….that the country entered into the first lockdown? When I say the country, I mean most of us. Some who disobeyed the rules received £10K fines. As we know, many of those who made the rules just carried on partying. But that’s for another post.
I’m writing this whilst looking out into our garden. It’s a little too cold to sit there for long, but it is a glorious blue-skied spring morning. During that first lockdown the weather was wonderful. I spent much of my time outside, reading or playing cards with the kids. Going for my daily exercise bike rides, I enjoyed the quiet, the lack of traffic, the way the sky seemed so much clearer. Living in Portsmouth, the sea was noticeably cleaner as well.
It gave me time to think. How much of my mindset in my teenage and early 20s was set by what had happened in the past, as opposed to what I could do in the future. I was stuck in a cesspit of self-doubt and self-loathing. I’m not sure how I managed to move away from that way of thinking. It’s not as if there was some lightbulb moment through reading a life coach manual or watching some random Ted Talk or whatever alternative existed at the time. Maybe I was a late developer and just grew up.
Like most kids in this situation, my childhood was impacted heavily by my parents’ divorce. My father left home and we gradually lost contact. Subconsciously I blamed myself. That much I know now. I was lucky to have some fantastic male role models in my life – my uncles and family friends who were supportive and whether they knew it or not, made a huge difference in keeping me on some kind of even keel.
The poem that ends this post came from that period of reflection in that spring a couple of years ago. It originally appeared on the Pens of the Earth website back in November 2020, where it still sits. I figure it’s been there long enough to share it here as well now. Of course the poem is also a pretty obvious metaphor for environmental change, and our, (well my at least), relative inaction in the face of what is happening.
But we still have time. We can make changes if we want. We do not need to accept the status quo, and not just with our personal lives. This applies as much to how we deal with the narcissists currently in power as it does to how we react to climate change. Of course we are all hypocrites in our own way. But maybe if we let go of the baggage from our past we can build a better future?
How many mornings slid one into another,
under the pergola of a lockdown garden,
a mug of black coffee as shadows swung by,
waiting for the page to turn.
A book half read the spine snapped back,
lost sense of time as new days began,
memories warped in the haze of recognition;
as if the past could yet be rerun.
There was a lawn once that much I can recall.
It had a long bay hedge that wrapped around,
lots of trees but no functioning swing,
(I may be wrong for I was young),
but my garden world was full of life,
of that I am sure for whatever it’s worth.
The air was clean the noise from traffic
was not this constant earworm hum.
When my parents divorced the house was sold.
We moved towards the centre of town,
put pieces together as much as we could,
cracks still showed what else could be done?
Truth was parked as the years trundled on.
I made my peace as the poison spread;
the taste of petrol on my morning run,
the heavy metals congealed in my lungs.
When we were trapped in April and March
and silence descended on our city home,
a blackbird called and I could hear
every trill, every repetition sung.
Sky soon cleared, road snarl was gone,
socially distanced as the miasma lifted,
life stretched out to an alternate future,
a glimpse of what we could become,
For there are choices that can still be made,
our ending is not quite yet defined.
As I sit here in my post-lockdown garden
it’s time to make the pages turn.