Less than two weeks after I posted my blog, we were in lockdown.
Like so many of us, my first response was to try to organise my way out of the pandemic, to try to maintain some sort of sense of control in a world of uncertainty. I emptied and sorted drawers, cupboards, wardrobes and cleaned the house to within an inch of its life. And then, when - oh, how cruel! - the loveliest weather we’ve had in this part of Wales for years arrived, Tom and I began clearing and tidying the garden. (Fortunately, I had an epiphany one evening and realised the garden will always be a work in progress and that’s absolutely fine!).
Quite early on, I also took down every book in my study to clean and dust and, goodness, how the memories unfurled as I held each one in my hand. Remembrances of times past, of places and people not just in the physical presence of every book, but in pencilled prices, dedications and the slips of paper and bookmarks that fell from the pages.
I read European Studies with German at UEA, but managed to enrol in several social anthropology modules which sparked an ongoing fascination with ritual, borders, liminal spaces, and places on the edge. So many of the books I bought then seem to resonate with what’s happening today; the rules of purity and danger, of cleanliness and dirt. Who, amongst us is worthy? Who should be cast out? The age-old question every society asks itself; ‘what must we do to be saved?’
Lockdown is easing, but the virus is still present and there are no easy solutions to keep us safe. I long - so deeply - to see my family again and wonder if I can bear not being able to put my arms around them when I do. Ma, who as a child evacuee was put on a train not knowing when or if she’d ever see her parents again, remains stoic. Her experience, her acceptance of what cannot be changed, is a reminder to me that both life and time are precious. I wish things were different, but I cannot wish the days away. We will, I guess, learn to live with calculated risks and take sensible precautions, like putting on a seat-belt when we get in a car. And one day, I’ll be able to hold my loved ones again.