It is hard to imagine what it would have been like since I began hunkerin’ doon on 15th March, if in the last twenty-one weeks life had been normal. Take that to mean the daily lives we led before being forced to change our perspective on normality. Several times over the years I have had occasion to note that The Ides have had significance for me as well as Julius Caesar. Who could have imagined life would be what it did become?
That was when it all started to get serious and warnings were issued to everyone that things would have to change. I don’t imagine that many were able to imagine the full extent of the repercussions of what transpired to be the new normal for us. It has been different for everyone. My normal will not have been anyone else’s but such is the way of things, what starts as strange at first, if it goes on for long enough, normal is what it becomes.
Imagining I was well organised, there was a flurry of activity to make sure that all resources were in place to provide what was required to maintain and sustain the enforced isolation. Whatever else I imagined at the beginning, there was no real thought given to how it would be at what is now nearing the end. Planning to make the best use of the time was impressive. I refer to my very first post Good Intentions! Enthusiasm and motivation to convert intentions to action were at levels which meant it got off to a great start. Each day presented an opportunity to visit or revisit features of what had been relegated to the background of a busy life. Focus changed to inside it rather than what was going on, or would have been normally, in life beyond the gate. And wasn’t the weather just glorious!
A full diary of out and about suddenly was erased and replaced by phone calls, Messenger, WhatsApp, FaceTime and Zoom, which soon became the norm. We have our own views on how they measured up to the real thing, but we have got used to knowing they present no risk to health, except maybe to the nippin’ o’ yer heid of incessant pinging of incoming messages when so many new groups were set up.
In the Guardian of 27th March, A Letter to the UK from Italy; this is what we know about your future, by Italian author Francesca Melandri, was brought to my attention by a friend who knew I would be interested. We discussed how ominous it sounded, and considered what might lie ahead for us if she was right.
The words must have had a greater impact than I thought at the time, because as I am writing this I hear echoes telling me she was right about so much. I take the liberty of quoting some of her words because she expresses it all so much better than I can. It is as if she has been able to predict what so many have been concerned about, or worse, experiencing first hand. I will not be surprised if more than a few of you identify with what she says if you take time to read the article which you can access on Google.
“You will be told that society is united in a communal effort, that you are all in the same boat …. Being locked up in a house with a pretty garden or in an overcrowded housing project will not be the same…… That boat in which you will be sailing in order to deflect the epidemic will not look the same to everyone, nor is it actually the same for everyone; it never was.”
She also, with great foresight, tells us we will gain weight and join an online fitness class. The inevitable consequence of biscuit in preference to banana, and bulk buying Twix bars as a major constituent of the hunkerin’ doon kit. You can have your next cup of coffee to a full rendition by a group of international women who have filmed her words. Tune in to YouTube https://youtu.be/JZFAT9TGyz4 They tell us “when all this is over, the world will not be the same.”
So as we now imagine how to plot the best course available to us on this voyage to the changed world, I think it is also useful to reflect on how it has been. Nineteen posts ago I determined to find the advantages of hunkerin’ doon, labeled as vulnerable age. Continuing with Francesca Melandi’s boat analogy, to be honest, my experience can probably be described as a bit of a cruise, pretty plain sailing for the most part, with just a few moody choppy waters but no Doldrums.
How fortunate to continue to find advantages, positives and simple pleasures as the weeks have passed so quickly. How amusing it has been to get the occasional WhatsApp link to a clever witty video clip that is so funny it generates a laugh out loud, and how delightful to spend ten minutes a day, via webcam, with the elephants and herds of wild animals in a game reserve in South Africa.
How reassuring to have had the support of kind neighbours who have continued to do my weekly shopping, and to be kept informed in daily reports about what was happening with Covid 19 and the efforts to manage it in a way which was considered to be in our best interests.
How humbling it has been to witness the efforts of every one of the essential workers, applauded or missed out of the headlines because it will be in retrospect that we become aware of their valuable contribution.
How sad it has been to try to imagine how sad it must be for those who have lost someone and whose experience of this cannot be measured in statistics.
How concerning it has been and is to imagine what has been happening to all those whose jobs are lost or on the line, and to think about the reported failures to maintain effective home schooling for every child. Delivery of support for re-opening of schools and everyone suffering ill-effects to mental health will depend on honouring what has been pledged.
How worrying it has been and is to see terrible things happening here and in other parts of the world, and to wonder if the heightened awareness of huge issues will just fade into the concerns of yesterday when this is over and nothing will change.
How very annoying it has been to witness the profound ineptitude and/or arrogance of those from whom we should be able to expect better. Foreboding does not diminish if thoughts focused on the implications of closer trade relationships being forged, while another will be swept aside, can’t be banished. I felt a bit sea-sick when I watched on Netflix the documentary film 13th and the discussion about its production. That’s enough gloom so I won’t mention China.
How frustrating it has been to find there are some things I cannot do now that I probably never could do anyway, but have just found out. How silly it has seemed to get in a fizz about some irrelevancy which took on greater significance because, well it just did at the time.
How entertaining it has been to link in to the wonderfully imaginative ways those in the Arts world have worked so hard to keep us entertained. I have enjoyed reimagined theatrical productions, virtual concerts and visited galleries and museums I never imagined I would.
How enlightening it has been to realise the degree of influence on my fundamental values have been the lessons learned from my Granny. How disconcerting to detect a greater likeness to her in a photograph I have of her as an old lady.
How unsurprising it is that not even half of what I imagined I would accomplish actually made it as far as starting, far less finishing, because too many much more interesting distractions and diversions took precedence. I make no apology to myself, and will take no recrimination. If ever I had to choose between dusting or diddlin’ aboot with a pile of old postcards, I voiced aloud my Granny’s adage – “There’ll be hooses here when we’re a’ deid”.
Nothing can describe the gratitude and relief which comes from looking back at all the worst imaginings of what might happen, and knowing they haven’t happened.
Imagine if the thoughts we have heard that our new normal will bring with it change for the better, how hopeful we could be that the ideas become intentions, action and to full fruition. There is no shortage of some very wise and wonderful proposals in Imagine a Country – Ideas for a better future, edited by Val McDermid & Jo Sharp. And who knows, we might each have some of our own and be asked to participate in making it happen. That did happen in Iceland.
How pleasantly surprised I am that hunkerindoon.com has had up until today, 612 different visitors making 2,362 views. Thank you to everyone who has been curious once and huge thanks to those who have kept coming back. There is no need for real hunkerin’ doon now, so I’m thinking no need for weekly offerings.
That’s not to say I won’t have something to say about getting back into the world of new normality and how my Granny will figure in that somewhere. There will be lots to think about when everything that has happened will be examined, questioned and challenged. Will there be lots of debate where everyone will show respect and listen to those whose views are different? Will we learn from it all? Let’s hope so.
Look out for more rumination on whatever is going on, on the last Monday of the months ahead. Between now and the next one, there are a few exciting things in the diary and a new perspective already forming as I realise I don’t really need a life-jacket.
Imagine how good that feels!