The one where my blog turns six, I reflect on what nine weeks of lockdown does to my state of mind and we debate the meaning of a Staycation and a Dublin Dodge.
My blog is about to turn six. They grow up so fast.
Readership has declined by about seventy percent whilst we have been in Lockdown, but the most popular posts over the last year remain pretty much the same.
In third place, bizarrely, is this one about driving from Perth to Kalgoorlie in Australia (which is actually more about my fear of driving than about the drive itself).
In the last year I have left Australia, limping on a torn meniscus, and hobbled back to London. I then spent six weeks in a dreadful student hostel in London, trying to get the medical profession to do something about my knee. Then I travelled to Slovenia, Italy, France and Spain, before suddenly deciding to settle down in Brighton (on the south coast of England), seemingly on a whim.
I have been in Brighton for six months now, although more than two of them have been spent under lockdown, so it is hard to judge how it is going. I was enjoying having a reliable internet connection and having all my things around me in one place.
Then we suddenly disappeared down the rabbit hole and I have been marooned on my own in the basement now for nine weeks.
I struggled to cope during the first month or so of lockdown. I thought I’d be alright because I’m quite a solitary person anyway. However being alone 247 without any respite seemed to push me further down into a dark hole that I feared for a while I might never crawl out of.
Much as I relish my alone time, its never good if I get left alone with my thoughts for too long without enough distractions.
When the lockdown began, I threw myself into ‘doing things’ and ‘making the most of my time’. I signed on for a whole pile of online classes (if you want information about Norwegian Stave churches then I’m your woman). I started doing online yoga every morning and took on an online writing challenge.
I also spent a lot of time on Zoom meet-ups, where people seemed to annoy me even more than normal.
It turns out after all that it’s ok to not be using this space to be super-creative, and instead use it to just get by. It’s ok to be anxious and un-motivated, rather than feel you need to take on new challenges. So I gave up the courses, the meet ups and the writing workshops and instead spent a month watching Spooks (a kind of lower budget British Homeland) in my PJs. After the tenth series I finally emerged better and more able to cope. (if you are going to attempt this yourself I advise stopping after season 3, it gets silly after that).
It seems my body didn’t need to leap into action with new challenges after all, but rather to curl up and heal a little, to take stock of how to survive in this strange new world we find ourselves in.
I suppose what I’m trying to say is that you just have to find a way to get through and not feel guilty if you’re struggling to be as creative and/or productive as you would like.
Oh, and avoid social media too.
I have taken up painting, not because I possess any great talent but because it’s one of the few things I can do to distract my brain from its endless ruminations. I have tried meditation and I can’t do it; it’s no good telling me to calm my thoughts whilst sitting me down to do nothing. However something about mixing and throwing paint around seems to stop the chatter inside my head for a while.
Well at least I’m not baking. It seems everyone sees their way out of the crisis as baking homemade cakes and bread. Not me. I don’t know how long I’d have to be in lockdown before I considered home baking a suitable activity for me; though I can safely say longer than nine weeks. If I took up baking I probably wouldn’t be able to fit through the door once we’re allowed out again, so painting may be a safer activity for me.
I miss the adventure of travelling in the nomadic sense of the word; I miss travelling from place to place without a home to worry about or a bolt hole to go back to. There’s a programme on UK TV called Race Across the World (a similar concept to Amazing Race in the US) which features South and Central America and I spend an hour each week talking to an imaginary person next to me, saying ‘I’ve been there, I’ve been there too’ like a three year old.
We’ll see how things go and I will resume travelling when I feel comfortable doing it, but I am making no new plans at the moment and just waiting it out. Meanwhile domestic tourism should start to reopen in a month or so, and I will look at exploring some places closer to home.
The UK has now introduced quarantine for people coming into the country (something that may have worked better if it had been brought in back in February, as with Australia and New Zealand, but now that we have one of the highest death rates in Europe it seems a little futile). I think the saying is locking the stable door after the horse has bolted.
Plus there is something known as the Dublin Dodge, where if you travel back via Dublin you can avoid quarantine. You could probably just ignore the order anyway, pretty safe in the knowledge that they don’t have sufficient person-power to check where you are. The problem is not so much the quarantine we face on return but rather the kind of punishment quarantines that are now being reciprocated by other countries.
However like I said I won’t be looking to restart overseas travel just yet anyway, and instead will look at places nearer to home that I can explore once the hotels and campsites are allowed to reopen.
The Staycation versus domestic travel
Here’s a note, for everyone who is using the word Staycation incorrectly (and that includes the BBC). A staycation means staying in your own home and visiting places of local interest.
When I was a child, my parents took a Staycation every year. My father would take two weeks off work and we would spend them visiting local places: gardens and stately homes mainly. Yes, it was about as boring to a seven-year-old child as it sounds.
When you travel to somewhere else within the country you live in and stay overnight, that is NOT A STAYCATION. That is domestic travel.
Please stop saying Staycation when you mean domestic travel. End of rant. And yes, I do need to get out more.