How is it May already? When I started this series of blog posts it was March. What happened to April?
It’s curious how the lockdown is stretching and distorting time. Each day can feel like a week, but each week seems to fly by. We have daily landmarks, such as the daily Downing Street briefing, but they soon merge into one, indistinct press conference.
What we don’t have is a sense of an ending. We roll on, day to day, without any concrete goal. Days, become weeks and then, without even realising, we’re months into a lockdown. I can’t believe I’ll be writing day 40 next!
My routine may have changed slightly (see day 36) but I am continuing to edit and write. Why, then, are months disappearing into the void of lockdown?
There’s a lot of different things that I’m missing during lockdown (see day 16!).
I’ve realised I need to add something to that list: stationery shopping.
I’m obsessed. I mean, really, totally, compulsive, recklessly obsessed with stationery shopping. I long for:
A new pen that glides oh so smoothly
A crisp, clean notepad
Highlighters in more colours than I know what to do with
Sticky notes and tabs to fill up books
Files, folders and organisational stuff
Staplers, punches and scissors that shine on my desk
A nifty, natty, cleaver thing that I don’t ever really use, don’t really know the name of but looks amazing on my desk
I don’t need anything. And I certainly cannot claim it is essential shopping! But what a lovely day it will be when I can walk around a stationers excited by all the endless possibilities to be found in all those lovely, sparkly trinkets.
My working day is shot! I used to be so disciplined at beginning work activities at a sensible time in the morning, taking a reasonable break at lunchtime, then setting back up at tasks until the evening. I could switch off and stop work, beginning again the next day.
Although I’m used to working from home, as a freelance editor and writer it’s my usual office, the lockdown is somehow playing havoc with my brain. I am more aware that many of my clients are now out of their usual jobs and their own, typical, routines. So perhaps I’m trying to accommodate and fit in with a new normal.
I’m doing tasks that I really should be doing during the working day, very late at night. Not healthy! I’m finding that I’m spending longer to get going in the morning and then longer on the task. In a way this is great for my clients! My brain is far more alert when I do get started and I seem to be going longer.
This lockdown has taught many people that working from home is a viable option. It is providing a healthier planet and a more positive work-life balance, along with many other benefits. Perhaps, too, for everyone, we’re discovering a new rhythm to our working lives.
It was totally unexpected, but I’m finding this newer way of working far more productive. I do hope my clients agree (even if I don’t answer 8 am phone calls!)
Why do we write? What is it about our stories and information that means that we have to keep it in the written form?
One of the many things that sets us apart from the other animal species, is our ability to record our communication. And in this time of uncertainty, people are turning more to the written word. I have previous blogged about people turning to fiction during lockdown to help seem them through. But, it seems, that people are also becoming obsessed with articles and information about coronavirus, the things that can be done to ‘prevent’ it and how to treat it.
This, sadly, leads to a lot of misinformation. Not helped, of course, by influential figures promoting idiotic ‘cures’. I think we all know who I mean!
Appealing to the nerdiness within me, I am becoming obsessed with the daily briefing graphs and charts that are presented at the daily Downing Street press briefings. We’ve had transport regular transport figures, but now we get to see Apple users’ directions searches! How exciting! Especially as getting data out of these companies is difficult under normal circumstances. Now, given a pandemic, we get all the data we want.
Whilst it has been great to see the data presented like this, it’s also possible to lose sight of the fact that behind some of these graphs are real human tragedies. We must remember that we communicate to discover stories about each other. When this is all over, I hope people write the stories of the wonderful people we’ve lost to this horrific virus.
The enforced lockdown, and therefore the removal of the ability to travel quite so far, has meant that we are getting to know our local areas in more intimate detail.
This weekend, during my allotted time for exercise, I decided that I would take some time to explore the local paths on my bike. Out came the Ordnance Survey maps and, making sure I had a puncture repair kit handy and a GPS that can find my way home again, I set out.
It’s amazing what you can find just ten minutes from your home. Beautiful woods, with bluebells still in full bloom, and fields without a soul about. It truly was inspiring. Back on the, now much quieter, roads, little villages and hamlets whizz past that really need a closer inspection. Over tiny brooks with smaller bridges and past gorgeous farmhouses and I’m on the way home.
There might not be much travel going on, but that doesn’t mean we can’t stop exploring. It turns out I don’t know about half of the beauty just a few minutes past my own front door.
Theatres, art galleries, musicians and other cultural institutions have turned their creative output online whilst we’re in these unusual times.
But, whilst it’s great that we can connect to these broadcasts, are we really connecting to the art? I say no. Yes, we’re able to watch performances, we’re doing so in isolation. For many, including me, the art is not just in the performance, but also in the sharing of the experience. I need to talk to someone, in hushed tones of course, as we wander across the art gallery. I need to discuss the play at the interval. I need to jump up and down in a moshpit to really appreciate the rhythm of London Philharmonic!
When we leave this lockdown, the first thing I will be heading for are the variety of live cultural events in order to really connect with the arts, the artists and the people who love it with me.
Tonight is World Book Night. And to coincide with this event, it was revealed that many more people are turning to books to see them through the lockdown.
Interestingly, the radio news bulletin that I heard this on, suggested that it was stories of pandemics and global disasters that were doing the best, getting more sales and more people reading them. I was, on first hearing this, surprised that people would turn to fictionalised events of the reality we find ourselves in as a source of comfort. But, as I reflected further on this, it made perfect sense to me.
It is in fiction that people find themselves reflected back at them. Characters do things that we can only dream of; they are the people we want to be. In stories, there is always an ending and in these uncertain times it can feel like we don’t have an ending.
I wonder if the tales people are reading have happy endings or apocalyptic endings. I wonder, also, if it matters: is it just an ending that people want to read.
In other news, a script I wrote for the BBC, which had made it to the longlist, sadly didn’t make it to the shortlist! Never mind, back to writing!
When I was younger, I was always told that too many hours in front of the television screen would give me square eyes. Now, it seems, we’re all spending hours in front of a multitude of screens and displays without any consideration for the shape our eyes may be turning.
But where would we be without screens right now? It’s screens that are connecting us, be it to loved ones or to work, to shopping and to leisure.
And, boy, do we need the distractions of our screens now more than ever. And thank goodness the channels are responding! It’s time for some proper feel-good TV and we’ve not been disappointed. New episodes of The Great British Bake Off, The Great British Sewing Bee, Friday Night Dinner and I’ll Get This to name just a few, as well as all the great repeats, are shows that are simply easy watching amongst all the gloomy coverage.
Away from the constant news updates, these shows are more than light relief, offering a real chance to escape into the silliness and happiness that these shows provide. Take I’ll Get This for example. It’s nothing more than watching a group of minor celebrities have dinner and play simple parlour games. I’m captivated. There’s no really point to it, it’s just good fun.
I will come out of this with incredibly square eyes. But, I’ll feel slightly better thanks to it!
I’m green-fingered anyway, but the lockdown is meaning that I am spending more time than usual in the garden. I check on my growing vegetables more times than I really should, leading to a very disappointing feeling when I discover they haven’t grown since the last time I looked.
This year, I’ve planted:
So far, apart from a few green shoots, nothing. I planted three weeks ago, and done a Prince Charles on them, but nothing. Am I being unreasonable? Yes – yes, I am!
How can I become more patient with my garden? Or does my garden just need to recognise it needs to hurry up this year?