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Friday, June 14, 2024
Laterally SpeakingLook on the Bright Side

Look on the Bright Side

Like most of you, I feel like I’m living in a sort of suspended animation. I certainly have no idea what day of the week it is since today is much the same as yesterday and the day before. Weekends used to provide a finite focus for the rest of the week—things to look forward to like going to the movies on Friday evening, a party with friends on the Saturday and maybe a roast Sunday lunch with the family, but all days are now the same. Looking back, I find that whatever used to be normal, now seems completely unreal. How quickly we adapt as humans!
When things get back to the way they used to be (as one day they surely will), I am probably going to have to re-learn how to shake hands without flinching. If anybody moves closer than six feet to me, it feels like common assault. Some days it’s a bit like living in a late-night science fiction movie where some awful disaster has overtaken the globe and I’m the only human left alive.
However, despite all the undoubted gloom and inconvenience of being locked-down and the endless daily drip-feed of virus statistics, there are some positive things about being in locked-down isolation. Just make sure you don’t keep watching the news each day because that’s enough to turn you into a gibbering heap of nerves. I find myself following the daily death statistics as if they were football results.
Noise: Or rather, the lack of it. There’s virtually no engine noise, no brake screeching and certainly no thunderous roar of motorbikes racing each other to death (sometimes literally) via Weymouth and back along the B3157 coast road. Up high in the sky, it’s an unbroken swathe of blue—no white contrails marking the transit of yet more holidaymakers jetting exhaustedly to far off Marmaris, Marrakesh or Magaluf. I can hear the occasional combine in the fields, but mostly it’s bird song and the buzzing of bees. My ears (long accustomed to the pleasurable thunder of Jimi Hendrix or Aerosmith at full blast) can finally be awoken by the soft shrill of sparrows arguing noisily in the bush next to my bedroom or the glorious blackbird song from the garden. This is good.
Money: As I’m already retired, there’s no great drop in income and no guilt at not earning my hourly pay. And, since we don’t have small children living with us which might threaten peace and sanity, my outgoings are less than normal. Actually, very greatly less! With no restaurants or cafés open and no coffee bars or pubs to tempt me out for a drink or a meal with mates, I have saved several hundreds of pounds this last month. Nor can I pop down the shops and pick up a spare pair of socks or a new tie—neither of which do I really need—and I can’t poke about looking for bargains in our local Saturday market. Do I miss going out and doing non-essential stuff? No, I can’t say that I do. I miss the people, but I don’t really miss picking up a second-hand light blue pie dish which would probably sit at the back of the cupboard until I gave it to a charity shop in two years’ time.
Keeping in touch: I’m most grateful for new technology and the rise of WhatsApp and Zoom. I make a point of calling, talking to and—now—even seeing my children and grandchildren, my sisters and my favourite cousins on a regular basis. OK, so I see them only on a little screen, but it’s great! I swear I never did it this much before. Back in whatever we consider to be normal times, I would often put it off and say I’d call my cousin Harry tomorrow. But now, the sense of isolation has made even tenuous family links seem so much more important. I could say for sure that the act of being ‘locked down’ has made me closer to my family, which is a bit weird but true. Distance makes the heart grow fonder etc.
Learning new stuff: With all this extra time on hand, I could be learning Spanish, studying art and how to paint properly, re-learning how to play jazz piano or even starting to write my memoirs. But you know I probably won’t. The thought is there and so is the attraction of learning a new skill, but I know I won’t be doing anything that constructive. I’ll continue thinking about doing it which will give me a positive feeling all day, but I probably won’t actually do anything except (hopefully) finish reading the whole of War and Peace. This is something I’ve always wanted to do, but again possibly never will…. I’ll get to the bit where Rostov is involved in the Battle of Austerlitz, and wonder if Prince Andrei’s wound will be terminal. I got here about five years ago at page one hundred and something. If my forced isolation lasts another couple of months, I might get to page 300 out of 1,500. Don’t worry. That won’t happen because they’ll have to start football again by mid-summer, so the clubs can afford to keep paying their multi thousand-a-week prima-donnas. The nation’s virus statistics help put that into its proper perspective.

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