My goodness, my goodness it’s lockdown again
The pubs are all shuttered
I do not know when
I’ve been so dejected
The theatres all dark
This gloom was expected.
(Apologies to Marchette Chute, the poet behind the original excited-for- Christmas poem)
Lockdown the second, everyone agrees, is not as novel an experience as the original. In some ways it’s less arduous: parents of young children are relieved that the schools remain open; no-one’s stockpiling lavatory paper and dried pasta. On the whole though, this sequel is a pale imitation: greyer, colder, wetter, more polluted (those deserted streets are just a memory), no blossom or full-throated dawn choruses. Single magpies and rainclouds follow us around. Children hear mutterings about Christmas being cancelled and are having panic attacks. We must reassure them that Father Christmas was the first to receive a new vaccine and is fit as a fiddle, ready for many million chimney descents.
Talking of fit men (insert appalled emoji of choice), even Boris Johnson is giving us a Lockdown-lite version of himself. Rather than being blue lit to the intensive care unit, he’s merely holing up in the flat at Number 10, self-isolating and declaring himself as ‘fit as a butcher’s dog’. Although a lot less appealing.
While Bojo is indisposed, his fragrant partner and press secretary are setting to and running the show. That’s encouraging. The pair of them helped shoo out Dominic Cummings and Lee Cain so we can all hope for a greener, kinder interlude while they’re in charge. I have this fantasy, in which Carrie Symonds runs off with a suitably millennial member of the Green Party and clears off, leaving Boris holding the baby. A taste of his own medicine.
Conspiracy theories are at an all time high in these fevered times. I have concocted my own: that Carrie Symonds is a plant, a honey trap and she’s going to emerge triumphant as grown-up Greta, having dismantled the Tory party through stealth and created a vacuum for Extinction Rebellion to take over. I mean, she cannot possibly find Alexander Boris de Piffle Johnson attractive, can she?
Here in Catford, I continue to plot my own Greta curve, although my Greta is Garbo, not Thunberg. Lockdown in spring was a little patch of heaven for me, because it was my first experience of living alone for a goodly amount of time, having always lived communally (see blogs passim). Lockdown November, in which I turned 58, has seen me thrown together with my husband, who chose not to shield his mother in Somerset this time round. We give each other plenty of space (easy in a many roomed, semi-derelict family house) and work hard on not getting on each other’s nerves, even though we’re politically poles apart.
But…I want to be alone, as Garbo famously declared, more often than I want to be in the company of other people. I wander off quite a lot. A couple of weeks ago, (before this lockdown) I went camping. I’d discovered a ‘wild’ campsite in Kent, which was staying open until 31 October, and I had just bought the one-person tent I mentioned last blog, and a new rucksack and a Kelly kettle, so was keen to try them all out.
It was magical to sleep out in a sweet chestnut glade. I cooked beans and boiled up a brew using the firepit and settled down to flame (and navel) gaze until bedtime (9pm). There were only a few other campers. In the child-friendly bit, a family had decorated their glade with pumpkins, but they were far away from my pitch. There were compost loos and rainwater showers. Owls hooted in the night. I was snug as a bug in my bag.
The plotting continues through this lockdown. It’s like marathon training with bells on. In the short term, it’s important to get out running four times a week, getting up when dawn breaks, meeting my training partners at a legal physical distance for speed, hills, tempo and distance training. On other days, and when deadlines allow, it’s all about putting distance between me and this desk, in this house, in this street. The distances are getting longer. Twenty-mile walks are becoming a regular occurrence. The huge upside to all this determined tramping is bone-deep, brain-numbing weariness, so sleep steals over my body as I read at bedtime, and whichever book I am holding at the time drops on to my face, signalling an abrupt end to another locked-down day. It’s like a reverse alarm clock: a not-very-subtle reminder that sleep is the ultimate healer. Given that for the past fortnight the tome that has been smacking me on the nose is Hilary Mantel’s hardback 900-pager The Mirror and the Light, I am lucky to have escaped concussion thus far.