Coffee in… Isolation.

When we were in school they taught us that if the world stopped spinning all of a sudden, everyone would be catapulted from their spot. The pandemic didn’t happen quite as instantly as flicking a light switch, of course, but to some extent the result has been the same. With everyone feeling a little out of place.

I am lucky enough to drink coffee from a flat, with lots of comfort around me. If they can hear me, my neighbours probably wonder who I’m talking to every evening. They’d be both worried and relieved if I told them it’s the plants. Each one has a name I’m not afraid to say out loud. And on the occasions it’s not the plants I’m talking to, it’s a phone call with friends or my brothers or my parents. My mum and I had a phone call last Sunday that kept me laughing all afternoon. My girls – God bless my girls – remind me there’s always a reason to love life, no matter what it throws at you.

The sun is making the slower pace feel more natural now. Some hours I just sit and watch nothing on the streets below. And then, on Thursday evenings, the nation takes part in an appreciative applause for our NHS – a note I made on the 14th May:

The sound of hammering drifted up to my kitchen window and I think, it may still be light but it’s a little late for workmen. I think a neighbour must be doing some DIY somewhere and I think I love where I live. It’s 8pm. Then the hollering starts and I remember it’s the NHS weekly clap. I am awful. I forget every week when it is the time to remember. But the rest of the time I am always thinking of my friends and flatmates especially, who I do not see because they are working hard through this time. An image I don’t think will ever escape my memory is of the two children who lean out of a window near to ours and bang together a saucepan and spoon with huge smiles on their faces. Funny: I’d wish my flatmates were here to see it, but if they were there’d be nothing to see. That’s the difference they are making. The sound of hammering that drifts back to me.

Throughout the day I tend to be at my desk, either working or writing. I have been especially grateful for my notebooks during this time. A lot of people told me they intended to keep diaries to document their experience of the pandemic. They asked if I would do the same, to which I didn’t quite have the nerve to point out that I am writer, hear me roar. (The politer answer I gave was simply, yes). Since mid-January I had begun to keep notes on the change in London’s atmosphere. You could call it premeditation, or – more likely I’d say – it was just down to being in the habit of writing (hear me roar) that it became a prominent subject. Though most of the notes I have made have only remain as notes for the moment. I’m finding it hard to write about anything real. I had even been avoiding writing this post because it’s hard to put a finger on what I want to say. Although everyone I have spoken to seems to agree it’s confusion that appears to make sense.

Instead I have found myself writing a lot of poetry and fiction inspired by feelings I had before the pandemic. I muse that it’s perhaps offering me a little escape. In fiction I can be anywhere with anyone. Writing and creating stories gives me endless fun. It feels good to be doing so much of it, although I am aware it’s becoming increasingly harder to drag myself away from, almost like a curse. I even wrote a poem about how that feels. Surprisingly I also find myself writing a lot about love. (Surprising because it’s not something I tend to write about though I am certainly not lacking in it). Amongst days where I feel defeated, only able to sit and listen to music, I am overwhelmed with a far superior belief that life is good. That the world is still magic and that faith is powerful.

I tried to write something poetic about being in isolation but haven’t yet captured the right voice for it. I’m going to keep trying, for now I think that this post has been a good record of things. My ‘Coffee in…’ series is still relatively new to the blog – at least I’m still trying to find my footing with it – but I figured if this was the only post I could contribute for a while it would be worth muddling over things. No matter that it has taken a couple of weeks!

With all my heart I hope that everyone is doing the best they can. Not in the way of productivity or diets or moods. No, we have enough pressure placed on us for those things. Just that you are still able to wrap your arms around yourself and say I am going to get through this.

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