Jilly: One For The Diary

This week marked the one-year anniversary of the UK’s first national lockdown. In late February 2020 Mr W. and I had lunch in a crowded London restaurant with a bunch of friends, celebrating a landmark birthday without a care in the world. A month later we couldn’t set foot outside our home at all without an approved reason.

The change was sudden and drastic. Like everyone else I know, we were more than a little shell-shocked.

I’m reminded of a night, many years ago, on vacation in the Himalaya. A group of us camped on a ridge, high above a vast plain. We had supper, sang songs, played word games around the campfire, and retired to bed in excellent spirits. Around midnight we awoke to a storm the like of which I have never seen before or since. The waterproofing on our tents was rapidly overwhelmed and a fast-flowing river sprang up under my sleeping mat. Fortunately we had some dry clothes in a sealed bag, because everything else was soaked. Staying inside the tent was grim but going outside was worse. The following morning we all sat silently on our saturated kit bags, bedraggled and bemused. Our guide, who’d doubtless seen worse, looked us over, rubbed his chin, and thought for a moment. “One for the diary,” he said.

The Year of Covid probably deserves a whole diary to itself, but a page is more than enough for me. Below are my current top ten entries.

  1. Don’t take today for granted. Life can change in a heartbeat.
  2. Lasting good can come from terrible catastrophes.
  3. Humans are social animals. Technology can connect us, but it will never fully replace face-to-face contact and caring touch.
  4. Humans are adaptable and innovative. It’s mind-boggling what we can achieve when we co-operate together.
  5. Our world is deeply interconnected. We can’t just fix bits of it and expect the whole shebang to work.
  6. Don’t mess with mother nature.
  7. For the writer in me: character is choice under pressure.
  8. Also, language is also adaptable and innovative. A new crisis will spawn new words and concepts.
  9. Further: everything, however grim or inspiring, is story material.
  10. And for the eternal optimist: nothing but good times ahead.

What would you record in your 2020-21 Covid Diary?

7 thoughts on “Jilly: One For The Diary

  1. love this blog – makes you stop and think. I have two main things for COVID to add to Jilly’s excellent list. The first is that I’m fooling myself about exercise. Before lockdown, I didn’t do it because ‘I didn’t have time’. But when I had time, I still didn’t do it. Truth is, I don’t LIKE exercise.

    The second (if I needed any further proof) is that the person I married is absolutely the one for me. Had I been in lockdown with anyone else, I think I’d have charged with murder by now.

    • If you don’t like it, chances are you won’t do it, so I guess the trick is to replace the dreaded Exercise with something you do enjoy. In your case, doesn’t gardening count? It gets you outside, and it definitely gives you a good full-body workout. I really should spend more time in our garden—it’s an absolute disgrace–but I’d rather go for a nice long walk.

      And totally agree about sharing lockdown with the right person 😀

    • We’ve been incredibly lucky with our vacations, though you’re right, most of the time comfort wasn’t on offer. Spectacular, biodiverse, remote places don’t often come equipped with great hotels and room service. I’m glad we took so many trips over the years–partly because they might not be possible now, partly because as I’ve grown older I’ve become more attached to my creature comforts 😉

  2. I’d say two thoughts have highlighted my Covid-19 experience, one more personal (good), and one more global (bad). I’ve been terribly disappointed with the anti-maskers, the anti-vaxxers, and all the other miscellaneous folks who think that the pandemic is a hoax or overblown or that the virus won’t find them, so they don’t follow protocols and wear masks, and maybe instead (some) spit or cough on people. When did people become so contemptuous of their friends, family, colleagues, neighbors, and the (exhausted) healthcare workers of their community? It still enrages me when I think about it.

    On the upside, though, I have become much better friends with a woman I’ve known casually for a long time. She started inviting one or two people up to her patio for (socially distanced) cocktails or tea. She got an outdoor heater, and we continued to meet all through the winter. Now, we live in California, so we’re lucky in that the winter never gets all that cold. But those social events were a godsend, because, as you say, we’re social animals. I’m going again today. 🙂 When I finished doing my taxes. 😦

    • We have our share of covidiots here, too. They party together and ignore protocols, but my impression is that it’s mostly denial or selfishness–it’s not as bad as the authorities make out, I’m bored, I’m young and healthy and I just want to party. Or people who think they know better and want to pick and choose their rule following–I’m fine, my family are fine, why shouldn’t we have a huge wedding/party/celebration? It doesn’t seem so politicised or weaponised here. Stupid and inconsiderate still puts other people at risk, though, and makes me mad.

      I love the idea that the pandemic has turned your casual acquaintance into a solid friend. And I’m wildly jealous of the patio heater and socially distanced cocktails. The taxes, not so much. Raise a glass to us, please, if you get the chance!

  3. It was definitely the year to keep a journal. I wish I had; fortunately, I had the weekly check-in with this blog, so that captured some of the stuff I was thinking about.

    The big revelation for me this year was how much history repeats itself, and how much we seem to insist that the wheel never happened, that we must invent the wheel. I don’t know. Sometimes you get a better wheel, sometimes you get a worse wheels, sometimes it’s just a wheel. With the COVID pandemic, it is an airborne disease that kills people; as a species, we’ve seen this over and over. We’ve seen people sacrifice themselves for others (I remember your story about the village in England that left coins under water in trade for food and necessary goods during a previous plague).

    Very much to the point, we’ve seen in the 1918 epidemic how US towns that had big events and parades to welcome the war heroes back (without masks) got really whacked a short time later with sickness and death. Towns that followed masking and social distancing and ventilation (yes! they knew about all that in 1918!) didn’t get miraculously cured, but they had fewer deaths and spikes than other areas.

    I’ve been talking to a Swedish friend about this; he said that in general, Japan and Sweden had the same advice to the populace: use your brains, and figure out the best strategy for you! However, Sweden didn’t have a masking culture, and the gov’t didn’t step in as quickly as Japan to declare a “you need to really think about what you are doing, people!” emergency.

    I have been so lucky; only my US nephew caught it, and he doesn’t seem to have much in terms of long-COVID as of now. Fingers crossed. My son-in-law’s grandmother is fully vaxxed with Moderna! Everyone else I know is either not eligible in their state, or has Reasons for not getting vaxxed quite yet (fortunately, Reasons that their doctors seem OK with). Or we haven’t talked about it.

    The roll-out is slow here, but there is some news in this month’s town newsletter about the vaccines.

    Mostly, I’ve been just resting and healing. Very little writing, but SOME writing. I’ve been cleaning up other parts of my life — I hope that’ll make more room for writing.

    And of course, there are the cats, who could fill up volumes with their cat adventures!

    Finally, I knew in my head the value of having two or three 800 ml ziploc bags of chicken bone broth in my freezer at all times. Now, my whole heart is in it! Chicken soup, udon noodles, vegetable hotpot (aka nabe), curry base, mabo dofu/mapo tofu base, soup for those funny lumpy egg noodles that is the one heritage recipe I’ve got. A bag of bone broth makes a healthy meal in 30 minutes . . . and most of that time is simmering, so I can go watch some YouTube or get a massage in the massage chair.

    Now, if I would put my butt in the chair, I’d have a cat manga series, a cookbook or two, and a couple of non-fiction comparative history books. LOL. But this summer, I’m going to play the ukulele and write fluffy stuff until I get fully vaccinated.

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