Reflecting on the immediate past and how this pandemic has changed my perceptions of the past, present and future. I am, perhaps for the first time in my life, truly living in the moment. I have been practicing it my whole life, preparing for this time, but didn’t realise how much further I had to go, until now. There is always a sensation of needing to rush around, that arises but then subsides when I tell myself that there is no need. I am writing this not necessarily for an audience, but because I want to remember or leave a trace of thought. I think of times and places, meetings and coffees and catch ups with friends, pubs and music, walking along the high street in the old town with live music coming from every pub, people spilling out onto the pavements, raucous laughter, people smoking cigarettes, sharing lighters, hugging, jostling, swaying, singing.
Hastings was always such an amazing anarchic musical place, with Jack in the Green festivals every year, where pagans, Morris dancers, drummers, folk singers, troubadours poured in from all over the country and even from France. Dressed in green and covered in leaves, flowers and garlands. People in medieval wear, giant puppets on stilts, hordes of people singing, dancing and drumming in mile-long parades, making their way up to the castle area, where the festivities would continue, with beer tents, food tents, clothes stalls and dancing and singing. Often windy and even rainy, people would continue undeterred, anaesthetised by beer and merriment. The people of Hastings always knew how to party. There always seemed to be a reason for it. The pram race, pirate day, the old town carnival, the beer festival. I hardly ever participated, and I am not a big drinker at all, and I don’t like crowds or drunk people en masse but I certainly loved going out dancing at a couple of great venues with amazing DJs, and I loved seeing live jazz, with some of the best jazz musicians in the country; world class musicians. I remember so clearly walking through the old town one night only last summer, soaking up the sounds and sights of a summer’s night with live music in absolutely every pub and thinking there was no other place on earth like it. The phrase ‘We didn’t know we were born’ keeps going through my mind. We didn’t know how it could be taken from us, this freedom, this wild abandon, this community, this joy of connection, this vitality, this joie de vivre, this meaningful community, this Life.
Now my perception of the past has changed, the subjective reflections of it will always be the ‘pre-covid’ time. Will these insidious phrases, lockdown, social distancing, self-isolation ever leave our vernacular? Will we ever feel free again, knowing how it can be taken from us? So many questions, and I have no answers. I do not trust governments and I never have, because I know enough about history, but I am aware that I am very careful about sharing my thoughts or buying any narrative off-the-peg. I never have and I never will. I trust my inner knowing. I don’t know whether CV19 came from a lab in Wuhan, or because someone ate a pangolin or a bat from a wet market there, or whether ‘Bill Gates created it and owns the vaccine which will become mandatory’. For sure though, our rushing around the globe on ‘planes spread it far and wide. Our careless attitude towards this beautiful planet. But we never did anything about it when climate scientists warned us, and continue to warn us of how capitalism is destroying the planet. The conspiracy theories abound, and I try to be aware of them without going down the rabbit hole, because like the other Alice, I certainly can do that. Our freedoms can just be revoked. Our fear of death is actually more a fear of life. The ramifications of these lockdowns will definitely be far more insidious and far-reaching than the virus. Although I do not know that for sure. One thing is certain, I do not know anything for sure. I wouldn’t dare have the arrogance to assume I did. But what happens to children behind closed doors when they are locked in with abusive parents? Calls from teens with anxiety to child/teen-helplines have gone through the roof. And women with abusive partners. What happens when a family in Spain who have lost their income leave the house ( only one person allowed) to buy shopping and then is fined six hundred euros for ‘not having enough for a weekly shop’. These are only a very few of a litany of effects, mental and physical, on a locked-in, shut down world. How can it be okay that people in Italy and Spain are not allowed to exercise? For weeks or months.? It is not okay. Not being able to exercise can lead to all the things that become underlying health conditions which make people more vulnerable to covid, like heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, etc. That is the most fucked up thing. Whatever this shambles of a British government has done, the only okay thing in all this, is that we are allowed to exercise. But still the virtue-signallers abound. People walk along Hastings seafront wearing masks, thus not breathing in clean sea air, but probably plastic micro-fibres from the masks.
Yesterday I was walking along the Hastings seafront, the first time in weeks, and one woman loudly and pompously announced ‘Isn’t it astounding how many people are out today!’ It was meant for all to hear, so I loudly said ‘And you are one of them.’ People are so quick to descend into Stasi-mode. I immediately think of the film ‘The Lives of Others.’ I decided to return to the countryside and remain here for as long as possible within this time, just going to the farm shop for food. I miss my friends and family terribly. But my family here in our home surrounded by trees and the sound of the sea keep me going, and my painting and teaching online. It is enough.
In spite of everything and my doubts, the peonie growing in my garden tells me all is well. If the peonie in all her brazen flamboyant beauty thrives then so can we. I am focusing on beauty and love.
Recent photos from Hastings and St Leonards, and somebody’s window who clearly believes all the conspiracies going….and my glorious peonie.