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20 reasons to look on the bright side of this crisis

A sign by Wembley Park Tube Station in London that thanks the hardworking NHS staff who are trying to battle coronavirus. Photograph: John Walton/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Following the latest coronavirus news can be hard on your mental health, but for ALASTAIR CAMPBELL, we can always get good out of the bad.

A few years ago, I wrote a short book, The Happy Depressive, in which I went through a few of my life rules. To one of them I gave the clunky label GGOOB – Get Good Out Of Bad. It is the mindset that says that in every setback there is an opportunity.

To give a very current example – since the Covid crisis began, and we have largely been confined to home, my sleep patterns have gone haywire. I am getting to bed early, before 10 most nights, and nodding off a few pages in (currently reading a huge, excellent novel called The Episode by Stan Abbott;) but then waking just after 3am. I doze a bit but don’t really sleep and give up around half four.

So – nightmare. Well, yes. But GGOOB! Peace and quiet. See the sun come up. Hear the birds wake up. Read more of The Episode. Write more.

I have been pretty productive these past few days, especially in those early hours. And one the dawn pieces I wrote was this, my 20 reasons to look on the bright side. And how grown up of me not to include Brexit and the extra challenges it faces among them.

1. Cleaner air. I know this is not much comfort if you work in aviation, and the economic impact of the hit on airlines is huge. But it is so nice to be able to look up into the sky and it looks, sounds and feels so much cleaner. My asthma has been better as a result.

2. Louder birdsong. Maybe this is just because it is now spring. But I don’t think so. I. think the birds are happier, because of Point 1, the cleaner air.

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3. Everyone is talking about trees. OK, ‘everyone’ may be an exaggeration. But people are definitely noticing the natural world more. For some time, I have been posting Tree of the Day pictures on social media. When I started, I sensed people thought I was going off on one of my eccentric ones. Now I get people messaging if I haven’t posted them by lunchtime.

4. More kindness. You will always have plonkers, and the people deliberately spitting at the police, and the super-knobs licking food and putting it back onto shelves will hopefully get done, if not in this life then thereafter perhaps. But the knobs and plonkers are way outnumbered by the kind and the caring. I could have done without the young girl who asked me if I needed help getting the shopping (what with me being so superfit) but she meant well.

5. More volunteering. Back before a decade of austerity and Brexit combined to destroy so much of what is good about Britain, you may remember the London 2012 Olympics, when Boris Johnson did a fantastic job taking credit for the work of others. That Olympic spirit sparked the greatest positivity I have felt in the country since, dare I say, the election of New Labour in 1997. I went to loads of events at the Olympics and Paralympics and the volunteers were a massive part of the success. So it is great that so many have volunteered to help take some of the strain off NHS workers.

6. More respect for so-called unskilled workers. So who are the people we need the most right now then? Well, the hospitals are not kept clean without cleaners, are they? Care homes can’t function without carers. It’s a shame it has taken a pandemic for so many people to realise it.

7. More appreciation for NHS staff. I did like the comment from a German, watching our ‘clap the NHS’ national effort last Thursday: ‘We don’t clap our health service. We fund it.’ And I must confess to feeling a bit queasy at some of the Tories singing its praises when the last time I saw them doing an NHS clap was to applaud when they ‘won’ the battle to stop a pay rise for nurses. But the country has given, yet again, a clear message about how much they value our NHS.

8. More solidarity for others nations. Bad… the international coordination has been woeful, yet another scar that nationalism, populism and Donald Trump have inflicted on the world. Good… people have showed so much solidarity to the hardest hit countries, Italy and Spain in particular.

9. More sharing of funny memes and videos. A shout-out here to boxing promoter Frank Warren. He has been averaging a dozen a day and some of them have been brilliant. Another sports figure, Burnley midfielder Ashley Westwood, gave me the best laugh though. A picture of a dog standing defiantly on top of the kitchen cupboards, and saying: ‘No, I’m not coming down… I’ve been walked by everyone in this f***ing family today’. And his message: ‘Is this Skye?’ Skye is my dog.

10. My dog is so happy. Fiona and I are home 24 hours a day and the only time we leave the house is to take Skye for a walk. She is happier than any dog has ever been, in the history of dogdom.

11. Event cancellations. On the one hand, I have seen my income collapse with every paid gig in the diary gone between now and June. On the other, what joy not to have to find an excuse not to go to events you never wanted to go to in the first place. And please, spare me this guff about virtual dinner parties.

12. More time for music. It is a bad idea to have your head in the news all day and all night, so if you have time, listen to music, and even better play music. I’ve been getting my bagpipes out every day and (see Point 7) piped our next-door neighbour home from her work as a nurse on Thursday.

13. More time for books. Let’s be honest, present company excepted, reading most newspapers is a waste of time. We have more time for books now. I for one have been using it.

14. Down the line TV is compulsory. Two benefits here. For the viewer, you get to see people’s bookshelves; and, if you are an interviewee, you can do the interview from home. Normally they badger you to go into the studio. Now they are banning you. Bonus.

15. Weird stuff happens. I spring cleaned my office. I had a duster. I used a vacuum cleaner (not a Dyson). I even wiped the spines of all the books on the shelves. I am not proud to say it but this is the first time I have ever done this, or anything like it. Weird.

16. Strange new enterprises spring up. My partner Fiona has developed her own hand sanitiser. Main ingredients: alcohol, aloe vera and lavender. She has filled every spray bottle we have ever had with it, one in every room. I keep telling her to copyright it and market it before someone else does. My hands are pissed and smell of lavender.

17. Burnley are basically league champions. Having gone seven games without defeat, our unbeaten run looks like stretching for some weeks if not months. Added to which manager Sean Dyche was the last pre-Covid Manager of the Month, and Matej Vydra scored the last pre-Covid Goal of the Month, so at the very least we should be awarded a Champions League place.

18. Old football is back. Bad… no live sport. Good… they are showing some great old stuff. It was great to see some of the old FA Cup quarter-finals in mudbaths, and fantastic to see Scotland hammer San Marino 2-0.

19. Olympic opportunity. Bad… the Games in Tokyo been postponed. Good… think of the 17- or 18-year-old for whom it might mean the extra year leads to a selection they didn’t expect, and they win gold. You watch, there will be a few of them and come the games in 2021, as the medal goes round their neck, and the commentator tells their back story, I can turn to Fiona and Skye and say ‘I told you that would happen’.

20. New book ideas. Tree of the Day, the Alastair Campbell compilation… Alastair Campbell’s 20-point plans for everything… I’m having to fight off the publishers.

Have a lovely Easter.

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