I am sure most of us had plans for the spring that involved something more exciting than staying at home; everyone’s plans for celebrations, days out, weekends away and long holidays have all turned to dust. So much upbeat anticipation of exciting places to visit and people to meet has vanished in a storm of viral infection. As soon as lock down came into force the internet brimmed with advice on how to stay positive during a pandemic and I am working on staying in the present and co-operating with the inevitable, a wonderful saying that a loyal reader gifted me. My mostly outward calm hides my inner turmoil where I feel trapped and the waves of anxiety that this will never end wash over me, as sure as the sea fills Morecambe Bay twice a day.
‘Set a routine,’ is the mantra of many self-help gurus. My partner is good at this but I have never been one for regularity. I like to think of myself as spontaneous and living in the moment, although you might see me as hopelessly restless. If it is a sunny day I want to make the most of it, on the off-chance that it is my last, and I am the one who is always ready to drop any other plans and go camping or walking.
In an effort to endure this lock down stoically and with fortitude, I have tried to add some structure to my day to see if the gurus are right. The daily strength exercises and tai chi are helpful, our morning coffee and daily outdoor exercise are all positive and there is some sense of adventure in going to the supermarket to see what they do and don’t have on the shelves. I find I can fit these things into my day randomly, mixing them up to give me some sense of impulsiveness. Our daily exercise from home can be hiking to the sea or the countryside, sometimes we take an evening walk along the sands to see the sunset over the bay, other days we take a morning cycle ride along the river Lune or the canal, taking best advantage of the tide or the weather. We have a variety of supermarkets nearby and we can choose which one to patronise. And still the days merge and seem almost the same and the happiest days for me are when we ditch the routine and do something different!
Like many in the campervan community we had plans for 2020. Each trip we make it our campervan requires some planning and days of research for the travel articles I expect to write after each trip. In January this year I, foolishly it now turns out, had the first six months pretty much mapped out and it was going to be a busy time. I had at least eight trips and corresponding travel articles planned and I was working hard, doing the preparatory research as the virus began to lurk.
Never having the patience to wait for spring or summer, we go away in our campervan all year and I have never been more glad that we were away camping in January, February and early March on different trips. From early-March we were planning to be in Scotland for a full month; this was a trip we were both happily anticipating. As it turned out we were in Scotland for a shorter time before we had to return home. I am pleased we got there at all but still can’t bear to even glance at, never mind edit, the photographs from that trip; they remind me too much of what I am missing.
Last week I had to ring the ferry company to cancel our ferry to Europe in early May. A small and fairly simple action that was distressing because it put me face-to-face with the reality that we wouldn’t be travelling around mainland Europe this spring, never mind summer and probably autumn. My brain had been protecting me by compartmentalising; one half optimistic and ill-advised, thinking this was all a bad dream, while the pessimistic section is over-actively creating apocalyptic scenarios! This simple administrative call shattered my fragile equilibrium.
The pile of guidebooks, phrase books and maps I had purchased and sorted for our springtime European trip sat on the living room floor taunting me for four weeks. I would look over at them hearing my pessimistic brain area banging on about how much money I had wasted and that they needed putting away but in the background my optimistic brain put its hands over its ears and sang, ‘Don’t worry about a thing
‘Cause every little thing gonna be all right.’ It wasn’t until lock down was extended that I caved in and packed them all onto the book shelves where they still mock me quietly when I dare to glance across.
There are more bookings to cancel / postpone but small steps and one day at a time is what the internet recommends!