Coronavirus week 11 - 31st May to 7th June
Big differences at the moment between Wales and England: Welsh lockdown continues with the minor tweaks which allow you to meet one household outside within five miles of home. England has greater freedoms with fewer restrictions on travel although many businesses in both countries remain closed. Schools are reopening partially in England with wide variations throughout the country. It is planned that schools in Wales will reopen from 29th June for all ages but with much reduced numbers allowing only part time attendance. Our own children are considering the position for their children. Each family is differently affected and the parts of the country they are live in might also lead them to make different choices.
Face masks will become compulsory on public transport in England. Wales is still considering its own position but we have made facemasks for ourselves having done some reading and research of our own. There does seem to be some protection provided by facemasks, both for yourself and others, and even if the gains are small, in this new world where we must manage the new risks we face it seems wiser to wear one than not. That is not a great imposition on us right now as the only time we are out in public spaces mixing with numbers of people is when we go supermarket shopping. I can't say I like the warm and claustrophic sensation of mask wearing. If I feel like that for an hour a week in my lightweight home made mask, heaven knows what it must be like for medical staff attempting to work in full PPE. Once again I want to record my gratitude and respect.
So I have been having a wonder about whether there are things which I have discovered in lockdown which I might want to keep with me on the assumption that it will eventually ease. What have I missed? Are there any new habits which I might want to keep?
What have I missed? Well the big one is of course our children and grandchildren and other family and friends. I have also missed travel and eating out and the buzz of theatre and exhibitions but if I had to make choices and have only limited engagement with normal life I would give up much of that for time with those I love. I am sure this is how most of us feel. I have missed choir and Pilates and yoga. It shouldn't be too much of a surprise that now that I am retired I spend my time in ways that I enjoy.
But it is interesting to find that there are positives from having restricted choice. I have whizzed round a bit less and in slowing down I have found a calm and an energy which I did not expect. I have never spent so much time looking at birds through my study window. In this quite exceptional and beautiful spring I have watched the hedges come into leaf, the daffodils give way to roses, listened to the cuckoo call from further up the valley, watched bluebells wash through the woods, fade and give way to cow parsley. I have watched the buzzards riding the thermals over the valley and been startled by the sudden appearance of a pair of red kites. There is a phrase in Welsh "dyn o filltir sgwar" (please tell me Welsh friends if I haven't got that quite right!). It means a man of his own square mile, someone who knows and loves and lives his own place. I am a travelling person. I have lived in all sorts of places in the course of my life and spent my working life whizzing around on trains and planes. To be tethered here to my own square mile has paradoxically been a window on the world, this world, right here.
I do very much want to travel again, in particular I would love to be in France and Spain again. How will I feel about air travel even when it becomes possible? I do not know. But if you let me drive down to a ferry port and take a ferry to Roscoff or to Santander and lose myself in the villages of France, the Pyrenees and drive deep into the Picos de Europa, that would be good. In the meantime I will love my own square mile.
Ian and I have lived very well together. For lots of our married life we have spent a lot of time apart as a result of my job. Since first of all I stopped work and then more recently so did Ian, we have been much more together. But we have never been as profoundly together as we have over the last nearly three months. In the first three weeks or so I felt the lack of other people very strongly and was often to be found looking for Ian in order to have someone to talk to. As time has gone by we have settled into this shared life, giving each other time and space apart. Normally that arises naturally from the various things I do outside the house. I am usually the one leaping into the car to go off for a meeting, a class, a coffee with a friend. I imagine that Ian normally enjoys those bits of time alone as I enjoy the days when he goes off to Manchester for business and I have the place to myself. Some of that engagement I have moved online; some of it hasn't been replaced. But we have found a rhythm for our days, an ebb and flow of company and separate endeavour, of quiet times and conversation, mornings doing our own thing, evenings by the fire together, a deep sense of a shared life.
So I think one of the things I might want to keep if and when we get back to a less restricted life, however changed, would be doing a bit less, having a bit more still time. Knowing myself, I am not sure whether this is achievable but it would be interesting to try.
I know this time has been very hard for some people but are there any positives you would take from the experience of lockdown?