Life in Lockdown

3 Apr

Here in the UK we are approaching the second week of ‘lockdown’. It’s not a real lockdown because you can still go out for exercise (once a day), shopping (ideally once a day) and many people are still going to work. In Azerbaijan, you now need permission from the government to even step out your door, I’m told.

But still, it’s fairly restrictive, and it has altered my life as I expect it has yours. I’m actually on the third week of lockdown because I’m in one of these ‘vulnerable groups’ and so was able to go the supermarket during one of their restricted hours and wrestle pensioners for toilet paper. Heroism is not dead.

The first week was fairly normal, actually. All my meetings became telephone meetings, and there were a lot of teething troubles with that, but I was mostly in on my own, or just with my sister, so it was a lot like a normal week for me.

Now, with everyone at home all the time (including two primary-age children) it’s somewhat different. The children have a homeschool routine they’re keeping to, and my brother-in-law put a tiny cubby-hole office into the cupboard under the stairs, so whoever is not looking after the kids has somewhere to work/hide, but that’s still a lot of family time and tempers do become a little frayed.

I’ve been dealing with the stress of this mostly by baking bread. My pet sourdough starter, Olaf, is bubbling away happily on the windowsill and I made some baguettes that would not disgrace a second-rate bakery in France. My brother-in-law was hoping to use this time to try out a low-carb diet. That will not be happening.

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Magnifique!

There are many things that are annoying about this unexpected confinement. I could give you a long list, but rather than dwell on that stuff, I might just tell you how aspects of my life have changed instead, for better and worse.

Work – Interpreting

For the first two weeks of this, I was extremely busy with interpreting, and was just about ready to strangle the next person who put out advice about how to fill ‘all the extra time’ we’re all struggling with. Now the work is starting to dry up a bit as the courts shut and so on, so maybe I will actually experience some of this leisure that’s being talked about.

As soon as it became clear that I was mostly going to be telephone interpreting rather than face-to-face, I ordered a microphone headset. It’s a gamer headset, huge, black and red, and apparently it lights up if you plug it into a USB port, although I see no reason to do that. My nieces tell me it looks ridiculous, and they may well be right, but it is one of my best tech purchases. (The best ever was a cordless hoover. Cannot recommend enough.)

This means that I can crochet socks, do the ironing and make myself cups of coffee (or, if you’re a client reading this, take useful notes), all without popping out of the ‘meeting’. I also keep my phone’s number withheld all the time now, so that I don’t forget to change the settings and accidentally give a client my number. This means that whenever I phone a friend it’s answered with a very wary “Hello??” which is quite amusing.

All this distance-working also means I don’t have to spend two or three hours of my day travelling backwards and forwards to Glasgow by public transport. No standing in the cold at bus stops, no rattling my teeth on foetid buses, no just missing a train by seconds. That’s something to be grateful for.

Work – Writing

As I said, free time has not been much in evidence. Just before I was confined to quarters I got a couple of useful-looking books out of the library. One was The Serpent Grail, which was utter tosh and not useful at all. You can read my one-star review on Goodreads, if you like. The other was The Philosopher’s Stone by Peter Marshall, which is likely to be quite useful for my alchemy research, but which I have yet to start. Of course, the upside is that I will almost certainly have as much time as I want with these books. They are not going to impose library fines while the libraries are all closed.

So the alchemy book is going slowly, and the novel has suffered a little from my busyness, although I’m been making an effort to write a bit of it every day where possible. However, I gave myself a couple of days off from it to write a piece on the plague village of Eyam (who says I don’t do topical?) and there’s a short story bubbling (much like Olaf) on the windowsill of my mind, so I might have a bash at getting that down tomorrow. A change from the routine can be quite helpful for the creativity, after all.

Exercise

Exercise is not really my thing. Those who know me may have heard me remark from time to time that exercise is bad for you. (This is statistically true: mortality among people who exercise is 100%. In the end.) But I have always managed to stay svelte(ish) and healthy by a combination of walking everywhere and exercise-that-is-not-exercise, such as dancing or chasing the kids around. Now those options are closed to me, so I’m taking formal exercise once a day by walking or scooting around East Kilbride, and it has become very boring very quickly. I am open to suggestions, as long as they bear in mind the fact that I have no exercise clothes whatsoever.

Socialising

I am an introvert, which is a big plus at the moment. On one of my walks I had a chat (from the opposite side of the road) with a lady who is clearly an extrovert, and equally clearly suffering from the withdrawal of human contact – hence her striking up conversations with randoms on the other side of the road.

I’m actually getting more social contact than usual, via Zoom. (Don’t you wish you’d taken out shares in Zoom a few weeks ago?) My friend Tanya holds a ‘check in and catch up’ session every weekday morning, my housegroup is ‘meeting’ weekly on a Thursday, I’ve been to a Noir at the Bar evening (I’ll be doing a reading from one of my books at Noir at the Bar on the evening of April 29th) and I’m looking forward to attending Esperanto Club online, too. My church has so far achieved rather slick streamed services. It’s very convenient, just having to type in an address rather than actually go to one, and after three weeks of this, I think I’m finally starting to find the technology less distracting. And of course, I can phone my friends – using my ridiculous headset, if I wish.

So of my usual social pursuits, it’s only dancing that’s out, really. And I’m lucky enough to have actual people (and a bird) in my household, so I’m not starved for physical proximity either.

Craft

This is where it starts to get real, people. As you probably know, I’m making a temperature blanket. This requires lots of different colours of yarn in the same material and thickness. You can’t just buy the right amount at the start of the year (even if you did take out a personal loan) because you don’t know what the temperature will be. Mostly it has been midnight blue this year, and supplies of that have started to run low in online shops. Now that it’s a little warmer it mostly teal, and supplies of that are even lower! Even parrot green, the next temperature up, is looking shaky.

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It’s getting gradually greener.

I’ve put my name down on lists to be informed when it’s back in stock. Until then, I just have to grit my teeth and crochet on, hoping that the yarn doesn’t run out before the new stuff arrives. I can see a gritty Hollywood disaster movie being made about this. You could call it Quarantine401 (the colour code for Scheepjes Catona teal yarn). If you happen to be a Hollywood producer, feel free to get in touch using the comments section below.

Oh, and one last thing – Eurovision has been cancelled, but all is not lost! If you want to join my Eurovision watchalong on 16th May, using the YouTube videos, send me a message through the sidebar there ➡️ and I’ll send you the details.

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