Monday, 13 April 2020

Be careful what you say, and Comfort Reading

This was taken on a local walk recently - while the world is in uproar, at least nature is putting on the most wonderful display, reassuring us that life does go on, in some fashion, and while it's frustrating (to put it mildly) not being able to go out and explore, to say nothing of writing the book that I'm contracted to write, at least it's cheering to see those blue skies and, in my case, paint my very small back yard.

Several weeks ago I read a piece written by an Italian journalist about what she'd learned from living in lockdown. One of the things I remember her writing was that you will find that some friends aren't who you thought, while the opposite can be true. I had an example of this last week when talking to several friends I've known well for many years, some of whom are married and have family living with them and were saying how lovely it was to all be together, have barbecues, great for the kids to be getting on so well etc etc.

Each word, in that last conversation, felt like a punch in the guts. I pointed out, eventually, that it wasn't so much fun when you're living on your own and don't have a partner, or children. (And for the many, many people who ARE banged up with family and/or a partner they really don't want to be with. For those who have lost their business, who aren't able to pay the rent, bills, and all the other terrible things that people are having to go through.)

My point was entirely lost, and so I ended the conversation feeling bruised, lonely and miserable. And while I am really happy that several of my friends are enjoying this situation - I think that's great - it doesn't make me feel any less lonely and isolated to hear about it. So please, when talking to friends who are less fortunate than you, please be careful. We are all anxious, over sensitive and downright wobbly right now.

To counteract that, providing inspiration on Easter Sunday, The Reunion on BBC Radio Four, featured John McCarthy, Terry Waite, Brian Keenan and Jill Morrell. For those that don't know, the three men were held hostage in Beirut for many years before being released, and I was working at WTN (where John worked) shortly after he was taken hostage, so I knew Jill Morrell and the awful uncertainties she lived through. I would advise anyone to listen to this brilliant piece of radio - it was full of gentle humour, incredible bravery, and showed the deep love and respect they all had for each other. When we're chafing at the bit about lockdown, think about being locked in a cell for four years with no one to talk to, no radio, no books - nothing. As Brian Keenan said, "We belong to an elite club, and Jill is an honorary member" which I thought was such a beautiful thing to say.

And finally, to also counteract these wobbly times, what are you reading? I have been dipping into old childhood favourites of my mother's. Susanna of the Mounties by Muriel Denison - what a joy! Anne of Green Gables by LM Montgomery. I think A Traveller in Time will be next - any other suggestions?

Hope you're keeping well and safe everyone. Take care, please.

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