Opinion with Seb Reilly: The beginning of the end of the pandemic

Seb with Cliff and Zayn

On my desk sits a picture frame containing a photograph of Cliff Richard. I know that sounds odd, but it is there for a reason. The desk in question is what I call the study, where I spend a fair amount of time either writing or working from home when I’m not out and about doing the parts of my day job that I am unable to do remotely. The picture is on my desk because, in all honesty, it makes me smile every time I see it.

It’s only a small portrait of Cliff. He’s in his senior years but he’s wearing sunglasses and a leather jacket which don’t really suit him. The frame, however, is the thing that would get your attention. It is a kind of faded green, obviously fake wooden frame of planks nailed together, with a log running along the bottom, on which stands a family of fully-rendered three-dimensional beavers.

I wish I was making this up.

Many years ago, when I was but a child, I met my best friend. Neither of us knew it at the time, but we would be best friends for decades, best men at each other’s weddings, our wives would become best friends also, and from that, a strange tradition of gift-giving would emerge.

Would it surprise you to know that I have a life-sized cardboard cut-out of Zayn Malik in my loft? He was a gift. He’s just standing there, watching, waiting for December when I will need to go up there to get the Christmas decorations down again. He’s been there since One Direction, and I intend for him to stay long after I’m gone.

The last time I and my wife saw these friends was before lockdown last year, and the gift I gave in exchange for Cliff was a signed photo of Noel Edmonds in a huge glittery mirrored frame. We are nothing if not simpatico. Cliff makes me smile every time I see him, which, during almost a year of lockdowns, has been a lot.

Being stuck at home with nowhere to go, no one to see, and nothing to do beyond that which is in your home can be tough, especially if you live in a small place or cramped conditions. We are fortunate in that we live in a house, even if it is a relatively small one, and there is a little space we have set aside as a study so each of us can escape when we need to do some work.

I’m used to not seeing my friends for a long time, as they moved to the middle of France about a decade ago. We normally see each other twice a year: they come over to us, and we go over to them. It’s a long drive half the time, but we all get a very cheap holiday out of it, and of course there are the ridiculous gifts.

The horrific framed portrait of Cliff has taught me that I need to find joy in the smallest of things, especially when the days are short and the year already feels long and lockdown is dragging on forever. We all have to look at the positives—the bright side of life, as the Monty Python lot once sang—and embrace the good.

My day job, as I mentioned, involves a little frontline work, and I’m technically a keyworker for some aspects. As such, I’m now eligible for the vaccine. Now, I know that it’s a new jab, and there might be are a few risks, and Bill Gates could have hidden a microchip in it to find out where I’m going, but even so, if it protects me—and therefore my family, the people I’m working with, and the members of the public I come into contact with—then, to my mind, any risk is outweighed by the benefit.

The new vaccination site at Saga is opening up next week, and I’m booked in already. Stick that thing in my arm and shoot me up with it. I’m looking on the bright side, and thinking about the possibility of being able to take my family to see my friends, either later this year, or next year, for some time away from the house. I appreciate I’m early in the queue, and if it wasn’t for the day job I would happily wait, but the more people inoculated, the better.

This pandemic ending would be a dream, and with vaccines being rolled out, that might just happen for us all. Even if it takes months, life will get back to normal, one day, so look on that bright side and smile. To paraphrase Cliff: it will feel like a summer holiday when we can do the things we want to do. As soon as you can get vaccinated, do so, and let’s make our dreams come true.


  1. It is the height of folly to suggest that we’re “at the beginning of the end for the pandemic”.
    Numbers for infection and hospitalization are broadly what they were at the peak of the first wave. They are nothing like the low numbers being experienced late last spring when lockdown began to be eased.
    The only reason R is below 1 and numbers falling is because we’re in lockdown. If the government is remotely as enthusiastic about relaxing things as quickly as they did last year, we’ll be back to square 1 in a few weeks.
    Unil infection rates are really low (10 per 100,000, suggest Independent Sage scientists – it’scurrently 75 per 100,000 in Kent), and our borders tightly controlled, we can’t afford to let up.
    Once a large % of the population has been vaccinated, and if it’s shown that the vaccines disrupt virus transmission, and there are very few not particularly dangerous mutations, then, coupled with low infection numbers and low R, some semblance of “normal” life might return.

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