How are we going to cope with the current, ever-changing situation ? One way may be to share our stories of how we are coping (or not) with the day to day stuff of simply getting through the day. We all now know the importance of Doctors and Nurses and all the other people giving their best to heal and feed us. A time for deep concern and to count our blessings. How do we cope with this world of social distancing and isolation? Reading and writing, playing or listening to music, being creative and making art, bring us back to another place / take us out to who knows where, nourishing our hearts and souls .
Our publication may be on hold but through a series titled The Lockdown Diaries we will be sharing stories from our contributors living through these current situations – being in isolation does not mean being alone.
We begin with an article by Jon Gordon
The Sound Of The Lockdown.
I sat in my living room this morning, as I almost always seem to do. The sofa needs new cushions and has done for several years. From my seat I can see a large tree that dominates the view from my windows, leafless under a late March sky. The sun won’t make its presence known to my carpet for several hours, and it isn’t warm. Make a coffee, flick through the phone, usually I’d have music playing, also I’d sit at the laptop table, doing whatever I need to there.
This morning is different though. The air is – has something been switched off? The routinely barely audible hum of traffic and more distant trains is missing and it has taken me about two hours to become aware of this. There are buses running, but the ones I’ve seen are completely empty aside from their drivers, which was the first thing that mildly disturbed me, only two days into an event that is going to colour our experience for a few years to come.
You all know what is happening although no one knows what is going to happen next. A disease has entered our society and, like our great grandparents and other older predecessors, we are to bear the brunt of an epidemic. A real one. Everyone knows this by now. Obviously.
Yesterday evening I left my home, for an entirely necessary purpose. The usually busy main road was empty and, much like in the aftermath of a heavy snowfall, there was nothing to be heard within my earshot. Even late at night it isn’t normally silent, but at around 8pm on a Sunday evening in March 2020, even the breeze had fallen still around me.
Finding yourself confronted with emptiness where there ought to have been life, and I know I’m far from alone in realising this, is usually the introduction to an apocalyptic sci-fi film and it isn’t exactly comforting to recall some of those and their plot devices : invasion by giant space plants (Day Of The Triffids), Charlton Heston fighting vampires (The Omega Man), an actual plague (28 Days Later), there are others. Fingers are already pointing at bats and – I’m unhappy about this one – the Pangolin, a large armadillo-like creature that looks as if it’d make a great pet in the right circumstances, as the progenitors of our health crisis. Definitely wasn’t caused by humans, Chinese, Italian, Spanish or anyone else. The plot requires an inhuman influence at work somewhere.
But about the silence … Recently I’d been reading some history, 15th and 16th century, fact and fiction, a world in thrall to mass extinction centuries before industrialisation. Rabelais’ lengthy satire ‘Gargantua and Pantagruel’ isn’t just a ribald fantasy, a Hieronymous Bosch painting in black and white text, it’s also an intriguing window into life on Earth 600 years ago, the more nonsensical passages suddenly brought into focus by Rabelais’ own medical knowledge as he describes in anatomical detail injuries suffered by some of its less prominent characters. Rabelais was a doctor and knew as much as was permissible about the human body, in 15th century France. We know more now, but we can’t prevent an epidemic dragging us back through the centuries. Plague masks are reappearing.
The past was a quieter place than what we know, and this morning all I could hear was birdsong around me as I walked near my home (again with necessary purpose) and thought, is this how the 15th century sounded? A world without internal combustion, on land or in the sky, fewer people and more wildlife, the idyllic and utopian past of myth and legend. Then I heard another empty bus drive past and music playing from someone’s home. The past is where it belongs, although for all our technological achievement we are as vulnerable to a societal infection as our ever more distant forbearers.
You’d have thought things like this were entirely history. They aren’t. Our society now is to a great extent built around surviving events such as this. But people, humans, they just won’t give it up. Yesterday afternoon I went to the nearby park with my partner and it was as busy as it ever is on a sunny weekday afternoon. We strolled around in the late spring warmth, keeping the required distance from those other strollers unknown to us. A helicopter clattered overhead, and as we were leaving a half dozen or so marked vehicles sped up the nearby main road, their sirens howling. For just a few minutes normality had escaped quarantine and reminded us that a virus is an aberration in our lives, instead of something to be accepted as an everyday reality. Noise Noise Noise.