This isolation business is interesting. The sunshine’s got us off to a good start – like a propagator for the seeds of our imagination and higher social selves. It’s the hardening off I worry about (for non gardeners, this is the stage when fledgling shoots are put out in the cold to get used to the world). We’re all hunkering down for the duration – either alone or with others – each with its challenges, working out the sanity saving rituals of confinement. There are those in uber confinement; big families in small flats. Or the old or unwell who have been isolated for years who may be having a better time of it, getting long overdue attention. Others think they’ll go barmy, but find reserves within themselves. There are those of course who might benefit from being on an extended retreat.
Chair of MIND, Stephen Fry, leaned into our TVs screens last Sunday, urging us all to grasp this opportunity to ‘take our time.’ Nice. I find time for rural idiocy (Marx again) on my allotment. Good to see stuff going into the ground, and to enjoy the camaraderie of other allotmenteers metres apart. My indoor life is refreshed through re-arrangement of my pictures. Most of them were either given to me or acquired through activism – or artivism as Richard Hamilton called it. First up is Jo Wonder’s painting The Clock Dragon – a mixed media work of oil pastel, print and drawing. The work represents the benevolent and threatening dragon – blowing hot air against the ticking clock of extinction. Or not! We choose which air the dragon breathes – like the Chinese word for crisis – a fusion of danger and opportunity.
I ration my media – leaving a clear hour between Covid -19 reporting and bed. Although I’m enjoying some of the interviews with health professionals – noting how presenters don’t interrupt them for once, how we would welcome most of them to be at the helm, rather than…I know he’s poorly, but—
I’m getting fed up with some media punditry – like a report from Moscow claiming that Russia was behaving as if it was on another planet. Well, didn’t we put them there? (A pundit by the way is Sanskrit, meaning someone who only understands one arm of a complex philosophy).
I note on my daily park walk – how counterintuitive it is to keep away from people, and that it’s compelling to smile at each other. Then the rare selfish act, like the jogger puffing up behind me as I walked through a gate.
Me – ‘oi, keep your distance.’
Jogger – ‘but you’re in my way,’
Jumping aside, cussing her, I noticed how she gave the next person she ran past at a very wide berth. Remembering too, that in Hanoi the city’s constant beeping of motorbikes signifies ‘I am here’ not ‘get out of the way.’
Jan Woolf – Writer in Residence, Pentameters Theatre. London