It’s been over a month of isolation, and two weeks in lockdown. The days of the week have merged into a single ‘Today’. I still keep track of weekends because that is when my partner, who is working from home, emerges from an upstairs bedroom and joins the rest of us. The days are full of small defeats and little victories. Some days are wildly productive. Others I barely do anything at all except for watch a screen: phone, computer, or telly. The garden has never looked better. The house is pretty tip-top. I’m cooking up a storm and have gained 3kg so far. We have managed to get my daughter back from Honduras safely. There are now three adult daughters living in the house. Two of them are not really getting on, which creates quite a bit of tension. As in all families, tension lines all flow through the mother. I wish I could get in my car and drive far, far away. I miss my friends. I miss the ocean. I miss the pub. I miss gigs. I miss Brussels and Madrid, Thessaloniki and London. I miss places that I have never been to.
I am scared to look forward to the summer. Will we be able to go back to the beach? I think I could fare better if I could just go to the beach again. When will be able to meet up with friends – even at a distance? Living in the countryside means that few friends live within 2km. Even with four other people in the house, I am desperately lonely. I am filled with joy when I see someone that I know in town.
I am grumpy and depressed. Worst of all I feel guilty for being grumpy and depressed. I live in a very big house on a very big plot of land, in the middle of glorious countryside. We are all safe and healthy, as is my extended family far and wide. We are OK for money. I think of friends who have lost a loved one, or who are healthcare workers, or are stuck in a small apartment in NYC, or who are in direct provision, or in a refugee camp; and am filled with shame at feeling sorry for myself.
Spring has been the great consolation. The trees are in full leaf with that lovely delicate green of their unfurling. By the by: It’s oak before ash this year, so summer will splash and not soak. The primroses and wild garlic, violets and daisies are really putting on a show. I feel so sorry for anyone who is stuck in an urban landscape and can’t benefit from nature’s wildness. As I sit in my dressing gown, sipping a coffee and writing this, the birds are making an almighty racket, the dogs run out the door barking to chase a passing car, a tractor rumbles in the distance. Nothing has changed and everything has changed.
It’s funny because one of my favorite literary and film genres has always been post-apocalyptic dystopias. From ‘The Death of Grass’ (John Christopher, 1956), to ‘Seveneves’ (Neal Stephenson 2015), I have always enjoyed end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it stories. I found them comforting, like others might enjoy horror movies, or superhero comics. So, it is not surprising that I took to my favorite genre to find some distraction from the weird times we are living in. In the last week I have watched both ‘Contagion’ (Welcome to Ireland Matt Damon!), and the television remake of ‘The Day of the Triffids’.
I found them both hilarious and completely irrelevant. They made me think about all the other post-apocalyptic stories I have read over the years, and I realised that they all got it wrong. If you take a close look at these tales you will find that very soon after whatever disaster causes the end-of-the-world happens, society totally breaks down. It’s every man for himself. In ‘Contagion’, nurses go on strike and people loot their neighbours’ homes because no one is keeping food stores open. In ‘The Day of the Triffids’ most of the population becomes blind, and those who can still see decide to leave the blind to starve. In a matter of a few days, human beings abandon all other human being, outside of their immediate family.
Compare that to the thousand acts of kindness that we hear of everyday in our communities, in the country and across the world. Whether it’s a silly family dance video, a free gig live-streamed, a small present dropped on a doorstep, or a city clapping its thanks; we have looked out for each other. We have reached out to check on each other. We have come together like never before. And that makes me feel like it’s all been worth it. Stay strong. Stay safe. We’re in this together.