Secretly Missing the Solitude

When the Covid pandemic first began and we went into our first national lock-down, like many others I really resented being required to stay at home indefinitely. For the first while I resisted a bit emotionally while nevertheless obediently remaining physically within the confines of my own home and garden as dictated by law.

But then I rather quickly got used to the peaceful patterns of enforced solitude, and soon found it to be a strangely comforting release from the usual societal requirement to be out there mixing with people all the time. Suddenly I had a legitimate reason for being a naturally unsociable introvert, and in so many ways it felt shamefully liberating.

Especially after I caught Covid in January of 2021 during our second period of lock-down, when staying at home helped me convalesce uninterrupted in much-needed peace and quiet. Sadly I developed Long Covid which 18 months on is a lot better and improving all the time but occasionally it catches me out and the last dregs of debilitating symptoms dog me still.

So a good two years on from where we started we are now well beyond the height of the pandemic, vaccinated against the worst of it and no longer restricted by regulations. Life has slowly returned to the nearest to normal it can be, the outside world has opened its doors again and once more staying at home alone is no longer seen to be a socially acceptable life choice.

I do truly love the freedom of being able to see my family when I choose, but otherwise oh, how I desperately miss those long leisurely days of actively avoiding all unnecessary contact with others, just being able to enjoy being quietly alone at home alone without external judgement and without feeling defensive and guilty, as if I have to explain or apologise all the time.

I’m still finding it hard to think about going back to the full levels of mixing that will be expected and required post-pandemic. Too many places, too many people, too many potential social interactions for my liking. I find as I’m getting older I’ve seamlessly adapted to a different way of being that suits me far better than the full-blown ‘normal’ life we lived before.

Personally I miss much of the social simplicity the pandemic restrictions brought to my life. They gave me a socially-distanced space to breathe freely, a space to exist comfortably on my own limited-contact terms that I’m finding hard to give up on now we’re all geared up and on the move again…

Today in (Melt)Downing Street…

If it was a soap opera people would be dismissive, saying the ongoing story-line was too far-fetched and that this could never happen in real life… Except the whole sorry saga that has been dubbed ‘Party-gate’ by the British media is unfortunately all too real. And the more Conservative MPs who stand there in the lobby outside the House of Commons telling us ‘Move along please, nothing to see here’ the more I feel this Tory party doth protest too much…

I mean, there is a current police investigation into several potentially illegal social gatherings (whether or not they were full-blown ‘parties’ is a bit of a red herring) held in Government premises over lock-down, including some attended by the Prime Minister himself, who clearly stated at the House of Commons dispatch box that no parties had ever taken place… Then he stated he had been assured if parties had taken place all Covid restrictions were followed… Then he stated he hadn’t realised the social gathering he attended had actually been a party… Oh well, I guess that’s OK then!

And his latest mumbled defence in a live TV interview was that no-one had told him what the rules were… yet these were HIS rules, that HIS government had set… Even the Prime Minister’s Conservative predecessor Theresa May publicly questioned his stance on the whole debacle – was it that the PM didn’t understand the rules and restrictions regarding social gatherings, she asked from the back benches, or that he thought he was above the law and therefore exempt? I’m paraphrasing here, of course, but that was the main substance of her barbed question.

The promised investigation and report compiled by a senior civil servant, hailed by some Tories as proof of no wrong-doing, had already been forced pre-publication (through police request) to become little more than a pointless paperwork exercise, reduced from being a potential fireworks display to being a bit of a damp squib. Hopefully some day we’ll eventually have sight of the full report, unadulterated and unredacted. Probably only after the police investigation has concluded, with whatever consequences follow on from that, if any. And maybe then there will be enough distrust and disquiet within the Tory party to foster a flurry of letters of no confidence in the Prime Minister to the 1922 committee? Or maybe not?

Even five backroom resignations from Downing Street advisors yesterday and today are being played down, interpreted as an integral part of Boris Johnson’s great reshuffle rather than rats leaving a sinking ship… Honestly, Boris, as the Leader of the Opposition Sir Keir Starmer so aptly put in Parliament last week, ‘the party’s over’ – you may have spent your childhood dreaming of being World King but right now you’re looking more like the class clown. And as the SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford commented on the same day, ‘Operation Red Meat’ (the current Tory plan to turn around Boris Johnson’s failing political fortunes) looks more like ‘Operation Dog’s Dinner’ – and presumably he didn’t mean Winalot!

As a parting comment on this rambling political rant, I was watching Levelling-Up Minister Michael Gove being interviewed on TV by Channel 4’s Cathy Newman the other day outside on Westminster Green, and there was the usual stalwart protestor standing behind, moving around to keep in shot while holding up two red placards. One read ‘Tory lies cost lives’ and the other read ‘Get your Johnson out of our democracy’ – what a clever play on words, referring to the slang term for… um… shall we say a not-so-honourable member (cough, cough)!

PS The title for my post comes courtesy of my husband, who used the term (Melt)Downing Street this morning after listening to the latest news on the radio over breakfast – I really couldn’t let that one pass unrecorded for posterity, could I? 🙂

New Year’s Resolutions

Fandango’s Provocative Question this week asks:-

Do you plan on making any new year’s resolutions this year? If so, can you share a few of them with us? If not, why not?

The trouble with new year’s resolutions is that ideally everyone wants to start the new year with a fresh clean page, turning over a new leaf, hopeful new beginnings and all that. Except of course real life always gets in the way before too long, reminding us (in the words of Robert Burns) that ‘The best laid schemes o’ mice and men Gang aft a-gley’. This time last year we were newly back in lock-down again and I was hoping that surely 2021 was going to have to be better than 2020 had been…? Yeah right…!

By last new year’s day I really wasn’t feeling all that well and to be honest I thought I was perhaps sickening for something potentially flu-like (not unusual for me during the winter months), but on January 3rd it was confirmed that unspecified ‘something’ ailing me was actually Covid. And since then for me everything has changed. Here I am just short of a year later a lot better, but still not anywhere near 100% back to how I was before. Granted at the time I didn’t ever get ill enough to be hospitalised, but I had no idea that many symptoms simply would not be in any hurry to go away and would dog me long-term, even now.

So this new year I’m going into it all with nothing more than the vague hope that in spite of ridiculously rising infection rates I simply don’t catch Covid again. As well as my own personal post-infection antibodies (probably from the Delta variant) I’ve had two AstraZeneca vaccinations and a recent Pfizer booster shot newly coursing through my system, but it seems with Covid and all its myriad mutations there are no guarantees so I’m certainly not assuming myself invincible.

We may well avoid facing any further planned lock-downs here in the UK but I get the feeling nothing is inevitable with this apparently indestructible virus. Two years on from when it first began and somehow it seems we are all still in relatively uncharted territory, lurching from one tsunami-wave infection crisis to the next. What has 2022 in store for us all? Who knows…

Worrying Times…

Fandangos’ Provocative Question this week asks:-

What worries you most about the future? Why is that your biggest concern? Or are you not that concerned about the future?

I’m definitely one of life’s worriers, always have been, so I tend to find I’m always fretting about some stuff or other, necessary or otherwise. So right now I still worry about things, but as time passes and life moves on I find my concerns are not always about the same things as before…

I used to worry a lot about being an introvert in an extrovert’s world, about being too much of a home bird rather than a party animal, about feeling uncomfortable and awkward in large groups. Yet during our successive lock-downs I’ve kind of come into my own and feel strangely naturally equipped to cope with such a serial lack of social interaction. Being at home more in a world where being at home became not only acceptable but also expected for the greater societal good has gently, day by day increased my confidence in who I am. I find I no longer feel the need to apologise for not being more of a dynamic go-getter in life, I’m happy enough just to be me within my own tiny circle of intimates.

I used to worry daily about my weight, my hair, my looks, my overall appearance. About getting visibly older and slowing down and gradually fading from sight in a vibrant, fast-paced world made predominantly for the purpose of encouraging bright young things to sparkle and shine. Embarrassingly these all seem now to be such personal vanities of insignificance in the grander scheme of things. Now I’m learning to come to terms with my ageing body in a quieter, less demanding life, and I feel much calmer and OK about who I am at heart. But as my husband has recently turned 60, and I’m in my late 50s and still on the road to recovery seven months on with Long Covid, these days I find I’m necessarily fretting a lot more about my internal health than my external appearance.

And looking outwards I’m a lot more concerned than I used to be about what the future holds for all four generations of my family – my parents, my husband and I, my children, and my grandchildren. I’m concerned about the febrile political landscape here in Scotland, in the UK, and how the inevitable fallout from Brexit will affect us all financially and how we might build our international relationships across the globe. I’m concerned about the logistics of vaccinating the whole world against Covid, and where we all go from here, because until the whole world is vaccinated this pandemic cannot be truly over. And I’m increasingly concerned about climate change, with images of what feels like half the world burning and the other half drowning filling my TV screen every night it seems it is no longer a threat for the future but is already upon us in the here and now.

So I suppose my greatest concern for the future is not knowing what it might hold long-term for humanity as a whole. We might have a history of priding ourselves on the arrogant, entitled way we think we are in control of nature, readily using and abusing its resources as if there’s no tomorrow. But in reality, underneath it all nature is and always has been in control over the entire planet and we must learn to accept that anything else is just an illusion. So ideally we must all mend our ways before nature calls our bluff and we find out too late that because of our greed and ignorance we are stuck in the middle of a real-life disaster movie of our own making where someday soon there really might be no tomorrow on the horizon…

Winging It

Over this last year or so my blog seems to have more posts about my garden than anything else, but then I suppose my blog tends to follow my life and over this last year or so my life has been necessarily home-oriented (due to lengthy, ongoing Covid restrictions), and so by extension garden-oriented. My garden has given me a sense of purpose.

The thing is, I’ve lived in this house and with this garden for less than two years and my previous personal gardening knowledge is by no means extensive – the basics are not beyond me, I know to cut the grass and pull the weeds and dead-head the roses – but other than that I’m finding myself winging it a lot of the time.

Some plants in the garden I recognised easily, so I could look up online how best to look after them. Others I’ve only learned the names of through word of mouth, often having posted images here on my blog. And a few unidentified specimens still remain a mystery to this day, so sometimes I’m left with no option but to act on instinct.

I’ve now experienced two autumns, two winters, two springs, and this is currently my second summer here. For my first full year I took a wait-and-see approach to whatever appeared from the soil, to have a kind of base-line picture of the garden as was. And over this second year I’ve started to make changes – some big, some small.

As well as gardening by Google I’ve also taken to watching regular gardening programmes on TV to help with information and inspiration in equal measure, both of which together have given me the confidence not just to stick cautiously with what’s already there but to have a real go at creating the garden I want out of the garden I have.

I’m learning the difference between evergreen, deciduous and herbaceous plants. Between annuals, biennials, and perennials. Between sun-loving, shade-loving, or bit-of-both-in-between plants. Between spring-flowering, summer-flowering and autumn-flowering plants and how to balance them all out cumulatively within the same flower beds.

There’s a lot to it, creating a balanced structure in a garden all year round, and I’ve made a good start to finding my feet with it all. I’m trying to keep as much as I can of what’s already there, re-jigging and re-siting plants to suit my own taste, reducing those aggressive bullies who have tried to take over their patch and clearing the way for others with more delicate sensibilities to have their moment of glory.

I’m still winging it a bit, but as I gain more knowledge through experience there’s a little less flying by the seat of my pants these days. I’m trusting my instinct a lot more, and trusting in the garden to tell me what it needs, as long as I follow the signs. One way or another it seems that as we get to know each other better my garden and I are settling down together just fine 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Wing

Guests

I forgot what it’s like to host guests

Clean the house so it looks at its best

Tidy up random stuff

Make it look good enough

Hide the worst of our everyday mess

I’d got used to our lock-down delays

Quiet living and insular days

Covid curses no more

Cast bad spells on my door

Feels so strange to return to old ways

So we welcome old friends with a smile

And remark that it’s been quite a while

With great caution we start

With new joy in our heart

To embrace this post-Covid lifestyle

Weekly Prompt: Visitors

Rejoining the World at Large

After so many months of full lock-down life, then a partial lifting of stay-at-home restrictions to include outdoor-only stuff, to me it feels really weird to be considering going out of the house and into an indoor business premises with other people present for something more than picking up essential groceries.

Although most of our other shops have been open again since 26th April, personally I’ve been a bit slow at getting back to browsing just for fun. Over this last year caution has become the new norm for me and for now, unless I truly NEED to look for something specific, it seems I’m OK to wait a bit longer before returning to any real semblance of retail therapy…

And I do miss going for an occasional leisurely pub lunch with my husband but I’m not sure how long it will be before we try out that out again. Right now I feel that restrictions and relaxation make uneasy bedfellows, and the thought of eating on edge makes me hold back a bit. Time-limited dining in small, cordoned-off, see-through cells doesn’t really appeal to me in quite the same way as the collective camaraderie of the old days. It’s as if the whole experience by necessity truly is sanitised beyond the point of enjoyment for me.

So for now I’ll probably stick with my half-way-house approach to rejoining the world at large. Go shopping for things in indoor public places but only when I need to, and go out to pick up an occasional takeaway meal to enjoy at home with a bottle of wine from the fridge. Still support the local economy, but safely, cautiously maintaining my distance until I feel more confident that Covid is no longer such a viable threat to our future.

Whenever that may be…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘roc’

April A-Z: P is for Pandemic

We’re currently one full year and a bit into this Covid 19 pandemic, and here in Scotland we’re counting down the days until this latest four-month-long lock-down starts to be lifted – roll on 26th April! Hopefully after such a difficult thirteen months of up-and-down infections and restrictions we are finally beginning to see light at the end of the tunnel… Please! 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

April A-Z: O is for Outside

For now meeting outside is allowed

Just a few, not a massive big crowd

Garden benches will do

And a cane chair or two

Hope for sunny skies, not rain-filled cloud 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…

Weekly Prompt: Outdoor Seat

April A-Z: N is for Nature

Whatever is going on in life to unsettle me, being close to nature always helps smooth my rough edges and soothe my ruffled feathers.

Whether sitting in my garden like today or out and about walking in the beautiful landscape surroundings where I live, I’ve always enjoyed that feeling of being at one with the environment, smelling the fresh air and flowers, listening to the sounds of wildlife and weather, looking at the natural world unfolding around me, welcoming me, enveloping me.

Particularly over this last year with ongoing Covid restrictions keeping us tied to home and painfully apart from those we love, spending precious time in nature has absolutely been one of my greatest pleasures 🙂

For this year’s April Blogging from A-Z Challenge I’m aiming for an alphabetical exploration of my personal thoughts and feelings on the continuing Covid 19 pandemic one year on, using a mix of poetry, pics and ponderings…