For the Birds

We’ve put up a bird feeder in the back garden, and so far have seen blue tits, coal tits and sparrows eat from it. But typically I don’t have a decent telephoto lens on my camera so I can’t get close enough without disturbing them – before I can even raise my camera they’re off! So I’ve had to resort to taking pics through the kitchen window as best I can, then cropping them afterwards. All I’ve managed to capture this afternoon is a couple of house sparrows – but it’s a start! 🙂

Weekly Prompt: For the Birds

Revisiting the Past

Choosing to revisit the past – invoking half-forgotten memories of an unhappy time in my life, long long ago – feels a bit odd, but yesterday it was a choice I made anyway. Part defiance at myself for not usually going there, and part cautious curiosity at testing the waters to see how it feels now, looking back at an old disjointed story from a new perspective.

It all came about quite innocently, quite naturally, as part of an everyday conversation with my husband, who had been chatting earlier with a colleaugue at work. They had been discussing their respective commutes to work – we live an easy 10-minute walk from the supermarket where my husband works. But apparently his colleague has a long daily drive from the back of beyond, and when my husband told me the name I said – oh, I know where that is, I used to live there!

So I opened my laptop and looked it up the area on Google maps, showed my husband just how far his colleague comes to work evey day. And then on impulse I chose street view, clicked onto the actual farm cottage I used to live in, the house we lived in when my youngest daughter was born 35 years ago, and there it was. It felt odd to see it after all this time, but not upsetting.

I was going to write – there it was, just as I remembered it – but the point is I don’t really remember it that much. I had an unhappy first marriage to the father of my three children, and a lot of my memories from that time are buried in a kind of fog of fuzzy forgetfulness. I don’t talk about them not because they are secret, but because I just don’t go there, out of habit.

But yesterday I chose to open that difficult door inside my mind, and it was OK. So using Google maps I showed my husband all the houses I had lived in during that difficult period of my life, four homes in seven years with three young children and a very old-fashioned traditional-style marriage that, in retrospect, had clearly been doomed to failure from the start.

I found I easily pointed out which rooms lay behind each window, exactly where each door opened into, explained which things looked different in each building all those years ago. Memories came back, and surprisingly I handled them without pain, without feeling the need to protect myself from that past any more. What I feel most now is a lingering sadness about it all, and that feels about right…

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: ‘Ch’

Weekly Prompt: Story

Lockdown Walkabout

The weekend challenge on Weekly Prompts is ‘Walkabout’, inviting us to share some of our permitted outdoor exercise routes during lockdown.

I’ve already shared many of my regular walks, and am really lucky to have plenty of options so I decided to ring the changes and make a little monochrome gallery of my favourite places to walk for now, dependent on my mood and the weather and whether I fancy a slow leisurely stroll or something infintely more bracing.

Inverness sits on Scotland’s north-east coast, and has both a canal and a river running through it. So from my house I can easily walk along the canal, around the cemetery, through the woods, by the water’s edge or across the river – all spaces reasonably close to home where social distancing is safely achievable 🙂

Tipping Point

Most of the time, me and depression have a long-standing uneasy truce. I recognise it, respect its existence, but in general I try to keep my most erratic errant emotions in check using all the coping mechanisms and other psychological tricks of the trade I’ve learned over a lifetime of mental confusion and distress.

Mapped out mathematically, graphically on an x and y axis of up-and-down emotion to linear time, life for me to date has been a parabolic undulation of relative highs and lows in perpetuity, a never-ending oscillating sine wave of sentient surfing. And as with real surfing it’s all about maintaining balance, and when I do fall off, keeping my wits about me and my head above water for the duration.

So on the surface I go about life as normal as it can be, getting on, getting everyday things done quietly and slowly, not making a fuss or drawing attention to myself but looking the part. I enjoy these good times, when life feels easy and I’m on top of the world. But there’s inevitably a point where I feel myself start to wobble, when I feel myself having to fight frantically just to continue to keep myself upright.

This is my own personal tipping point in life. Sometimes I can manage successfully to right my balance and stabilise my sure footing all by myself – hoorah, misery averted! But at other times I know there’s no stopping my roller-coaster crashing descent into darkness, gulping and gasping for air in drowning desperation.

These days I find that once I’m falling, it’s easier if I stop fighting and flailing. I feel a rush of relief and release from all that steely tension, then nothing. I simply let my body go with the flow, let my mind drift, metaphorically hold my breath and trust in life on autopilot to take me back up to the surface again when the time is right.

I’m feeling the same thing right now, five weeks into lockdown limbo. I began it all as positively as I could in the circumstances, but right now am currently having a huge wobble. My head tells me sensibly this is where we need to be in life just now, but deep down my heart is silently screaming, pounding in panic and pained with antsy anxiety.

I feel myself once more tantalisingly close to my tipping point. I feel myself holding on tight, tense and taut, wavering and waiting to see which way it goes. For now it feels about fifty-fifty, on the absolute cusp, hanging precariously in the balance…

Weekly Prompt: Tipping Point

Wary and Weary

Eight days into our lockdown limbo I’m finding it increasingly hard not to feel wary of going out into the world, and I’m becoming weary of the worrying uncertainty if it all.

Don’t get me wrong, under normal circumstances I truly love being at home, I’m definitely more of a home bird than a party animal, so but oh, how I miss that easy everyday human contact with other people! I understand it’s what we all have to do, how we all have to be for the time being, but personally what I’m finding hardest to cope with is the unfamiliar mass requirement to be alone hand in glove with the growing fear of the unknown, the unanswerable.

As a population we are so used to feeling an illusive level of control over our bodily health, there is almost an expectation of immunisation and treatment and subsequent survival from such infections, but what this new virus brings to the fore so dramatically is our absolute vulnerability. When we feel under threat, we usually want to feel close, to reach out and touch, to find comfort in the emotional and physical warmth of togetherness. We crave safety in numbers, in huddled family groups and tribal clusters, yet counter-intuitively, in current circumstances enforced isolation is our societal salvation.

OK, so satistics tell us that 80% of people with Covid-19 have relatively minor symptoms, with only 20% experiencing a far more serious threat to their health (including possible death). But as to who gets really sick, and more to the point who dies, that’s perhaps not as clear-cut as it first seemed. Age and underlying health conditions may give some indication of expected prognosis and anticipated mortality rates, but what about those growing fatalities far outwith those prescribed parameters? They may be few and far between, but they do exist – why does the virus seem to affect us all so differently? It feels scarily like the luck of the draw, entirely random, a matter of chance.

So my wariness to me feels justified, a natural measured response to a possible threat to life. If not to my life, then potentially to others. Make no mistake, this virus is a killer, and if collective short-term caution across the world can help reduce the long-term global death toll then we should all be prepared to do whatever we have to do to do our bit. Maybe everyone wants their 15 minutes of fame, but I for one could well do without going down in history as a modern-day equivalent of Typhoid Mary…

Weekly Prompts: Wary

Daily Diary: ‘Stay at Home’ Day 3

Here we are, day three of our national ‘Stay at Home’ strategy, and I feel unsettled, out of sorts…

It’s not the being at home bit that bothers me, that I’m always happy with. It’s the not knowing, the waiting for whatever happens next in our global Covid-19 crisis, with no real end-game in sight. The thing is, it does seem inevitable that we all need to catch it at some point in order to gain our herd immunity, so it feels like ‘when’ not ‘if’. I understand the importance of slowing it down, stopping a peak of infection that our health services simply cannot cope with, but the sheer nothingness of waiting… just interminable waiting… is what I’m struggling most with right now.

I can’t help but worry about my family – in particular my two elderly parents both with serious underlying health conditions, who I already haven’t seen since the end of January as I’ve had a succession of annoying colds and things I was trying not to pass on to them for exactly that reason. But what if something awful happens to them and I haven’t even seen them recently? And then there’s my husband’s family currently in self-isolation at home in Louisiana, apparently one of the US Covid-19 hot-spots – right now that feels like a really long way away.

There’s also my own ongoing health to consider – I’m technically bordering on the ‘at risk’ category having asthma, and with everything I catch always going straight to my chest we’re being careful with unnecessary contact. Thankfully I’ve been furloughed from work, although my husband now works in a local supermarket so will be continuing to cover his shifts for the duration. The plan is to come straight in, have a shower and change his clothes before even giving me a hug, so caution is definitely the name of the game for us right now.

But in the meantime I’m trying to count my blessings and stay focused on the positives. We have a lovely home to live in, with our own garden front and back, and we live in a beautiful part of the world that is not overly populated. We always have a well-stocked store cupboard and freezer (an old habit from me living for years in the middle of nowhere with not much transport) and I love cooking, so we’re not suffering through no longer being able to eat out anywhere for now.

And although we now live close to most of my family (who of course we can’t see at the moment), because we lived in London for so long we’re all used to keeping in touch virtually so already have all those technologies in place so feel ahead of the curve in that regard, which certainly helps. So we’re all dealing with it all as best we can, looking out for each other remotely, virtually, keeping in touch and giving moral support as much as anything. As a family we’re currently sharing a strong feeling of all being in this together, and that is strangely comforting in this scary time of global crisis…

Weekly Prompts: Daily Diary

Snakes and Ladders

When we were kids, we used to play the board game snakes and ladders. Taking turns in trying to get from the bottom to the top of the board one square at a time on the throw of a dice, with the help of climbing a ladder or the hindrance of sliding down a snake, depending on the particular square on which you land. Whether you landed on a ‘good’ square or a ‘bad’ square, it was always dependent on the luck of the die.

It was tough, as a child, learning that sometimes luck plays such a big part in your success in life, and that sometimes things are just not fair. But I think it was a good lesson to learn, because in adulthood you cannot always win, cannot always be first or always top of the pile. And sometimes life is simply not fair, sometimes it feels like an arbitrary throw of the dice is all that stands between us and success or failure.

Weekly Prompt: Ladders