There only seems to be one subject that everybody is talking about at the moment so I’m going to join in with an account of lockdown life. Strangely, I’m finding less activity on my social media and fewer hits on my blog, so it’s probably not the right time to be writing a long, serious historical article. If you do want to read long, serious historical articles, you could spend some of your time at home looking through old posts of mine – check out http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/blog/.
During the first days of lockdown I saw an irritating number of articles suggesting that this was the time when I could finally achieve a new and exciting goal. Lots of people told me that Shakespeare had written King Lear during a period of quarantine and psychologists rushed to assure me that I would only be able to stay sane if I followed a rigorous programme of regular exercise and possibly spent my evenings learning a new language. Anybody who knows me, will realise that these ideas were unlikely to go down well. Since we’ve been in lockdown I’ve had a birthday and my wife bought me a toy sloth, which shows just how well she knows me.
All this means that you can be sure you will not get a Pollyanna-ish blog about how lucky you all are not to be able to see any of your friends. I am very aware that, besides the thousands of people who are dying, many people are really suffering economically and emotionally from what is happening at the moment. But it is worth remembering that there are upsides.
Life is not fair and while there are too many families on minimum wage trying to survive in a small flat with children locked in almost all the time, the two of us are comfortable in a big flat in an airy part of London. We can still dance together (as in the photo above). We are both used to working from home – indeed, my beloved sometimes says it needs a crowbar to get me outside. So we are finding adjusting to this is very easy. In fact, much of the time, I don’t have to make any adjustments at all. It is worth remembering, though, that this crisis has led to some really good things that we might like to remember as we move back to “normal”. Could we, perhaps, try to hold on to some of the things that we have come to appreciate?
- Like most people in West London, we enjoy the dubious privilege of living under a Heathrow flight path. Not having the peace disrupted every few minutes as another planeful of businessmen jet off on their ‘essential’ travel is bliss. Now that so many people have realised that their flights weren’t that essential after all, can we go back to a world where we just have a whole heap fewer aircraft?
- The absence of planes and cars has meant noticeably bluer skies. This was the sky over the Albert memorial earlier this week. Trust me, it’s not usually like that.
- How come we were at the Albert Memorial? We skated there. Skating is one of the main ways we exercise. Usually we have to skate in a large group, because traffic makes it at best unpleasant and at worst just too dangerous to skate around town. Personally I find even cycling in London can be unnerving. But not for the last few weeks. With fewer cars on the road, skating or cycling has become a pleasure. Not only is it quieter but the cars that are there all seem to be being driven more slowly and considerately now that they are not fighting for every inch of space.
- I can hear the birds. They seem to be less frightened of humans, too, for some reason. I’d say this was my imagination but I’ve heard other people mention it. Sometimes it goes too far – we had to chase a couple of pigeons out of our bedroom last week.
- Not only is the air cleaner, so is the water. Walking by the River Thames, you can see the bottom near the shore. Perhaps we need to ask if we really need quite so many pleasure boats going up and down it – especially when they ignore the speed limit and create massive amounts of disturbance, stirring up the silt at the bottom.
- As we’re not driving anywhere and it is all too literally as much is your life is worth to risk public transport, we are doing much more exploring in the area near where we live. After almost 35 years, you’d think we’d know it really well, but it turns out that there are beautiful spots quite close to us which we have never visited. They’re not crowded either. Socially isolating means treasuring the quieter parts of London and it is surprising just how many there are.
- Like a lot of people we have discovered that it is neither necessary nor desirable to shower every day. The river life that is no longer drinking our rinsed-off detergent is grateful.
- As we are not going out, we eat home-cooked food every day. It tastes better, it’s better for us, and we’re not even putting on weight.
- Less of a social life also means that we get to sleep when we want, rather than when the last train gets us home.
- I see families in the park. There are fathers who can now remember what their children look like. I asked a neighbour (from two metres away) how her teenage son was taking it and she said he was just happy not to be doing exams at school.
- And speaking of school, I hope this will be remembered next time that some self-important educationalist tells us that missing a single day of school can destroy a child’s education. Our son was home educated for GCSE (now has a good degree from a good university and postgraduate qualifications), so I have always had my doubts about this particular shibboleth. I hope some other people are going to question it too.
Different people will have different blessings, but it’s probably worth remembering what they are. I fear that when this is over, we will very quickly try to go back to what life was like before. If, though, we can remember some of the things this experience has taught us, maybe something positive can come out of it.
I still haven’t written King Lear though.
Of course, I have written the odd other thing …
I am still writing. It would be nice if some of you were using this time to read one or two of my books. All are available on Kindle (important right now, when getting my paperbacks delivered can be tricky). Dark Magic is also available free to read on Kindle Unlimited.
Details of all my books are here on this website: http://tomwilliamsauthor.co.uk/my-books/