When will things get back to normal?

My chronological age is 75, but in my head my age varies.  I live with my husband in a village.  We have been in lockdown for endless weeks and although we haven’t yet run out of things to do and the days slip by ever faster, I at least – not so much my husband – find the constraints ever more irksome. My anger at the gross mismanagement of the pandemic by this shoddy government festers not far from the surface most of the time.

I’ve had many occupations in my working life.  My first job was in the bookshop at LSE, then I worked in a West End art gallery, as a sub editor for a medical publisher, as a lecturer in further and higher education, a tutor and then manager of adult education and workplace learning and most recently a volunteer reading mentor in a primary school. I have a degree in English from London University, a PGCE and an MA from the Institute of Education. In my twenties I travelled around Africa for just under 2 years, and in my thirties I lived in Papua New Guinea for a year or two.

Today I woke shivering at dawn, but managed to make contact with my human hottie and went back to sleep.  Woke again just before 8, and watched about 10 minutes of the breakfast programme on BBC1.  I have to ration my news watching – it either stokes up my fury at those responsible for the coronamess we’re in, or triggers acute anxiety which is even more uncomfortable. I switch on my tablet and do a mind workout instead.  Anagram puzzles on Wordscape, a trivia game, about 6 games ongoing of Scrabble, then a Brain Yoga app which exercises word, maths, memory, shape and pattern manipulation, more anagrams etc. One of the pleasures of retirement is indulging my penchant for puzzles and word games, the internet being a limitless resource. I start reading a new book, The Professor of Poetry, for my walk ‘n talk book group.  (I just finished Educated by Tara Westover for my other book group).

I get up, shower, wash my hair (now very shaggy and colourless thanks to lockdown) do my physical workout routine and go down to breakfast and the Guardian code word puzzle.  For breakfast I have a mixture of muesli, Grapenuts and bite size shredded wheat.  While I am writing this a neighbour rings our door bell and presents us with the most beautiful book about Oxford for our 40th wedding anniversary a week ago.  How lovely, generous and kind.  The door bell rings again – it is our weekly bread delivery by an entrepreneurial local baker – delicious sour dough which we eat for our lunch with dolcelatte cheese and a banana, washed down with an elderflower cordial drink I made last week – the first of the year.

This afternoon I make a couple of double cotton face masks – it looks like we are going to have to wear them and the ones I am making are washable so we need several.   I listen to Radio 4 – well  half listen.  The World at One is full of its usual woe and the Archers are apparently dredging up old episodes to keep us happy while they quickly – well rather slowly – reposition in relation to Covid 19.  Brain confesses his affair and baby to a sobbing Jennifer which segues into a rather dull play about Henry VIlI, the French Ambassador and Anne Boleyn – surely a hugely over mined seam.  I switch to my iPod on shuffle.

Then we had the Kitchen Cabinet and I was losing the will to live when my dog came in saying what about a walk.  So we go and have a look at my garden, which is looking rather bedraggled after two days of being blasted by a cold north wind.  But the banks of Queen Anne’s Lace (more commonly known as cow parsley) are still wonderfully bridal; the gorgeous blowsy tree peony is still intact.  Only one sunflower has succumbed to the snails and slugs, although everything is looking chilled and wizened. The enormous white lilac tree – must be 6-7 metres high – is covered in blossom and smells like what my mother would have called a boudoir.

We walk for nearly an hour along hedgerows literally snowed under with mostly white May blossom, punctuated with elder flowers just coming out.  The lockdown silence is still deafening and you can hear the bird orchestra, the larks soaring overhead, the sparrows and chiff-chaffs, robins and whitethroats no longer silenced by the subconscious hum of the motorway.)

I climb over a barbed wire fence, ripping my jeans a bit, into a field full of buttercups and sorrel and swaying grasses.  As I near home I remember that I had promised to drop in a booklet of walks round our village to some new people who have just moved in, so I pick it up and walk round to their house and put it through their letterbox.

Then more garden – I managed to leave the tap dripping on one of my rain butts, so most of the water drained away.  I fill it up from the mains, soaking myself in the process, and do some watering of newly planted plants.

I come in to cook the supper – spaghetti with a so called Bolognese sauce, carrots and purple sprouting. Then we sit down to watch Unorthodox which is gripping and tense.  Now going to bed with the paper -it’s 23.10.

What a boring day.  Most of all I miss seeing my friends and family.  I haven’t seen my grandchildren since Christmas.  Our oaf of a Prime Minister seems to be saying that we can go back to work, observing the 2 metre rule on public transport, bringing us into contact with total strangers or work mates, but you can’t see your own flesh and blood.  Has the man never learned how to think?

Part of what we’re doing at the moment is grieving for the loss of what our lives were like before corona and on a personal level they were a  good ten years, full of music, friends, family, movies, gardens, food, grandchildren, travel, books, new interests - nearly everything that makes life worth living. Politically they were, from where I stand on the left of the Labour Party, a complete and utter disaster.  Austerity doesn’t even seem to have achieved its alleged aim of reducing the deficit and has caused untold misery and deprivation;  the leader of the Labour Party proved to be good at leading lemmings over a cliff but not much else; and somehow we managed to deliver a referendum result the consequences of which don’t bear thinking about.

As for the next ten years – who knows?  We are in a maze and may never find our way out.  We need to be working together to take drastic action to halt climate change, but we have become so obsessed with corona that governments appear to have lost sight of that.  Maybe corona is the beginning of the end, the revenge of a blasted planet on its custodians who have allowed greed and selfish materialism to drive us into oblivion.


Annie Winner has worked in bookselling, a West End art gallery, publishing and in further, higher and adult education and now as a volunteer reading mentor in primary school... She spent nearly 2 years travelling in Africa and lived in Papua New Guinea for 18 months.