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Saturday, June 22, 2024
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Laterally SpeakingAre we There Yet?

Are we There Yet?

The answer is not quite. I don’t know about you, but I feel a bit like I’m aged eight and sitting in the back of the car and I’m on a long, long journey and Daddy Boris is currently driving up front. Nobody in the back (that’s you and me) knows when we’re going to get there (wherever ‘there’ is) and we’re all hoping that somebody up front knows the way. Are we there yet? Not yet, so be quiet at the back and go to sleep. And stop pulling your sister’s hair…

Occasionally we get a glimmer of hope, a glimpse of the sun through the clouds overhead that means we must be getting quite near now. We get an occasional let-up of social distance and a quarantine easing, but it’s only a stop on the motorway—like a choc ice or a pee break at a service station. We’re still not actually there.

I am starting to realise (perhaps you have too) that perhaps nobody actually knows where ‘there’ is. And since the virus thing is likely to be around for some time (unless we miraculously get a vaccine) I am going to have to get used to wearing a face mask and not hugging friends and family! Certainly, the idea of hugging old Uncle Hugo whose chronic pipe smoking rendered him socially obnoxious at 20 feet (let alone 2 metres) never really appealed to me, so I expect it’s for the best. I also rather like my face mask—not only does it make me feel like Zorro or Batman, but my one is a fashion statement (sort of mottled leopard skin—very designer friendly).

I may then hopefully have more time to finish some of the projects that I promised I would undertake when the lock-down process started earlier in the year. Of course, I haven’t even begun most of them. All of them were a bit like New Year’s resolutions—positive thoughts to encourage activity, but not too depressing to bring on a sense of low self-esteem if they were not realised. So, here’s my lateral list of non-achieved tasks so far in 2020…

Sorting out stuff in the garage or the loft: Since this was something I had been longing to do for ages, the arrival of home-induced isolation was a great opportunity. All those boxes filled with useless presents I bought twenty years ago and then never gave away because they were too awful. For example, do you want a lurid pink ashtray from Truro? No, I thought not… What about those tangled clumps of old wiring and broken bits of ancient hoover and discarded table lights? And the plastic crates full of discarded camping equipment and ancient picnic plates and cups. Of course, I thought they were going to be useful one day, but that ‘one day’ never happened and perhaps after thirty years it’s now time to re-examine my storage priorities. And those cartons of books and old audio cassettes from my college days? It is surely the time to finally let them go particularly as nobody has a cassette player any more.

Well, it’s true I did make a start. I tidied up my office and felt really good about it, but the garage? That was a schlepp too far. I mean, how can one throw away the contents of one’s entire previous life in a mere afternoon? The emotional stress in losing my collection of brass corkscrews (painstakingly gathered over decades of wandering around white elephant stalls and junk shops) would have been too much to bear. I would have suffered even deeper anxiety at the thought of opening up my old train set and I’d have needed another year in isolation to get over the mental trauma of throwing away my old typewriter and the 14 boxes of spare ribbons (Olivetti Letera Type 32, if you’re interested).

Writing a book: No, nor did I, but it seemed like a wonderful opportunity at the time. I got as far as page 12 and then put it away in a box in the garage. Another good idea to resolve in an isolated state…
My old photos: Like you maybe, I have drawers full of yellowing plastic bags all containing packs of 6 x 4 photos lovingly collated with different coloured rubber bands. Looking through them, I wonder just who are these people? Some of them look vaguely familiar but everybody looks so young… so youthful, so innocent. This is Life way before Coronavirus, before computers, before digital photography when people carried real cameras and counted the shots with stuff called film. And on my computer’s hard drive there’s even more of these pictures – digital heaps of JPEGs which (unlike my bundled packs of real photos), I have no idea what’s on them. Some of them are named in sensible folders (like ‘May 1990 Greece Holiday’ or ‘Family Easter 2004’) so at least I know what to expect, but others—and probably the more interesting ones—are in cryptically labelled albums such as ‘Sailing with Alice’ (who on earth was Alice?) or ‘Various 2001 Cyprus’ which is worrying to me as I swear I’ve never ever set foot in Cyprus. Perhaps these photos are of other people, other lives… Or maybe I’ve got senile dementia…

Repairing the clock: It stopped working two years ago and I knew I’d mend it when I had a moment. Well, the moment came back in April but have I done anything about it? No, I haven’t. Sorry. I could also add repairing the lawn mower and painting the outside of the door. And learning Spanish, taking up the flute and painting a masterpiece. But I will… I really will. The longer the pandemic isolation lasts, the more time I’ve got not only to start such things but to maybe actually finish them! Perhaps the real answer to “Are we there yet?” is not quite, but if I just sorted out a couple of boxes in the garage, I might start to see the outskirts of the promised land. In the meantime, there are so many really useful things to do such as watch another Netflix movie and order yet more stuff online which I can then store in the garage. Cynical, moi? Surely not…

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