Today, I avoided the news. I always feel this is some kind of dereliction of duty – as a responsible citizen, one should keep up with world events – but I think it may turn out to be a vital part of lockdown sanity protocol. Perhaps one day or two days a week where one might allow oneself just to live in one’s immediate surroundings, to give the amygdala a rest.
I heard the first cry of the oystercatchers, who come in from the coast at this time of year and build their nests and rear their young. And there was a merry pied wagtail in the field, and an entire family of pheasants running about in all directions. The sky was blue and I looked at it hard, as if to absorb the blueness into my heart.
The horses were still obsessed with their new hay, so I lay down on the ground and watched them eat. The lurchers ran about, sniffing all the imperative things that they must sniff before the day is done. The world steadied a little on its axis, and I felt more hopeful.
I read somewhere that when people are remanded in their homes with those special house arrest bracelets, they hit a massive slump at the beginning of the third week. I think that yesterday was my week three slump, come a few days early. I see quite a lot of encouraging posts about the place saying things like – you can save the NHS by sitting on your sofa! How hard can that be? A comic has written a comical song about dear old Britons doing the right thing by doing fuck all. It sounds such a tiny thing, when it’s put in those ways. And I have heat and light and beautiful Scotland and horses and dogs and the miracle of the internet. Yet human beings are made to be with other human beings. Everyone I know is struggling, one way or another. People say things to me like, ‘I had to go and have a little weep,’ or, ‘I found it very hard to get out of bed this morning,’ or, ‘I’m going through the blank phase’. They are not moaning or making a drama; everyone I know is being philosophical and stoical. But they are feeling it.
And I think it’s not just that lack of daily human contact, I think it’s the sense of lost freedom. I dreamed last night that I drove to Loch Muick to look at the view. Loch Muick is an immaculate, glittering stretch of water that lies at the end of a wide glacial valley. Deer roam over the valley floor and stern, splendid mountains rise up to left and right. The colours change with the season, and always feel like a surprise. If you hike out to the south, you find yourself in the gentler, equally ravishing Glen Clova, after which our little Connemara mare is named. I dreamed of Glen Muick, but I can’t get in the car and go there. I can’t drive the couple of miles up the road and look at Queen’s View, a vista over three rolling sets of hills, as blue as the sea. Queen Victoria loved it, which is how it got its name.
These are tiny, tiny sacrifices. Yet when one has been able to get in the car and drive to a view, without even thinking about it, it takes a little time for the brain to adjust.
I think the brain is screaming a bit, like an over-revved car engine, as it desperately tries to reset all its neuronal pathways. I think that’s why people are feeling tired, and blank, and having a little weep.
But I do feel more myself today. My body is still weak and aching, as if I am very old, but my mind is up and about again. I speak to three friends and we laugh and swap stories and encourage each other. I do my work. I have a tiny peek at Twitter, looking not for the news, but for the wonderful human stuff, and I find two perfect moments of enchantment.
The first is the magnificent goats of Llandudno, who appear to have taken over the entire town. A local reporter is tracking their invasion, and he’s so funny and wry about it that I laugh out loud. And the second is the Marsh family from Kent, who have written a lockdown song to the tune of One Day More from Les Miserables. I think: I must, must, must write this down. I never want to forget the utter wonder of the Marsh family. They are the people who will get this country back on this feet, when the crisis is over. They are even funnier than the goats, and that’s saying something.
The Marshes and the goats: these are my silver linings.