It's a Beautiful Day
By: Christopher Cookson
Last Modified: 25-3-2020 22:32
It's a beautiful, mild, autumn day in Blenheim, with a gentle breeze and blue sky, as I eat my lunch outside in the back garden. The lawn is parched, and it looks as though the putaputaweta tree may have died of drought, which has been my biggest worry up until a few weeks ago, in spite of my efforts to water it to save it. My daughter is rushing around in shorts chasing butterflies with a net, while my wife responds to messages on her smartphone. After I finish my open sandwich I grab fresh, juicy peaches off a tree for the three of us, and sit back and enjoy the colourful dahlias and naked ladies, of the flower kind, I hasten to add, just in case anyone wonders if my family is practising naturism at home, brightening up our rather messy back yard.
It all feels rather surreal. New Zealand is on the eve of an unprecedented shutdown of the whole nation, and I have to leave the sunshine outside where I'd rather be, and head back to my home office, as I have a lot of work to get on with. Being a website and database developer means that my work is mostly all remote anyway, and making improvements to systems to make sure they run more efficiently is actually likely to be fairly important at this time to make sure that those who are able to keep working through this crisis can do so effectively.
My daughter has been learning at school about how people in the past lived and how it was different to our lives today. I set her a task of writing down some questions for her Nanna and Grandpa about what life was like for them when they were young, during, and just after World War II. I tell her she can interview them over Skype and write up a report. Instead, she finds a 1940s vintage child's dress that belonged to my mother, and dresses up and pretends to be Lucy Pevensie from 'The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe'. Our DVD player has broken down, and our backup Blu Ray player is region locked, so she can't watch the movie, but we have the 'Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe' book, which looks like it's pretty old, so she'll have to use her imagination and read it, instead of depending on the TV. I just hope I don't discover chaos in any of our wardrobes, although if she does by chance discover a portal to another world, it might be quite an opportune time to join her.
I studied some microbiology at university, and I remember a wild, hairy, bespectacled professor, who could just about have passed as Gandalf or Dumbledore, if his hair had been a bit longer, and he were not so balding. One day, he held up a small vial of something and announced that it contained enough pathogen to, “make a lot of people seriously dead”. Up until that point, I'd always tended to think of life and death as being a binary choice. You're either alive or dead, but in that moment, it was revealed that apparently you can get 'seriously dead'. I'd never thought of degrees of deadness before, but he was a professor, and he looked seriously professorial, so he must be right that you could get 'seriously dead'.
We learnt quite a bit about viruses back then too, and apparently you could crystallise them and put them in a jar a bit like common salt or sugar, because they're not technically alive till they get inside something that is. Basically, they're just bits of malevolent code wrapped up in some packaging waiting to be inserted into a host where that code can be executed. If I sound like I'm writing a bit like a computer geek, it's because I am. In a sense, the cells in our bodies are a bit like miniature biological computers that take genetic code, interpret it and do what it says. Whether it's viruses or cancer, sometimes you get rogue code that starts to run amok, and unfortunately, you can't just run a virus scan over the internet to fix things, as there are something like 30 trillion cells in the human body, and each one is it's own self-contained little genetic computing unit with the potential to get infected. Of course not all our cells get infected at the same time, otherwise we certainly would get 'seriously dead', but even trying to clean up a few million or billion cells with virus code running around and multiplying in them is quite a task, which is why our immune systems are pretty incredible. When it comes to feats of human performance, we like to have exclusive 'clubs' like Mensa for people with super-high intellects, or the Olympics for people with incredible physical performance, but we don't hold celebrations of the performance of our immune systems, because they're usually out of sight and out of mind, even though every day they're protecting us from things trying to make us 'seriously dead', so that we can go about showing off our intellects, or our sporting prowess, or artistic skills, or just blob on the sofa watching other people show of their abilities on TV.
Anyway, I digress a bit, and I'm sure everyone is hearing lots of experts tell them all about viruses, or perhaps they've learnt all about them by watching zombie films, which probably provide more accurate information than Facebook.
Before I settle in for the afternoon's work, I grab my camera and head out to the garden to capture a photo of some naked ladies. Plant porn, I guess you could call it, especially given the biological function of flowers.
Finally, I'm back in the office, and after quickly typing up this blog post, I've got to work on some reports that need updating. Virus tests – in grape plants.