Random Thoughts on Lockdown 4


The world seems to be coming out of hibernation. There were telecoms engineers in our street a week or so ago, replacing one of the poles. The school crossing patrol is back on duty. The car showrooms are open again. Cars travel down our narrow street again, trying to avoid the traffic lights on the main road. They’ve even started doing it in the middle of the night.

I haven’t had a haircut since 14 March. My hairdresser’s announced a couple of weeks ago on Instagram that they’ll be reopening at the start of July. I was so happy I put a reminder in Google calendar to ring as soon as their phone bookings open again tomorrow.

I had another hair appointment booked at the start of April, but that’s been and gone. By the time they reopen, I’ll have missed two haircuts. I’m not quite at Cousin Itt stage hair growth, but my fringe does cover my eyes entirely now. Fortunately, because the cut is good, I haven’t felt the need to take the scissors to it myself. Too many fringe cuts administered by my parents as a child mean I know where that leads. I have now taken to brushing it back so that I can see. It’s about 25 years since the last time I didn’t have a fringe.

I also look a little bit like a piece of gold electroplate that has been polished once too often. About 18 months ago, I decided to let the dark hair dye fade, my hairdresser gradually changing my tone with each regrowth touch up until I became blonde, because the Mallen streak at my parting was too much for my vanity. I had vague ideas of starting the transition to silver when I got to the middle of my fifties. Almost three months into lockdown, the burnished gold is showing steely grey at my roots. I say roots. The grey is about 3 centimetres deep. I can live with it, but it’s not yet the silver I’d hoped for, and it’ll be covered up again as soon as I’m back in that salon chair.

What to do about the fringe, though?

Perhaps because I haven’t enough of a life to occupy me fully at present, I have been reading interviews with people who haven’t officially been infected with the coronavirus but who have had unexplained symptoms and malaise that probably are indicators of the virus.

The first article I read was an interview with a professor of infectious diseases that made clear that the official list of symptoms was too narrow. In my sister’s family, three of them had it, each had different symptoms, one didn’t have a fever or temperature, just a loss of sense of smell and taste.

I read a piece about whether the first cases of covid-19 might have happened earlier than we’ve been told. Andy Gill of the post punk band Wire died a horrible death. His widow wonders if it was due to coronavirus.

The next article I read was a piece by a journalist who has been ill for months but kept being dismissed by medical staff. His symptoms sound like covid-19, but apparently he hasn’t had it.

The following day, I read a piece made up of interviews with four women who are still feeling the effects of the illness. Some of the symptoms described made me look back on my own health during lockdown.

This virus is so new, we don’t yet fully understand how it affects the body. I haven’t had a fever, a high temperature, a sore throat, a persistent cough, or what I think of as shortness of breath (the sort of thing people with asthma, emphysema, COPD and the like experience). I haven’t felt ill. But the symptoms listed in the articles I’ve read are similar to things I experience as elements of my various ailments and make me wonder about how many people have had the virus without realising it, and what the long-term impact is going to be. Only time and science will tell us that.

My place of work is getting ready for what they’re calling remobilisation. Like we’re an army. As a manager of one of the bits of the museum that offers a public service, I’ve been doing my bit of planning, too. There’s so much to think about. Reopening will happen in stages, staff first then the public. We’re a way off from welcoming our visitors and researchers back, and even further off from any notion of a normal visitor offer. The exhibition I’ve curated, that was due to open at the start of July, has been pushed back to next summer, with no idea of whether we’ll still be social distancing then.

At home, Mr H and I are carrying on much as before, with no real trips out other than to the shops for essentials. We took a walk along the canal on the last Saturday in May, and ended up walking five miles in total. My hips and knees didn’t know what had hit them. I was unfit before lockdown started, but I could walk more than five miles without my legs hurting.

There were plenty of people out, some in small groups meeting up for the first time in ages, others fishing, lots cycling. The foxgloves were out, plus flag irises and wild roses, and we got stuck behind a goose family at one point, prompting a cyclist who stopped to let us pass to ask if we were herding them.

I’ve bought a custom OS map, centred on our street. I love it. I’ve been poring over it, checking out the green spaces and footpaths nearby. Perhaps soon I’ll feel able to use it.

We’ve started watching Succession, the HBO series loosely based on the Murdoch family and its media empire. There isn’t a single likeable character in it, and yet at times I can’t help feeling sorry for them. Sorry that they feel success is measured by how many people you can trample. Sorry that their lives are all about money and obscene amounts of money. We powered through the first series, but I told my husband that I need a bit of a rest from their toxicity.

We were absorbed week by week in Professor David Olusoga’s latest series of A House Through Time. This year’s house was in Bristol and Olusoga brought that city’s history of slaving to the fore. Recorded a year ago, he couldn’t have known what would happen this summer, but how timely that series has been.

We were equally absorbed by the BBC drama The Salisbury Poisonings, starring the brilliant Anne-Marie Duff as Wiltshire’s Director of Public Health, Tracy Daszkiewicz, and the heartbreaking story of Anthony Bryan told in a drama screen written by his brother Stephen S Thompson, Sitting in Limbo.

The murder of George Floyd at the end of May brought home to many what it means to have black skin, what the lived reality is for too many people of colour. Sitting in Limbo brought to life the investigation into the Windrush scandal by Amelia Gentleman, showing a prime time audience what one of the lived experiences of black people in Britain is. My personal response to the outpouring of righteous rage was to recognise that reading books about black lives isn’t enough. What’s the use of educating myself about my privilege if I don’t do anything? I didn’t join either of the Black Lives Matter rallies that happened in Manchester. I chose to do other things, and I will find more active things to do once lockdown is finally over.

One of the things I did was buy some books from the black owned and run publisher Jacaranda Books. I’ll be reading them soon, probably as substitutions on my 10 Books of Summer list.

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