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?

Comments

  1. I am really pleased reading this post as I have been worried for you over this last bit as you seemed to be feeling very caged. As for things I would keep from the lockdown . . . no, I don't have any. I try not to think about how life will be in the future because I think it will be a long time before I am able to be with people or near people etc. but I hope I will still be able to relate to other humans by the time that time comes!

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    1. I am touched and impressed that you have any room in your head for thought of me with all that you have on your plate. Thank you. Yes I have had the odd time of feeling shut in and some dips but there are good things, surprisingly, and I wanted to look at what they might be.

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  2. We have been so lucky down here. It has just been announced that we move to Level 1 tonight. We have enjoyed Lockdown and not having to go out but we get on so well and have our garden. I feel for people in small flats.

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    1. I think many people will envy your experience in new Zealand. Many natural advantages and good government have produced something much less painful than in other parts of the world. It is lovely to see that you feel so lucky!

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  3. Well, last week certainly saw changes - a longed for reuniting with our older daughter and her family on the last very warm and sunny day of the week. Yes, it was rather strange in some ways - not being able to be really close to the three girls; the youngest of whom found it difficult too - prolonging their departure by wanting us to name every flower in the garden... At bedtime that evening she apparently said that it had been sad not seeing our bath! I think that was an expression of inability to engage in the normal routine of bath, bedtime story and staying over for the night rather than an appreciation of our very ordinary bathtub. But what joy it brought - although I admit to having been nervous too. Fortunately the lovely day enabled a completely outdoor meeting with plenty of room for the girls to play and loo visits were strictly controlled through an easy and direct route. Supplemented by additional opportunities to wash hands outdoors and the provision of materials to enable thorough wiping down of anything touched in the loo, I felt we'd been as careful as we could be.
    To respond to the question about what I might like to keep once this is over - well it's certainly not having to be so very careful and "hands free" around our grandchildren! What I think I should try and continue to do is to accept that I don't have to keep actively busy - I was brought up by a family who very much reflected the "I must finish my work before I can play" approach. So, anything other than "worthwhile" activity shouldn't really take place until at least the afternoon, preferably the evening.So, watching activity in the garden, allowing myself to read, sew or knit during the day (I still find that hard strangely) is something that I want to try and hold onto. My 95 year old mother, in her lovely care home, will still reproach herself for not having done anything all day and tell me she's bored. Sadly her ability to read, knit or sew (both of which she was expert in before dementia set in) doesn't now allow her much scope for doing something she would regard as worthwhile and I find myself encouraging her to try and appreciate the value of "being" rather than "doing" whilst knowing that I need to practise this more myself.
    Letting go of the need to plan and yes, control, is hard but I think the current situation has forced me to confront it and that's probably a good thing. Time will tell.
    Thanks Elizabeth for your ongoing chronicling of these times - I look forward to reading each blog and they have become a very enjoyable part of my weekly experience.

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    1. I'm so pleased you have managed to spend some time with your grandchildren. We too have seen two out of our ten which combined being very lovely with making me very aware of those still beyond reach! I really recognise the issue of being useful in the day. Fortunately for me my mother had been berated (in a kindly enough way) by her mother on being found yet again with her head in a book. So she treated reading as essential activity. But I have come slowly to recognising that knitting or crochet are productive and sensible things to be doing at two in the afternoon when I could be doing horrible things like cutting back brambles! I wonder what strange things our own children will inherit!

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  4. There are three things I want to maintain : shopping weekly which involves more planning once a week but less time thinking about food the rest of the week, our regular aperitivo before supper which is a shared treat, and going to bed earlier so that I have been able to read in bed. All small silver linings.

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    1. Those are interesting! We already shop once a week because we live out in the sticks and it works much better with a bit of preplanning. I love the aperitivo. How very civilised. I might adopt that one! And oddly we have shifted our normal day about half an hour later. I've no idea why!

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  5. We are already living in Spain 87 days in alarm state.
    Any positive things I would take from the experience of lockdown? I will continue to value more my "being" rather than my "doing". Valuing the "creativity" to organize and to planning time and space for living comfortably. Becoming more aware of "quality" rather than "quantity" . Plus appreciating more the value of little things, the capacity to constantly adapt to changing conditions and building resilience.

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    1. I very much understand the idea of valuing being rather than doing. I have always been inclined to rush around achieving things and have slowly, since I retired, got better at taking my time and doing less. But lockdown has forced me to do less again, and to appreciate it.

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  6. Thank you for this, Elizabeth: "dyn o filltir sgwar". I usually feel such a freak for being such (though not, of course, a man) so it's great to be identified and recognised in this way. Mind you, from the friends who have rejoiced in lockdown I do wonder if I belong to a bigger tribe than the world generally acknowledges. Xxx

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    1. I thought of you as I wrote this anne! It's a very resonant phrase. My father in law too was very much a man of his own square mile, and very contented with it. My mother in law by contrast chafed at the restraints of life as a working class woman and longed for wider horizons. I can understand both now although I think it has taken getting older, and living here, to make me appreciate my own square mile. But there have been many compensations of lock down for me too. I think the deliberate slowing of life has made many of us feel we need to be less frantic.

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    2. I like to be thought of, and you were right to think of me. I feel some shame in knowing that there are parts of my square mile that I'm still unfamiliar with. Well, the garden itself still keeps springing surprises on me.

      I'm sorry that the lockdown has troubled so many but I think too it has liberated some people. It will be interesting to see how being unlocked affects people. A big rush to Spain? Or some 'blimey, it's actually great here'? Maybe you'll be able to stay slower and that may be good. Xxxx

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