Lockdown

I wonder if, when and how we will come out of this lockdown.

I have learnt so much about the people around me and about myself.

Sadness grips my heart, I feel deep distress and I wonder if it will ever lift.

I am thankful for some amazing people who keep me going.

Some days, I wonder how I will climb out from under my deep sense of despair!

So I distract myself, I write, I create and when I can, I work.

 

 

Day 12

I remember the three-day week and the resultant power cuts, which ran from 1st January to 7th March 1974. I was about 15 and I thought my world had ended. No light to read by, no tv and it was dark and cold. I remember wondering how my world had become so small.

Fast forward 46 years. I am on lockdown at home with my husband. We went into lockdown 4 days before the PM asked people to stay at home. The reasons don’t really matter.

Its different in so many ways, we have heat, light, entertainment, and we have space. We are learning a new way of living and luckily we like each other! I can’t imagine what it would be like to be locked into a home with a partner I disliked. Its fair to say that even though we love each other and understand one another well, we still, occasionally, piss each other off!

We are both busy working, but from home. Both learning how to use an array of video conferencing tools such as Teams, Zoom, FaceTime. We never really got into using these before now. We never had the time!

I worry for the youngsters and for the very old. People of my generation and just a bit younger probably needed to slow down a little. The youngsters will remember this for the rest of their lives and it is my hope that they will have positive memories. Hopefully memories of intimate conversations with parents, fun activities, creativity and freedom like they have never known before. I fear for the children for whom School was an escape from abuse, hunger and boredom. I fear for older people who will be missing time with their grandchildren, people who may be spending the last portion of their lives alone, possilby in a state of anxiety.

I am doing a video log to track my own moods and reflections on this part of my life. Its not for publication but I hope it will see me grow and change in a positive way.

Theatre is my passion and I was lucky enough to go to lots of productions in January and early February. The last one was La Boheme at the Royal Opera House and there were many spare seats. At the time, I wondered if it was because of the flight restrictions from China – totally random thought –  it was probably more to do with it being a midweek matinee. I had loads of stuff booked for March, April and May but now these will cancel. I am however, surprised and delighted that various companies are sharing content online for free. Royal Court, National Theatre and the Royal Opera House. All I had in 1974 was a dark, cold bedroom where going to sleep was the only option.

As we are in total lockdown we are not shopping and we have been let down by Ocado, twice. Today we were expecting our first delivery of fresh chicken but they removed it from the contents without offering an alternative. I will never use Ocado again after this crisis is over. Their customer support is appalling and after one tweet and several emails to try to rebook my first cancelled order I had comms from 13 people, not one of whom followed the situation through. Today would have been a kick in the teeth if I hadn’t found alternatives. So something I am learning is that you must not procrastinate, if you have an idea follow it through and act immediately. I have now ordered from my local butcher; having lost all his restaurant work he is happy to do local small deliveries. Its expensive but its fresh and will last me for a week or so.

Creativity is helping me, sewing is a passion and I do it most days. I am finishing projects and starting new ones. At this rate I may get through my stash before the Lockdown finishes.  Today I will do my first Zoom watercolour course and I am really excited about it. I hope that it will be the first of many. My book group will meet tomorrow evening at 8pm to discuss The Presidents Hat – one of my favourite books. Its a great group and we will all struggle with the tech but we will all support each other.

I am lucky.

It is now day 45 and nothing much has changed!

Creativity

I’m not creative.

I have never been creative.

I like to make things.

I follow patterns or steal ideas wherever I can, but, I am not creative.

Oh, I make things. I make things that I like and some things I don’t like very much at all, but I  still make them. 

Have I ever had a creative thought? I don’t think so!  Not one bloody creative aha moment in 61 years.

Nearly all of my adult life has been spent working, I never had an urge to bake a cake, make an item of clothing, paint a picture – well –  just fucking nothing! I never baked. I never wondered about sewing, it never crossed my mind to knit something and as for making a model or a painting…. –

Not once in nearly 40 years did it cross my mind to divert my time from working to waste my time creating!

And that’s the thing, I see creating as wasting time.

Still Nothing!

Its been over a month since my last post and I have nothing that I want to write about!

I have emotions, experiences, and thoughts. Some of them are too raw to share with others so I have nothing to write about!

Today I saw a post on Facebook, I think it came from some editorial in the Telegraph, but didn’t bother to follow the trail. It suggested that all the blogs and banter about being motivated in Lockdown gets on people’s nerves. The good news, is that I can’t offer motivational tips. Not one thing!

My experience of the lockdown? Well, there are good days and there are bad days. The good days significantly outweigh the bad days, I am lucky!

What makes a good day? Well, that’s easy, its a kind word from my husband or a message from a friend, colleague or a family member. Its having fresh fruit and vegetables to eat. It is being able to take a warm bath or to have a hot shower. It is going outside, even for a few minutes to spend time in my garden. Its having books to read and films to watch. Its having the internet and people to talk to on Zoom, FaceTime or Skype. I know, I am lucky!

I have nothing inspiring to write about at the moment, but I am trying, I am doing writing exercises,  participating in online courses, thinking and working through some of my notes from earlier classes. But I still come up with nothing!

I will keep trying, after all I am just a work in progress myself.

Much love to any readers.

 

 

Why is Writing still on my F***list?

organic-1280537__340I find writing hard. I want to write and it’s been a goal, a dream and a practice for years. I do it every day in some way or other.  I have shelves filled with completed notebooks and yet, after nearly 60 years of writing, I find it hard to write my first novel.

I started the novel in 2012 and so far, two of the key ideas have appeared elsewhere. Most days I start with the intent of getting on with it, but there is always a reason to delay! Sometimes I find cleaning toilets more alluring than sitting down at my computer to write.

Perhaps I need to give myself some tough love and ask questions like:
‘What the fuck is going on Rita?’
‘Why are you saying its important but putting everything else in front?’
‘Why not just give up the idea or the dream of one day completing a manuscript?’

When I reflect on my goals for the day, week, year or decade I ponder a slightly different question: ‘Isn’t it time to give myself headspace to do something else?’ On occasion, I give myself a break from writing and permission to let it go, but the idea is never quite dead.

I suspect the only way I will kill the thought is by writing the manuscript, presenting it to someone and then reading it myself. If I can bear to read it, then the time was worth it. If not, it may be time to try something else.

So, back to the keyboard for a few hours more scribbling….

 

 

Privacy

Its an emotive subject which causes rifts in relationships. Many people post their whole life online and don’t understand others who refuse to join any social media networks. I have friends who will never join Facebook or Instagram and now it seems they may have protected themselves more than people like me who freely joined various sites.

If you refuse to have your photo taken for a post or to allow people to film or photograph your home it can cause a problem. If you don’t explain your reasons then people can be offended but I wonder if they stopped for just a moment and thought about it would things be different?

We can all make mistakes with privacy. I am inquisitive, its part of my job to ask questions and to dig deep, sometimes the boundary between work and social conversations blur. I may ask a question and as its coming out of my mouth I feel it may be too personal so I try to catch myself and say ‘you don’t have to answer that’. When I don’t realise I have overstepped the line, someone may say ‘I can’t answer that’ I realise I have hit a boundary and I don’t probe further.

Recently I had to request privacy without offering an explanation and it has caused outrage in someone I like. I have no intention of explaining myself and I simply said ‘NO’. This is unusual behaviour for me, I always try to say yes, and in the cases where I have to say no, I find a million reasons to explain it.

Sometimes though, No means NO.

privacy

What are the reasons that someone may need privacy? Well, it could be avoidance of a stalker, or  fear of an abusive relationship you escaped some time ago, or …. There are lots of reasons and they are, yes you got it, they are private.  It really doesn’t matter what the reason is, we need to better respect others’ privacy.

 

So, when someone requests privacy, just say YES!

 

Mental health

As a child I was happy, I lived in the countryside and had a huge cow to play with. She was our dairy cow and lived in the front garden of my grandparents home in Ireland. I climbed on her, made daisy chains to go around her neck and sometimes spent hours staring into her giant watery eyes. I loved her but never named her. She knew all of my secrets, hopes, wishes and desires.

One day a neighbour came to pick me and my brother up from school. We jumped on the back of a hay cart, it was a glorious day and I lay down to watch the sky as the horse trundled along. It is the most exciting thing that I can remember from those early days but I don’t remember anything else until I arrived in London.

We moved into a tiny house in a tiny road which was near to a graveyard and a railway station. I hated walking under the railway bridge which was dark, dank and noisy. I was scared by the greyness of my new home. Everything was grey, the roads, the walkways, the bridge the houses and even the people seemed to be grey.

I was used to bright greens hundreds of shades of green and blue, dark brown bogs with bright coloured flowers, white houses surrounded by apple trees and rows of vegetables. Skies seemed to go on forever and fields surrounded us.

In London, when I looked out I saw houses, more houses and the graveyard!

I realise now that as a child I was depressed. That depression lifted when I wrote songs or stories or when I chatted with family. I had no friends, I was weird, my clothes were weird, I spoke with a weird accent and I didn’t fit in. It took me several years to make friends and eventually when I moved to a new school I made lifelong friends.

Today I am feeling sad. I wondered if I was depressed but then I realised that today would have been my fathers 83rd birthday. He died when he was 59 so I have been without him for a very long time. I cannot imagine him as 80+ I have no idea how he would look or sound because no man in his family, that I know of, lived that long.

Mental health has been in the media extensively this week and I am so sad that anyone would feel so bad that they could not go on. My heart goes out to all of those people, their families and friends. Today my mental health is a notch lower than usual, but thankfully its still intact and that is because of my husband, friends and family. I am lucky.

 

Tradition and the Baubles

What is it about Christmas that brings out a need to follow tradition? Even the most resolute atheist seems to find time to celebrate in some way over the Christmas holiday. Republicans manage to watch the Queen’s speech. People buy, wrap and give presents to other people who have little need for anything. Trees are bought in their thousands, decorated and then recycled in January. Gardens are decked with lights and windows glisten with fake snow.

In my family, tradition was not something we were big on. Christmas was an adult time and, as a child, it meant hours of boredom. No shops, cinemas, cafes and not even a bus to help me escape. My parents, their siblings and friends all smoked so I would spend much of the day in my bedroom where I could hide from the ‘Senior Service’ fug.  Luckily I loved to read so I have good memories of escaping into winter wonderlands and other magical places.

Later, when I was a teenager, my best friend would get a member of her family or later her boyfriend to drive over to pick me up at about 5pm on Christmas Day. She would spend a few minutes with my parents and then she would whisk me off to a house full of her relatives and friends. There was always a  huge Christmas tree where people would gather around to sing carols or the latest Christmas song.  There were lots of traditions in her family, charades, musical chairs, pass the orange and other games played by everyone and it was fun to see a 70 year old try to pass an orange to a six year old.  Sometimes the teenagers would gather in a separate room to watch a disaster movie or just sit around chatting and listening to music. I often stayed and helped out on Boxing Day and sometimes the day after. Eventually, I would return home to my own family. As I write this I realise that it sounds odd that I was adopted by my friend’s family for Christmas.  They were fun, really good fun. I loved those large, noisy family oriented Christmases.

Now its me and my husband and we are creating our own traditions. We do things that matter to us. My sister seems to have slipped into a tradition of visiting the  weekend before Christmas with her husband and we see our brother. Christmas Eve is a chance to see one of my best friends who’s birthday falls that day. We meet with her family, have lunch and then go to a Panto or one year a circus. John couldn’t make it this year, but I did and I had a ball. Christmas Day we often spend with John’s sister and family and this year it was about walking, talking and eating. We play some games and then we do our own thing in the evening. Boxing Day is for relaxing, walking and going to an event, so this year it was Kew Gardens. We try to see John’s cousins and their children and this year John and his sister went to the Panto with them whilst our nephew made great Pizzas for a family dinner. I love the ballet and Coppelia did not disappoint.

One tradition that John and I practice together is the dressing of the tree. Every year we have moments of joy when we open a box and find something we bought on a particular holiday or received as a gift. Most of the baubles have been picked up over a 20 year relationship and its as if they have their own personalities. A couple of weeks ago a friend set a writing exercise and three of the group picked a conversation between two Christmas decorations. I include it below even though my husband thinks I have gone just a little bit bonkers!

A short story – The Baubles

In a sparking dress and holding a golden box, the Princess arrives on the tree. ‘Hello everyone, I am so very glad to be joining you all today.’

From somewhere to her left a boat with dubious lights pipes up, ‘Oi, big mouth, we stay silent during the day. We only speak after midnight or when the whole family go to sleep. Now shut up and sparkle.’

‘Well hello Captain, how long have you been here?’ Princess looks around hoping for a response.

Silence….

At midnight the Captain speaks ‘I am the 2nd longest serving and I defer to Santa who met Missy when she was only a child.’

‘Well, you took your time getting back to me. When you say defer, what exactly do you mean?’ Princess looks bemused and the Captain chuckles.

‘Santa is the boss on this tree and I am his right hand man. The Angels come next, brought back from Venice for Missy’s mum but they arrived here after Missy’s mum passed on. Then there’s Harrods, he was one of Missy’s extravagances. Lovely old deer, fat as you like can only lie down on the branch, too old to hang there.’ 

Princess looks around the tree, ‘Hello Santa, Hello Angels, Hello Harrods. Lovely to meet you all. I am sure we are going to get on wonderfully!’ 

The Captain continues, ‘Then there’s Balls – big fellas, came in about three years ago. Large as you like and pretty dumb but Missy was going through a white phase. Oh, and over there we have two Skipping Deer, they flew in on her wedding day. Lovely pair mad as hatters, don’t really speak to anyone and spend most the year in their own little box. We have one or two old and fragile chaps from Mister’s family tree, they’re hanging on by a thread!’

Princess is beside herself with joy, ‘Ooh, hello all, I am so excited to share the tree with you and look forward to having some fun when we go on our holidays together in the attic.’

The Captain notices a light going on, ‘hush up now everyone, Missy alert, silent rule!’ 

Missy turns the lights on, sits in a comfy armchair and drinks a mug of hot chocolate looking at the tree. She gets up, walks over to the tree, flicks one of the branches and an Angel  jingles. Missy sighs, turns the lights off and leaves the room. 

The Captain swings around to Princess, ‘Missy must be thinking about her mum. Her mum loved to hear the Angels jingle.’

Princess smiles and offers her box to the Captain. ‘Captain, you haven’t told me your story.’ 

‘Well now child, I am a little bit special because I am loved by Missy but I am Mister’s favourite. Mister gave me to Missy on their honeymoon many years ago. Mister always has glistening eyes when he puts me on the tree.’  The Captain is silent for a moment as he thinks back to the day he left Virgin Gorda.  ‘Its like this Princess, our job is a special one, for we are the memory makers!’

The End

Version 2Traditions matter to me and Christmas is a special time where I can indulge in some of the simplest but most enjoyable. I hope you are having a good holiday and would love to hear some of your stories.

Oh and Mister and Missy wish you a Happy New Year!