Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Seven Hundred Thirty Seven

They walk along the muddy laneway, avoiding the deepest puddles they can just make out in the meagre light of the pre-dawn. Calves are bawling somewhere off in the gloom. Their mothers respond in low tones, chewing their cud. There is a touch of snow atop the grass that edges the path and beyond in the surrounding fields, a glimmering veneer that arrived sometime in the night and will be gone as soon as the sun rises fully.

They stop at the shed first, slipping inside as quietly as they can, flicking on a light in the corner. The two cows stir slightly at their entrance, neither bothering to rise. One has a calf curled up beside her, born the night before, its hair dry but still with a sheen from the placenta that once surrounded it. The other is alone yet, chewing patiently. Taking her time, one of them says.

They leave the shed and walk through the nearby corrals, bouncing flashlights off the cows who look on indifferently familiar with this routine. There are no calves to be found in the straw bedding or anywhere else in the pens, unusual for this time of year. They notice one cow has a full udder and is standing with her tail held away from her body. Without a comment one of them heads to close off the laneway, while the other opens the gate and chases the cow from the pen. She ambles unconcerned along the laneway and they herd her into the shed beside the other two cows.

They leave her there in its warmth, opening up the laneway again and returning home for another hour of sleep before dawn comes and it is time to work.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Seven Hundred Thirty

Today marks the second anniversary of when I began to chronicle the events following the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn’s arrival in these parts. I remember those strange first days vividly. The disorienting timelessness as our daily lives dwindled while the news of the Dread Lord’s spread was ceaseless. We went for walks through the shuttered community and there were signs for St. Patrick’s Day celebrations that never came that stayed up for months. It is harder to recall the weeks or months leading up to his arrival. The day to day ebb and flow of our lives has been lost. That world and those lives are like a distant epoch now. We can never return to it.

Now with inoculations and our other defences against the Dread Lord there is hope that we can resume something like that existence again. It will be different, of course, how could it not be. We have all been changed by the past two years and there is no returning to what was. The roads back are lost and overgrown. We can only carve a new path.

The Grippe Reborn is still here though and will be a part of our lives going forward. His power will ebb and flow, but we know now what is needed to hold him at bay. I am sure there are nasty surprises still in store, but nothing like those first panic-stricken days, when dread and uncertainty ruled. We know what he is now and that means so much.

The protests in our neighbourhood are also still a part of our lives. Every Saturday a thousand people gather and march in the streets demanding the end of something. All the quarantine measures have been lifted in these parts, but that has only emboldened them. As with the occupiers in the Dominion capital, this is not really about the mandates, if it ever really was. These people are demanding a kind of revolution, an overturning of the order of things, and a return to a world that never was. They want that imposed upon us all in the name of freedom. The police do nothing and the governments announce they are very concerned. And every Saturday our streets are overtaken again.

I am tired of it, so many of us are. Lately there have been people from the community gathering to block the protesters, attempting to take back our neighbourhood. It is hard to see how this ends well. Eventually it will subside, but like the Grippe Reborn it will continue percolating, overwhelmed by the roar of other things, the swell of our lives, never quite receding entirely.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Seven Hundred Twenty Three

A day that is neither winter nor spring, but occupying the nether regions between the two. The sky is overcast with wispy grey clouds that look as though they should dissipate under the glare of the sun, yet they persist throughout the morning chill. The streets are quiet now, with only distant sounds of traffic that disappear as abruptly as they arrive. A few people are about, rushing forward, harried with their heads down, casting nervous glances when they pass by. Above the narrow cloud of a jet stream marks borders that slowly dissolve in the sky.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Seven Hundred Sixteen

One week of war and a new world order and another week of the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn. We have almost forgotten his existence with all the terrible news coming from Ukraine and the dread that it will engulf us all in a conflagration. Yet he persists, no doubt delighted by our inattention, our tired eyes unwilling to look any longer.

In these parts with March upon us, the last of the restrictions has been lifted. Masks are no longer required and gatherings of any size are allowed. We shall see what the results of that are. Some will remain cautious still, of course, but most are happy to be done with all this. I was out yesterday for a coffee and no one who entered the cafe wore a mask and it was the same when I went to get a sandwich for lunch. On our walks to my love’s work in the morning the streets are much busier than they have been as people begin the return to their offices. The institution I work for has announced a graduated return with flexibility, so we shall see when I am asked to go back.

It is strange how normal everything appears after two years of mostly living under quarantine strictures. I suppose last summer it was much the same, but that felt very different. Then it was a comfort and a celebration. We had just been inoculated and the future it seemed was ours. That ended in disaster and so now I am wary rather than hopeful. The Grippe Reborn has more guises to adopt, more tricks to play and we shall not be free of him for a good long while it seems. If I thought our government’s would be more willing to respond to that eventuality I would feel more comfortable, but I do not.

They have proven themselves feckless and callow, both in this crisis and the crisis engulfing Ukraine. It has been obvious for a long time what Putin was and yet he was allowed to take and take in Ukraine and Georgia and Belarus and elsewhere. His cronies were welcomed with open arms so long as they had money to offer, money stolen from the country and its future. Now, at least, they seem to realize the gravity of their earlier mistakes and are willing to take a strong stand. It almost gives one hope.

As always, things can get worse. They can also get better, but it is hard remember that, let alone keep any faith in it. The future remains unwritten.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Seven Hundred Nine

The crisis in the Dominion capital has seemingly resolved, an emergency declared and then undeclared, the protesters arrested or gone home. There is still much shouting happening in the public square, particularly among the politicians and the media, about whether the government’s actions were necessary, and the consequences for those involved will be a long time in unfurling, but it seems the moment has passed. Governments across the land are reducing their quarantine strictures – in these parts the majority will be removed at the end of the month – so I will be curious to see if the protests that take place in so many cities like ours will continue. I suspect they will, though their ostensible rationale is now absent, but people are angry and want someone to shout at.

We are lurching from one crisis to another without waiting for the others to resolve. Russia has now invaded Ukraine. I hardly know what to say. We stand upon the precipice of something far more dangerous and can only hope we don’t fall into the mire. The edifice of the old world order is slowly crumbling and there are many now jockeying to define what they think the new one will be. Meanwhile all of us must live in fear of what is to come, the things we thought we knew no longer holding true.

There are many among Those Who Came to these parts who are from Ukraine. I can only imagine what they are feeling these days as friends and family now face a terrible, unimaginable future. The Greater Dominions and our allies across the world are all making grand declarations of support for Ukraine, denouncing the actions of Russian leadership as war crimes. Words will not be enough though. We must ensure some kind of price is paid or every despot with designs will decide they can visit destruction upon their neighbours.

As always we have taken our peaceful bounty for granted and now we see how fragile it always was. It has been one thing after another these last two years, a slow and steady dread from which there is never any relief. I hardly know what to make of it anymore, just that I am tired. 

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Seven Hundred Two

Over 700 days with the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn in these parts and it feels like we have begun to truly go mad. We are at the end of our collective ropes, everyone yelling at everyone else, everyone furious even if they’re not sure why, and just exhausted by it all. That it is February, a dreary month at the best of times, does not help matters. It is clear to everyone now that even if, as hoped, the Dread Lord’s influence dwindles as spring arrives, he will return again in the fall in yet another guise and we may be back in this madness yet again, governments forced to enact quarantine measures on a restive population.

The rot and failure of our many institutions has only become starker the longer we have been in this struggle. At first it was just our health systems that buckled under the pressure, a failure of past generations to invest in capacity to manage future crises. But as our politicians have ably demonstrated, they are utterly feckless, unable to look farther ahead than a month or two and completely incapable of seeing beyond the immediate consequences of their decisions and forever repeating their same mistakes.

The crisis brought upon us by the protests against the quarantine protocols has only further exposed this sorry state. The capital of the Dominions remains under a bizarre occupation while municipal, provincial and federal politicians insist others have responsibility to act. Everyone has declared a state of emergency, including the federal government, giving them wide ranging powers, and yet you wouldn’t know it by the way the police are responding, which leads to dark mutterings by some that they are secretly on the side of the protesters. It is unbelievable how ineffectual and paralyzed everyone seems.

The border blockades have at last been cleared, though not without some drama. In these parts, there were a dozen arrests and guns and ammunition seized. Evidently there were plans by a few to kill the police as a first step toward overthrowing the government. Utter madness, but certainly there will be those in the protesters in the capital who have similar plans. That will make the work of the police much more difficult, which is why it is absolutely bizarre they have given them this much time to dig themselves in.

This whole tawdry affair will end soon enough, but not without all of us losing more faith in our governments and institutions. There has been lots of talk that we will have to address these issues in our health system and our institutions “when all this is over.” It is clear now that this will not ever be “over” in the sense that we all thought it would. There is no going back to that world 703 days ago before the Dread Lord arrived.  

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Six Hundred Ninety Five

The occupation of the Dominion capital continues into its second week. It is incredible and utterly baffling that this has been allowed to continue as long as it has, even as the numbers of protesters in the capital dwindle. Those who remain have dug themselves in and the police seem indifferent to enforcing the law. There were protests in all the major cities of the Dominion over the weekend, all of which were easily managed by local authorities, which only leads to more questions about how the gong show in the capital has been allowed to fester.

Here in these parts, the blockade at the border continues, again with dwindling numbers of the fervent, again with the police declining to act. There are further blockades at other border crossings, which have resulted in factory closures and loss of work, which the protesters claim to be their key motivator for protesting. Too many people have lost too much, they claim as they put the trade of an entire nation at risk. All mandates must end before they will stop.

Conservative political parties have decided they must cater to these protesters. In the capital they have made appearances at the rallies and encouraged the protesters to see their action through to its end. Here they have utterly caved into their demands, revoking the inoculation mandate and promising to remove all further quarantine restrictions by the end of the month. This as we have just reached the peak of hospitalizations resulting from the latest guise of the Grippe Reborn. Our premier is desperate, the base of his support is those rural parts of the province who have largely been against any of quarantine protocols and also where the majority of the protesters have been drawn from.

Despite this craven surrender the protesters remain at their blockade at the border. They will return here this weekend as well. Ending all the quarantine protocols will not be enough for them. Even ceasing to give out the inoculations, which they view as some conspiratorial plot, would not be enough. There is nothing that will satisfy them. The protest is its own end. They want to scream and complain and be heard. They want to stand in opposition, to be heroes fighting the good fight. Their anger is incoherent if ones looks at what they are demanding, but understandable once you realize they are against admitting that the Dread Lord has changed anything. They do not want to admit we all have so little control over our lives, that all our existences are contingent on others. The past where they could pretend that was so is gone and they want its return.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Six Hundred Eighty Eight

Every Saturday in a park by our home protesters gather to march the streets against inoculation mandates and other quarantine policies enacted by our governments to protect us from the Dread Lord Grippe Reborn. They shout about how their freedoms are being infringed upon and how tyranny is afoot. Last weekend the protest was as large as I have seen it, as those gathering were in support of another protest taking place at the nation’s capital. Ostensibly that protest was against a mandate for truckers to be inoculated in order to cross the border into the United States, but their rhetoric made it clear they were against all quarantine protocols and the government in general. Another group gathered at the border south of here and blocked off traffic, trapping a number of truckers and the residents of a small town.

There is no doubt that our freedom has suffered in the past two years, with quarantine protocols enacted to varying degrees in different places at different times. The fact there is still a need for such strictures though is due to the protesters and people like them who refuse to do the one thing that would spare them from the Dread Lord and that is get inoculated. In demanding their own freedom from their responsibility to the rest of us, they have also denied us our freedom. The truckers trapped at the border are just trying to do their jobs. Those of us who live in the neighbourhoods where the protests take place are unable to go freely about our days where we live and must suffer from noise and chaos and risk angry confrontations with people who are looking for someone to fight with.

Among those protesting, both here and in the capital, are outright racists and Nazis. My love is afraid to go out when they are around. Worse, the fact that so many here have revealed themselves to be holding such hate in their hearts makes her feel uneasy when she is out on the streets. She thought she knew what people in these parts were like and now she has her doubts. I cannot blame her. I always knew there were hateful, selfish people, as there are no doubt everywhere, but to see so many and to see them so emboldened, presuming that the rest of us agree with them, is disconcerting to say the least.

It is easy to dismiss those protesting as fools. Some, no doubt, are reasonable people who genuinely believe the inoculation mandates and quarantine protocols are a dangerous threat and that they may become permanent fixtures of our lives. I disagree with them, but I can see how events have led them here. Our leaders, especially in these parts have been continually insisting that we cannot live under the protocols and mandates, lifting them too soon and then have been forced to reinstate them. Faced with that, how can you believe a word they say – I certainly don’t. They are craven and will do whatever they feel is to their advantage.

The core of the protesters – those most confrontational – are not reasonable though. They believe in conspiracy theories and worse. They think they are the heroes standing against a Dark Lord of their own creation. Their demands are incoherent – not only the end of all mandates and rules, but the end of the current government. They are certain all the Dominions are on their side, yet we had an election last fall where these very issues were on the ballot and they lost resoundingly.

We are all so tired of this, wondering if it will ever end. I suspect most people just want to be able to go about their days now that they are inoculated, recognizing the need for some care to protect those of us who are more vulnerable. In these parts we can, despite what the protesters say, except when they are around. I wonder now what will happen when various mandates are inevitably rolled back and the ostensible reason for their protests is gone. Will they stop protesting? I suspect not, for they are not done with being heroes yet. It is much easier than just being a person in the world.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Six Hundred Eighty One

When she came of age she fell in love with a local boy and was banished from the Quarter. She had been trained as a teacher in Saskatoon when she finished her schooling and returned home after to take up teaching in a one room school about a day’s journey from where she grew up. He was a local youth with a reputation who had left school because his father was ill and could no longer manage the farm. They began to see each other, but word reached her parents and they were furious, for they had heard tales of this young man, who was given to drinking and partying in a temperance age.

At first her parents left well enough alone, assuming she would come to her senses and the romance would pass. When it didn’t they decided they had no choice but to act. War had broken out by then in Europe and young men across the Greater Dominions were being sent away to fight. The youth was not among them, for his work managing the farm was considered essential. But with so few men around there were opportunities for women and her older brother was able to arrange for her to be sent to the Eastern Dominions where she would do work in radar. There it was assumed her passion for the youth would fade and matters would take a different course.

When the war ended so did her exile. She returned home and looked up the local youth, who had been waiting for her. Her parents, seeing there was no help for it, blessed the union and they were married, a December wedding. They settled on the youth’s land and farmed. She had an eye for cattle and encouraged him to start raising them, which they did. He was restless in those early years, always talking of pulling up stakes and trying something new, having spent his whole life in the Quarter farming. She, having had adventures outside its bounds, was content to remain where they were, close to their families. They would talk of it often and always she would win the day for she wouldn’t leave and he could not imagine leaving her.

The years went by and they had children and became known across the Quarter and beyond for the cattle they raised. This enabled them to travel far and wide, including to see her brother and sister who had moved to America. They went many places neither of them had ever imagined, satisfying his wanderlust. His pride at the farm and their success grew and grew and he forgot ever wanting to leave it all and starting somewhere anew. The Quarter was his home and what made him, he claimed, though he and everyone else knew it was her.

Notes on the Grippe

Being an accounting of the recent and continuing pandemic and its various circumstances, from the perspective of an inhabitant of the regions lately called the Lost Quarter. Dates unknown.

Day Six Hundred Seventy Four

The snow drifted across the highway, restless tendrils stretching from one ditch to the other. An endless white world surrounded the narrow strip of pavement that wound its way across the prairies. A truck pulling a cattle trailer had the road to itself. The trailer had three bulls for delivery, separated into their own compartments to stop any trouble occurring. There were two men in the truck, one old and one young. A thermos of coffee rested on the seat between them.

Every now and again the old man would ask the younger to refill his cup. “You’ll regret this later,” the young man always said as he poured the dark liquid into the thermos lid. The old man would just smile and take the steaming cup.

They did have to stop eventually and the old man got out and pissed in the ditch, looking out into an empty field. Though it was bitterly cold he stood for a moment when he was done, casting his eyes across the horizon. The sun tried and failed to glare through the hazy clouds that blanketed the whole sky. The snow gleamed under the light that slipped through so that the day was a strange mixture of grey and bright.

The rancher at the first delivery seemed surprised to see them, though they had called the day before to let him know. He was dishevelled with a worn jacket that he didn’t bother zipping up despite the cold. They spent only enough time to unload the bull and be on their way. Their next stop were old friends who bought bulls from their family nearly every year. They arrived around noon and were fed lunch and then had to spend the first part of the afternoon being shown the cattle and told which calves were progeny of bulls they had bought from them in years past.

The sun was already low in the west by the time they left and it was dusk by the time they arrived at their last stop. The family offered supper, which the men declined, saying they needed to be back home that night. But the family wouldn’t let them leave without something, so they stayed for a drink and chat – rum for young man and whisky for the old. They talked of the cold and the snow, what it promised for spring, and the troubles of the last summer.

It was snowing by the time they left, huge flakes drifting to the ground, the wind barely stirring and the world silent. They drove home in the darkness, the roads clear at first, but gradually getting covered over. There were tracks from another vehicle to guide them and they met a car or two going the other way. Neither of them said much as they drove, the radio and the squeak of the wipers on the window the only sounds. They watched the snow fall, the flakes caught by the headlights looking much larger than they were. The signs they passed were covered by snow, but they knew the way home.