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.
Most visited is this one about a hippy town in Patagonia, closely followed by this one about getting hassled by salesmen in Istanbul.
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 just getting used to 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.
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.
I do, in fact, want to know more about Norwegian stave churches. Please write about them!
you can take a 2 week course for free. first week they tell you about different churches and second week they talk about how they’ve been preserving them. Actually more interesting than I’m making it sound. I’m trying to get the website to cut and paste but it won’t; if you go on futurelearn.com and then click the history courses
Thanks! We were in Norway last year but it was off season so we only got to see one stave church but that one was really lovely!
It’s something I thought I might like to do this summer if we get any chance to travel. Some of them are quite remote and there’s hiking trails between them. There’s even one stave church in England so if all fails I’ll go there
All of this so well put and even without travel your voice is strong so keep it coming! Staycation reminds me of the parents claiming they are “homeschooling” right now when their kids are going to school online, which is such BS, when they are simply babysitting full time. Taking credit for what the teachers are actually doing is such crap! Here in my rural section of the US we have a 50% moron rate of Trump supporters who crowd into grocery stores, whine on Nextdoor about not getting their nails done, and treat social distancing like a joke.
PS, love the Perth photo. My husband’s Australian but we’ve never been to that side of the country…
thank you, and yes you’re so right about homeschooling; to hear some parents talk you’d think they’d devised the entire syllabus.
I think people are fed up with lockdown; it drags on so long and really it’s only because we locked down too late to start with because they were only worrying about protecting the economy. then we see government advisers blatantly flaunting the rules themselves, whilst telling the rest of us what to do. but I try not to get so angry over it.
Western Australia is really laid back by the way; I’m sure you’d love it. I just loved the open space there.
HIP HIP HOORAY for someone who finally addressed the STAYCATION misuse!
And I agree with Aimee – this is a strong piece!
Well unfortunately words and meaning evolve and once I heard it used on the BBC to talk about taking holidays in the uk then it means I’ve lost. Still annoying though.