Posted in Life and Family, Lost in Thought

The Year That Never Was

Summer has gone, more or less. It’s raining a lot and cold winds are beginning to blow. A Hercule Poirot drama about a Halloween Party was on television this afternoon. It felt right for all sorts of reasons. At the end he said something about Halloween being a time to light the candles for the departed, and I liked that. We make it into a horror event, but perhaps it’s more about peaceful contemplation and acknowledgement of all those who have gone before.

I have barely been out since lockdown hit, and it’s hard to believe the year is nearly through. So much happened globally, yet so much has not happened at all. My mother said she sometimes forgets about Covid-19 and all the restrictions, and it takes an effort to remember. I find the same, but at the same time we have been so locked away that it’s been a year of almost complete blankness… that’s not normal. It’s as though everybody we knew died long ago and are now just existing in our memories.

When somebody does die, the lockdown makes it worse. A friend used to take us out for coffee. We talked about how we would all go out for coffee again when the lockdown was over. I got emails from her, offers to shop for groceries, even flowers for my birthday, but haven’t seen her in person since January or February. Suddenly she’s gone — died during the night. She was one of Mum’s friends, around the same age, but would write me conversations when we were out — very sweet, bright and cheerful. I feel a real sense of loss. It complicates it that we were going to meet again when life started to get back to normal, and I looked forward to it, but now that coffee will never be.

I didn’t even realize how much I looked forward to it till it was gone… you just take it for granted it will happen, the same way you assume you will be getting up the next morning.

I asked Mum why Anne was so kind to so many, and she said maybe it’s because she’s a writer; used to be a journalist and is curious about people. Many will miss her.

Recently I’ve been playing an empire-building game online. Despite my determination to play my own game and keep to myself, I find myself increasingly drawn in to the community there. Somebody I never spoke to but who was part of our group suddenly announced today that he had gone so far in the game that there was nothing left that was new or fun, and he couldn’t do it any more. He was henceforth leaving, but he bade us all a kind farewell and hoped we would all continue to play and enjoy the game.

Nobody said anything in the public threads, and just carried on with normal business, which was reassuring… a form of ‘life goes on’. I looked at this name and that, thinking “I’m glad X, Y and Z are still here!” It really felt as though he had thrown himself off a cliff (which of course he hadn’t… he just went back to normal life and found something else to do and people in his own environment to talk to).

As the day went on, I grew more and more gloomy, thinking about Anne, my father, grandparents and others who have gone. It’s as though the game player’s departure had triggered those thoughts, which is apt, as his username is Trigger… what else?? I went to look at his city to make sure he hadn’t deleted it outright, but it’s still there. I don’t know this person but don’t like being left by anybody… life is cold enough. The more people who leave for whatever reason, the worse the world seems. Is that normal, though? It’s the normal state of being, isn’t it? We can’t all be there for everyone forever.

I feel distant from everything — from my past, my old hobbies, from people and from everything that used to matter. It’s struck me that big families are important. You need to have a big, supportive family who know you very well, preferably not living halfway across the world from you. I know this is an ideal scenario and some people might feel their families are not that supportive or kind, but life isn’t perfect and it’s still the ideal.

I find it difficult to write on my blog because I get cold feet even when I’ve written something I was happy with. Sometimes it’s difficult because I re-read things and wonder “why do I always sound morose?” or “I sound more angry there than I actually felt”… which is bad writing, perhaps. I wrote a post about books I was reading, then couldn’t bring myself to publish it, but that was because of recent political events.

I said a few paragraphs back that I feel distant from everything that used to mean anything to me, so perhaps it says something that I still blog now and then. My blog is a big part of my life despite the multiple cold feet I grow here. 🙂

For several days the song in my head has been Son of My Father. I used to play the song a lot as a schoolgirl, so it’s a link to a time when life seemed straightforward.

When I was younger, anything dramatic seemed wonderful or unusual. Life was ordinary and nothing spectacular happened to anyone, so if anything happened in my life that seemed like it was out of a book or a film, I had to tell everyone about it. Now it seems entirely the other way, and nothing is worthy of note, least of all my own thoughts. What was light and normal with rare notes of dark and drama is now chaos and darkness with brief flashes of light. That’s how it’s always been, but I didn’t have enough experience to see it.

Thank goodness for Poirot with his ‘light the candles’… We can take that thought with us into the dark, and yes — I will light mine.

Posted in Blogging, Health Issues

In Lockdown: Old Blog, New Approach

Seeing my blog in a new light. Took a longish time off because, because, because…

One day I read something that scared me and I locked it down so no one could access it. Now I’m back again. When it comes down to it, it seems I still have the need to write, and I still like reading blogs in this corner of the blogosphere.

Wow, that word! I haven’t thought of it in so long. Blogosphere. It reminds me of innocent days when we thought more about blogs, coffee, psychology, going out, watching films and reading books than we did about viruses. To me it feels like a long time ago.

I see it in a new way.

A long time ago I deleted my WordPress app because it evolved too far and stopped working on my old iPad. That meant WordPress notifications stopped arriving and the blog retreated still further from my conscious. No more of the little elbow-jogs: “We’re here; still talking.”

Yesterday I posted my first post for a long while then realized I missed the notifications. Probably no one was reading it; they would all be gone. Still, I wanted the app back. I have a new smartphone now, so downloaded the WordPress app to that. Will continue to write posts on the iPad as it’s easier, and use the smartphone for notifications and Reader. Typical convoluted way of working — that’s me all over! Nothing new there, folks.

Looking at my blog from my phone IS new, though. Adds a little something to my life. Perhaps it will help keep my blogging on track.

I do have lockdown blues of a sort, but I think it’s deeper than just the lockdown or even the virus. The word ‘just’ doesn’t apply to that. It’s not ‘just’ a virus; it’s an evil little beast. It’s blighting the lives of millions in every corner of the world. It’s almost too large a thing to contemplate — here we sit in our bubble, eating our meals and watching TV, and nothing much seems to have changed, even while a lot is missing. I went out in the garden and a blackbird was pecking around. It turned its back on me and kept pecking, even though I was tramping around on the same lawn, taking photos of a magnolia. I wondered if it would always have done that, because I don’t remember. I think it’s used to nobody really being around any more. Perhaps I’m a slightly shattered human variation of that blackbird. Whatever this is, it’s not just lockdown blues.

What caught my attention is how this tiny microbe is so enormous a catastrophe that we can’t see all of it. It reminds me of that bit in The Sword in the Stone — the battle between Merlin and the witch — I can’t even remember her name. In the end he changes into a microbe and wins the battle. Madam Mim, says Mum! That was her name.

Old film, old story. One of my favourite books. One of my favourite authors.

Today I found that an 86 year-old member of one of my Facebook groups has died of the virus. It’s a shame because he wrote very good, very well-considered, very intelligent posts. I never talked or wrote to him but his photo became familiar. I suppose that’s going to happen… good people will be taken before their time. I’m surprised how upset I am, but there’s definitely a space there with a cold draught. I don’t want this to happen in my family and I’m very sorry it has happened in someone else’s. It’s a loss to all of us.

I’ve developed a nervous twitch!

My mother went to bed but returned and silently handed me a paperback — ‘Requiem for a Mezzo’ (Carola Dunn). I don’t know why, but it was consoling. Time to start reading again. Time to start blogging again. Time for a new phase in this lockdown.

Posted in Health Issues, Life and Family, Political and Social Issues

Lockdown Blues

Three weeks of lockdown in Scotland have passed by. Three more weeks lie ahead.

I’m more used to staying at home and keeping to myself than many others in the wider population, but their distress disturbs me. It’s reassuring when I see that people have the same thoughts and the same struggles, but this situation is different. A couple of people have said on TV and social media, “You know, this is what our lives have always been like,” and I guess I feel that too.

That doesn’t mean I have no frustrations and fears about the lockdown; I have plenty.

I’m lucky in many ways, really. For instance, I’m not alone in the house. I’m not in one of the most vulnerable groups health-wise, but can’t go out in case I bring the virus home to my mother. We stay in isolation and my sister brings shopping. The rest of the time we get deliveries. People are having trouble obtaining delivery slots from local supermarkets, so I haven’t even tried — we get ours from local shops and Amazon.

I’m careful to space out deliveries because banks have been freezing the cards of people who’ve never shopped online before. I’m not in that bracket but am careful not to order from too many different places all at once. The last thing I need in the middle of a lockdown is for my card to be frozen! Others can unfreeze their cards by picking up the phone but I can’t do that.

Apparently the supermarket shelves are less bare than they were, though still have their moments. I really miss being able to look for things myself. I love impulse buys and being able to choose between one product and another. These days you have to take whatever’s available. I write a list for one shop by email, for example: 1x bacon, 1x apple juice, 1x Earl Grey Teabags, 1x veg box. I don’t specify brands or weights for fear of not getting things at all.

If I went out, though, I’d need to stand in spaced-out supermarket queues. My sister took a photo of one winding round the car park. Anyone following my ‘panic attack’ adventures would know I’m practically allergic to queues. Also I believe people should be wearing masks in public spaces, but here in the UK we are discouraged from doing so. In some sense I’m waiting for authorities to accept that wearing masks is a better idea than not. I was joking in an email that I would choose a black scarf to wind round my mouth as it’s a nice respectable colour, but I don’t think I have one. It would have to be white with teddy bears. “Very you,” commented the neighbour.

There was a bin disruption… the council decided they were going to pick up certain bins and not others. Now they’ve decided to start picking it up again, but we have to keep checking the bin calendar because they change the rota every week. The bins aren’t the worst of our worries, though; that’s just a minor issue. One of the side effects of lockdown.

Facebook has become hard to bear. People and groups who were on your side all through the Brexit era are suddenly voicing opinions you don’t agree with. Most of the time I absorb different opinions, try to make sense of things and say nothing… but there’s so much unkindness. They say these are times that bring out both the best and the worst in people, but I’m not sure I see any difference. The best and the worst have always been there. Often the best is more subtle. The silent majority; the person who takes a little time to be kind; those who have the patience to stick around; those who work responsibly and without fanfare. Also kindness begets kindness — it’s easier to be kind and accepting when others are less acerbic and judgemental.

A queen wasp came into the kitchen and prodded the ceiling thoughtfully. She said if only there were chinks between the panels there might have been a nice little cave behind for wasps to lock themselves down in. I opened the back door to let her out, and forgot all about the incident till a few days later she came back for a second viewing. Why us?? Hasn’t she found anywhere she likes yet?

My hands are so dry… not just from hand-washing but from washing everything else more than usual. Soaping all the milk bottles and groceries and keeping handles clean. I’m glad we have plenty of hand cream. I found a huge pot of E45 sitting around that I bought years ago.

Non-perishable groceries are left aside for a few days before we put them away. I ordered a parcel from Amazon and left it in a cupboard weeks ago. If there was any virus on it, it’s died a thousand deaths by now, but I still haven’t gone in to open it. It’s a batch of kitchen rolls. I offered some to the neighbours, who politely said they have plenty, thanks, and suddenly the parcel seemed a little less shiny and exciting.

Mum squirts our letters with anti-bacterial spray, though I don’t think it kills viruses. Things drop through the letterbox, get a soaking, then are left for a couple of days before being picked up. They are statements and bills with the odd pizza circular.

Boris Johnson wrote us all a letter and told us in advance he was sending it. He posted a copy on his Facebook page but I didn’t read it, as that would have spoiled it for me. For ages mine didn’t turn up. I started to lose hope, thinking someone in Royal Mail might have been anti-Boris and threw it in the burn, but it eventually turned up… only to be squirted by Mum and her bottle of anti-bacterial fluid. Now it looks pimply, but not too bad… my letter from Boris!

Oh, but the days he landed in hospital were the worst. The majority of people were shocked and upset, and I could barely speak. I’ve been reading that the U.S. and even China tried to save his life by offering drugs, so perhaps they were upset too. I felt annoyed every time someone began their commiserations with “Whatever you may think of his politics…” it’s such a grudging remark, as though he’s not their Prime Minister, only ours. I’m glad he’s recovering now, but he’s greatly missed.

The song going round my head over the last few days is The Old Rugged Cross. I didn’t think about it till now, but it must be because of pictures I saw over Easter.

People talk about what they do at home; they connect online or read books or tidy their gardens. I envy them because I can’t concentrate on reading; I can’t relax enough to watch a film or a drama or to listen to music, paint or do anything pleasant. I’m not sure why. I seem to be looking for something — perhaps better news. Like some kind of batwoman I crouch on a ledge and wait, surveying the empty streets below.

Metaphorically, of course. 🙂