This Friday, today, marks the end of the second week of official lockdown here in the UK, though I added my own to the previous week, making this the end of three weeks at home for me. Bit by bit things outside the windows have got quieter. The sounds of nearby building – a new shopping centre for Borough market and the demolition of a huge building on Southwark Bridge Road – have, one by one, halted. There was a period when those sounds were sounds of reassurance, that at least part of the economy was still working. The construction on the shopping centre stopped first while the demolition kept going for a further week. Perhaps there was some safe point that they wanted to reach before closing the site. But photos on twitter of crowded early morning tube trains shocked politicians and others who thought Londoners were all two metres away from each other, so pressure grew to close all building sites to get rid of all the construction workers travelling to various sites. Office based workers like me can ‘work from home’ – many of us always did, but construction is a little more difficult to do over a computer connection.
Yesterday I heard the news that the elderly mother of a close colleague (had died after isolating herself and, apparently, stopping eating and drinking. My colleague has the virus so wasn’t visiting her mother. The brother of another colleague, himself 70 or very nearly, also died. Yesterday 569 people died who had the virus across the UK.
The first week at home coincided with some lovely weather and I spent much of it sitting on the bench in our small back garden in shorts working on the new laptop I’d been issued with, with a super bright screen. I still have the suntan. But since then the weather has turned very grey though, somewhat ominously, 20 degrees is forecast for Sunday, ominous with the fear that the break in the cold weather will send people out into too close proximity.
There are a few heroes about – one is the governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo. He’s been talking about how we emerge from this: do we emerge more thoughtful and compassionate or with bitterness and fear. He says it simply but it is a, perhaps the, most profound question about human life and growth. Here he is.
Going out to shop is a bit stressful and we are going down to the market later today, but keeping a distance from everyone and washing everything we bring back in the garden before storing it, especially the fruit and veg which is still in generous supply.
One good point is how imaginative we have got with our meals. We are resolved not to throw anything away and we’ve expanded the repertoire. We bought a rice cooker and now beautifully cooked brown rice is often on the table. I had not realised how tasty and satisfying it is. We also got a pasta roller that fits into our Kenwood mixer and have realised how easy it is to make pasta. Just by luck, well with perhaps some inkling of times to come, we bought a huge 16Kg bag of bread making flour about a month ago so that sourdough bread making continues here.
Another new experience for me is the live streamed meditations and prayers from Jamyang Buddhist centre in Kennington. Joining in with my laptop propped up on my waste paper bin has become a reassuring way to start my day.