Quarantine Questions

Having been subjected to stay at home restrictions (to one degree or another) over the past six months, would you say that quarantine has made you a better person? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Hmmm. Has this pandemic made me a better person? Different, certainly, but better – no, overall on balance probably not…

Lockdown began with a deep fear of what might happen if I or anybody I loved caught the virus. Scared, I stayed at home for the duration as instructed, and enjoyed being a loner home-maker and a gardener for a while. But as the weeks passed I became increasingly disheartened, disconcerted, distressed. I missed people, and places, and soon it seemed like partisan politics got in the way of everything else and none of it made any sense any more.

As the infection rate and death toll here in the UK first rose alarmingly and then gradually started to fall week after week, I questioned the lack of testing, the lack of track and trace, and seriously struggled with the free-fall never-endingness of feeling trapped in a groundhog-day-style lockdown limbo. It felt like as a collaborative community we could not simply hold our collective breath forever, and that sooner or later something somewhere would have to give.

And eventually when the time came I went back to work. New rules, new restrictions, new possibilities for potential infection to get my head around. People to see and places to go, granted, but cautiously, carefully, all masked up and keeping our distance, dancing around each other delicately as if surrounded by an invisible forcefield like repelling magnets of similar polarity. Social contact, but still without any physical contact. Together but apart. The new normal.

To date thankfully my family are all fine in that none of us have had Covid, but other long-term ongoing health problems have become far more difficult to deal with across the months and the generations. ‘Protecting the NHS’ when it comes to Covid seems to have meant forfeiting so much else health-wise for so many of us, even now that first peak has passed. The importance of continuing family connections definitely means more to me now – I know potentially there is a lot to lose for all of us if things go pear-shaped.

Six months on I now feel frustrated as well as fearful. I still don’t want to catch this damned virus but I also want to live, not just continue to exist: I want to enjoy life again. What I miss most is the freedom to just be, without having to think about it. Go out where I want, see who I want when I want, socialise or not as the mood takes me. Now we no longer have that freedom I do appreciate what we have lost – perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever.

But whereas before I tried hard to be someone with a ‘live and let live’ mentality, I currently find myself far less tolerant of those selfish individuals amongst us who choose to demean, debunk, disregard and blatantly dismiss the scientific reality of our current global situation. I feel like saying to those self-important ignorant idiots – well, screaming at them, anyway – it’s not fake news, fuckwits, get with the program!

So on one hand I’m more grateful for what I have, but on the other hand I’m definitely far less trustful of others. Some of the time I’m wary and weary, emotionally exhausted, easily irritated. The rest of the time I’m just happy to still be alive…

Fandango’s Provocative Question

The Story of Who I Am

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

Is the concept of ‘you’ continuous or does the past ‘you’ continually fade into the present and future ‘you’? Considering that your body, your mind, and your memories are changing over time, what part of ‘you’ sticks around?

This is a question, or at least in variations on a theme, that has been on my mind for as far back as I can remember. And having studied questions of identity in depth as part of my degree studies (a blend of psychology and sociology) I may have a more rational, intellectual, academic ‘head’ answer to give, but choose instead to focus my reply on my entirely confusing ‘heart’ emotional response.

Here I am at 56 years old, and however much I understand that our identity inevitably grows and changes along with our life experiences, to me there is an integral part of me that feels much the same as I always have done. In the same way as I look at photographs of me as a child and recognise my external self in that past image, so I can experience a similar core recognition of uninterrupted internal self across the years. In essence I feel that I am who I am, who I always have been, an accumulation, an amalgamation of all the nascent me’s that ever existed.

It’s as if my own memories all layered together make me feel me, my sense of self a kind of constant continuation of my life narrative to date. It is perhaps that ongoing internal life-story that makes me feel most like me – my hopes, my fears, my desires and my disappointments all dissolved and diluted into a complex cocktail of me-ness that remains whatever I do and wherever I go in life. I can look back comfortably and know that I was that person at that time, and now I am this person at this time, and that changing experience feels just fine to me.

So there we go, a pretty confused emotional answer to a pretty confusing question! 🙂

Schools of Thought…

This week’s Provocative Question from Fandango asks:-

Do you believe that children should be required to return to school for the new school year?

Of my six grandchildren, the eldest is 18 and has already left school and the youngest is not quite two years old, so has not yet reached school age. But by the time our schools return here in Scotland on 11th August, we will have two five-year-olds due to make the important move from nursery to their first year in primary school, a seven-year-old with ongoing health problems beginning his third year, and a nine-year-old starting her fifth year in primary school.

All of our school-age grandchildren are really looking forward to attending school in person next month, but are understandably worried about the virus. They’ve missed their friends and have missed their teachers but know that lockdown happened to everyone to help stop people getting sick and dying. They have been keeping up as far as possible with schooling online, but it’s inevitably been a bit patchy over time and not quite the same as being full time in their purpose-built learning environment.

Scotland has chosen to have a much longer period of lockdown than England before starting to ease restrictions, and thankfully for now our levels of new infections and deaths are relatively low so we are in a position where schools returning full time is not such a contentious issue as it may be in some other countries. However contingency plans are still in place to allow for a differently organised ‘blended learning’ approach if this becomes necessary due to a resurgence of infection in the future.

So right now I must admit I feel pleased that schools here are returning soon, and as long as adequate safety measures are in place for all students and staff I think it is definitely the right thing to do here in Scotland. The children are keen to be back in their usual learning routine, five months has been a long time for them to feel like they have been missing out. They are happy to be at home, but are happy to be out at school too. They like their little bit of independence and the support of their peer group.

Too much longer away from school and I would probably fear their emotional health might begin to be seriously compromised, but children are generally resilient creatures with an elasticity of expectation and experience leading to an easy adaptability and acceptance of ‘what is’ that we have somehow lost as adults. The hope is they will catch up as their schooling progresses, make up for lost time, start to feel secure again in life. Hopefully lockdown will have provided a different type of lesson to be learned long-term.

But would I be feeling the same if I lived elsewhere? Probably not…

My Health, My Life, My Choice…

Fandango asks a very topical Provocative Question this week:-

Which pre-pandemic activities are you ready to resume (or have you already resumed)? Which, if any, pre-pandemic activities are you likely to continue to avoid?

To date, due to Scotland’s continuing lockdown combined with my particular personal circumstances, none of my pre-pandemic activities have been resumed in full as yet, and I suppose I’ve had to be ok with that so far. However, with any luck we should be having a wholesale move to the next stage of re-opening soon, and to be honest I’m absolutely ok with that, too.

The main thing I’m keen to move on to is to be able to see other members of my family indoors, even with social distancing still in place, because that makes visiting with everyone possible in a way it’s not at the moment. Visiting with small groups outdoors only with no access to a toilet is definitely better than nothing but isn’t really feasible or practical for all: You still have to live close enough in the first place to make that possible.

And I’m definitely ready to go back to my job in the ladieswear section of a local department store with limited customers, careful social distancing and wearing a mask as soon as this is allowed. My husband has continued working in a local supermarket throughout lockdown, so by now people are used to how to behave in shops during the pandemic. Hopefully there won’t be too much of a free-for-all rugby scrum in womenswear in an Inverness department store – not sure when larger stores will be allowed to open again though, so exactly when that might be remains to be seen.

But when it comes to socialising in larger groups with strangers close by, however much I’ve missed it I’m not so sure how quickly I’ll go back to going out comfortably for a coffee with friends, or out for a pub lunch, because having carefully avoided other people for the last three months I’m not sure how relaxed I’d feel to be in that kind of environment straight away. And of course the point of going out for coffee or for a pub lunch is to relax and enjoy yourself, so we’ll see how that goes.

So whatever our Government proclaims we’re going to be allowed to do and when we’re allowed to do it with regards to this pandemic, I’ll probably go along with it in spirit but will nevertheless keep my own counsel and make my own decisions on looking out for myself into the future, until I know for sure my behaviour in public isn’t likely to make me end up really sick or worse, end up dead. My health, my life, my choice 🙂

Making a House a Home

Getting away from all the negativity and craziness in the world just now, Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-

What is the one thing in life you are most excited about right now? Why?

For me, I’m excited about the ongoing process of making our house into our forever home. We moved in last October, mid-way through the month, and decided to take our time taking stock of everything before making too many major changes too quickly. It all felt so strange to begin with, it was not only a move of 600 miles to a new house for us but also to a different city, a different country, and neither of us had jobs to go to. We’d both grown up in the local area, a long time ago, but hadn’t actually lived here for decades.

There is quite a bit to do long-term in the house – we need to replace all the windows, the kitchen units and the boiler and renew the loft insulation, and also do a bit of re-routing of wiring in the loft while the area is temporarily cleared of storage flooring, so decided not to start decorating anywhere until we’d completed all the messy background work first. And we’ve also left the old floor coverings in situ throughout the house – so once the bigger changes are made, and the painting and wallpapering is done, we’ll replace the carpets at that point, but until then we’ll live with what was already there. Not at all to our taste, but definitely livable with in the meantime.

We could of course have just bought a brand new property in walk-in condition, but this was the house we both fell in love with, regardless of what needs doing to it. This is where we want to create our new home, whatever it takes and however long it takes us to get there. For us, moving from a Victorian one-bedroom first floor flat conversion in London, England with no outside space at all to a 1930s three-bedroom detached bunglow in Inverness, Scotland with a mature garden front and back has been a masive change in environment for us to get used to, however welcome a change it may be.

The timing of our move in mid-October meant we missed all the warmer summer weather and instead hit the start of cooling down towards winter, so planned initially for a quiet time spent simply settling in to our vastly increased living space during the coldest months, deciding to really get going in the spring once the weather picked up enough to start making some of those big changes. Except of course just as that time appeared on the horizon coronavirus and lock-down happened, and much of our advance planning came to an abrupt halt for the duration. And everything is still pretty much on hold even now.

So since moving in almost eight months ago we’ve changed all the blinds and curtains and all the lighting, and have taken off a couple of unnecessary internal doors between the kitchen and dining room. We’ve chosen and bought wallpaper for the living room, master bedroom, and dining room, and have removed the built-in under-counter fridge and freezer which had both seen better days, replacing them with a super-energy-efficient free-standing fridge-freezer. We’ve bought a sofa, a set of six dining chairs, two large oak wardrobes, an oak chest of drawers and two oak bedside units.

And the extra three months of frustrating lock-down down-time effectively kicking our heels workman-wise has actually turned out to be surprisingly beneficial as far as the long-term house and garden planning goes. The longer we live here, and the more we get a proper feel for the space we inhabit, the more the house is subtly indicating what it wants, showing us what might work best for us all. We’re seeing how the natural light coming in changes along with the seasons, getting a real sense where our original plans might need to be tweaked here and there to best attain our particular vision of what ‘home’ means to us.

Just being here at all is still exciting for me, living in all this wonderful space, dreaming and planning and enjoying what we have already achieved so far as well as feeling full of hope for the future. This is what we spent a long time aiming for in life, and here we are at last living in our own four house walls within our own four garden walls. Making our house into our forever home, our way, one amazing day at a time… 🙂

Older But Not Necessarily Wiser

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:

‘How old are you and how old do you feel – older or younger than your actual chronological age? Do you generally act your age? And what does ‘Acting your age’ mean to you?’

What a fun question! I’m 56, and will turn 57 towards the end of the year. And do I feel my age? Well, yes and no.

My body is clearly ageing, especially since I hit menopause – my depleted hormone levels also seem to go hand in hand with the depletion of whatever lubricaton allows my joints to move smoothly. Additionally I’ve got a growing collection of niggly ongoing health problems I didn’t even imagine existed when I was younger.

And my skin has visibly sagged and wrinkled quite a bit, my hair is greying and my eyesight has deteriorated so badly I need reading glasses to see anything at all close up. I know in general I definitely look as well as feel my age these days. Or rather, I suppose I look and feel just like an overweight, post-menopausal middle-aged grandmother, which is exactly what I am!

But on the other hand, my husband and I have known each other since childhood so can often be found giggling like teenagers at something stupid we find amusing, and somehow the years just melt away. It does feel strange sometimes to think back to when we were kids and realise just how many decades ago that was. We watch history programmes about stuff we actually remember happening, and look at each other and think – shit, when did we get so old?

I suppose I act my age in the sense of being a repsonsible adult and behaving in ways any responsible adult would – I don’t have to think about putting any effort into ‘adulting’ anymore, it just happens that way automatically. But then, I’ve been a mum since just before my 19th birthday so having to behave like a grown-up has been part of my life for a long time now.

But do you know, the thing that surprises me most these days is that I just don’t care if anyone else thinks I act my age or not – I have three grown up kids and six grandkids and I’d probably be the first to admit I may be older, but not necessarily wiser, and that’s just absolutely fine by me… 🙂

Who is this Ruth who Blogs Here?

‘Tries hard but could do better…’

Fandango has asked a really thought-provoking Provocative Question this week – he asks:

‘Are you the same person on your blog as you are in real life? Do you like yourself more in the virtual world than you do in the real world?’

What a cool question! All I need to do now is work out how best to answer it. Who is the Ruth who blogs here? Hmmm…

I think my blog me is just a normal everyday part of my general public persona. You know, the polite friendly smiley person who is a trusted work colleague or something similar – much more than a nodding-acquaintance-in-the-passing, but not anywhere near as intimate as the kind of relationship as I might possibly share with my closest friends and family who know all the deepest darkest skeletons in my closet and have seen me at my absolute worst time and time again and continue to love me anyway.

I do sometimes share quite private stuff about me on my blog, but carefully, thoughtfully, and hopefully while still maintaining a bit of dignity and reserve. Because at my core I have a life-long fear of not being good enough, which leads to me being a people-pleaser at heart, which in turn brings me to a frustrating tendency always to try to blog with care so as not to offend. And as a result of that in-built caution I’m very aware of differences in societal norms between bloggers, and therefore how much that cultural awareness (usually) plays into the overall attitude and tone of my posts.

Over the years across other blogs (long gone now) I have shared insights into my life-long struggle with depression, and none of you can fail to notice I’m not at all religious and my politics veer way more to the left than the right. I can be quite strongly opinionated at times, and so struggle hard not to be overly judgemental of others when I do find myself having an online rant. Most of my posts are therefore probably relatively bland and ordinary and harmless in content, and I do try to keep my blog as a positive creative space, although that’s become increasingly difficult to stick to in the current global political arena.

And what do I think of her, this virtual Ruth who blogs here? Generally I think she’s OK, and most of the time we mirror each other’s views in perfect harmony but sometimes I want to push her into being even more honest in what she writes about the stuff that really matters to her. Sometimes I think she skirts around the edges too much, paddling cautiously in the shallows instead of just diving in deep and to hell with it. Sometimes I think she’s just too reserved, too polite, too people-please-y… and at those times she slightly disappoints me. Sometimes I wish she was braver, and cared a little less about what other people thought of her. (But to be honest I think like that about me irl too…)

So what can I say – this persona that appears on the pages of my blog is most definitely me, but I suppose only one part of me. She’s the virtual equivalent of me with my hair done and make-up on, in the smart-casual clothes I wear to go out in public. The confident adult me who understands how to behave well, how to respond appropriately for my age. The careful adult me who is concerned about what other people think of me and always acts accordingly.

So there we are, and here I am, having concluded that I probably feel pretty much the same about the blog me as I do about the real me – basically ‘tries hard but could do better’ 🙂

One Liner Wednesday

My Boy Next Door

Fandango’s Provocative Question asks this week – How did you meet your spouse, boyfriend/ girlfriend, or significant other? Ah well, now there’s a story to tell!

In 1973, the year I turned 10 and my husband turned 12, North Sea Oil was big business and my father in law moved his family from Louisiana to the North of Scotland to open an oil rig construction yard close to where my family lived. We became near neighbours that summer, and soon my dad also began working for the same company.

We were all friends the way neighbouring families are friends, socialising together in either our house or theirs, and when I was 14 and my husband 16 he fancied me but I couldn’t stand him. Then when I was 16 and he was 18, I fancied him but he was no longer interested romantically, but we stayed friends anyway.

His parents went through a very acrimonious divorce, and my husand left school and moved away. I stayed close to home and married someone else and had three children in quick succession. But still we stayed friends, and kept in touch. Stuff happened, I got divorced, years passed, life carried on for both of us and we grew older, but we always stayed close friends.

And then in our late thirties, we decided that maybe we loved each other after all, so we got together as a couple. We actually lived together for thirteen years before we finally decided to get married, and here we are seven years on, having just marked twenty years together, and this summer we’ll have been friends for forty seven years… 🙂

Provocative? Hell, Yeah!

Fandango has come up with a humdinger of a provocative question this week – well, actually three questions, all variations on a theme, about Trump and the current Iran crisis. (Caused, incidentally, by Trump himself. HE pulled America out of the Iran deal, and imposed severe sanctions on Iran – and then when Iran was clearly unhappy about it and started making things difficult instead of doing his bidding, Trump assassinated one of their top army guys. Who was definitely a bad hombre, but that’s not the point.)

To be honest, whatever the particular topic of the questions, if it’s to do with Trump then I’d probably find it provocative – that dumbass arrogant oversized-bully-boy of a man provokes the hell out of me just by breathing! Someone give him a pretzel to choke on. I can feel my heart-rate rising erratically even just THINKING about him… Grrr…

Anyway, here are the questions:

Do you feel that Donald Trump was justified in ordering a drone strike that resulted in the assassination of Qasem Soleimani in an airstrike in Baghdad last week?

Do you think this decision will lead America into a hot war with Iran?

Do you think Trump’s motives are political and self-serving?

And here are my answers:

Chucking all your toys out the pram just because you don’t get your own way is never a good global strategy for any high-ranking political leader, especially for a bossy, swaggering, narcissistic wanna-be autocrat who thoroughly believes his own hype and thinks he rules the whole world, not just one country, however large. So no, not justified in my book.

Luckily for the rest of the world – and surprisingly – Iran seems to be behaving more like the sensible grown-up in this crisis to Trump’s childish, thoughtless tantrum-throwing, so thankfully it looks today like war may well be averted after all. Maybe. No thanks to you-know-who, however much he bigs himself up.

Everything Trump does is self-serving, because he’s a self-centred narcissist who thinks he’s the best and thinks he knows best about everything, even stuff he knows nothing about – like diplomacy, and foreign policy, and running a country properly without alienating said country from the rest of the world… oh yeah, and being a decent human being.

Fandango’s Provocative Question

Awks, Obvs…

For this week’s Provocative Question, Fandango asks if people these days are going overboard with their use of emojis in social media communications? Oooh, great question! Emojis, of course, are a popular addition in texts and emails (and blog posts too, of course!), but I suppose it’s one of those relative shades-of-grey questions – how does one gauge how much is too much? Hmmm…

It’s a bit (IMHO) like those acroynms that developed out of maximum character messages, where the need to be succinct required a GSOH and an ability to be able to LMAO in order to understand exactly WTF is being communicated so cryptically at any given time? Not quite WYSIWYG, but a kind of creative join-the-dots short-hand BOGOF, wordage limiting LOL-fest.

Personally I find I myself use the optimum amount of emoticons and acronyms (BTW, is there a sarcasm emoji?) – just enough to lighten and enlighten the context of my textual communication, but not so much that people need an emoji-decipherer to work out precisely what I’m trying to communicate. Less than I use is not enough, but more than I use is too much, making the whole thing stilted and far too awks, obvs… 🙂