I am driving. That is, manoeuvring a car around winding mountainsides; sweeping pastel lands below, studded with iconic granite balancing boulders, to my left. I concentrate on careful progress over many miles, conscious of my passenger load.... yet I ensure that I do not miss loved periphery views during these escorted journeys.
The car doors are fully locked, an habitual precaution in these times... but the passengers’ busy discourse is not. Where are they.? Their faces are directed towards the windows, but an animated exchange on a world of people, of Cities and homes, far away; of latest information on excitements there. or things they see that remind them. remain locked-in. We arrive at a destination, airy spaces, and all pile out, satisfied with the journey. They will proceed to the planned dinner table this evening, following ‘sundowner’ drinks in the exotic gardens...Tomorrow, they will tell others of their travels, and anticipate the next promised excursion in this wonderful land.
I am travelling with a coach party in England. This time, free to turn my head, to absorb new sights enhanced by colour changes, as peaceful, rolling hills, valleys, fields, unfold.... uncannily like the water-colour paintings, with calm sheep, picturesque cloud formations, scenes embedded in my mind over many years. There is, for me, curiosity in observing, while travelling close to the reality. My enthusiasm and interest mounts, as Tudor houses peep from summer gardens; humped bridges cross proverbial English bubbling brooks ... there will be ancient castles and histories to explore. and promised creaking floors in the hotel. I am booked solo and am ready to indulge.
A friendly, thin, woman takes her place in the remaining solo seat next to me.
She adjusts packets and bags; prepares access to snacks and drinks. We greet each other and establish some fundamentals as sharing travellers, then I settle for my promised land.
‘My son has a learning problem’ she says, ‘he’s a teenager now, with demands. I can’t work anymore, I have a variety of health problems, but I must try to get him to another counsellor, and off new drugs, which he has taken up, lately, like his sister’
I express, surprise, some sympathy, then gradually sink back, since the lady is ‘ on a roll’ ...she is ‘ locked in’ , deeply involved in her subject. For that trip, and our combined return, I will devise my own lock-out, and look, instead!
Lock-down! Those words once seemed to apply to shock scenes on television, usually beamed from America. We’d watch with horror, as a gun-man might be reported shooting at children... a school in ‘lock-down’. then, before long, other harassed areas are shown. perhaps a mosque, a shopping centre, a musical venue, a hotel... and the chilling words ‘lock-down’ are announced.
Suddenly, we are all ordered to be in ‘lock-down’! It is a necessary precaution, as a new and infectious virus sweeps across our countries and populations.
We follow news, ‘peaks’, graphs, and declines, while individuals are variously affected, or burdened, or suffer. The words ‘self-Isolation’, then become familiar, especially for the elderly or ‘vulnerable’. Some of us are fortunate, having a space or garden at our feet. Others, Locked-in, surreptitiously escape to a park or a space.
Time can take its’ toll... the weeks go by. stresses are exchanged and expanded; family and community ties viewed as never before ...
Then, there are the Dreamers, those minds that sail beyond the bounds...see no steps, no walls, no doors .... no lock-down! There are the visuals, the printed word, the sights and sounds out there, to be re-examined, re-discovered. no time-scale, no shoulds or shouldn’ts ... imaginative wanderings within distant lands - or nowhere ... there and back or in any direction. Perhaps some interpretations, made or marked, to be shared. or not.
One day, the pace will gather again, and we will be told we are unlocked, to face our ‘new normal’.
Amai. Lived and travelled in contrasting lands. Love to look and see. Settled in Oxford.