Staying alert by Angela Caldin
I’m living in New Zealand at the moment, but I’ve been following developments in the UK as well.
On TV here, there’s an adaption of Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker prizewinning novel The Luminaries. I read this book when it first came out and couldn’t put it down. The only problem was that when I arrived breathless at the end, I had no idea what was going on among the huge cast of characters. It was good therefore to understand from the first episode on TV that two of the main protagonists, Anna Wetherell and Emery Staines are astral twins, born on the same day at the same time. They have a weird supernatural kind of connection that can’t be logically explained. They reflect each other’s lives, taking on the mishaps and wounds of the other. They are star-crossed lovers with an indissoluble bond.
Making a connection
Staying alert and carrying this scenario over to the UK, it occurred to me that there is every likelihood that Boris Johnson and Dominic Cummings are also astral twins. There is certainly an indissoluble bond. Johnson has defended his adviser’s childcare scenario with zeal, apparently oblivious to the fact that it defies rational understanding. He has then allowed his alter ego to put forward a defence of eyesight-testing to explain his drive to Barnard Castle. As the Daily Mail headline so succinctly put it, ‘What planet are they on?’
Johnson has certainly taken on the mishaps and wounds of his twin and it would seem that they are inextricably connected like the luminaries – the sun and the moon. The one needs and reflects the other. Johnson has stressed the importance of instinct in making decisions, which fits with the lack of rational thought on his part which has characterised the last few days. It’s as if these two were in orbit the one around the other in a parallel universe.
Respect and empathy
Here in NZ, we have a different kind of partnership between the prime minister Jacinda Ardern and the director general of health, Ashley Bloomfield. They give televised press conferences together most days at Ipm. They are both calm and reassuring presences in a time of uncertainty and fear. They present the facts clearly, they are well prepared, they answer questions without looking at notes, they are empathetic and say things like ‘Look after yourselves, look after your loved ones and look after your community.’ They are rational beings with their feet on the ground who treat the public with respect. It seems to me that the astral twins of Downing Street are not in the same league.