We are weeks into social distancing and lockdown in London, and overall I’m handling it fine. I’m fortunate to still have a job and a family for company, yet despite that my nature is to crave social contact, and I miss it. I miss flying, I miss going to pubs and restaurants, I don’t miss getting on the underground but I do miss what is at the other end of the trip! This is a 3 day weekend due to a public holiday, but it doesn’t feel like it.
Writing is a hobby and passion, you’d think lockdown would be a perfect opportunity to bang our a few stories or even a novel, after all I’m not going out am I? Yet, for some reason that hasn’t happened, the effort of figuring out how to keep the family supplied when basics couldn’t be found in the store, the work in setting up new social networks and figuring out ways of communicating has drained time away. I don’t know what the toilet paper hoarding was about, people are worried about a respiratory virus so they enough of the stuff to keep their rear end comfy for at least the next decade! Baby wipes too for some reason, why you need those if you’re going to be stuck in your house I don’t know. If I was going to hoard I would have gone for stuff with calories, personally. “They starved to death but their butts were clean” sounds like the beginning of a comic story, maybe. Some other time, perhaps, when I’m out of all other ideas.
So now the “novelty” is over. Skype, Zoom, and other tools have become part of the daily family routine, the kids are getting virtual lessons from school and I can find actual yeast in the store! I’m keeping up with friends online, going running or biking almost every day, and everything is firing on all cylinders. Except it isn’t. I’m finding it getting harder to keep this up, and getting edgy. I’ve invented a new portmanteau to go along with covidiot and quarantini, which is Coronuts. I’m sure I will survive and not be found running naked with flaming hoarded toilet paper wrapped around my head, but I can’t promise not to get grouchy.
I’m going to remember how this feels, the groundhog day, same as yesterday and will be tomorrow grind. I feel like I’m living in a Philip Glass piece, one key repeated over and over until I’m desperate for it to change. It may be strange, but it’s useful.
For years I’ve had a novel series idea in my head, I call it “The Patience War”. It’s in the near future and the Earth is under attack (isn’t it always?) by an unknown assailant. In order to protect itself, humanity must send some of its very best on years long patrol missions. 6 years in a ship with not much more space than the ISS, eating algae grown from your own waste products, breathing recycled air, and talking to the same 4 people under the ever-present threat of the enemy or spacecraft failure millions of miles from any possible help.
What would it feel like to be part of that crew? How can I convey the isolation, loneliness or boredom? I’m getting a taste of it now, not remotely the same level, but something to work with – a small image I can magnify and explore.
Maybe I can turn a negative into a positive, at least in one small way. Maybe it’s inspiration.