help, and grin at the bug’s horrible face. Show this beast that it can take many things from us, but it can’t destroy our good-humoured resolve. That’s how, one day, we shall out-live it. Vaccines and medicine will help too, of course, but we are not there yet, leaving the matter, in the meantime, solely in our hands, and above all, in our mind. I fear not. Come what may, self-discipline, quiet good-humoured resolve and fellow-feeling will get us through to the other side. That was very well coined indeed, Madam. Thank you, and best wishes to the PM.   

Jerome CASEY, © 2020, all rights reserved