Day 10072

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 100

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 100

Day 100

‘This is a reminder that social distancing measures are still in place in this shop. Please stand two metres away from each other, this includes standing two metres away from members of staff’

The shop comes to a stand still for a brief second before the microphone emits an audible click as the person on the other side of it hangs up.

‘Thank you,’ I mutter towards the speakers.

The supermarket is filled with shoppers as usual but very few are wearing a mask today. Trolleys are being pushed left and right, the flow of the journey broken up by unexpected encounters at either end of the aisles.

The markings on the floor are faded, the colours dulled by thousands of wheels and shoes treading on them. People don’t see them any longer, they are part of our new visual language and it is easy not to see them anymore. But they are there, the pleas to keep two metres apart, the safety tape marking the distance.

The trolleys start their journey again, slowly, cautiously. Everyone is aware of the other shoppers eyes on them, spying to see who triggered a member of staff to make this announcement. We wait and smile, courtesy and silence now omnipresent in our gestures.

I continue to move the trolley, feeling safer for having heard an employee care about the guidelines, about safety.

The trolley overflowing with food for the next couple of weeks, I make my way to check-out, my feet finding the one till I have been using consistently throughout lockdown. It hasn’t been the usual person behind the screen for the last few shops. It still isn’t today. Instead of the dark-haired silent employee, there is a bubbly blonde haired one. We chat throughout the process as I try to keep some sort of organisation on the belt to make packing easier.

‘Oh that’s a lot,’ the person says before telling me how much I owe the shop. ‘But if that’s for a couple of weeks…’

‘I know,’ I tell her. ‘I had a moment during the first lockdown shop, but when you break down the price, it’s actually okay.’

We smile and carry on chatting as I put the last bag into the trolley.

I leave the shop, the trolley heavy, and wheels unruly.

Where are you? I text my partner who is waiting in the car.

To your right as you come out, she replied quickly.

I look up and scan the car park in search of our small red car. I spot it quickly and hurry to it. I transfer the bags into the boot and hop in the car. My partner squirts some hand gel in my hands. I rub it in, spreading it in every nook and cranny of my hand, fingers and wrists. Once dried, I close the door and we set off towards the house.

I am not walking today. We are trying to change our routine, make it faster and more manageable for when we both return to work. I take it one step at a time. This feels okay. Next we drop the bags in the garden. We said we wouldn’t clean the packaging but I cannot bring myself not to do it. I get the spray, gloves, and cloths out. My partner begins to clean as I head for the shower. When I come back to the garden, half the bags are already empty. I set out to store everything in the fridge and cupboards and within an hour we are done.

My partner head for the shower and I pour myself a fresh glass of apple juice. This shop has been a lot faster the any of the previous ones we have done during lockdown but it still takes a lot of time, time we won’t have when we return to work. One step at a time, I remind myself. For now, this is okay.

I move from the sofa to the step leading into the garden and watch the long blade of grass sway in the breeze, my mind focused on their movement rather than the possibility of not cleaning anything before putting it away.

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 97

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 97

Day 97

Again and again, I copy/paste the same variations of a message into contact pages and message boxes. I am looking for a fencing contractor. We have been talking about replacing our fence with my partner for months but still haven’t done it.

We have been waiting for summer we said, for warmer days with less wind battering our neighbourhood. The pandemic began, our income was reduced, and we kept finding excuses not to replace the fence. We know it’s going to be a costly job, one neither of us want to pay for but it is necessary.

The wind has blown strongly in the last few days our fence wobbling dangerously at the edge of our garden, most of the posts held on by strings and strong pegs. It needs to be replaced. It probably needed to be replaced when we first visited the house just over a year ago but we didn’t think to look at it. We have never needed to consider such jobs in the past, landlords taking care of our problems and making them disappear with more or less nagging on our parts. We do not have this option any longer, any issue with the property is ours whether we want it or not.

‘We’ll know for next time,’ I tell my partner. ‘Maybe ask for a lower price.’

‘Definitely. Although, I don’t think we’d have gotten the house if we’d offered less than they asked.’

‘True.’

We both think of the first house we put an offer on, the one by the river Avon that had me dreaming of breakfast by the water, evening walk along its banks, and endless days watching it flow. We didn’t get it.

‘The bathroom needed redoing, remember.’

‘Yes, it was bad wasn’t it? And there would have been the comings and goings of cars all the time by the garden fence.’

‘Yeah.’

‘And the kitchen was small.’

‘Quite small.’

We nod to each other. We cannot help ourselves. Every time we mention that first house we both liked, we have to list all the reasons why it was good we didn’t get it. There are more that we have found. Neither of us truly regrets not getting it. The issues we find with that house by the river Avon are real but I sometimes wonder if the emphasis we put on them is to make us feel happier in the house we did buy. We both like it, this home of ours.

‘Do you ever regret not getting that house by the river,’ I ask my partner, voicing our thoughts.

‘No,’ she answers. She hesitates for a second and adds, ‘no. I don’t.’

‘Me neither.’

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 95

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 95

Day 95

‘Fourteen points,’ my partner says.

‘Is that it?’

I lean across to her on the bed and peer at the screen of her phone. Tiles are arranged on the digital Scrabble board in a tight packed pattern.

‘Oh, tricky.’

My partner nods.

I shuffle the letters about for a while, hoping to find inspiration. The board is telling us we can get much more than fourteen points. ‘What about there,’, I suggest, lining tiles against another set of words. The number 27 appears next to our word. There is more points to be had according to the app but we cannot be bothered to look for another word or position on the board.

We switch to the second game my partner has on the go. The pattern is more open, making it easier to insert new words in and stick letters close to one another for extra points. We linger in bed, playing Scrabble with people we only know by their app name. They too seem to be having a lazy morning, words being placed rapidly after ours.

The games over, I brush my teeth and head to the attic to retrieve a fabric I had bought a year previously to create a darkroom in the house we use to rent. I still have plenty of material spare and for the next two hours, I cut and tape pieces of cardboard together, covering them with the black out material I have. There are slight light leaks coming from the window but they are faint enough that I don’t worry about them. The door is a jumble of left over fabric, towels, and dressing gown to block the light coming from the corridor. The job finished, I lay down on the cold tiles and stare at the empty space above me. I can barely make out the features of our bathroom, the details known more than seen.

It reeks of the chemicals on the fabric adorning the window but I do not care. I feel safe and cocooned in this space. It is broad day light but in here it is dark and I can imagine what I want for the outside. I close my eyes, grey details disappearing from sight, and listen. I cannot hear the slow faint traffic of a Saturday morning, the double glazing doing its insulating job. But I can hear my partner below me, listening to a video lecture. The American voices echo familiarly, the waves of their speech reaching me like a the constant line of a drone.

A drop of water falls from the shower head, exploding against the cold white ceramic of the bath. I can hear it break into hundreds of smaller droplets, sliding into the drain hole. I open my eyes and get out of the bathroom, my eyes squinting at the brightness of the corridor. I step into the study and grab one of my camera. I want to use it as an enlarger. I have seen a video of someone doing it with a similar camera to mine. Only they had better tools than me. My tripod is inadequate for the job but I’m hoping I can project an image onto the bathroom wall but this will have to wait, for now I have scones to make for an afternoon tea date with Jonathan and Dan.

Scones whipped up and cooking in the oven, I arrange the table with an array of savoury food to eat with them. Steaming hot and not quite scone like, I set the baked good to the table and open up Skype waiting for my friends. E. joins me and soon we are all chatting away, eating scones and drinking tea.

‘I haven’t really missed anything,’ Jonathan comments during the conversation. I pause at his remark. I haven’t missed very much either. I certainly haven’t missed shops and the frenzy of consumerism. I have missed walking, cycling, and wild camping, but not as much as I expected. When reminded of it, I have felt the sharp edge of longing, the desire to get out in nature and think of nothing at all. But I have not suffered form the lack of micro adventures the way I normally do. Living at home, I have been able to set my own schedule, manage my own time and mental effort. I have not needed to push myself beyond what I wanted and crammed too much in too little time. Instead, I have consumed more artistic works than before, I have learned and am learning new skills, and I am learning to live with change and manage the anxiety it can bring.

‘It turns out, I’m more of a home buddy than you,’ I tell my partner later that day. ‘I definitely wouldn’t have said that before.’

My partner is beginning to feel trapped within the walls of our home. She wants to get away, travel and explore, while I am happy remaining where I am, exploring every inch of our neighbourhood and keeping busy with personal projects within the house. I would lie if I said I didn’t miss the outdoors. Of course I do. But I have shifted my expectations for now. Instead of exploring paths and roads further afield, I am learning about trees in my streets and along our daily walks. I am watching the garden grow and change, my hands turning the soil and observing the life underground while uprooting weeds. I am relaxed. In a sense, I have accepted this lockdown as a luxury of time, a privilege to reflect and learn. I watch the world and see my place in it, question it, reflect on it. This hasn’t been and isn’t an easy road. Last month, I have been adrift, the possibility of returning to work weighing on me. My anxiety spilled through my body and I was afraid. The world exploded in a burst of fire and I felt lost. I have not resolved those issues within me. My anxiety has not disappeared. It has quieten. The world is still ablaze. I am learning, shifting, questioning.

I think about this as I lay on the floor tiles in the dark bathroom. My camera didn’t work as intended to create a print. Instead I am attempting some contact prints. I am using a salt bath instead of chemicals to fix the image on paper and this takes a long time. So I wait. I think I’ve messed it up but it doesn’t matter. I will keep trying, the art of the darkroom too alluring to let go of it.

A knock comes on the door. ‘I need the loo.’

‘One minute,’ I shout back from the darkness within. I cover the tray with the prints in it and open the door. I could have done that earlier, gotten out and carried on with something else, but I like it here, in the dark.

‘How is it going,’ my partner asks as she comes in.

‘I’m not sure,’I reply honestly. ‘I think I’ve messed it up again but I have ideas for improvement.’

She looks at me quizzically.

‘No, not now,’ I reassure her. ‘What time is it anyway?’ I check my phone. It is nearly six o’clock. A good time to stop and return to a world of light.

Day 9472

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 94

#LockdownDiary – One of many – Day 94

Day 94

I walk with my friend to work this morning, through the known trodden ground of the nature reserve and the labyrinth of paths between streets and housing. At the end of our walk, she dives into the mouth of the warehouse where another colleague stand. He is wearing a mask and a set of gloves. I wave at him. He waves back before turning back inside the warehouse. The shutter closes behind them, the dark blue metal appearing cold in the grey morning light. I turn around and follow the paths we have just walked back to my home.

In a few hours, I will receive an e-mail update from work. I have no doubt that I will be ignored again. As my manager puts it the week before, there are only six of us furloughed in my department, so it is only normal that the e-mail from work address the 400 employees of the other much bigger departments. I shake my head at the thought of her words. I don’t think that it matters that the furlough status of 6 employees out of 400 is different. Those six employees should still be cared for. I stop my trail of thoughts. There is no need for me to spiral into my growing resentment towards my workplace. I cannot do anything about it currently.

Back home, I set to work on Queer Out Here. I want to finish the rounds of edit I’m currently on so Jonathan can work on creating an introduction for issue 05. Halfway through the process, I check my e-mails. There are two from work. The official one that I quickly disregard, and one from the head of my department that send my blood boiling.

My annual leave is stripped away from me, allocated partly at the end of the month, over Christmas, and relegated to 2021. If I need a break between my return to work and December, I am unlikely to be able to have one.

I immediately text my manager to confirm how many days of annual leave it leaves me with. She replies quickly. Four. Not even a full week. I take a deep breath and read over her words again. In them, she hints at the fact that I am unlikely to be back at work before August, something nobody has ever mentioned before but here it is, as a stray comment in a middle of a paragraph about something else.

I hammer away at the keyboard on my phone screen before deleting the entire message. There is no point in sending an angry message. It will not achieve anything. Instead, I turn my phone off and return my attention to Queer Out Here but my focus is gone. All I can think of is how much I hate how work communicates with me. There is little care, no consultation, and a sense of information being dumped on me as and when managers remember they have furloughed employees. I understand the uncertainty they too face but I do not understand the lack of care. All it would take is a change of words in the e-mails, a mention of shared humanity, an understanding of the stresses that furloughed employees have. But increasingly there is less and less of that. I am stranded, apart from the company, different, irrelevant.

I walk out of the study and join my partner in the living room, sharing my concern with her. My voice rises in volume as my anger spurts out of me. I can hear the echo chamber I am creating, my words looping on themselves. I am going nowhere but I cannot stop. I am angry. My partner tries to find ways to make me see the situation differently but I do not want to. Instead, I text a friend I know I can moan with. She shares my anger and through our interaction, I calm down. My anger reflected back at me triggers my brain out of the vacuum it has created.