Don't Let Your Brain Die In Lockdown

Christopher Fowler
On one level at least, lockdown has not been as awful as I'd imagined. Suddenly there's time to focus and consider what's important, and as Newsnight presenter Emily Maitlis pointed out, it had nothing to do with courage or fortitude but decency and respect. The importance of things has reshuffled itself into a new order. Out go fads and fripperies, the luxury of choice, the complaining that things aren't perfect, in come fundamentals like food and safety and health. Apparently the 'luxury lifestyle designer goods market' has literally dropped dead. Zero-hours contract factory workers are producing the world's smallest violin to accompany their demise. Does this mean that the FT's fatuous, gruesome 'How To Spend It' magazine is dead? Quelle dommage. Among those lockdown activities we've undertaken (and I bet you have to) are: Making sure everyone else is all right, ie. not just pinging them an e-card on their birthday (when you care enough to hit SEND). Upsetting neighbours who are outraged at the idea of anyone checking on them to see if they need help.Looking for ways to help the NHS (I've been in hospitals a lot this week and am amazed by the efficiency with which new systems have been created by staff overnight).
Reconnecting with fellow Lockdownees.
Noticing the state of the paintwork and fixing the things that don't work. Throwing stuff out, or rather, failing to throw stuff out. Wondering why you own so many cable-tidies. I keep finding eggcups everywhere.
I was horrified to discover I own no house pants but seven pairs of headphones. Rediscovering simple pleasures. I've been watching our terrace trees burst into leaf this week. The building is now surrounded by bats, bees, bugs and birds. The centre of London is awash with birdsong and church chimes. Watching the night stars appear in an indigo sky (a novelty in a city that doesn't even get dark anymore) has been nothing short of miraculous. We've barely watched television and have certainly not been bored for a moment. We're having virtual dinner parties, and talking on the phone a lot. I've stopped even bothering to go for our one-hour exercise. Strolling through a dead shopping precinct is not my idea of wild hedonism. Nothing is normal anymore. London is currently hotter than Spain, with a ten day run of clear blue skies. At night I'm stowed away on the terrace under a furry throw with a stack of books. At the moment I'm tackling the ones above. These are not all lengthy reads, but condensed in their narratives so that it's worth reading each one carefully and pausing to consider what I've digested. Tomorrow I'll review them.  


Helen Martin (not verified) Fri, 10/04/2020 - 18:40

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

You have finished the Anarchy, have you. I'm nicely into it. He has an odd voice.
At the moment our noticeable birds are blue jays and flickers. Note very musical, but loud. The moon was fantastic two nights ago. There was a hummingbird in my flowering currant bush.
I've finished painting a banner for Sunday.
It's quiet.

Ian Luck (not verified) Fri, 10/04/2020 - 20:43

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Exactly the same as you, Chris. I cycle to and from work, and am enjoying proper fresh air. I encountered it once, about 20 years ago, whilst doing a security job in an empty Elizabethan country house that overlooked a large river. I had the run of the house and it's extensive gardens, and, if there in the morning, would stand on the ha-ha, and enjoy the cold, untainted air. It has a particular delightful tang to it. The air at the moment has that same tang. I'm also enjoying the lack of litter. The silence, too. The diminishing of light pollution at night, and the disappearance of stacking airliners , seemingly flying round in ever decreasing circles, like the mythical Oozlum Bird, which does so until eventually, it disappears up it's own backside. We've got great neighbours each side, too, which is good. The only thing about this that has annoyed us, is the loss of 'Record Store Day' (pencilled in for late June, now, but I'm not holding my breath), and in my brother's case, all the banger meetings being cancelled. We were cheered up by the sports cancellations, especially Wimbledon, though. We're not big on going out, and I find staying at home very easy. Tea? Check. Sugar? Check. Milk? Check. Plenty of good cheese? Check. Big pile of books? Check. BBC Radio 6 music? Check. It doesn't take a lot. Add to that several hundred model kits if it drags on. I saw several people in cars with caravans and some with boats on trailers, when on my way to work tonight (Good Friday). It does make one think:
'What planet are these idiots from?'

Richard (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 00:23

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Ian. Haven't seen any holidaymakers on our bit of the seaside so far. The police have been very visible.

I agree with admin, decency has been really evident. Not reflected in the media though. And pausing for reflection seems to take little effort for a change.

kevin (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 04:27

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Oh my god! A book on poetry. I'm surprised and elated. Sometime ago I asked you about the subject and you expressed fondness(?) for it but I didn't believe you. Can't wait for the review.

Liz Thompson (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 09:07

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Have just bought A Little History of Poetry. I was innocently collecting an order from Waterstones, prior to the lockdown I hasten to add, and it leapt off a table straight into my hands! Well, I had to buy it after that, didn't I?

John Griffin (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 11:45

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

It's lovely to experience a real spring. I live on the edge of countryside, by Cannock Chase, and am used to the wildlife. This last three weeks has seen an explosion of wildlife and far more insects than in recent years; very loath to return to previous continuous hum of cars and pollution at our little shopping centre. My struggle at the moment is relearning to read at length, as recent years meant lots of reference finding and topic dipping in multiple sources, rather than a good soak in a warm book.
The other struggle is locating bread flour; tea bags and coffee sorted so only the toast stands in the way of a double breakfast morning read.

Brian Evans (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 12:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I am having a wonderful time staying at home. At 68, I consider myself to be in the high risk group so will be in for 3 months.I have so much to do-I won't bore you with the list-and my income is not affected.

What I do feel, however, is a huge sense of guilt. That is for everyone who leaves the house to have to go to work. Especially those in the NHS. At the moment my blood is boiling at the moronic remarks made by the so called Health Secretary who has the brass-neck effrontery to blame all those working in hospitals for not using the PPE properly. As one worker there has said: "how can we miss-use equipment we don't have?" Quite obviously he using the god forsaken Trump as a role-model.

Also, very importantly, let's remember shop staff and bus drivers who are so worryingly at risk as well. And earn far less money than so many working for the NHS.

Brooke (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 12:49

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Poetry lovers and other enlighted folks, try Staying Alive: Real Poems for Unreal Times (Neil Astley). Also Roger Robinson for those with the multiculural, community, spiritual genes. Don't just read about poetry--read poetry!

Wayne Mook (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 14:56

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I tend to listen to poetry especially on Radio 4, Poetry Please and others are available on the player, sounds app. Not sure if the I-player still works for these.

I still have a soft spot for Roger McGough's poems and the way he reads anyone's work.


Brooke (not verified) Sat, 11/04/2020 - 20:44

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

i'm with you Wayne. Though can't get Poetry Please now on i-player.

Wayne Mook (not verified) Sun, 12/04/2020 - 00:42

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I've just checked, it's the BBC Sounds app. Not sure if it can be used outside the UK.


Joel (not verified) Sun, 12/04/2020 - 14:58

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

I haven't given up my daily walks - I live opposite Victoria Park in Hackney, now blissfully re-opened for more idiots to ignore the new rules and close it down again. But there are loads of green spaces within 20 minutes' walk - today it was Millfields. The air is so clean and the city so tranquil.

The only 'danger' is we become over-accustomed to not looking / listening when crossing roads, nor checking if traffic lights are in our favour. When cars etc return, a lot more RTAs will happen.

The birds make a delightful racket - I wake up early anyway so their accompaniment to the day's first cuppa is enjoyable, even if it is sometimes the magpies. woodpigeons and solitary jay bullying the smaller birds away from the food I've put out there. People say 'thanks' when we each slide further apart to keep 2m distance, and older ones sharing 'hi' or 'morning' as we pass is a new delight.

It isn't permanent, but this is a London I have rarely been so content to be in.

Jan (not verified) Sun, 12/04/2020 - 17:20

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Funny you should say that Joel out here in the sticks there's lots of deer being killed by traffic on the A303,35 and 358 I think it is the Dorch -Yeovil road. Because traffic is very infrequent now and theory creatures are dining on the central reservation greenery they tend to really panic when traffic does appear. Lots of local butchers will soon be selling venison...

Jan (not verified) Sun, 12/04/2020 - 17:21

In reply to by anonymous_stub (not verified)

Above should read those DOPEY creatures