In January I began to feel a premonition that something dangerous was spreading. Now, a week before Easter, my worst fears have been confirmed. We are now facing a highly serious outbreak, for which there appears to be no cure. Ever since “Veganuary”, we have seen more and more cases of veganism in the UK and beyond.
Before this, I naively regarded vegans as gentle, harmless creatures quietly going about their everyday lives, virtuously filling their baskets with tinned pulses and other forms of dietary self-flagellation. But when they’re faced with a world pandemic, good grief, it appears they show no mercy. I say this as a mother of a two-year-old boy who has an egg and dairy allergy. You might call him an “involuntary vegan” apart from his weakness for sausages and fish fingers. But ever since lockdown was announced, can I get hold of soya yoghurts to ensure he is provided with some source of daily calcium? No. Have I managed to purchase some dairy-free chocolate eggs to execute an Easter Egg Hunt for Sunday? No. Oat Milk, anyone? Forget it! Even some mediocre-looking vegan chocolate bunnies which I added to my online shop never arrived and were most likely snaffled by a bloodthirsty vegan. I will never again, underestimate these people.
My approach to vegans will not be the only thing which changes once this crisis is over. My first resolution is to stop worrying so much. If anything teaches you that we should save tomorrow’s worries for tomorrow, it is the sudden arrival of a global pandemic, where so many of the meetings and deadlines we fretted about have been cancelled or postponed.
Second, I hope to be more self-sufficient and have already applied to the local council for an allotment space. (There are only 57 people ahead of us in the queue!) Third, I intend to be more supportive of local businesses. Understandably, most supermarkets are reserving online slots for highly vulnerable people only and although I’m 29 weeks pregnant and trying to avoid crowded places, I don’t qualify for a lot of online options. Thank God, then, for local businesses who are playing a crucial role in keeping us fed and watered, with many of them delivering too.
Above all, I will never take for granted again the freedom to attend Mass. Holy Week is hands down my favourite time in the liturgical year and I will be very sorry to miss all that the Triduum has to offer, particularly the Mass of the Lord’s Supper. I’m not convinced that streaming Mass is the answer either: when we brought out the laptop on Sunday (we don’t own a TV), all that could be heard was a toddler’s ear-piercing screams for POSTMAN PAAAAATTTTT! But it has been wonderful to read online all the other creative ways in which parents are planning to mark the most important time in the Church’s year. One lady hopes to serve roast lamb for all the family on Maundy Thursday; afterwards, they will wash one another’s feet. On Good Friday one couple will encourage their children to venerate the Cross and take turns to read from the Passion, while another family will mark the Easter Vigil with a bonfire in the garden. And here’s a suggestion I saw for early birds: a dawn service outside on Easter Sunday.
Although we should avoid stockpiling, it makes sense to have a good supply of certain staples in the house, should one have to self-isolate for two weeks. As it happens, my survival recipe of choice (all the ingredients are non-perishables) happens to be one of our all-time favourite meals. What’s more, it’s Friday-friendly for Catholics. All you need are anchovies, garlic, capers, black olives, tinned tomatoes and pasta and you have the perfect Pasta Puttanesca – which does, yes, translate as Tart’s Pasta. Nevertheless, it is delicious. Do try it.
The world does have an apocalyptic whiff to it at present, no matter how hard one tries to put on a brave face. There is something incredibly sad about empty playgrounds and deserted roads and collecting your child from a nursery where there’s still lots of brightly decorated pegs with names but no coats. Sometimes it feels as if life will remain like this forever, with no date fixed for when we might finally go back to normal.
During the car ride to collect my son, a familiar song comes on about “boarded up windows,” “empty streets” and churches with no congregation. Springsteen’s “City of Ruins” was, I have read , written about returning to his hometown which had been run down by economic devastation. As I stared at the empty road ahead, I wondered how my own neighbourhood – which once bustled with bars, shops and cafes – will look once this crisis is over. How would we begin again? Springsteen closes with a prayer:
I pray for the strength, Lord I pray for the faith, Lord We pray for your love, Lord We pray for the lost, Lord We pray for this world, Lord.