I normally enjoy the moment I am in. If I am reading, engrossed in a project or out walking or cycling in the great outdoors I am completely focused and present. Although I get anxious about the future, I am not someone who generally wishes my time away, I know that every minute is precious and appreciate being alive and well every day … but these days I am experiencing a strong urge to hibernate until this melancholic winter is over.
Lancashire has now been placed in the highest category in the UK for coronavirus restrictions and we’re advised to stay confined to our county; much as I love Lancashire, I once again feel restrained. I am dreading this winter that will be a long calendar of missed get-togethers and celebrations. I am sure my partner will make it special but my forthcoming birthday will most likely be just the two of us. Christmas and New Year are not a big deal in our house but in normal years we do socialise and knowing I might not see my friends and family through December makes me weep. And then the dark days of January and February will roll in. These are difficult months at the best of times but this year I can feel them advancing like a heavy dark cloud. How will those months of long nights feel without occasional warm convivial evenings around a friend’s dining table drinking red wine, eating their fantastic food and laughing? Just wake me up in March when at least spring is springing.
I heard Simon Armitage on the radio for National Poetry Day talk about the ‘coronavirus rollercoaster,’ before he read his poem ‘Something Clicked.’ In the poem he considers some of the benefits of a pandemic such as not having to endure the commute now many people are working from home and having time to just sit and think and appreciate nature. Of course, this is the life I had been living from 2017 and retirement and while it is good to hear that some people are finding positives in this whole muddle my own rollercoaster has rushed mostly downhill with only small optimistic inclines.
I have tried to be realistic about coronavirus, knowing it will be with us for the long haul, the virus won’t be beaten or sent home with its tail between its legs. I hoped that we would find a way to manage and live with covid-19 among us. I thought we could live differently, make social distancing and good hygiene normal and perhaps invite our friends to our home one household at a time. I was optimistic and excited in June when we could drive away from home and walk in the hills again and on 4 July I was on a high at being allowed to go camping again. July was good, we met a few friends outdoors and went camping but by the end of the month it was clear that these less uneasy days weren’t going to last forever.
We grasped our chance and escaped to France in August, just in time to have to return and spend two hard weeks in quarantine. As well as thoroughly enjoying travelling in another country again, by fitting in a trip before the amounts of alcohol we can return with is limited [after Brexit] our cupboards are now full of red wine!
I always experience some dread as the cold dark months approach but I have been working on having a more positive attitude circulating in my head and in September I was learning to appreciate these days of colourful autumn colours, rainbows and stunning morning and evening light. We toured around Northumberland and Yorkshire in our campervan and walked up mountains until our legs ached in Scotland. We have met friends and our son and daughter-in-law for long walks, layering up to keep warm and hunkering down with a flask for a picnic and I was starting to feel happy and more balanced again. Having spent too long with only each other to chunter to about the state of the nation, it felt good to hear other people’s ideas and thoughts and really have a conversation in a way you can’t do as the internet freezes and falters the to-and-fro of real communication.
I am still wary of planning more than a week ahead at any time. So many lovely proposed meet ups and trips have been scuppered by the ever-changing rules and each blow sends me hurtling down that rollercoaster. Always an enthusiastic arranger of holidays, meet-ups and celebrations in the past the next few months look empty and bleak but at least I won’t have the disappointment of cancellation. I am learning to accept the gaps in my life, at least they are certain and when we do get the chance to snatch time away in our campervan or with friends it is a bonus.
We are being nudged back into isolation. I’m sure I am not alone in my feelings of despair and it is going to take a bit of effort to see the positives in this.
Something Clicked – Simon Armitage
Then something clicked
and the day quivered and rang like a question mark!
Why grit your teeth in the gridlock now the commute’s
a superfast hop and a skip from toothbrush to keyboard,
from bed-hair to screen-call?
Why wrestle with glitches and gremlins
or tussle with gubbins and gismos, or idle and churn
in the swirling pit of the buffering wheel
now you’re fine-tuning the senses, enrolling for real life,
getting to grips with arts and crafts
that were only a keystroke away all along –
you’re a rhythm guitar, a poem, a garden, a song.
You’ve learned to cook –
you’re a Sunday roast, a multigrain loaf, a recipe book!
Why be garbled and scrambled again
now you’re mindful, resourceful, neighbourly, human?
Now you’re curious. Fruitful. Meaningful. Tuneful.
And why twiddle your thumbs, though sometimes it’s good
to kick back, to noodle and doodle
letting dreams swim into pin-sharp-focus,
meander through luminous moments. Why stall,
why settle for knowledge arriving granule by granule?
No more fishing for news with a butterfly net,
doing the human aerial. You’re bright of late, ideas hitching
and switching from one domain to the next,
thoughts swiping from subject to subject, planet to planet,
globetrotting the universe. And you’re riding a bike –
you’re a walk, a hike, a mountain, a lake.
It’s a new world – you’re at school in the kitchen,
at work in the attic, in Ancient Rome in the lounge,
on Mars in the basement. Why tear out your hair
while the present dithers and loads, you deserve
to lean on the airwaves and not fall over,
to feel the hub of your heart’s heart
pulsating and purring with life’s signal.
So you’re right here this minute being your best being.
And now you’ve hooked up
with the all-thinking all-feeling all-doing version of you
why sit in the future’s waiting-room
drumming your fingers,
why lose the connection
when you could be your own greatest invention?