In the last 13 days, had I not been in lockdown I would have: climbed three Tramuntana peaks over 1,000m, reviewed four hotels, attended a close Majorcan friend’s birthday party, and many meetings, had dinner with a group of friends - and with my English climbing pal - given a book talk in Palma, enjoyed eight pilates lessons, had approximately ten runs and knocked back heaven knows how many coffees in cafés island-wide.
Instead I have been confined to the house in blissful peace and seclusion to garden, write, twiddle my thumbs, create new recipes, listen to birdsong, sing to my menagerie, share laughter with many online, comfort friends in London and elsewhere struck down with the virus and to think. Aye there’s the rub.
So, what do we think about at this time? Initially I worried about my son in lockdown in Budapest, my sister in Fontainebleau, my in-laws in Forres and my nephew in London. I worried for my friends and my two NHS surgeon girl pals in the UK. How would they cope? Were they all going to be okay? In those first few days I imagined that I was developing a sore throat or a fever, I couldn’t sleep, I felt butterflies in my stomach every time I viewed the news online until I had my eureka moment.
I stopped reading the news. Simple as that. Suddenly I felt calmer, happier, lighter, more in control, and able to get back to work at my desk. It’s day four of enlightenment and now I pick and choose carefully what I read. I do not look at any insane conspiracy theories posted online, nor hysterical speculation about where we’ll be at in the next few weeks or months, because, dear readers, we can’t know. I don’t read about death and despair because I cannot do anything about it. I would rather support stressed out friends and readers, care for my elderly neighbours on my track, call friends living alone who need cheering up, and post cheery, life affirming images online. Ostrich? Maybe, but if it gets me through this rough period intact, I’m willing to grow wings and a beak!
The upside of this period of confinement is listening to the sound of silence. The planes that normally buzz in the blue skies are gone, there isn’t the grinding pop-pop sound of motos speeding up our main road. The sounds of nature are gaining ground, getting stronger and filling the valley each morning: just one big joyous choir. Nature wants us to learn from this. I am no Mystic Meg but there is a rich treasure trove of learning for all of us from this calamitous episode. And yes, this manmade crisis may carry on for some time and indeed retrace its steps in the future to remind us that we are impotent little specks of nothingness in the big bold universe. But as long as we listen and learn and try hard to do better, nature may take pity and cut us some slack.
For now, this is a golden opportunity to listen to silence, embrace one’s family and friends, reach out to those in need even virtually and to enlarge our knowledge base with healthy, intellectual, comical, fascinating, wonderful books, films, programmes and radio shows.
Compassion and connecting
Some of us are so lucky to have a garden or outside space so my heart goes out to those in apartments, some not even with balconies. What can be done? Hopefully windows can be opened, fresh air enjoyed and close neighbours can engage in conversation across buildings to keep morale going. Those weekly shops become so important just to get out and see ordinary things and other human beings, that we once took for granted. Fortunately, I have a communal track which makes communication with my elderly neighbours so much easier. It is possible to call out to them without putting anyone at risk.
The other day while out on my weekly food shop, I was passing a block of flats and heard someone calling to me. I looked up and on the second floor an elderly man was waving. I stopped to chat with him and he told me how fed up he was to have no outside space. He said that he was used to walking into town each day but that his family had forbidden him to go out. They made food drops instead. We exchanged names and pleasantries and he asked me what I had on my shopping list. So, I told him what I was buying and making that night in the kitchen and he was bizarrely riveted and yet why would he not be? Surely any diversion to relieve the monotony of sitting by a window, like a princess imprisoned in a tower, must be better than nothing?
The plague had it worse
So, if you’re feeling sorry for yourself or thinking that this is the end of the world, spare a thought for those suffering contagions through history such as the great plague of London that flexed its muscle in the 17th century. This is what Samuel Pepys wrote in 1665:
“But Lord, how empty the streets are, and melancholy. So many poor sick people in the streets, full of sores, and so many sad stories overheard as I walk, everybody talking of this dead, and that man sick, and so many in this place, and so many in that. And they tell me that in Westminster there is never a physician, and but one apothecary left, all being dead – but that there are great hopes of a great decrease this week. God send it.”
It's testimony to human endurance that so many plagues and pestilences were overcome, so animo, my friends, there is light at the end of the tunnel.
Anna Nicholas’s first Majorca based crime novel, The Devil’s Horn, is out now. It’s available at all good bookshops & via amazon.