All Fall Down

There is a good case for arguing that 2009 is shaping up to be the most catastrophic year in world history since 1939 (the start of the second world war). Despite the "Obama effect" - now in its 101st day - the world, in '09, is currently facing the most serious economic downturn since at least 1945, and, the most dangerous pandemic threat for forty years. On top of that, ongoing environmental degradation, and all the other problems that usually confront humanity, promise to make this end of the decade a particularly nail-biting one.

Eyewear, for one, is cautiously pessimistic. A few days ago, I believed that the swine flu virus might stay confined to those who had been to Mexico, or had contact with those there - but today, and as we move to Level 5, that seems less likely. Instead, health officials are now speaking of deaths - and the only question seems to be how many zeros after the one. One is reminded of Dylan Thomas who wrote that "after the first death there is no other" - but in a pandemic, that seems reversed - "after the first death there are so many".

This is a chilling time, almost a calm before the storm. London feels a bit like the first hours after the Martians landed on the common, that eerie normalcy that at heart is dreadfully false. How many days before the pandemic breaks out of its relatively contained mode, and really starts wreaking havoc in North America, Europe, and beyond? Time - often a healer - here may not be so kind. We all fall down.