As I write it's a Sunday, Day 18 of the war in Ukraine. Not that there's any good news, other than that Kyiv has not yet fallen. No sign of a ceasefire. No sign of that unspeakable man in the Kremlin backing down, despite sanctions and continuing diplomatic efforts. In fact, the day's headlines began with an air strike on a military base used for NATO training in Yavoriv, in the western part of the country between Lviv and the Polish border, not far from either. Obviously a strategic move to extend Russia's attack further across the country and threaten Polish involvement in weapons supply from western Europe.
Back east, on the open road outside Kyiv, young volunteers manage the non-military traffic. Fresh-faced Dmitro, 19, an economics student, is nervous. He has a gun and three days of training. He doesn't want to die. No-one does, not even in the defence of one's country, he admits. But there he is. Emblematic of every mother's son in time of war. Doing what he feels he has to do. He looks so vulnerable. I hope to goodness he survives.
During the first week of the war, I followed the news bulletins for hours, aghast like everyone I know. The build-up had indicated the inevitable for weeks, but when the invasion finally came you didn't want to believe it. And on it goes, the pulverising of cities, hollowed out office buildings, schools, hospitals, apartment blocks, blackened walls like Grenfell Tower, deserted streets strewn with shattered glass, ripped out window panes and doors, dead bodies the British media does not dwell on, but we know they're there, just out of shot or blurred in the background, under blankets or in black body bags. Anyone left alive is hunkering down in basements when the sirens wail. I have to ration my viewing now. It all gets too much.
And the Kremlin continues to deny the reality of what we're shown. It's all fake news. All staged by the Ukrainians for Western viewers. Orwell will be turning in his grave. He told us how it could be in fiction. Now it is for real.
And the dilemma of the West is that no-one seems able to stop Putin without actually going to war with him. Not NATO, the EU, the US or even the UN, where the English and American representatives, both women, gamely rubbished the Russian assertion that Ukraine was manufacturing biological weapons and declared that Russia demeaned the organisation by calling a special meeting to listen to its lies. We know why they hold back, but will they be proved right?
Does Putin believe his own propaganda? Because, seeing this level of destruction, one wonders what kind of country he would enter if he were to win this senseless war. Will he topple the green and gilded spires of Kyiv before he's done, or destroy Lviv's UNESCO world heritage old city that escaped destruction in WW2? I'm not the only columnist to reference Tacitus. These images recall that iconic phrase of his, attributed, though probably apocryphally, to the Pictish chieftain, Calgacus, in a rallying speech against the Roman invasion of Britain: 'They create a desolation and call it peace'. It's what wars do. Always.
A friend of mine called this morning to pick up some publicity material for a writers' conference next weekend which I'm not attending. She's concerned about the rising Covid numbers in Scotland and the fact that the conference hotel is in a hotspot area for the new infections, because later in the month she is off to France where she has a house she wants to make available for Ukrainian refugees. Impossible to organise from here, she needs to be there to make the arrangements.
We, too, are looking to travel. Morocco in May to visit my husband's family after a three and a half year gap. We've missed each other, but Covid uncertainty lingers. The wretched virus is still with us, varying itself into new combinations of Greek letters, and numbers are still rising in Scotland. If we have cold symptoms, the likelihood is it's probably Covid. You wonder whether any of us have actually escaped it during the past two years, considering the daily tolls of thousands of cases.
Is the progress of this wretched virus simply nature's way of retaliating against our centuries of planet depredation? Wars and industrialisation? Global tourism and endless consumerism? Or just too many of us, exponentially proliferating? It was frightening to see posted on Facebook a map of the UK some time into the future, after global warming has elevated our sea levels more than somewhat, our once proud, if territorially minuscule, country reduced to a mere archipelago of tiny scattered islets off the western edge of Europe. That would really nail your Brexit, Boris. It could happen. And this war won't help matters.
On a lighter note, my husband was commenting on my collection of colourful face masks. He gets by with the standard pale blue medical one or a plain black one. I've shopped around for some William Morris designs and others in a variety of colours to suit whatever outfit I'm wearing. I even got a present of a Christmas one from a friend with white reindeer galloping over a bright red background. She had invested in a new, high-powered sewing machine and was busy making them, some for charity. In all honesty, I long to be rid of them. They inhibit communication, disguise one's appearance and I have to take great care going down steps or stepping off pavements. But I'm not a denier. If I'm told to wear one to prevent transmission I won't like it, but I will comply.
Gillean Somerville-Arjat is a writer and critic based in Edinburgh