One walk. Choose wisely. Choose the road you always wanted to live on and imagine your life behind those doors. Choose woods, hill, height, stars or sun, beach, sea, trudge streets, same streets, same loop, seen it all.
Clap. Clap for carers, for keyworkers. Thursday neighbourhood solidarity. Clap for NHS. Sing. Clang pots and pans and set off fireworks even though the sky is light. Hide indoors, it’s not that you don’t care, it’s not that you’re not grateful, it’s not that you don’t think they’re doing an extraordinary job, it’s just that the reality and the unreality collide and your head collapses and you quietly say thank you.
We paint rainbows. We put teddy bears in windows. Superheroes kitted out from online shops dance along our streets. Mum leaves a pack of loo roll on my doorstep. I get the paper for the neighbour. Number Three makes raspberry vodka and we drink it with carrot cake from Number Five. I know their names now. Meeting outdoors is not too hard when you can be kissed by the sun.
Working from home. Remembering to get dressed before a call. Sharing social media horror stories of naked partners wandering behind the screen. Arguing who gets the table, who will be stuck on the end of the bed. Snacks. Back to back zoom calls. Where is the edge of home and where is the edge of work?
Shield. Stop everything. Stop people and vanish. Do not vanish. Claim time and space and say I still exist, I am now a label, I am now vulnerable, I am still me. Sit in a queue for 12 hours for an online shopping slot.
Sit down to watch the briefing. Nod at the tele, shout at the tele, talk about what was said on the tele, predict what will be said on the tele. Soaps stop. Repeats and reruns, and how will they do kissing now?
Home-school. Juggle it all. How much do they eat? Homework, lessons online, I can’t help you with your maths if you do it like that. We didn’t used to do it like that. What does any of this mean?
The to do list states the obvious – shower, eat, sleep. Need a reminder of the basics, and they’re the only things to put on the list.
We bake. We become a nation of bakers. Without flour. We learn the word kuchisabishii – when you’re not hungry, but you eat because your mouth is lonely. Sourdough. Cake. Carrot cake, chocolate cake, lemon drizzle, muffins.
We develop a new language. Covid-19, corona, masks, vulnerability and shielding. WFH, lockdown, staycation, self-isolation, key-workers, covidiot and the ‘rona. Zoom bombing, zoom fatigue, furlough. Stay at home, protect our NHS, save lives. 2 metres apart. Wash your hands. A lexicon of our new world.
Hope, joy, novelty,
Thursday clap, pans, neighbourhood, togetherness,
in it together, won’t be long, over soon.
The edge of fear. Just at the edge.
It’ll be over soon. And we won’t forget, will we?
We won’t forget how we cared.
Image credit: Photograph by Kev Howard