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As the world moves online

Wow, things are changing so quickly it’s hard to believe – for example, how people are getting themselves online – to teach, to meet, to try new things, but mostly I think to keep relationships going with family, friends, customers… when the going gets tough, the tough get tooled-up on tech. This coming week our esteemed Hastings Stanza rep Antony Mair has arranged for us to hold our monthly workshop via Zoom, which is clearly the conferencing app du jour. And last week my dear husband actually started a blog, to keep in touch with all his choirs, and had 92 followers within hours. Whaaaa?! He’ll be writing poetry next.

And so to the lockdown. I’ve begun reading Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and the Light which is highly absorbing, and another book which I was tempted into buying, called Timeless Simplicity – Creative living in a consumer society by John Lane, a book which I thought would suit current circumstances. But unfortunately it’s nearly twenty years old and as such rather dated in its information about mass leisure, work and consumption. There’s some food for thought though. I’ve started recalling books about plagues and sieges. I remember being much moved by Helen Dunmore’s The Siege. Years ago in school I read Albert Camus’s La Peste (aka The Plague – although we had to read it in French for A level – pah!). It’s clearly enjoying a renaissance at the moment – The Guardian reports that Penguin Classics are struggling to keep up with orders. And then there’s Daniel Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year. I had a feeling I still had a copy, and lo – there it was on the bookshelf…

Daniel Defoe a Journal of the Plague Year

I can’t wait to get stuck into this, in fact I may to read it in parallel with the Mantel, something I never do with novels.

On the poetry front I am loving Sharon Olds’ Arias. It’s firing up my writing too. I’ve no idea what the effect is of the pandemic on poetry magazines, whether editors have too much on their plates dealing with the exigencies of life under lockdown to be thinking about the publishing schedule, or reading submissions or what have you. No doubt they’ll be inundated with poems now that we all have more time to write. And plenty on the subject of you-know-what. I wonder how much ‘pestilence poetry’ we can all take for the next few years as the theme filters through to publication?

I can report there was a mad rash of cleaning in our house last week. The kitchen was scrubbed so well I had a sore shoulder for days. I’ve also been cleaning old garden pots and potting on seedlings. We’re taking our exercise in the form of walks or runs, and last week had a lovely walk up to Beachy Head where sat well away from the path and ate a picnic. Very few people about. We’re so fortunate to have this sort of countryside on our doorstep and I do hope we won’t be prevented in the future from walking though it. Fresh air, access to nature and the ability to be outside are certainly crucial to my own mental health and I’m sure I’m not alone. Wherever we walk about here it’s very quiet. I was more worried on my one visit to Sainsbury’s, even though they are limiting the numbers in the shop. (I’d like to say how good the staff were at our local store in Hamden Park, Eastbourne – friendly, upbeat, entertaining the queue – shop staff are doing difficult jobs and I’ve no doubt they take a lot of flak.) And Katya in our local shop is doing a marvellous job of keeping open, with fresh produce available every day.

Eastbourne from beachy head
Looking back to Eastbourne from the Beachy Head peninsula

I’ve loved reading other people’s blogs and seeing photos of Spring. Last week I was thrilled to discover Jean Tubridy was back blogging. Jean’s blog Social Bridge was one of the first I used to follow. Warmly recommended. Another lovely post that caught my eye last week was Ann Perrin’s tribute to her mother – what an extraordinary life she had, and Ann tells her story with such generosity and ease. Do take a look.

PS I’m 6-4 ahead in the Scrabble Challenge…

Published inBlogBooksLockdown

One Comment

  1. Cheryl Capaldo Traylor Cheryl Capaldo Traylor

    I find comfort in reading what others around the globe are doing during this time. We truly are all in this together. I always learn so much from your blog posts, Robin. Just followed Jean’s blog. I’ve been turning to poetry a lot lately. Olds is a favorite. I recently read The Overstory and just started Nan Shepherd’s The Living Mountain. Reading, poetry, gardening—all necessary for me right now. Stay well. x

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Robin Houghton 2024