Today we are hearing a lot about what was apparently happening in Downing Street on Friday 18 December; a party in total contravention of the coronavirus restrictions imposed on the rest of us. Let me tell you how I spent that day.
I was 15 when my mum and dad came home from a “precautionary” brain scan in August 2016 to tell me and my sister that my mum had a terminal brain tumour.
And last December, on that Friday, was the last time I spoke to Mum. She was in a hospice by then, my dad sitting outside her window as he had been every day since lockdown started in March, and I was talking to her via Dad’s FaceTime.
I had just come home for Christmas, after four months away at university, and I told Mum I was looking forward to visiting her in person the next day. But the next day we received a call from the hospice. Mum had developed a slight cough, and had tested positive for Covid. She was OK, sitting up. As things were hectic there, it was decided we’d visit on the Sunday, not the Saturday.
But on Sunday morning, early, we got another call. Mum had taken a rapid turn for the worse. She wasn’t going to live for the 45 minutes it would take to get to her and watch through a window. Mum died a few minutes later, without us there.
We had to turn away some of her closest friends from her funeral because of social distancing laws. Thanks to lockdown, there was no chance of being able to see the people I loved outside of my immediate family, even in the depths of my grief. My best friend couldn’t even give me a hug. And just to be clear, my family was in full agreement with these restrictions – in a pandemic, you do what you have to do. We didn’t, and don’t, want to risk putting any other family through what we’d been through. But the pain of living those first few months distanced from people who cared about me remains.
Fast forward to this week. Gearing up for my second Christmas without Mum and the first anniversary of her death, there are new headlines on the front pages. While I had been saying goodbye to my mum for the last time, aged 19, Downing Street was the site of an illegal Christmas party. That leaked video of government staff giggling as they joked about a “cheese and wine night” and a lack of social distancing … it’s unspeakable. As was their flippancy, believing they wouldn’t get called up on it. And still the prime minister denies there was a gathering of several dozen people, and was therefore against government guidelines and, indeed, the law.
All the grief I’ve had for the past year came back, and with it a deep rage that left me feeling sick and physically shaking. I was outraged that while my mum died, separated from her family, those in Downing Street took the rest of us for idiots. I can’t do anything to change what happened. I can’t go back in time and make Mum’s death any easier on me and my family. I can’t have another second with my mum.
But what I can do is share the horror of losing a loved one in the howling isolation of a pandemic, while those in power enjoyed Secret Santa and champagne. They have ruined many lives in the past two years, but I will not allow them to ruin mine. I’m going to keep talking about my lovely mum, and keep leading the life she would want me to live – including calling out hypocrisy.