I hope you’re well in body and spirit. If you’re anything like me you’re trying not to overdose on news and focus instead on Spring!
Last week’s Hastings Stanza poetry workshop via Zoom went very well, in fact I was convinced enough to then sign up for a Zoom-hosted writing session with the Sansoms next week. Something in the diary! This last week I’ve been reading rather than writing. A couple of hundred pages through The Mirror and the Light, I’m not as gripped as I was by Wolf Hall. But I’m into it. Meanwhile, Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year is compelling in a macabre sort of way – many, many parallels with today, both in how people are reacting to it and in how authorities are trying to deal with it. There’s also some unexpected humour.
A happy distraction at the moment is vegetable growing. I’m going to have more seedlings ready to plant out than we can accommodate, so I’m hoping the neighbours will be happy to have a courgette or two in the communal garden. Failing that I could offer them to other houses in the street, although I know many of them have communal gardens managed by agents. Maybe I should put them on a ‘help yourself’ table on the pavement outside. Although people aren’t out for strolls that much at the moment of course.
I’ve been keeping a ‘lockdown’ journal, just for my own interest and to remind myself (hopefully in years to come!) how we (hopefully!) got through it. Reading other people’s blogs I get the feeling the initial euphoria of it all has flattened out to more a sense of restlessness or powerlessness, even sadness. I know ‘euphoria’ sounds wrong, but I mean that initial excitement in terms of ‘it’s really happening’ and ‘no-one in the world knows how this is going to go’ and ‘we’re all (kind of) in it together’, plus getting used to all the changes and rising to the occasion. As Mat Riches says in his recent post, “apparently, we’re meant to be using this time to learn Sumerian or how to perform brain surgery and recreate Citizen Kane in stop motion using only Lego minifigs or repurposed Barbie Dolls” – but for many people it’s enough to get through the day and not worry about the family they’re not seeing or the business they’re losing.
Although I’m also fighting a creeping sense of sadness, I’ve so much to feel grateful for. Last Thursday was our youngest granddaughter’s 2nd birthday. I had fun making a card telling a story in which we all played parts, and with WhatsApp we were able to share the candle-blowing-out/cake cutting. Regular runs out with Nick make me feel that my body isn’t atrophying. The sun’s been shining and there’s beautiful scenery where I live. I watched the Queen’s message on TV last night and was strangely moved. What she’s been through. I’ve never considered myself a raging royalist but I have the upmost respect for her and I found her words comforting. In the same vein, the little video of a Scottish ‘wee granny’ that popped into my Twitter stream midweek was (and still is) a highlight for me. Do watch it if you haven’t already, you will feel better afterwards.
For once I’m actually grateful to be subscribed to so many newsletters, as companies and organisations are making great efforts to reach out to customers with new services, suggestions or just moral support. I’m not saying I’ve taken them all up, but sometimes just reading them helps. Here are some I’ve been impressed by:
- The Gallivant (hotel and restaurant in Camber Sands) is sending out a weekly ‘Free calm from the beach’ containing inspiration, recipes and eternal positivity.
- Tate Modern is creating guided video tours – here’s one on the current Warhol exhibition.
- The RHS has a free weekly newsletter full of garden inspiration, ‘how-to’s, things to do with children etc
- Poetry Magazine from the Poetry Foundation has free newsletters with links to several poems in the latest issue. There’s also a link to their excellent podcast.
- The Royal Academy has a series of of videos on some of their collection and exhibition highlights called In 60 seconds
- And Nick has just alerted me to Sandi Toksvig’s Vox Tox, her new daily YouTube channel, which he says is quirky and interesting…
On my desk I have a list of people I want to keep in touch with and am thinking along the lines of something in the post. Not that I want to overload our valuable posties. But I just feel there can be something very warm about a letter or a card, perhaps hand-made, with a person in mind. More personal than an email, less stressful than a phone call. For many of these people I only have postal addresses anyway. Another project!