Diary: April 2021
Introduction I’ve been keeping a diary throughout my adult life, which sadly is longer than I care to admit. Most of it is complaining. The rest may or may not find its way out of my pocket notebook and into this site.
11 April I had promised Sunshine an excursion to the mountains. Though a man of routine, our weekend activities surely need renewal. There’s so many coffees one can have in a day. My plan was to go for a ride to a nearby mountain, Macheras, and be back, shower, and get ready for departure by 10:30am. When I reached my parent’s home where Johnny spent the night, I was shivering as I had gotten caught up in the rain for most of my way back. In the shower, as I was looking at my near frozen toes, I was wondering why on earth I keep making these bad decisions? My desire to go for a ride was such that I underplayed the weather forecast and not only went out but also didn’t get a jacket or overshoes.
12 April I am working on a deadline (end of the month), which is quite a long way out of my comfort zone. I don’t mind; if anything, I enjoy the challenge. I didn’t have the luxury to focus on a single task in years. The last time was during my PhD. This one, however, is so important that everything else – and it’s a lot – has been put on hold. Including my life. My escape from what is realistically not a pleasant situation is reading P.G. Wodehouse, whose work I’ve only encountered two weeks ago. I’ve been through a couple of his books already, which read like a brilliantly written British sit-com. A very enjoyable antidote to the bleakness of our COVID-infected times.
13 April My second week back in the pool after the easing of the restrictions. The pool is uncovered, yet heated. It was 10°C today and, given my low tolerance for cold, I wasn’t keen on attending. Alas, consistency in sports is achieved only if the element of choice is suppressed. Tuesdays and Thursdays are pool days, no matter what. This internal dictatorship is to be tolerated only insofar as the actual act of exercise generates positive feelings. Otherwise, it is another element of coercion to our already stretched lives.
I came home from work at 7:30pm, pissed that Johnny would have been asleep. Thankfully, he missed his bedtime by half an hour; enough time for a hug, a kiss, and a story about his buddy at kindergarten who pushed him and then refused to apologize. Love is the immense joy of these trivialities.
14 April My morning run was rather painful. After the 6th kilometre I could barely walk due to a persistent injury to my underfoot. I was four kilometres away from home and had to limp back. I am concerned as running is the most enjoyable and time-efficient of the three sports I enjoy (the other two being swimming and cycling). Going for a run while listening to Stephen Fry reading P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves novels is what keeps me sane; my therapy; a mood-stabilising exercise.
My mum received the first dose of the Pfizer vaccine against COVID-19. My dad and in-laws already had it. The US apparently suspended the Johnson&Johnson vaccine, which uses the same technology as the one developed by AstraZeneca. Both are rather unpopular in Cyprus, which means that we will not be moving on with our lives anytime soon. I dread how we have put our lives on pause, suspending our hopes, dreams, and desires. Suspended lives, dormant futures.
I saw a graph today, which I fact checked afterwards; apparently the risk of having a blood clot as a side effect to the AstraZeneca vaccine — the big deal in Europe right now — is estimated at 0.0004%, while the risk of a blood clot due to COVID is about 16%. Fear always trumps rationality. Data sometimes helps, but only if provided in a timely manner. The truth is rarely a good-enough reason to revise a long-held, strong opinion.
15 April I am working for most of my waking time. I don’t mind as this new project is challenging. I only wish I could spend some more hours with Johnny. I’ll make it up to him over the weekend, which is why I declined a very tempting offer for a 160km long ride with two good friends.
Around noon, I took a 20 minute break for lunch. I watched the Deputy Minister for Research, Innovation and Digital Policy, explain why the registration portal for vaccinations went out of service — again. The Deputy Minister explained that for each person entitled to get the vaccine, five persons were trying to book one on their behalf. Which is to say that people were trying to ensure that their loved ones get the better vaccine, in this case that of Pfizer or Moderna. The Deputy Minister repeatedly referred to “people in a frenzy”. This caught me by surprise. I thought I was immune to their arrogance. I felt offended. Not only do they subject people to this indignity, they also blame people for wanting the best for their loved ones. Rather than assume responsibility for not distributing the vaccines based on medical profiles, they once more shift the blame to citizens. Rather than engaging in an aggressive information and enlightenment campaign, they once more point the finger elsewhere.
16 April I had a chat with my very smart, well, and, for the most part, privately-educated friends about the political situation in Cyprus. The conversation went on multiple tangents but the consensus was that the current government has failed on all fronts. Admittedly not a revolutionary conclusion given the circumstances. Then we discussed the presidential elections (the ones to be held after the forthcoming parliamentary elections). My liberal, centre-left and centre-right friends, to my dismay, were in agreement as to the characteristics that an ideal candidate should not have; according to them the ideal candidate should not be a lawyer or someone working in the financial services. My assertion that a prominent human rights lawyers would make an excellent candidate given his political views and the fact that his law firm did not get involved with the golden passports saga was not well-received. The other consensus that should not, really, have surprised me, yet it does every single time, is that they couldn’t care less about the various candidates’ positions on the Cyprus problem, ranking it low in the hierarchy of relevant issues, with corruption topping that list by a long-way.
17 April Nearly 800 new COVID infections were identified today in Cyprus. Such high numbers will lead us into a de-facto lockdown, as most will either get infected or be close contacts with others who did, necessitating self-isolation. Whether people will comply is a different story. The authorities are passive, watching the number of infections rise and the capacities of the hospitals nearing exhaustion. I suppose few may challenge the conclusion that political decision making in Cyprus is based on narrow self-interest. If we also take into consideration the upcoming Easter break and the forthcoming parliamentary elections, one can easily anticipate a rise in the tolerance of the authorities for COVID-related deaths. In other words, they will be willing to endure unnecessary deaths to avoid additional restrictions or another lockdown — potentially necessary as a product of bad policy — as it will adversely affect them come election day.
18 April It was boiling hot today. Stupidly enough, I thought it was a good idea to take Johnny on his little bicycle and trespass into a nearby school. The rationale was simple enough: no cars, no people, everything is fenced, and we’re on the inside — the perfect place for him to roam around “freely”. (I do realise that it is the equivalent of an open air prison). The heat was such that both of us got exhausted in less than an hour and had to rush home. It was really dangerous to walk these 300-400 metres separating our flat from the school, as our neighbours consider the surrounding pavement area their personal parking space. I indicate my displeasure by raising their screen wipers, but I genuinely don’t think there’s any room for communication, understanding, or agreement with these savages. Obviously our perception of reality is fundamentally different.
19 April I had coffee with two friends. I know it’s not advisable given the epidemiological situation, butI really needed a break from non-stop work and from being at home all day. We ended up chatting for nearly three hours. All about politics. Although the discussion was bleak — what else could it be given the circumstances? — I was left with a positive feeling; one generated when similarly-minded people get together. For loneliness and isolation are consequences of political geekery, especially for those of us without strong attachments to political parties.
20 April One of those grey days that go by as if they have occurred. Early morning swim, a lot of work, rapid test, home, basic interactions with the family, dinner, a beer, sleep. If each day is scarce, how can we waste them? A hubris, given our mortality. On the other hand, not all our days can involve something exciting or rewarding and, contrary to mainstream belief, carpe diem is not conducive to living a fulfilling life (that won’t end tomorrow).
22 April More than 900 daily infections. The government, rather than taking appropriate measures, merely said that they will not ease the restrictions further. Then they even declared that they will indeed introduce additional relaxations to accommodate the Easter break, notably for church ceremonies, despite skyrocketing infections. In the meantime, hospitals are over capacity. Medical staff reportedly administer oxygen in the corridors and in parked ambulances. Now the authorities are talking about a potential lockdown. Basically they messed up with unstructured relaxations and are now in a lose-lose situation. They are losing the summer tourists, they are risking upsetting people with restrictions over the Easter, which will then affect their electoral prospects in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. The vaccination programme is also not going well as people are reluctant to get the AstraZeneca vaccine and the vaccination portal keeps on failing as people rush to book the Pfizer vaccine for their loved ones, admittedly the best of what is available. Of course, rather than assume responsibility for their multiple failures, they keep on blaming people for wanting the best for their families and for not complying with the ever-changing measures, which the authorities consistently fail to enforce and monitor. A total mess, all their doing.
23 April They announced a lockdown for two weeks, starting Monday. A necessary evil given the circumstances. But let’s not forget. This situation is an outcome of gross mismanagement and bad decision-making, notably as regards the unstructured de-escalation of the restrictive measures, which did not allow an analysis of the risks associated with each sector, as well as the understaffing and lack of adequate investment in public healthcare.
I maintain that the policy of this government in relation to the pandemic is driven more by private interests rather than by public health considerations. The latest addition to the long list of examples relates to the operation of churches. Initially, the announcement of the Ministerial Council indicated that church attendance is prohibited, with the exception of Easter Saturday. A few hours later the President issued an announcement cancelling the former, indicating that churches will remain open and accessible throughout the “holy” week. Just like that. Did it take more than a phone call?
Personally, I’m glad the churches will remain open. My wife and in-laws have strong religious beliefs and I know how much it would have otherwise cost them. Alas, once more, different rules for different groups, and policy based on political pressure, with the most powerful getting what they demand. It makes me feel like a second-class citizen.
24 April I went on a long ride in anticipation of the impending lockdown, which will limit outings to one per day. Essentially, it prohibits exercise, unless one prioritises it over family, going to the supermarket, pharmacy and so on. It was one of those rides that start with dawn and finish around midday. I was absolutely exhausted, not only because of the length and the elevation, but also because of the weather. It is amazing how better our bodies perform once they acclimate to certain weather conditions. In my case, it didn’t get the memo on the arrival of the summer.
25 April I was exhausted from Saturday’s ride so I went on a very slow, recovery ride, followed by a walk in the park with two friends and their newborn, while keeping appropriate distances. After lunch I did some work, which I thought would take me a couple of hours but I finished past dinner time. I am exhausted on all fronts.
26 April What was initially announced as a hard lockdown, was relaxed to enable churchgoers to attend service, which was then further relaxed by waving the SMS movement requirement for them. One can thus move freely for most of the day, either due to work or church attendance. I’m all for people exercising their religious beliefs, but this activity should take place within the time constraints that apply to the rest of us. For instance, I can exercise provided that I use my one SMS for this purpose; I don’t see why churchgoers are exempt from this requirement. Reportedly, the President took it upon him, despite the Minister of Health’s advice who advocated for a proper lockdown. This is a usual predicament for the Minister who is often ignored by his boss. Make what you will of it.
A much necessary public discussion is ongoing as regards the latest declaration of the Minister that, post-lockdown, certain activities will only be permitted to those vaccinated or recently infected by the virus or holding a negative test within the previous 72 hours. As much as I am pro-vaccination as our only way out of the pandemic, I think this vaccination pass violates fundamental freedoms.
Speaking of the vaccination programme, the Minister also declared that GPs will be able to vaccinate younger people (my age) at their surgeries. I’ll be first in line if this materializes. However, in usual government fashion, they did not first discuss this with the personal doctors and did not take the logistics into consideration.
The political elite departed for Geneva for an international conference on the Cyprus problem, with low expectations. Weirdly, the president who wants to promote a solution based on bizonal, bicommunal federation is being accompanied by many anti-federalists.
I remain exhausted and really don’t look forward to working on Friday, which is otherwise a bank holiday.
27 April The honorary president of social democratic EDEK, a veteran politician, passed away yesterday at the age of 100. A man who lived a full life and, irrespective of whether one agreed with him or not, always fought for what he believed was the best interest of Cyprus and its people. I have fond memories of “the doctor”, having grown up in a political house with parents who idolised him as EDEK life-long supporters. One really enters adulthood when they deconstruct the mythical childhood image of their parents (and their idols). So did I. Yet, I have fond memories of the doctor, an idol of my teen-hood. I was amazed seeing him dedicate his limited time talking with us, 16 year olds, exchanging views, listening to what we had to say. I also recall how kind and respectful he was towards his brilliant wife. These are attributes of a great person. May he rest in peace.
28 April I think I’m going to meet the bloody deadline. I have been working 12-hour days for the past many weeks. I don’t mind — I feel a sense of achievement in completing such a complicated task. Small wins keep us going amidst all the pandemic-induced gloominess dominating our lives. It’s Easter break soon, so I plan on spending quality time with my boy and Sunshine. If I manage to get a cheeky ride or a few runs it’ll be a bonus. I might also take a couple of days off next week — we are allowed to carry over 60 days of annual leave accumulated over the years, and it’s usually colleagues who work many years in the organization who end up with so much untaken leave; but, here I am, with some 45 days to spare.
29 April The “unofficial” international meeting on the Cyprus problem in Geneva was completed. The low expectations preceding the conference were confirmed. I wasn’t able to follow the developments closely, as I was mostly working. I was spared the desperation that comes along with witnessing yet another failure. The Cyprus problem is masking everything and muting all discussions relating to the day-to- day issues faced by us all, poisoning the public discourse, giving the go-ahead to the political elite to govern under the mantra of “necessity”, whereby the rule of law is skewed depending on the political appetite of those in power, under the all-ecompassing pretext of the unresolved Cyprus problem.
30 April I am officially on leave, possibly until Wednesday. Lockdown generally sucks but it does match my socialisation needs, which are equivalent to those of a hermit monk. I went for a ride while Sunshine was at church, attempted a walk upon her return but Johnny was tired and cranky so we bailed, had lunch, slept a bit, spent some time under the bed covers that turned into a makeshift imaginary tent purposed to keeping wolfs outside, and then trespassed into a nearby school where Johnny could cycle freely and I could read LRB in peace. I was cheering him after every 400m loop as he was coming to me to “refuel” (drink water). There is nothing more enjoyable than the expression of pure joy in the face of a happy child. Adults always want something more; it’s so rare that we are fully content and happy in the moment.