What are you doing to pass the time and keep your grey cells occupied? Are you reading more? Have you taken up a new, or rediscovered an old, hobby? What would you recommend other readers to try? What are you finding hardest to cope with? SR wants to hear from you: simply email firstname.lastname@example.org
Little things can mean such a lot and provoke an unexpectedly emotional response these days – the notes from neighbours appearing through the letterbox with mobile numbers and offers of help, the rainbows the children across the road have put in their window, the FaceTime calls from friends and family getting in touch more (much more) than usual. I'm now two weeks into lockdown with my elderly mother. For days I struggled with worry over carers coming and going from her home – how could they keep themselves safe and, if they couldn't do that, how could they keep my mother safe? The only possible answer was to hunker down with her for as long as it takes.
Routine helps. I'm grateful to be able to work at home. As long as I have my office Mac and relevant files, I can work anywhere – up to a point. That point is the dates on which the Young Programme events which I organise are actually due to take place. Can it really be only a little over two weeks since we took the decision to cancel everything between then and the autumn? The April event had been hanging in the balance for days but as we looked towards June, it too began to be shrouded in doubt. So we decided to clear the decks until October. The hotels we use regularly – Piersland House in Troon and Lancaster House in Lancaster – are both currently closed and it is hard to imagine them standing silent, empty of the familiar faces of the staff and our bright, enthusiastic delegates.
The first few days of lockdown were a mass of anxiety, finding places to store things and desperately looking for supermarket home delivery slots. Coffee over the garden fence with a neighbour, also working at home in lockdown, helped a lot. The familiarity of Classic FM – always on in the office – also encouraged a feeling that this just might be do-able. Standards have to be maintained – no working in jammies – and the reappearance of Sainsbury's delivery slots felt like a wonderful miracle. I try not to check the BBC news every hour (always a temptation) although I do reach for my phone to look at Facebook more than I should. On Saturday afternoon when doing just that, I discovered a 'social distancing' ceilidh being live streamed from Tiree. Sitting the required two metres apart with their accordions, two of the island's many talented musicians, Ian Smith (Trail West) and Sean Budda Beag Maccallum (Buddah & the Band) were playing and taking requests. To see the names of friends and family coming up in the comments was heartwarming and reassuring. I had wondered what our equivalent of Italians singing from their balconies might look like. This was it.
My admiration for the people of the NHS has long been strong, now I am simply in awe. I hope when all this is over everyone will be happy to reach into their pockets and pay a bit more in tax to look after this most precious institution. Meanwhile, we are settling into a routine, although concerns continue and veer from important (wellbeing of family and friends) to ridiculous (what will my hair be like after another 12 weeks of this?) and I am finding that a philosophy which I have never been able to adopt is actually the only show in town: one day at a time.
The haiku is a traditional form of Japanese poetry and I find that writing them can be very helpful in stressful times. Listening to the news can upset people; the pandemic never seems far away. But writing a haiku and adhering to its very precise rules requires you to focus; I have been told that you need to focus similarly with macramé but I can't comment on that.
A haiku has three lines; the first line has five syllables; the second line has seven syllables; the third line has five syllables; there is no requirement to make things rhyme.
I did one especially for Scottish Review readers:
Scottish Review can stir me
A fresh look at life.
And then I did another one about the state of the world generally:
Running and waving
Observing without stopping
Where are we going?
Have a go! It takes your mind off other things.
I decided to do a bit of reading of my old Penguins. I picked out The Plague
, Animal Farm
, all bought as a student in the 1950s, and read Animal Farm
yesterday. Still very apt.
We have a small pond, 2x3 metres. A few days ago, I counted 40 huge frogs busy copulating in it. Two days ago, they were quieter – floating around on the weeds – so I started talking to them in their croaking language. One by one they turned to look at me, then started coming across until they were massed at the edge croaking back and obviously excited! My wife witnessed this and wondered what attracted them. I tried it again yesterday in the rain and it didn't work. Such are the little amusements of the socially isolated!
I'm passing the time here in Catania, Italy, by reading Dante's work – including one of the best-known 'canzoni': Amor che movi tua vertù dal cielo.
A comment to leave you with: Love is compared to the Sun that illuminates all things, making visible their beauty and nobility.
Strange to be at home all day, strange to have no contact over coffee or beer, and strange to get only one walk a day. But during my walks, I have become aware of the fact that the volume of litter is diminishing. I suspect that people on their walks are doing 'litter-picks', my wife certainly is, but she always has! What is different now is that, with the fast-food takeaway joints being closed, there is very little being added to the streets. I am positive that this is true but I am going to continue to observe over the coming weeks – it will at least give me something to do as we go around and around the same routes. But what about the future? Might it just turn out that the littering 'habit' has been broken? Naw, just interrupted.
Thought I'd just send a wee note to mention how I have made use of this lock down time. I have taught myself to start a blog: hunkerindoon.com
. If you do have interest and time to take a look, I suggest you scroll down to read Good Intentions
first. I am still trying to work through the vagaries of setting up the page to make each post a bit more accessible, but my #vulnerableage might explain my capacity for new learning! Keep up your good work.
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