So this is 2020. We awaken in a new world, one where the civil liberties we have always so taken for granted are restricted.
As a writer I consider myself lucky that the prospect of having restricted movement and reduced working hours does actually (at this moment) sound appealing. With a novel to finish and a whole new set of characters leaping constantly around in my mind the thought of some quality time confined to a laptop and keyboard is just what I have been craving for some considerable time. It is only the price it comes at that rests heavy on me at the moment.
I do, however, realise that I (and perhaps us writers as a breed) are in that more privileged position, and acknowledge that there are those among us – family, friends, colleagues, neighbours, occasional acquaintances, strangers – who will be finding the current situation incredibly difficult to manage and full of anxiety. Perhaps even myself in days or weeks to come? Fast forward through this, the first of my 12-week long, 4-weekly work cycle from the day job, and I may be telling a story that more closely resembles theirs.
2017-18 was incredibly busy for me and brought great change to life, with a change of career, a move abroad and a whole heap of goings on. 2018-19 was a rapid move back to the UK and an intense year of training which left little enough time for anything else. 2019-2020 marked the start of my new career in earnest, and as so often happens, just when I thought that everything was turning out for the best, in August 2019 I got struck down by a series of viral infections.
What followed was a hideous six months of trying to keep afloat in a brand new job in a brand new environment whilst simultaneously visiting doctors, taking time off, taking antibiotics, permanently needing to be in reach of a tissue and a throat soother, spending a fortune on manuka honey, realising I was a little better, then a little worse and starting the cycle off all over again. Three sets of antibiotics, six months of feeling very low (and now I acknowledge that my mental wellbeing had suffered leaving me exhausted and about at the end of my tolerance for winter and illness and getting out of bed in the mornings and short, dark evenings) and now Spring is springing and for the first time in months I have started to feel like a real life human again. Yes.
Years that are even numbers are usually better ones for me and I had started 2020 hoping that was the case. But of course as happens in life when you let your guard down and start to feel that things are looking up, enter Covid-19. In scant weeks I have gone from being an active full time day-worker to being on a 4-weekly rota which requires me to only do a small percentage of my actual job and only attend my workplace one week out of every four, which is a huge change to the routine. Times are very unsettling.
So day one, I sit here at my desk, watching the quiet street and enjoying the sun shining above the rooftops. A magpie walks along the guttering outside my window, oblivious to me and my musings. In the opposite house my neighbour almost mirrors me. He is self-isolating and spends many hours at his desk. I wonder if he is doing the same as I am today. In the distance I hear car engines and the occasional siren, but far, far less than normal. The change is unmistakeable, in our actions and our bearings. This is life, as we know it, for the coming months. This is the new ‘normal’.
As I sit here, relishing the hours to spend working on my novel and reading through my to-read pile, perhaps clearing out the winter clothes and having a spring clean, I wonder what good will come out of our current circumstances. Some will be lost. Our lives will be changed, perhaps considerably, or more permanently than we expect. But with the sun shining I sit here in hope that some of those changes might be for the better.
One can but hope.
To those keyworkers who are far closer to the frontline than I am at the moment, thank you.
No-one would have believed, in the first years of the twenty-first century… and yet it has.