With everything that has happened over recent months, I feel that I need to write. The world feels forever changed, but outside my window I can hear neighbours talking loudly and the sun is shining. I went to L.A. a couple of months ago and spent a few weeks there painting and enjoying a taste of a former life. Little did I know how things would change. In the house where I was staying, my friends often had CNN running almost 24/7. As I wandered into the house to get some filtered water or coffee, and I would hear the news about the coronavirus in China and remarked to Brad, my friend, how it sounded ominous, and he agreed, but we spoke little of it. I remember going to the Broad art museum though and seeing a couple of people in masks, and before my flight back, Elizabeth handed me a mask and said ‘Please wear this’. I said I would but I didn’t and stuffed it into my pocket and just made a bee line for the bar and ordered a Pinot Grigio to calm my flight nerves a bit. I remember I had applied oregano oil to the soles of my feet, in order to make some attempt at deflecting the possibility of contagion. A few people on the flight were wearing masks.
Two months later, and today is my son’s 16th birthday. He is taking it all in his stride. N is too, as stoic as ever. It takes a crisis like this to see people’s true natures. My own more mercurial nature is quite clear. Some days are better than others. I lost a couple of teaching jobs, but N kept his as it is contractual and he is teaching online. Remy is the generation that didn’t have to sit his GCSEs and it will all go on predicted grades. My daughter, a manager and impressario at a music events venue has lost her job. I hope it is temporary. It made me weep when they shut the Printworks and I sobbed, thinking of all the joyful nights I have spent there dancing the night away. All the pubs are closed in Hastings, naturally. I felt and still feel so sad for all the older men who need the pubs for human connection and to sit over a beer and put the world to rights around a fire in a pub. Such a vital need for connection, communication and friendship, just cut off. These are the people they are trying to save, but the outcome from deprivation of social connection may prove to be far worse than the actual virus.
So many people like myself, had hopes and dreams, so many people are unsure. So many people have to face the strangeness and primal assault on their senses of others recoiling if they come too near. All these terms like social distancing, lockdown, isolation, are deeply insidious and sinister and I hope they do not become part of our regular vernacular. Yes it feels like totalitarian control and it is. All the conspiracy theories fly around social media and no one knows which narrative to believe in. I am not attached to any particular narrative.
I feel for my daughter’s generation, who had to take out loans to go to university, who didn’t have the opportunities I had and now have to go through this. I lived my youth in a part of a golden era. I try to hold on to the positives that will come out of this. That we will reflect on our treatment of Gaia, and perhaps will embrace a more socialist society, as that is what is happening as many people are receiving universal credit. The whole paradigm is being shaken up. I am teaching a bit online but looking for more online work. Painting grounds me and I am infinitely grateful for the cliff top path and my relationship with it. Some days I still feel happy. Some days I long for the hugs with my daughter who I am not supposed to see often. It is times like this when I long for her. We are so close. The other day I went to Hastings and walked along the seafront with a friend and we sat on the beach, as they are not yet closed to us. We sat at a distance as there are people taking photos of people, like Gestapo and posting them on social media. We stopped and talked to friends who were working on their front gardens or tinkering or shopping for food. It felt almost normal.
My life is simpler now. I am still painting a long commission for a client in Switzerland. My energy feels more scattered so am taking longer than usual. I have completely stopped drinking alcohol and completely stopped the occasional cigarette I used to enjoy. I am looking after myself as much as possible and getting as much food from my local farm shop and juicing beetroot and apples a lot. I have become a vegetarian. I am getting more migraines which I can tell are stress related. I am doing the job that’s nearest. I am having weekly Zoom meetings with my wonderful women friends from the Spanish retreat last year. That feels important. I am now limiting my time on social media. I will walk more, try to read more actual books, keep my dreams alive, paint more, enjoy more small details, love everyone more. All my life I have wanted to move to Spain, and I still aim to, although have been very alarmed by the draconian measures and fines there. I used to see it as my place for freedom. I am questioning that. I am questioning everything.
I want to try to keep this going.
The other day I put on a dress and make up just to remember how it feels.