What are you doing to pass the time and keep your grey cells occupied? Are you reading more? Have you taken up a new, or rediscovered an old, hobby? What would you recommend other readers to try? What are you finding hardest to cope with? SR wants to hear from you: simply email email@example.com
I suppose the last time I chose to self-isolate (healthy, young, foolish) was back in the 1970s when a combination of endless rainy season storms, an unreliable little motorcycle and flood-damaged, horribly dangerous forest tracks kept me confined alone in my modest little house on the remote campus of St Paul's College, Bonjongo, Cameroon, for all of three days. All students and most staff had left for the long rainy season vacation. On that occasion, I spent the days listening to the endless tropical rain beating on my tin roof, before I finally gave in, risked the floods and set off on my little motorcycle to a nearby town, just to see if the outside world continued to exist.
Unaccountably, to deepen the gloom, I spent those three days reading Crime and Punishment
to a background of thunder, lightning and cascading water, punctuated by the constant trilling of insects and the distant shrieks of forest birds and animals. It was oppressively hot and humid. From time to time, I would cook myself some rice and vegetables, drink tea or beer and take in the view through my one door which was always open and led directly outside to a track flowing with mud and water. It was only three days, but to me it seemed endless, and the doings of Rodion Romanovich Raskolnikov only served to make it even more depressing and other-worldly.
So, what to do this time? Older, less healthy, certainly more patient, marginally wiser (perhaps), I am self-isolating on Deeside (we live here), in a considerably more comfortable, but still modest home, accompanied by my wife and dog. We – all of us – have already agreed that we will be forgiving if we become narky, angry or upset with one another during our period of confinement. Archie, our whippet, doesn't realise this yet, of course, but he will, he will.
Archie, in fact, is our link to sanity and the old life because he requires regular walks and is driven by routine. We walk with him to stay sane, though I sometimes opt for the chill of the little treadmill in our garage. We were considerably cheered up by the arrival of our third grandchild in distant Nottinghamshire earlier this month. We have already viewed his cherubic face and spoken to his joyful parents via the wonders of Skype. When we will meet them all in the flesh is one of today's many unanswered questions.
We are fortunate in that the village shops are friendly and helpful. The paper shop, for example, is offering to deliver essential items to local people if need be. The front-line staff in the local supermarket have had to deal with a steady influx of people from Aberdeen who are seeking life's necessities because, ironically, they think they are more likely to be available here in the sticks. If I had a hat, I would take it off to the staff for their patience. Also, it is spring – a chilly one, but surely a season of hope, despite the daily onslaught of disturbing health news.
Regular walks apart, we are confined to home, where there is now a daily routine of sudoku and crossword completion over morning coffee. During that process I frequently swear, while my much more patient and composed wife quietly gets on with it. To my mind, she is a cryptic genius whom I would never like to try to deceive.
To pass the time, I am re-reading some of the books that clutter our home, but I can guarantee that Crime and Punishment
will not be one of them.
I normally go to two ballet classes a week and have done for decades, so it's a big gap in my life. However, there are some very good ones online. Not as good as the real thing, but definitely better than nothing. You can at least do the barre holding on to a chair, but jumping in the house has a depressing thud compared to the sprung studio floor, and there isn't room for a grand jeté! Keep up the good work!
His survival instinct was now well and truly honed.
Every corner, every crevasse held new menace and danger.
It was almost as if he was in a low rent sci-fi movie, casually purchased from the supermarket £3 and under bin.
Additional clichés such as the 'stakes are high' and 'fear griped the world' were tossed around in his mind in a torrent of self-imposed mental torture.
The intensity of his paranoia, until now a subject oft discussed, but on sadly and malignly, misunderstood, was multiplying in his febrile mind.
The tide was well and truly turning, the signs were there, the uncertainty growing.
He was very near to decision point, he did not want to be there, he wanted the safety of normality.
Alas, he did not have that old luxury to fall back on, this was a significant, nay, profound step.
Okay, it had to be done, there was no real choice, no other path to choose, no open door through which he could walk away.
He held his breath, counted to 10... then, counted to 10 again… he was on the precipice but he did not want to act.
Reality told him he must
, instinct told him he should
, physicality told him he could
, but his heart, his vibrant, still functioning, rapidly beating heart, helped him back.
What was he to do, how could he end this agony, how could he salve and best respond to his basic inert drivers?
Firstly, he had to be brave, call on all of his reserves, he could and he must do this.
It was just something that had to be done in these times of trepidation and void of clarity.
He drifted into a reflective mood, thinking about how it used to be a few short, what now felt like minutes, ago.
The simplicity of times, of actions, of feelings, of actions. Just doing things, with no deep thought to the consequence.
Reflecting on how long that would take, to become again the normality under which we might live and prosper.
Then, as quickly as he drifted, he came too. He was back in the moment, the moment, the moment to truth.
He glanced at his watch, time was literally running out…
Now, now he must make a decision.
He was decisive, he was strong, he could, he would, he should, he must.
So down the shop he toddled to buy a new jar of coffee, alright, it was fecking instant, but, sometimes needs must!
I fled from Tuebingen first class on Thursday 12 March (on a cheapo ticket to London) as I feared being trapped by the plague. I reckoned my home in Melrose was the place to sit it out, as it actually has 'policies' surrounding it, winds of germ-freezing vindictiveness, and my railway library, so one can self-isolate in some style, while completing my Iron Road
my timetable for our railway future.
I hope that not everyone will feel that self-isolation is self-imolation. I am a single professional painter; still working happily at 87, if more slowly. The rules re visiting, despite the terrifying cause for this situation, for anyone forced, or needing to be housebound for a number of unknown days living on their own, could provide a natural wish, or excuse, to know what kind of world we want to live in. Dreaming it, and planning solutions, would make the days fly past. A constant reader.
Difficult times, but a laugh always helps:
Keep up the good work!
I have taken the Gaelic course on Duolingo and I'm now taking the French course on the same system. I have extended my study of Gaelic by taking the BBC course on BBC Alba. Of course, one continues to read and to paint and draw. Having been retired for over 20 years, I have become quite adept at doing things to improve my health, fitness and mind. Obviously, I am missing seeing the grandchildren, but that just frees up time for me to do other things.
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