Today wasn’t…great. I’ve been reasonably sanguine about the whole isolation thing up until this point. I’m used to being at home, and sometimes, because of depression, I don’t leave the house for maybe four or five days at a time.
But today things felt different. Partly because I didn’t head to the Heath for my walk because I was busy writing all day, so I went up to Regent’s Park instead late in the day. I haven’t been to the park since the Saturday before the lockdown started, eleven days ago, when Amanda and I tried to take a very careful self-distancing walk but were continuously swerving away from inconsiderate idiots who roamed in packs, and came home feeling very worried and discombobulated.
I got there at about 1915, just before sunset, expecting the park to be busy. Instead it was deserted. On a pleasant evening in March I would expect to see couples walking, dogs playing, and the sports fields to be fully booked with football games and softball teams.
It was really, properly empty. In the first twenty minutes I saw maybe four people. I think that’s when I really started to think about what the next month might look like. There were no cars on the Outer Circle, no traffic on Parkway. The streets were quiet, no honking horns or brakes screeching.
I imagined how quiet the West End must be, and thought about no client meetings, no meals out, no museum visits, no supper with girlfriends, no feeling guilty because I couldn’t be arsed to go to yet another store launch or random brand party. What would I give right now to feel bad about being late for a lunch, panicking because I’d forgotten to fill the car up with petrol, or worrying that I’d overstayed my time on a parking meter?
I might look like I’m living the life of Reilly, making cooking videos, taking long walks on the Heath with Lettice, being safe at home with enough groceries, no screaming home schooled children, or irritating partner, and a cellar full of wine and gin. But it’s also really lonely being on your own. It’s just me. Apart from the moments where I hastily buy household supplies on Queens Crescent for housebound friends, and lob groceries onto their door steps a couple of times a week, I’ve had no human interaction for 10 days now.
People on social media like to tell me to use FaceTime orWhatsApp or Skype or Zoom or HouseParty and I think how the FUCK do you think we single people have got through the previous ten days? If I hadn’t been able to use social platforms to talk to and see friends I think I would have been a basket case a few days in.
It’s the hugs that I miss, a breath on your skin when you kiss hello, the brush of a stranger’s coat on the tube. When Lettice’s little paws kick me like a tiny furious donkey in the middle of the night when she feels me encroaching on her space, I only feel gratitude that I am not completely alone here.
We are clearly in this for the long haul. I don’t have any good answers about how to stop missing human touch and in person interactions, but I’m just thanking the lord that I have plenty to keep me occupied, between re-launching this website, designing the new newsletter, The LLG, which launches via Patreon next week, looking after social for the restaurant, making cooking videos, cleaning the house (GOD it takes forever. Sisyphean), walking Lettice, and trying to work what work might look like moving forward.
My registration to be an NHS volunteer has been accepted, and I am now waiting for my first assignment. I’m part of a local volunteers group on WhatsApp, have been organising donations of supplies for my cousin and her colleagues at NHS Papworth, trying to support independent suppliers on line, and helping my housebound sister, friends and neighbours with shopping. It doesn’t seem like enough but maybe it is….for now.
I never ever drink alone at home. Apart from obvious rocky road to alcoholism issues, I need to be on call for my sister. Given that she isn’t going anywhere for the foreseeable, I thought FUCK IT, and cracked open half a bottle of ice cold Veuve. And drank the lot. It was delicious.