Day to day, I live with a collection of illnesses which mean I have a shortened life expectancy. During the pandemic, alongside the obvious virus there has been another kind of sickness – the words used by both the government and news outlets when describing the ‘clinically extremely vulnerable’. A troubling side effect of which is the relief attached to the deaths of unwell people; an ‘us’ and ’them’ way of thinking. Despite shielding no longer existing legally, having ended on the 1st April 2021 (and disappearing during intervals throughout the pandemic), disabled people have been warned not to see visitors indoors, to have contact with unvaccinated people and wear masks indefinitely. We have been abandoned. We are shielding in abandon.
Since before the first lockdown in England, I have only left the house 7 times. Six of which were to attend hospital. The image below is the only night sky I have been exposed to. When my lights are out at night I lie back, and watch the above. Trying to remember real stars, instead of these lightly glowing replicas.
Shielding costs the Government in money – it means that they have to pay public facing vulnerable people sick pay or furlough, that they have to deliver food boxes to those unable to get food, that they had to supply a hotline for those facing serious consequences of being alone, to name but a few examples. It concerns me greatly that our Prime Minister said ‘May the bodies pile high in their thousands’, and there hasn’t been a revolution, an ousting of this government, a show of strength that we do truly take care of the most vulnerable, that this country has learned it’s lesson. During the era of Austerity (which ‘ended’ in 2019, despite no restoration of cut services) the UN discovered government cuts were linked to the deaths of over 130,000 disabled people. This piece was important for me to write, in the hope that one day, society, or even just one person will look back in horror.
Listen to Hannah reading :
Answering the three Artful questions
To me, creativity means a gathering, like berries. It means a record but also an outlet. The ability to turn something horrible into something beautiful, and vice versa.
Due to my physical disabilities, in recent years I’ve never really had a proper social life – the drinking pubs for the hell of it, conversations where time has passed impossibly quickly, and I’m late for my next appointment. This is because it takes so much physical energy to get in and out of why wheelchair, to chat with whoever is driving me to my destination, the fact that I need to use a toilet every few hours to empty my ileostomy bag. The discovery and wide use of zoom means that I can have both a career and friends. It has meant I can feed my creativity – means that I’ve written more and gotten better at my craft at an increased rate; because I’ve been able to access as many things as my peers. My concern is that, at the first sign of ‘freedom’ from Covid restrictions, organisations have gone back to their ableist ways – in person exclusivity – despite boasting months earlier that they are now more accessible.
The way we look after our environment which also contains people, is to continue using digital events. It reduces car trips AND includes others. The environment that you personally surround yourself with online is also very important. Listening to dissenting opinions is important, having discussion with others with dissenting opinions is important; but also having safe spaces for yourself – e.g. on Twitter yo can create lists. I have ones which contain only fun things, or my friends, another for work, and then my main Twitter feed for looking at the often Toxic aspects of it.
Hannah Hodgson is a poet living with a life limiting illness. Her work has been published by BBC Arts, The Poetry Society and Magma amongst others. Where I’d Watch Plastic Trees Not Grow was published by Verve in Feb 2021. Her first collection is due from Seren in early 2022. You can find her on Twitter and Instagram @HodgsonWrites and her website is www.hannahhodgson.com.