Eight weeks into a global lockdown there seems to be a shift in people’s mentalities:
The first six weeks were characterised by silent roads during Monday morning’s ‘rush hour’, empty town centres on Saturday afternoons and quizzes on Friday nights. Now, the traffic on our roads is almost returning to normal, town centres are a little busier, although many shops are still closed and people are fed up with quizzes.
It will be easy to forget this time and to look back at it as a time when things were easier. We might forget the unpleasant looks people give to one another as we walk around. We’ll forget the snitching and making judgements of others’ situations.
In yesterday’s Times, Janice Turner wrote,
Nostalgia is memory minus complexity.
And isn’t this right?! We can’t just ‘pop to the shops’; we’re bringing the bare essentials with us – just a bank card, keys and phone. Have we remembered the hand sanitiser or gloves? Will there be a massive queue to get in and will it rain? Guards outside Boots demand to know what you’re purchasing, and because it’s none of their business (and if the shops shouldn’t be selling products they wouldn’t be stocking them anyway), you say ‘tampons’ triumphantly. (‘Anusol’ or ‘Vagisil’ would probably also have the desired effect on the man who hurries you inside with an alarmed look on his face.) Ditherers have become even more of a nuisance; spending five minutes choosing which sausages to purchase causes a backlog of customers spread two-metres apart – and heaven-forbid you politely rush past to the sighs and tuts from fellow shoppers. The one-way system in shops results in fewer clusters of people, but it means you’ll journey to face cream via shampoo, up the escalator, past fake tan, down the stairs, across from toothpaste and just along from sanitary products – for God’s sake don’t be in a wheelchair or high heels!
I’ve never been for as many walks as in COVID-19 times. Each day, I’m out in our local park for a little walk – often catching up with friends on the phone or sorting out the incessant problems my housemates are having back in my Brighton home. With all the will in the world, I haven’t managed to get the six-pack many people claim to be achieving. During the first four weeks, my sisters and I jumped around like bunnies to the sounds of club music and an over-zealous American woman counting down to the blissful time when the workout would end. The skipping rope I bought, and carefully measured and cut to my height, lies on my bedroom floor, practically unused. It’s a bugger that just buying the equipment isn’t enough… (In her mid-fifties, our mother is putting us to shame: she’s working out every other day and feeding the NHS twice weekly – the kitchen has become a quiche production line).
Have I learnt BSL? Have I finished my memoir? Have I written any more of the book I’m ghostwriting? No, no and no. I’ve learnt that I like doing things I’m good at – so I’ve completed courses about Deep Editing and Creative Writing and continued the Writing Storybooks for Children course a friend bought me for my birthday. Considering that very little is happening, I’ve been surprisingly productive in my blog writing. I’ve published 20 posts since quarantine commenced eight weeks ago and have submitted a post (as yet unpublished on here) to a few magazines. Writers and poets (e.g. Rupi Kaur) are running workshops on IG Live, interviews with authors and literary festivals have moved online, comedy nights are being broadcast from homes around the country and I’ve discovered a Vulva Workshop which should be highly amusing – I promise to write about it.
Maybe my ‘normal life’ has too much going on that it’s hard to sift through and find writing inspiration? Whilst I haven’t been ghosting, I’ve been researching – I’ve read so many books around the topic that I’ve had to take a short break for some more light-hearted reading. My TBR pile awaits my return to Brighton so (somewhat reluctantly) I’ve purchased more books from online indy bookshops.
For a while, the dining room was converted into a make-shift bar (plastic till included), but now it’s returned to the less-pleasant home office my sister and I take turns in every fortnight. The spare room is the fought-over workspace; far away from the noisy kitchen and far enough away from the front door that it’s understandable when you listen for a little too long in the hopes someone else (usually the other sister in the dining room) to get the door. The doorbell rings two-million times a day. This family of five can’t seem to co-ordinate Asos or Amazon orders; the poor postman. My parents’ dressing room has been used as a spa and a hair salon – our toes are beautiful, our legs bronzed, my hair is pink and my mum’s hair has been highlighted and curled, courtesy of her hairdresser who practically posted her hair dye with strict instructions to use within 15 minutes!
We’ve dressed up, had cooking competitions, drunk so much wine and got along better than expected. It’s the first time we’ve all lived under the same roof for 10 years since my middle sister and I went to Uni. It’ll probably be the last.
So how long is this set to continue? Boris Johnston has received a lot of flack over his response to this entire pandemic. With a heavily-pregnant fiancé, he caught coronavirus and ended up in ICU. Out, and feeling much better, he’s resumed his addresses to the nation. With no guarantee of how the rate of infection will drop over time, restrictions continue and the Internet is awash with criticisms of vague guidelines from the government. By the beginning of June, some year groups in primary schools may be returning to school, some shops might re-open and hopefully, by July, some of the hospitality industry may welcome guests, provided social distancing measures are in place. It’s clear that holidays won’t be going ahead this year and it’s looking likely that ‘normal life’ won’t resume for quite some time.
But from the window in the decent home-office, I can see and hear the roads. Granted, they aren’t as busy as they usually are on a Friday morning, but you could trick yourself that everything is as it was. Except, of course, it isn’t.
This blog post was inspired by my friend who has written a letter to her future self, reminding her of corona times. You can read it here.