Lockdown Project

So, with all this extra time on your hands, have you been learning a new language or a musical instrument or finally getting down to reading War and Peace? No, me neither. I haven’t even bothered to download Tik Tok though I do enjoy watching other people’s silliness, and I’m now on Day 66 of my “jigsaw a day for 80 days challenge” on my iPad.

jigsaw

To be honest, my daily jigsaw is probably the only thing I’ve done absolutely every day since this whole lockdown business started, and that includes getting up, going out for a walk and doing the washing up. Yes folks, I’ve had a day or two under the duvet, and I’ve even been known to leave the dishes overnight. Mind you I sometimes do that anyway, it doesn’t take being in lockdown…

On the whole though, I do get up, get dressed and go out every day – one has to keep up some kind of standard doesn’t one? And I’ve learned not to beat myself up for all the things I’m NOT doing. I got the ironing board out six days ago and it’s still sitting there beside a pile of crumpled clothes, and as to the novel I should be half way through by now, well… Trouble is when you have all the time in the world to do something, it tends to TAKE you all the time in the world, doesn’t it? I think I might have said that before somewhere. Is it starting to feel like groundhog day? Probably. Except that I’ll not be a concert pianist at the end of it…

groundhog day

Way back in April I think it was, my crochet project started well, I even posted a picture every day on Instagram, even though I have only a very hazy idea what Instagram is actually for…

I really enjoyed watching the needlework grow day by day, stitch by stitch; seeing the colour gradation in the wool develop and gradually progress from light through to darker grey. I found myself fully absorbed in concentrating on the intricate pattern while listening to lots of BBC radio dramas and podcasts (You can’t do a project like this while watching telly!) But then something a little odd happened. Normally when you’re approaching the completion of a project you can’t wait for it to be finished so that you can admire the fruits of your labours. But this time, once I’d got through all the shades of grey and had started on the final purple section, I started to feel more and more reluctant to keep going. Thoughts came into my head such as “The size is all wrong”, “It’s not turning out like I thought”, “Who am I going to give it to, who’d want a shawl anyway?”

shawl15

I was in fact well and truly stalled. I started to get distracted by making little rainbows, finishing off a blanket, deciding to knit handwarmers I could sell on Ebay. The shawl got relegated to my work bag (newly acquired for the purpose from said Ebay when the sight of the unfinished work started making me feel guilty and uncomfortable).  At least, I thought, it has a lovely bag to languish in while it waits for the day when I feel the urge to get it out and finally finish it off.

workbag

Thinking about it now, I suppose that the whole point of embarking upon the shawl project was just the project itself, the challenge of being engrossed in something intricate and absorbing. The closer I got to finishing it, the more resistance I felt. Because I hadn’t realised that I didn’t particularly want to have a shawl as much as I wanted to be making one.

It’s not just the lockdown. Many times in life you don’t really appreciate the purpose of an event or an undertaking until you look back and start to understand the effect it has had on you, or the inner resources you’ve had to discover or develop to get through to the other side. I’ve seen this time and time again as I’ve explored aspects of my family history in this blog, each time gaining new perspectives and insights from those I might have had as a child or when I was at a different stage in my life.

I’ve just read a post from a fellow blogger entitled “Let Life Change You”, which kind of sums up what I’m getting at. Getting though lockdown, or indeed life, isn’t about having a balance sheet of goals attained. It sounds like a cliche, but it IS all about the journey, the moment by moment engagement in the minutiae of our lives. And that’s true whether we are focused on some grand plan or just trying to get through until tomorrow.

2163462-Leon-Brown-Quote-You-must-let-life-flow-naturally-for-life-s

I know it’s a tiny, tiny example, but getting stuck on my shawl project represented a need for me to press my own pause button and refocus. And that meant overcoming the feeling that leaving something unfinished is some kind of failure, which in turn involved a shift in my perception of success. Such weighty notions from such a little incident!

The shawl can wait until I am in the right frame of mind to enjoy the task of finishing it off. In the meantime, there’s always the daily puzzle and the rainbows to keep me going. Oh, and by the way, since I starting writing this a couple of days ago I’ve actually got through that pile of ironing and put the ironing board away – hooray!

rainbows2

 

 

One Month On

IMG_1703

Yesterday, 24 April, we in the UK reached the one month mark in our Covid-19 lockdown. It’s a rather odd experience – are we all in it together, or in isolation…? I’m lucky. I live in a place which is not very densely populated; going for a walk or even doing a shop in the local supermarket doesn’t cause great social distancing problems. And I have access to some garden space so most afternoons at the moment are spent sitting in the sun getting on with my crochet while listening to a podcast. The crochet is a rather complicated shawl in case you’re wondering, one of those projects you put aside until you have enough time for it. Well, if not now, then when…?

IMG_1630

I’ve got loads of podcasts downloaded on to my phone, and I rather enjoy just sitting there listening while my hands are busy. For example, the BBC World Service’s 13 Minutes to the Moon, all about the successful Apollo 11 landing on the Moon in 1969, and then series 2 about the rescue of Apollo 13 when that mission went disastrously wrong. It’s escapism literally out of this world! I’ll be listening to Death in Ice Valley next, if you want another recommendation, and The Doorstep Murder looks good too.

This all makes it sound as if I’ve entered a kind of dreamlike state within my own personal lockdown, and of course I haven’t. I’m not one of those people who report going stir crazy because they can’t go out, but I greatly miss physical contact with my children and grandchildren even though I do catch the occasional glimpses of them on Zoom. It’s just that the sun makes it all so much more bearable than the early weeks when you were quite glad not to go out because it was cold and wet most of the time. And you would listen obsessively to 24-hour media to hear the same old news and opinions being rehearsed over and over again, as if hearing it for the umpteenth time would somehow change the basic fact that there is a global pandemic and the world is in quarantine.

I don’t do that any more – I catch up morning and evening, and the rest of the time try not to allow the Coronavirus to take over my every waking thought. I’ve learned over the past month that I need to strive to set my own agenda for the day – if I let the news do it I just end up getting all hot and bothered about what should and shouldn’t have been done, is being done now, will be done in the future. The trouble is that everyone has an opinion, from the US President who seems to think that if we injected ourselves with cleaning fluid we could make this whole thing go away, to the great British public who have largely adopted a kind of Dunkirk spirit embodied by the marvellous 99 year old veteran, Captain Tom Moore.

captain tom

Land_on_the_Moon_7_21_1969-repair

I remember the moon landing being the go-to news the minute you got home from school in 1969 (I was 15 that year), rather in the way Covid-19 is now, or at the beginning of the year Brexit – remember Brexit? –  before the world changed and we became obsessed with something rather bigger. Back in the sixties families would huddle round our wee black and white televisions watching events in real time, along with, it seemed, most of the rest of the world. There really was a huge Earth-wide collective holding of breath until those Apollo astronauts finally touched down safely after their perilous missions. That’s the way I remember it anyhow.

We tend, we humans, to come together at times of great triumph and disaster – royal weddings, sporting victories, wars, natural disasters, the death of a much revered personage. We remember those events, we remember where we were when we learned of the death of Princess Diana, or JFK, or John Lennon – insert your own iconic figure here – and the memory of them becomes a shared cultural experience that we use as reference points as part of our very identity. Funny thing is we often feel as if we were actually there when in reality all we’ve done is watch it on television.

So with the Coronavirus. There will, eventually, be life after lockdown. We will be like the Londoners emerging from the Underground Stations after an air-raid warning in the midst of the blitz, blinking and coughing in the daylight, battered and bruised but glad to be alive.

bunker

In the meantime, I suppose we just need to do what it takes to get past this. We can’t see enemy planes flying overhead, but the peril is no less real, casualties heartbreaking, those on the front line heroic.  I have misgivings about the curtailment of our civil liberties,  questions about exactly WHICH science it is the politicians are following and what seem like broken promises over PPE or testing. We must continue asking these questions, but for now we are largely suspending our disbelief and focusing on the bigger picture. 

And I am finding a genuine sense of us all being in it together – when you venture to the shops or walk along the street, most people nod and smile as they neatly step off the pavement in order to stay 2 metres away, or chat as they wait in line to be allowed in to the supermarket. When we go out and do our Thursday shout-out for the NHS, neighbours grin and wave at each other – in fact I’ve seen people from across the street that I’d never even met until all this started.

I’m learning to be less hard on myself now that I’ve finally accepted that left to myself my two favourite pastimes are sleeping and eating. Any day is a success which consist of more than just getting up, having breakfast and then going back to bed until it’s time to eat again (I’m not kidding!). I try to write every day, box sets are good, but really, it’s knitting and crochet that are getting me through. Sometimes the only thing that helps is to get the hook out and make yet another rainbow….