I thought I’d finished with these random rambles about not going out, but July is a long time ago. Much can change in these weird old times between breakfast and what you probably call lunch but I call dinner. Since my last post in this accidental series, I’ve been reading, obviously, and working, mostly from home with the occasional trip into work. I’ve had a couple of trips out of the house, and a bit of a meltdown.
Didn’t it look as though things might be easing over the summer? I felt quite hopeful for a few weeks, but now it looks like we’re in for another strict lockdown. Who knows if it’s the right thing or not? I don’t trust anything this government says or does. It’s peopled by the callous and the corrupt, and I’m finding it more and more difficult to not look on the bleak side about the future of the UK.
My meltdown came at the end of the awful week in late September when no charge was brought against the murderers of Breonna Taylor and UK Covid infection rates were rising again. Coupled with an ongoing lack of sleep, an increasing sense of isolation from my friends and family, a few carefully worded communiqués about the long term future at work and the cat losing weight through deciding not to eat properly, my anxiety levels shot up. I’m always astounded at how quickly my rationality flees when I am crippled by my anxiety, how I can at some level recognise that it’s an extreme response and yet am still helpless to pull myself up from it. It’s hard to cope with negative feelings about the future when the present offers little comfort, too.
I’d taken three days off that week. I had plans to go out, look on different landscapes, refresh my housebound head. The first day was wet and I spent it shuffling around the empty house, thinking that I might as well have been at work, and fretting about what was wrong with the cat. The answer is nothing terrible, she was just fed up of the dry biscuit diet the vet recommended to keep her teeth in good shape (she had overgrown gums and gingivitis when the RSPCA picked her up, before we adopted her). We’ve got the balance right now, which will please Depeche Mode no end, with stinky cat meat supplemented by biscuits, and she’s regained weight.
The second of my days off was sunny, and I went on a walk. Because I’m an idiot who thinks she can go from minimal exercise to what I used to do fairly regularly, I walked for five miles, enjoying the sunshine, the fresh air, and the greenery. Let me tell you, when you have arthritic knees and a dodgy hip exacerbated by months of doing little more than sitting at a desk or on the couch, this hurts. I did pick a lot of blackberries, though, which went into a lovely crumble, and I indulged my love of pylons.
The third day, Mr Hicks had also taken the day off and we met up with friends and their dogs at Crosby Beach. We looked at the bombed out rubble that was moved from Liverpool city centre to bolster the shoreline. Then we had chips and were menaced by the local starlings.
More shallowly, I’ve been debating whether or not to get my fringe cut back in. I was going to decide at my next hair appointment, in a week’s time, but now I wonder if whatever that bloated haystack of a Prime Minister is going to say on Monday will mean my appointment will be cancelled. Even if it isn’t, I think not having a fringe to keep in trim is going to be something to keep until we’re out of the Covid woods.
I had a fun trip to a different library during August. In Greater Manchester, if you’re a member of one borough’s library service, you can sign up to use your card to borrow books from any of the other boroughs as well. I’m a member of both Trafford and Manchester library services and I popped over to Chorlton library to pick up The Pomegranate Lady and her Sons, wearing my Questionable Content “She Blinded Me with Library Science” t-shirt. I was a big hit with the staff member on the door, who was taking people’s test and trace details but wanted to have a long chat with me about Einstein, archives and the museum I work at. An enjoyably random encounter. I’ve now collected books from three different libraries over the summer and into autumn, and each has had its own way of doing things. In Trafford, where we don’t have fines any more for late returns, books are issued as soon as the reservation is allocated to you and you don’t have to do anything other than collect it and then return it when done. At Sale, borrowers aren’t allowed into the library. I was met by a member of staff outside the civic centre who radioed in to a colleague to say I was collecting a book reservation. The colleague then brought the book out to a table in the building, I was allowed into the building to collect it, and then I left. At my local library, I’m allowed to go inside and collect the book from the counter, which has a perspex screen protecting staff from customer and vice versa. Trafford doesn’t seem to be doing test and trace. At Chorlton, I had my contact details taken outside the building (if I had the test and trace app, I would have scanned the QR code, but I’m not using it, for good or ill – the fact that it was initially set up to only accept results from privately purchased tests instead of results from free at the point of service NHS tests puts me off – I have more faith in the Covid symptom study app). Once inside the building, I followed the one way system to the reservations shelves and issued the book to myself on one of the self service machines. I find this variation interesting. Perhaps because I’m in the process of working out how archive researchers can access our collections safely from November. It’s different in archives, of course. Researchers spend longer with the material, because they can’t borrow it, and I’ve had to decide how long we will let each researcher spend in the reading room, as well as allow staff to have regular breaks.
I’ve also been to the cinema with Mr Hicks. It was weird. We went to see the new Sofia Coppola film at our local independent cinema. Their set up is good as far as safety goes, but I felt sad about the number of empty seats. The film wasn’t what I was expecting, or needed it to be. The trailer promised a knockabout screwball comedy, and I wanted some belly laughs. It’s a much deeper film than the trailer implies, though, filled with reflection on what it is to be a daddy’s girl who has grown up, an individual who has shelved ambition while raising a family, a wife who has lost track of her relationship. It’s funny, but not the laugh riot I was anticipating.
And now I’m contemplating my birthday. In terms of numbers with a zero at the end, it’s a reasonably big one: I will be 50. The trip we’d booked to San Francisco is obviously cancelled. The fallback trip to North Wales is also off, given the local lockdown rules the Welsh Assembly recently brought in. We can’t have a party at a venue, can’t go for a meal, can’t invite friends round, can’t even meet up somewhere wide and open like the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, so I’m left puzzling over some kind of video gathering, maybe with a quiz, and it’s all feeling a bit like I’m organising a weird seminar for work.
I’ve got Covid paralysis about it, too. I know that it will be fun to see people, even over a video call, but it feels like an effort to get it sorted out. My need to be in control (when I got married, I organised my own Hen Party so there wouldn’t be any unexpected content) isn’t helping. I should just let Mr Hicks sort it out, I know. I also know that there are worse things to have on your mind than how to hold a party when you can’t leave the house to meet more than four other people.
Did you enjoy any freedom over the summer? Are you in a place that’s under local lockdown controls? Is it a good thing or a bad thing, do you think?