It’s one month since we started lockdown in the UK and about six weeks since I wrote my first blog post about this time of the Covid-19 pandemic. People talk about not knowing what day it is, about time passing slowly, or quickly, or both; one day merging into the next, sleep patterns disrupted, routines and schedules in disarray. I can barely remember how I lived ‘before’ and I certainly don’t know how we are going to return to the way it was, if we ever will.
I’m lucky to be living in a house with a garden and I hate hearing stories of people spying on other people and even informing the police because they’ve seen someone sitting in a park or other outdoor space. It’s unlikely that informers are doing any good and more likely that they are causing harm to someone’s mental health. Large groups congregating are one thing but a couple sitting down to enjoy some sunshine, well away from others, is another.
Gladly, I’ve also seen many signs of people being kind and caring. For example, I love the nods, waves and greetings that people send to each to other when passing on the street, criss-crossing across the road several times to avoid too close contact. That’s what we’re doing where I live in, in any case. Do people do the same where you are? And whatever you think about the cheering and clapping that can be heard on Thursday evenings, I’m glad to wave hello and chat from a safe distance to various neighbours, and to hear claps, cheers, whistles, car horns, fireworks through the surrounding streets. It reminds me that we all belong here together.
I know that not everyone is living in a house with someone else and I feel for people living on their own with no physical contact. I’m grateful that both of my children came back home at the start of the pandemic in the UK because they were asked to move out of their university accommodation. Having said that, it’s tough on them, especially my daughter who was in her final year at Oxford, in gorgeous rooms in a beautiful setting with many plans to enjoy her final months as a student. I’ve been trying to empathise with her and can’t, obviously, be in her skin but I wonder if it might be something like the Sundays of my childhood and teenage years in the 1970s, when all shops and bars were closed, buses and trains ran on a Sunday timetable and the world felt as if it’d come to a standstill. It was fine if you were with people who understood you, usually people your own age, but most young people were stuck at home with their families and that wasn’t always the happiest place to be. It’s probably nothing like that at all!
But it’s worth having a go at empathising. I was thinking just that when I saw some of the responses to the hardware store B&Q deciding to re-open its shops. “DIY isn’t essential!” someone tweeted angrily, adding capital letters and extra exclamation marks for good measure. Not as essential as food, I agree, but for some people, DIY *is* essential to their well-being. I’m married to a man who loves making, adapting, building, fixing and painting things. Depriving him of his tools and gadgets would be as cruel as taking pens and paper away from me. As it happens, he hasn’t needed to go to B&Q or any hardware store, as he keeps a supply of reclaimed materials and paints in his well-stocked shed. But I wouldn’t hold it against him if he decided to buy a new chisel. (In any case, DIY stores have always had government approval to remain open in case of emergency maintenance but B&Q decided to close their stores to give their support to the lockdown).
Anyway, here we still are, folks. Not a lot of writing in my notebooks this week but I should tell you that Ledbury Poetry Festival commissioned a poem responding to the news which you can read on their Twitter, Instagram Facebook pages. It’s a poem about noticing more birdsong and a plea to councils to look after our pollinators and insects – as well as a poem about my grown-up children coming home because of the pandemic. I’m very grateful to Ledbury for their support.
And I’m grateful to the insects and pollinators and birds, now more than ever. Here are some flowers I brought in from my garden.