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Showing posts from 2020

Life in a time of Covid-19 - part 15: tiers and tears. And waiting; for this, too, shall pass.

  As I walked with this pair earlier today - on our last walk of 2020 - I reflected. Because reflecting or dreaming or imagining things is what you do when you're walking. I reflected - I don't know why - on the homophones tier and tear in relation to the Christmas just passed - a Christmas that was suddenly smaller - tiers and tears; a Christmas that was devoid of the usual parties - tiers; a Christmas that had FaceTime unwrapping of presents - tiers. And later, a few private tears. A Christmas 'crown' that was more than adequate and cooked far quicker than the usual big bird - tiers; a Christmas with friends distant, some on the end of a phone, and one gone - tears; Christmas walks to clear our heads and meet first in a group of six, then one with one - tiers; and the last ten minutes, alone with a Christmas film, caught channel-hopping, by mistake - tears. And today, a chill wind, mist and fogged-up glasses, and, pouring down cold cheeks, tears, unchecked. To sugges

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 14: Venus on the horizon and Ovid. Or if not Ovid, could it be covid inside my head?

  "Venus favours the bold" Ovid ... Venus an hour before sunrise this morning (the dot above and to the right of the oak). Well, I assume I'm not alone in thinking it's hard to believe it's December. How did that happen? I know December follows November, follows October etc and despite it being a weird year, it's not yet bent time. But honestly, where has 2020 gone? No, actually ... shakes head. And shakes head again. And drops head momentarily onto desk ... don't bother to answer that question: we all know where 2020 has gone. It's been swallowed up by a tiny virus. Tiny. Miniscule. Deadly. Monsters are meant to be big; they're meant to stomp and roar; to huff and puff and blow our houses down; or smell our blood while shrieking 'fe-fi-fo-fum.' They're meant to lurk beneath our beds and hide in cupboards, waiting to pounce. They should have green skin, drool slime and be covered in warts. They live in dark forests or in swamps. And som

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 13: after a hiatus, what comes next?

What comes next?       What comes next is a question we impatiently ask ourselves throughout our lives. It assists planning. It is the bedrock of ambition. It builds futures. But, right now, what comes next is tinged with more uncertainty and fear than we are used to. In our cosseted, modern lives, those of us who live in stable, Westernised societies, have become lazy in our thinking - we've too often narrowed the focus of what comes next to our own small patch of the planet - ourselves, our families, and our friends and colleagues. Now the focus of what comes next has exploded to encompass the entire planet and all its peoples and ecosystems and political situations. And contemplating this near-incomprehensible what comes next is exhausting. I've been struggling with it for at least two months. Let's face it, I'm not alone - you have too; along with the rest of the population. Of the entire world. I say two months ... but in reality, we have probably been contempla

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 12: dreaming

You know that lazy afternoon feeling - sitting on a hillside/beach/boat/at a table on the pavement outside a cafe/bar - mug/glass of something hot/chilled in your hand - clouds slowly sliding across a blue sky - a gentle zephyr of a breeze dancing through your hair - and nothing to do but sit and stare? That feeling when your thoughts succumb to day-dreams and your eyes close and real dreams start to unroll inside your head.  Has anyone else noticed that social isolation has a similar effect - all-be-it one laden with anxiety and punctuated - like big fat rain drops tumbling out of the sky - with frustration? The lazy afternoon bliss of holiday freedom replaced by the lazy afternoon en-trappment of a global pandemic, but both tipping us into our dreams. So, this becomes another day for dreaming. Like yesterday. And the day before. And then for dreaming about dreaming. And perhaps for asking, 'What is a dream?' Dream - definition:  noun  - a fantasy of the imaginat

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 11: earth day and apples

I have posted an i-phone photograph of the sunrise, on Instagram, every morning, for the past 22 days. And I am exhausted. But not so exhausted that I am tempted to stop. Not yet. Small things give purpose to the day. Particularly, when day after day we are in lockdown and the world looks more different than we could ever have imagined. There is something anchoring in seeing the sunrise. Maybe, it harks back to a deeply-rooted instinct that looks to the sun for reassurance. Maybe, it is my way of finding a constant - if the sun rises then I can too. I can begin my day. The coronavirus has altered the world we live in, but the earth hasn't changed. Or has it? Arguably, the earth has changed - Across the industrialised world, industry has shut down and commuting to work has all but ceased. As a result, pollution levels have collapsed. The WHO estimates that the smog caused by air pollution kills over 1.5 million people a year in India. Now the air is so clear that the H

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 10: being first

There's a first time for everything. Some firsts are met with deserved celebration. Some with derision. Some with despair. Some with a 'Huh,' and a shrug and a 'well, there you go - it was bound to happen.' That my laptop didn't try to correct  covid-19  in the title above, or just now for that matter, is one of those shrugging, almost sighing but actually can't be bothered to expend the energy that a sigh would require firsts. It was inevitable. Say something or type something enough times and it becomes the norm. Which is an intriguing thought - maybe we could invent a word and see how long it takes to get picked up by others. But hang on a minute this happens already. Lexicographers such as those working for the OED make their living out of tracking the evolution of language - the appearance of new words and the loss of old ones. As the coronavirus pandemic marched across a stricken world, covid-related words splurged all over our inboxes; social media

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 9: storytelling

When you're a parent you do anything, absolutely anything, to help and nurture and protect your children. This is seldom easy. Currently, it's even harder and we are left dreaming of the seldom easy days. I just read the lyrics to Paul Simon's song, Bridge Over Troubled Water and yes - that; all those words. That is exactly who I am. Those words, written 1969, encapsulate what I aspire to be, today, as a parent with every atom of my being. This  is me - I will dry your tears; I will comfort you; I am there when you need a friend. I don't want to breach copyright law so I thought it best not to print the whole song. It's easy to find on the internet though - search for it, read it, and see if you weep like I did. These days tears seem to be closer - lingering always nearby - ready to run at the smallest trigger. I observe a collective erosion of resilience in those around me at work, online and at home and in response, a steady growth of mindfulness, yog

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 8: constants

Constants - those rooting things that never change. Those things that we depend upon. That ground us firmly in who and where we are. The things that if removed would be replaced by chaos. When I was thinking about what to write,  I clumsily started to input c-o-n- into my phone and up popped the suggestion 'consonants.' Consonant - definition: any speech sound that is produced by stopping the air flowing freely through your mouth - 'f', 't', 'z', 'm' ... etc, and also any written letter that is not a vowel. By substituting the t in constant with the on in consonant my phone unwittingly suggested something that at first glance might appear to be constant but is not. Language evolves and changes - even its letters; its building bricks. Not all of the vowels and consonants we take for granted today are the same as the ones known, for example, by Shakespeare. If we go further back in the history of the English language, to Chaucer, they are

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 7: self help

Self and help, as in the title above ... we all know what self is. It's me. It's who you are to you. And help ? We understand that too. But self help . Do we really know what that is? Or more importantly, do we know how to practise self help? Or where to find it? Or if we find it, what to do with it? And why we should bother? Let's start at the beginning; with a definition - Self help is the assistance one gives to oneself. This assistance is achieved through the solving of personal problems ... what does that mean? Basically one turns into a hunter-gatherer, tracking and trapping helpful resources which are then used to benefit oneself. Hmmm ... there are too many ones and oneselves here ... essentially you search for things that will help and then do whatever those things are. Self help - done properly - results in improved resilience and wellbeing. Thus, self help is good. It sounds easy-ish. But the -ish becomes more heavily weighted when the world is being t

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 6: the unseeing eye

Crime drama usually has that pivotal scene where a witness is asked to recount what they saw. For the reader or television viewer this is an expected and hotly anticipated part of the story - the part where the detective will hopefully discover some small nugget upon which the investigation will turn. The unfolding story hinges entirely upon an accurate recall of what was seen. Skilled storytellers, who understand human psychology, will show how tortuous this recall can be. Ask yourself what colour of shirt and tie, or dress, the newsreader on television last night was wearing - you watched him or her speaking, between newsreels, for the half an hour or so of the programme. How accurately do you recall - not what he or she said - but exactly how they looked? When the police ask, 'What was the suspect wearing?' they don't expect their witnesses to give accurate answers 100% of the time. Witness testimony is notoriously unreliable; in cases that were overturned after DNA e

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 5: switching off

How to switch off. Switching off is hard at the best of times, but as this is the furthest from the best of times that any of us has ever experienced, right now switching off is well nigh impossible. Or is it just me? Despite Life in a time of covid-19 - parts 1 to 4 and my advice to find our happy place; practise the ten daily gratitudes; and to be kind to ourselves, I find that I am not very good at practising what I preach. My mind jumps from one thought to another and my actions start and stop in a desperate attempt to keep up with my thoughts. Maybe meditation ... or regular exercise ... or a good book ... or gardening ... or a walk with the dogs ... or baking ... or sorting through the freezers ... I'm doing it again: sprinting towards a finish line along a track filled with distracting potholes and all the time having to find different ways of not falling in. Or if these ways are unsuccessful, of actually falling in - I walk into a room and find I don't know why I

Life in a time of covid-19 - part 4: kindness

Do you remember that tight feeling in your hand at the end of exams - the clawed, feels-like-I-dipped-them-in-cement-three-hours-ago stiffness of fingers clamped round a pen; the numb divots in finger pads, and the heavy, whole arm and shoulder ache? I remembered it yesterday. First we had loo-roll shortages, swiftly followed by a complete disappearance of pasta and paracetamol and dog food and nappies, now there are shortages of medicines. But before you panic ... yes, there's a shortage of some things, but most common medicines are available in many different brands or there are 'similar enough' medications to make logical swaps. Though by the end of yesterday, logic was beginning to give way to desperation as our pharmacists started calling patients to check if they had really run out or could wait a couple of weeks. We live in very strange times. These shortages are a small and probably temporary part of that strangeness and will be lost as the bigger picture comes in