More and more of my friends in more fortunate countries are emerging from their lock-downs. I get pictures of happy children running down the beach, I hear of plans of parties, I see people’s hair getting trimmed and shinier, cave beards disappearing and track suits being dumped in the bin. Not here. If anything, we are adding more locks to the already heavy door that separates us from life.
The last few weeks have created a virtual solidarity which is now vanishing. Most inmates who get out forget the ones who are still in. It’s natural. As they go out to enjoy the beaches, the parks, the shops and some crazily lucky ones even the bars (!!), a small minority remains under lock, staring out the window with envy and quiet despair. Gone are the silly zoom parties, where you at least felt other people somewhere far away get you. Now they don’t. They are too busy going to the hairdresser.
Oh well. The crows remain.
Which inspired me to visit my old friend Poe (I might try to zoom him next, now that everyone else has fled). I have taken the liberty to update one of my favourite in the light of the inequality of easing.
But the Raven, much less lonely than I am, spoke only
That one word. All his loathing of the lockdown in one word he did outpour.
‘No more skype or zoom’ he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered—
Till I scarcely more than muttered “This was all my life before—
Please don’t leave me, I’m still locked – zoom with you is all I live for.”
The cheese ball This guy specializes in sending vacuous quotes that use words like cherish, enjoy, share, be grateful etc. The essence being that however shitty you feel, things are actually amazing. Insufferable
The gloating parent. This person never tires of sharing videos of their offspring playing the piano, drawing egg like humans, writing code or simply discovering penicillin.
The guilty parent will call you late at night clutching a bottle of wine and whispering ‘Am I a bad parent? I can’t take it anymore. All the other parents are posting activities on parents’ groups, I just wanna run away. What is wrong with me?’
The conspiracy theorist will just talk nonsense and bombard you with ‘evidence’ videos in rather poor grammar. In a drinking game you’d be under the table very quickly if you had to drink every time they say 5 G or China. Snooze safely through the videos and say ‘interesting’ every 25 minutes and you’ll be ok.
Mr and Mrs Doom and Gloom. Everything is shit, the world is going to hell in multiple hand baskets, we’ll soon end up eating each other. The lighter version of the Doomers can be quite fun.
The quietly depressed doormouse. Now you rarely hear from the doormouse because he is quiet and depressed but if you give him a poke he’ll share. He’s often gentle and good company.
The raving spiritualist. There is never enough meditation, yoga, Christianity, Islam,veganism, Marxism whatever in your life and this person wants to make sure you stock up. Before it’s too late. Or maybe too early. I’m never sure.
The researcher. Would you like some information on the structure of command of the Polish army in the second world war? Or less known aspects of the Yazidi faith? History of affixation in English? You name it, this is your guy. Very entertaining.
The nostalgic. Do you remember that summer of 1998? Even if you don’t, Mr Nostalgic will send you scanned pictures where you look like morning dew. Take another sip. Cry. Repeat.
Lady Action upon Stations cannot stand idleness. As Lady Bracknell said, a young man should always have an occupation of some sort. She does. She signs petitions and thus she obviously feeds the hungry and fights climate change. She shares videos of breastfeeding in Parliament and takes uncompromising action against toxic masculinity. You tell her you’d like a tiny bit of that just as a memento at your own peril.
I owe some gratitude to my virtual friend Tichris (https://tikichris.com/). He’s been publishing 5 good things every day for at least as long as I’ve been here (Five Good Things | #5GoodThings #5GoodThingsCovid19).
This means he has given me about 200 good things so far, which I have enjoyed reading. It also is a mighty number for someone like me who can see one good thing approximately every 42 days or so.
So here is my effort to honor my debt. My 5 good things:
a. Three Tales by Gustave Flaubert
b. A new votka, melon and tonic water cocktail which I (to my knowledge) authored (but may well be wrong. Not a cocktail drinker in normal circumstances. I find them a lot of fuss for not much gain but hey, isn’t that what life is about now anyway?)
c. An email from an old friend who mentioned the Netflix series Shtisel as a must watch. I’d already watched it and loved it. This also made me long to see friends but about that in a less grateful post later;)
d. I wanted to say long walks on empty streets but actually I don’t like that much:) So I’ll say long walks on streets I hope will be less empty soon.
e. This dignified rider onthe sandstorm yesterday. It was very windy and there was sand everywhere- in the time it took me to send a text, my phone got covered in dust. I could taste sand in my mouth. And here she is, all dignity and poise.
Some of my friends bang on about the benefits of this.
Oh look at the sky, oh and all this time with my kids, aren’t they sweet as they scalp each other there in the background and am I not the greatest pedagogue alive? Also, look at this vegan lasagna I made out of ethically sourced cardboard when I finally got out of bed at 11. And did you know that my husband is now basically a prisoner, isn’t it fab that he can’t spend his paycheck at the pub and swear at a screen with Everton players all over it? Isn’t this all marvelous?
Nooo, I usually scream at the other end of one virtual channel or another, this is shit.
I am then duly told that I need to get in touch with myself, discover meaning or some other form of nonsense.
If I get any more in touch with myself I’ll leave bruises. If I discover any more meaning to my life, I’ll probably turn into Bhagwan and start a cult from my living room. I have explored every uninteresting inch of myself, thanks. I am more full of meaning that the Oxford Dictionary.
Now can I please go to the pub and scream at Everton?
This morning’s encounters included a cat, a dog, several birds and a professional football player who also owns pigeons.These pigeons here. I love the one standing at the back ready to catch any delinquents. He told me (the football player not the pigeon in charge) that they are making a lot of babies these days and are always on top of each other and he really can’t get their attention like before. While he was talking, his eyes sparkled with a mix of disapproval and envy. Mine with probably more of the latter. Who can blame them. Not even their stern supervisor there at the back.
My walk has a very well established routine. I get a coffee, I feed a very clever cat I befriended recently, say hi to a dog who lives behind a green gate, I stare in the distance a bit, then check that I haven’t lost my keys (I don’t know why, but that would represent the final straw:) Ok, I’ve lost my keys. That’s it. Descend into the abyss.
Anyway, today’s novelty was that I stopped to look at the pigeons who were doing extremely disciplined and acrobatic runs in the sun aiming at this lady’s ecstatic neck. I was lost in contemplation when the football player appeared from under the pigeons’ terrace and explained their current spell of sauciness.
This has opened up a vast new line of inquiry. So captivity breeds desire but then it also very cunningly does the opposite. Right? Which wins? How?
This is a long weekend. Made longer by the fact that we are under complete curfew. No going out at all. Miss the potato run – that splendid and now unattainable trip to the grocer. Oh, crossing paths with other masked potato lovers.
To get over that barrel of melancholy, I decided to give myself a treat. Gin and tonic in a mug on a rainy roof!
Now the advantages of this approach are as follows:
a. It allows me to enjoy the rain and a breath of fresh air while also
b. Sheltering my drink from the sensibilities of potential non-drinking neighbours and
c. Making me feel very spoiled to be having a drink before my own alcohol curfew is usually lifted (at 6 pm – the sirens make time-keeping really easy these days)
There are many things I love about the Arab culture. They make amazing coffee. The concept of shawerma is a masterpiece. Their generosity puts the rest of us to shame. I love their dark, illusion-less humour. Their directness cracks me up (most of the time). They are passionate, warm, real and madly hospitable. The way the elderly are treated in this society is a lesson to us all. And so on.
But God forbid you ever find yourself in a queue.
First of all, you are never actually in a queue. You are in a pulsating, sweaty scrum of crazed humanity. You can clearly feel the anatomy of the person behind you indelibly imprinted on your own. You are actually doing the exact same to the person in front by sheer virtue of physics. Intrepid new arrivals constantly infiltrate the scrum from innovative sideways attack positions. People lie bare faced about having been there all along when they obviously just materialized out of the thin air in the form of annoying little queue jumping entities.
In fact, most people here enjoy physical contact with the same desperate craving I enjoy my morning coffee. I have often entered nice restaurants with friends who gave a quick inspection, then decreed we should leave immediately because the place is not full. What lunatic would want to sit where we can’t squeeze together like happy sardines? Off we go in search of the next chockablock opportunity.
Now take this and add Covid and a curfew to the mix. Plus falafel withdrawal. And then try to go to the local shop for a quick, careful shopping trip post a 48 hour total curfew. I’ve had to surgically remove a fat loud woman who was hugging me from behind while the grocer was weighing my bananas. I told a guy off for practically trying to snog me while offering a bag. As I was leaving, a happy family blocked the entrance for an urgent discussion about whether they need tomatoes or not.
Long story short. How do we quickly import some queue-ness? Has anyone got some spare?
So you are locked up with nothing but your wandering mind and stacks of unnecessary carrots in the fridge for company.
This is a wonderful opportunity to grow your intake of Vitamin C but also look into some burning questions.
The first one is regarding the Hikomori. They are Japanese social recluses who don’t leave their houses for months or sometimes years (see more about these fascinating people here https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hikikomori). So I wonder how a Hikomori feels when the whole world has basically become Hikomori? Does that invalidate their Hikomori-ness? Sort of like if the whole world turned vegan, would there be a need for anyone to still be called vegan?