Before I get up I answer a questionnaire which has arrived via a friend's Facebook feed. It's from Massey University and the University of Winchester in the UK and asks about exercise before and during the Level 4 conditions. I'm rather proud of my daily hour of exercise but less proud when the final question asks how long I spend sitting. I calculate six hours per day but that's probably underestimates it. It's less than it would have been when I was working and spent most of an eight hour day in a comfy chair but it still seems quite a lot. I didn't mention that when reading I usually lie down – they didn't ask!
However, not so much sitting today as I want to get two coats of paint on the windowsills before tomorrow's rain. Thank goodness for water-based paint which allows me to recoat after only two hours. It looks nice, I'm pleased to have tidied all that up. I also scrub the gate and the shed door ready for attention later on. Tick, tick on my to do list. It's satisfying.
While I'm painting, Kim Hill is interviewing the poet Greg O'Brien who says he isn't writing poetry just now, he will need some time to reflect before these times can be formed into poetry. He does recommend reading poetry, though, as a way to connect and feel more deeply. Perhaps an antidote for lockdown loneliness? Another of Kim's guests, Australian writer Trent Dalton, writes a weekly column about the power of the human spirit in times of adversity. He notes the small losses such as not being able to hug his Mum, and the ongoing need to manage boredom within the confines of the restrictions.
I've seen a few writers lately commenting on the way many of us are finding it hard to fill our time constructively. And I might sound motivated but these are autumn jobs I needed to do at this time, otherwise they would have had to wait until warmer weather at the end of the year. There is also a strange feeling of the eternal present, time drifting and the days becoming all the same, a kind of waiting for what will become of us all in these changing times. Rebecca Solnit used one of my favourite images: how the caterpillar, when it goes into the chrysalis, doesn't just grow wings and antennae but melts down into its components and rebuilds itself into a butterfly. When I first learned about that I was stunned. It's remarkable. It's also a great metaphor which I used in therapy to help my clients understand the major transformations people can undergo especially in times of stress. Right now, society could be butterfly soup. What will emerge? Can we protect the chrysalis and make sure the metamorphosis happens safely?
Right now, our main job is to stay well, keep others well and manage boredom in whatever way is compatible with the first two points.
I've just cleaned up and changed out of my scruffy painting gear when the call comes for a family video conference. There's another birthday to celebrate and we enjoy seeing each other, joking about our untamed hair and enjoying the babies in action. They're too young yet to recognise that those coloured blobs on the screen are their relatives, but it's lovely to see them and even catch some smiles. Nick's making lunch and with four nationalities represented we joke about whether he has made toastie pies, toasties, jaffels or snackwiches. We sing Happy Birthday, a bit out of time but the sentiment is real, and sign off with love. Time for another celebratory ice-cream, I think.