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Diary: Chine McDonald

11 February 2022

ISTOCK

Comfortable words

JUST before the dreaded Omicron variant sent us all nervously indoors to avoid catching it and ruining Christmas, my husband and I enjoyed our annual, child-free, weekend getaway to celebrate our wedding anniversary. It involved a tasting menu at a fancy restaurant in central London, and the matinée performance of Les Misérables at the Sondheim Theatre.

At times of uncertainty and disruption, I find solace in familiar stories. Not having been to the theatre since before the pandemic, I found it strange to go through proof of vaccination or negative-test checks before being allowed to enter the venue; but I soon got over the oddness of having to be masked throughout, and savoured that moment in which I sat, nestled in my seat, as the curtains went up and the performance of the familiar and yet profound story began.

Victor Hugo’s tale illustrates the battle between the law and grace, justice and mercy, and asks us to look upwards to a God of love who compels us to look outward and love our neighbours as ourselves. A story for our times, and for all times.

 

Reflected glory

OUR anniversary weekend led me to reminisce once again about our wedding, which took place six years ago, in what now feels like an alternative universe. In fact, we had two weddings. The first was a traditional, Igbo Nigerian wedding, attended by around 200 people; and then, two days later, a quintessentially English wedding, with splashes of African fabrics and colours, and another 260 people. How I miss those days in which we could dance and eat and drink in such large groups, celebrating without restrictions.

The contrast between the Englishness of our “English” wedding and its Nigerian counterpart felt even more marked as the English celebration took place in a leafy village in Surrey, and the whole day was themed around tea and literature. The tables were named after types of tea (Earl Grey, Oolong, Jasmine, etc.), while the wedding venue was littered with quotes from some of our favourite books — including my favourite line from Les Misérables: “To love another person is to see the face of God.”

 

Word perfect

I AM one of those who have found themselves addicted to the new, online word-game craze sweeping social media: Wordle. Each day, players are given six opportunities to decipher the five-letter word of the day by entering other five-letter words and whittling it down through a series of clues (News, 28 January).

As I enter the final trimester of pregnancy, sleep is much needed, but extremely uncomfortable; almost every night, I wake up at some point at about 2 a.m. for an hour or so. Instead of reaching for my Bible for some quiet time in the small hours, I now log on to Wordle. I’m currently on a 22-day winning streak, which makes each day’s play more nerve-racking, as I do not want to lose and have to start again from scratch.

I love the sense of solidarity among Wordlers on social media: the knowledge that, over any 24-hour period, so many of us are playing this game. People are sharing their strategies and their losses, but no one reveals the winning word, as that would spoil things for everyone.

It is the kind of solidarity that we saw in those early days of lockdown — the understanding that we were all going through the same thing at the same time, and would help each other (although there is a very vocal group of anti-Wordlers who detest people’s sharing of their Wordle scores; and another of those who proudly proclaim they have never heard of it, nor do they want to find out what it’s all about).

Those of us interested in theology might want to seek out the New Testament Greek version of Wordle: that is sure to confer bragging rights if you are able to win there. But perhaps that version might be too much of a stretch for my brain at 2 a.m.

 

After the rain

LIKE so many others, my husband, son, and I all came down with Covid — having caught it, we assume, at some point between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, while enjoying Christmas with my family. After nearly two years of escaping the virus, and at nearly six months pregnant, I had been particularly anxious about catching it. Pregnant women can suffer more severe consequences, and I feared anything happening to me or my baby.

Sometimes, the expectation of something can be far worse than the thing itself. In the event, we were grateful all to have had only mild symptoms, as my husband and I had been triple-jabbed. But, in those days of isolation, I remembered the trauma of 12 months earlier, when a dear friend had been admitted to intensive care with Covid. As she was deteriorating rapidly, her baby had to be delivered by C-section at just 29 weeks. I was reminded of those terrifying times, in which we feared losing both the baby and her mum.

The baby girl has just turned one, and we are privileged to be her godparents. Rainbows really can follow storms.


Chine McDonald is a writer, broadcaster, and the author of
God Is Not a White Man: And other revelations (Books, 11 June 2021). She is Director of Theos, and vice-chair of Greenbelt.

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