Week 2 in the time of coronavirus

There was an energy last week: planning what to do, what to eat, how to manage.  This week has been lower key.  The pattern of the days starts to emerge.  If I am not careful they will blur into each other.  I am looking for markers, staging posts, a rhythm to the week.

Three times in this last week we have walked to our local village and back.  It is not very far but it involves a long haul down one steep hill and up another.  Walking out in the world is strange.  A new etiquette is developing.  You see somebody coming towards you and you try to stand to one side to make sure there is plenty of space between you.  On the station path there are places where there is not much room.  Here I raise a hand when the other person approaches and say hi from a distance.  As they get closer I turn in to face the hedge.  It feels a little strange but necessary.  Most people do some version of what we are doing, trying to combine a greeting and keeping their distance, but now and then someone comes along who keeps their head down, refusing even to meet your eye.  I don't like this.  I want some sense of shared humanity.

It is good to be in Caerwys, to walk through the churchyard, to see people being careful about going into shops, giving everyone space, to be reminded of how the butcher's and the food store are trying to look after people with deliveries and support for those who can't get out.  There is an eerie emptiness though.

"Did you read those John Wyndham books when you were a teenager?" Ian asks me.  "The Day of the Triffids?  Things like that?  It feels like that."

And it does, both normal and entirely not normal at the same time.

But spring is carrying on.  At the edge of the woods the wood anenomes are coming out.  In the bottom of the hedge there are violets and honesty.  The blackthorn is in blossom and there is a sudden flash of periwinkle.

Here in the bottom of the valley the hawthorn is unfurling green and bright against the bare architecture of hedge.

I stop to take photographs with my phone and as I stand up again the hedge behind me erupts into birdsong.

The natural world is still here in all its beauty.

At home we garden and I am reminded all over again of how long it all takes.  Despite a couple of hours a day most days for around a fortnight there is still masses to do.  I find that what works best is to try not to garden as if it is a long checklist of things which need doing but just to enjoy the process, the feel of the sun on my back and my hands in the soil.  I am a bit of a To Do List sort of person so this doesn't come naturally to me but when I can manage it I feel better.  And let's face it, it doesn't look as though this will be ending any time soon so there is time, plenty of time for slow living and slow gardening.

Ian has been sowing seed and planning to grow a lot more vegetables than we have for the last few years.   I decide to grow more flowers too and I sow some sweet peas, calendula and cosmos.  If we are going to be here let us make here as beautiful as it can be.

I am starting to find what works to keep an even keel and even to enjoy these home based days.  Contact with our children and grandchildren helps to give each day its emotional centre.  It doesn't need to be much.  Sometimes a quick Whatapp exchange, sometimes a facetime call or an exchange of little video messages.  We experiment with Zoom for larger group communication.  My aunt and uncle far away in Tasmania are celebrating their Diamond Wedding anniversary and they initiate a zoom call with twenty five of us or more from across the world.  It is like herding cats as all ages and technical abilities jump in and out.  It is lovely to see so many faces though and to reconnect.  I hope I will remember the power of these connections when all of this is over.

Older son initiates a zoom call for our family and we are slightly better at it this time, knowing how to get all the images on the screen at the same time.  The cousins, even the very little ones, seem pleased to see each other and we even manage a bit of conversation before it gently falls into toddler and small child mayhem.

My Spanish is continuing with my twice weekly calls with Luz and my weekly conversation class giving some structure to the week.  The situation in Spain is not good, worse than here right now.  We talk about how to maintain your equilibrium.

For me I have found that watching a bit of news is necessary to feel I understand what is happening but too much news is overwhelming.  I had developed a daily pattern of watching the press conference from Downing Street but yesterday it was suddenly an annoyance: too many politicians trying to say the right thing, too many journalists asking questions which can't be answered.  I left Ian to it and put on my walking boots and strode off up the hill.  In my Spanish class we had been talking about the news and one person said they didn't watch it or read it.  "How do you know what's happening then?" I asked, surprised.  "I ask my mum," he laughed.  It was both a joke and not.

And on Thursday night once more we stood on our doorstep and clapped into the night for the key workers, the NHS staff, the teachers, the retail workers, the binmen, the carers, the lorry drivers, all those people working away to keep us going.  The noise rang out into the dark across the valley.  Afterwards a friend rang and there was again that sense of someone reaching out a hand.

So that is my week: walking, gardening, Spanish, talking to family and friends, walking the line between isolation and connection, between ignorance and being overwhelmed, still feeling lucky to live here in all its beauty.  It's OK.  It's odd but it's OK.  How is it for you?


Comments

  1. Hi, Melissa from Texas here! We are much the same as you — normal yet not normal. I am an introvert so staying here with just my husband and dog is not really bothering me much but I do miss my granddaughter. I am just thankful that we I’ve in this time of technology and have the means such as FaceTime and skype. I read your blog often as I have Welsh connections and enjoy it very much. Stay home, safe and well!

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    1. Hi Melissa, great to have your comment! I understand what you mean about the benefits of being an introvert. Not that I am one really but I have always enjoyed some time along, as long as it is balanced with company. But I do think this must be much harder for people who really thrive on interaction with others. And I also know how very hard this would be if I lived alone! And you are so right about the benefits of technology. Those connections are a real lifeline!

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  2. Hello from Scotland! The weeks so far have been strangely the same-but-different. We are surrounded by lovely countryside but are not driving anywhere to walk, and only shopping once a week. I wish everyone was doing the same. There has been truly shameful national behaviour and I wish the politicians would have been firmer from the start and even firmer now. Like you I have a once a day news catch up and then shut it out. Thanks for the link to the language exchange. The language chat sessions in cafes that I go to when I'm in Edinburgh are now moving online, so I'm waiting to see how that goes. I may well add one of your sessions if I have time. I'm finding the days are so busy that I don't have space for all the activities suddenly on offer. We have one adult child with us for the duration, working from home, but the other is in a major city and of course I worry about him. WhatsApp is in constant use!

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    1. Yes, isn't it funny about having time to do things?! I thought I would have time to do a daily yoga session and some Spanish and Welsh but that is not the case! I can do one form of exercise so sometimes it is yoga. Generally I can do one language but not two! We are doing a fair amount of gardening so that happens most days but there is also the time spent being in touch with people and the fact that ordinary life goes on too. And I so much agree about doing this strange isolation time properly. If it needs to be done, let us do it!

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  3. I do wish we were allowed to walk - but ultimately, rather an effective lockdown. Altho I wonder how many weeks South Africa will add to the first 3 (one down ...)

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    1. I would find it hard if we weren't allowed to walk, even for just a short amount of time. I'm in awe of people managing in small flats, especially those with small children. We have it easy!

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  4. Hi all, this is Luz from Valencia (Spain). Here it´s our week 4 on lockdown. I´m already totally adapted to these new circumstances. Thus, I miss the absence of some relatives, to hug each other, the laughters, some close friends, walking along the streets without seeing and listening to so many ambulances and police around. Yet I´m living in a flat with a lot of facilities that currently we can´t enjoy them, I´m grateful for the entire life despite all I can still enjoy. Stay safe and well.

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    1. It's interesting to find how we do adapt, isn't it? I seem to be selling down to doing rather lead than I did in the first week or so when I was filling my time with activity. Perhaps it is a good thing just to slow down!

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  5. Hello from Long Island, NY! As usual, good and bad. Good: I just got permission to take 2 weeks off from work (using my vacation time, of course) to quarantine. Bad: It's only 2 weeks! Suddenly 2 weeks seems like no time at all. Good: My job is "essential" which means I still have a job. Bad: My job is "essential" which means I cannot stay in bed with the covers over my head until this is all over. Stay safe!

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    1. Gosh marcheline. That seems pretty harsh to us here in the UK. Here you are obliged to self isolate if you have symptoms and that would be on full pay, certainly not out of your holiday allowance. If you are employed but not a key worker and your employer needs to furlough you during lock down the government will pay 80% of your wages. There are obviously serious problems for business, the self employed and free lancers but there is significant help too. I'm sorry you can't stay safe under the blankets but thank you for your efforts on behalf of your community. Take care of yourself. We will come through this!

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