I’ve been reading a post on the BBC news app this morning, by a photographer who has been recording Lockdown on an antique camera. It’s by Jo De Banzie, and the photos are very interesting, at the same time modern and vintage, public and very private. Her reflections on the way her family has dealt with lockdown, including bereavement, are fascinating. It’s made me think about my own situation.
Chris and I haven’t been shielding or self-isolating, but we did take the lockdown seriously, partly because of my awareness of epidemiology and pandemics – I taught Biomedical Science at college – and partly because although we are both healthy for our ages, there are ‘conditions’ for want of a better term that meant we are slightly more at risk from Covid-19 than some folks. So we have been staying at home. I’ve been shopping roughly once a week, and we’ve had a couple of walks in the local park, with Chris on his scooter. Apart from that we haven’t been out until 10 days ago, not even the permitted exercise.
In many ways we have been – are – lucky. We both have plenty to keep us busy, and we are both positive sorts, so we have been getting on with what we have often called ‘faffing’. My studio is at home, so I’ve spent hours in there every day, making Regency costume, embroidering, planning for how to move forward when things ease off. I’ve updated my website, read about photography, and done some sound positive thinking about where my work is going. It has been good in some ways to have time out to think and plan. I’ve even tidied up a couple of times, when the studio (or the kitchen!) was getting too muddled. (Those who know me well will realise how unusual that is.) Chris has spent time working on his cricket stats, reading and watching TV, especially since the test matches have been back.
We’ve coped well. When we locked down I wasn’t sure how it would work out. I’ve always thought of myself as an extrovert, gregarious type, and I was concerned if I would manage being stuck at home all the time. It’s been easier than I expected. Having only the two of us has made life a lot simpler: no kids, no elderly parents. I am in awe of some of my friends, who have coped with a full-time job, kids at home, trying to home-school, staying in complete isolation in some cases. We have worried about family, who are all at some distance, but we’ve kept in touch. For us it has been ‘time-out’, restful in a funny sort of way. I feel more relaxed. I have got more domesticated, baking again, cooking some proper meals rather than ready-meals all the time. Not doing too much housework, mind you, one must draw a line somewhere!
Time has drifted, to a point where it has almost got lost. It’s been measured by changes in the garden: the lavender growing and flowering, the reddening of the rowan berries on the tree outside the front window, the swelling of the pears on the trees in the back garden. And punctuated by times sitting out in the sun on our new decking, installed at the end of last summer, to allow Chris to get out into the back garden again. Inside it has been measured by depletion and refilling of the freezer and the wine rack, by the piles of stuff on the sofa: after all, it doesn’t need to be cleared for anyone to sit on, because no-one has been round. We’ve spoken more to our neighbours than we have in years. Previously we were all so busy, in and out, heading out for work, shopping or whatever.
It has made me both more aware, and less, of time. More aware of using time well, of making the most of it. But at the same time less aware of its passage. Days have drifted together a bit, and we have lost track of where and when we are. We had a day out about 10 days ago for the first time, and it was difficult to remember when we last went further from home that the supermarket. Sometime in March…..
Now life is slowly beginning to move again. Not to get back to normal; I don’t think the old ‘normal’ will recover for quite a while, but things are starting to open up. I hope to get my sewing groups going again soon, and the meetings and fitness classes should be restarting soon too, I hope. Mind you, ‘soon’ is a couple of months, where before it would have been next week. In this our perception of time has shifted. The pace of things has slowed, and I think this is a good thing. Modern life has been too rushed, perhaps, and Covid has made us take a deep breath and chill out.
I am very grateful to whatever gods are out there that we have been able to use the lockdown in this way. It has been a breathing space, a pause for reflection, for thought. I feel energised and ready to move forward again.
I hope this doesn’t sound smug: that is not my intention! I know there are a lot of people out there who have found the whole experience stressful, even hellish: I wish I could take that away, make it better for them. Part of what has helped us to cope has been a mind-set that makes me (both of us) see the positives in events and circumstances. Lemons are there to be made into lemonade, or at least gin and tonic or lemon drizzle cake!
It seems to me the best way to get through this difficult time is to use it as positively as possible, to develop things, to plan, work for opening up again, to look forward and build forward. We have an opportunity to redevelop our world, both on a local or family level, and on a wider field, national and global. Maybe I’m too naïve, too optimistic: that’s been suggested before. But if looking on the bright side if life gets you through something better, maybe it isn’t so bad after all. So here’s to the lemon drizzle cake and the gin and tonics: mine’s a Bombay Sapphire, please! Or perhaps an orange and cocoa one……