So, here we are then, all stuck inside waiting for the beast to sniff us out and come knocking on the door disguised as a friendly neighbour or lost delivery guy. We get a lot of lost delivery guys (both male and female) round here, hoping someone will know where the final package in the boot of their hatchback belongs. So it’s only a matter of time. Two people in this region have been bitten already, and now the predator is here I expect it’ll hang around until it’s done as much damage as possible. The thing is, what to do in the meantime?
Since the start of the year I’ve been happily ensconced in my workroom working on the basics of my craft. To help me I have a stack of books: my old and much thumbed Oxford Thesaurus of English; an Oxford English Dictionary; a 2011 Fowler’s Dictionary of Modern English Usage (much recommended!); Garner’s A Dictionary of Modern American Usage (ditto!); an Oxford Modern English Grammar; and the international edition (10th) of A Glossary of Literary Terms by MH Abrams and Geoffrey Galt Harpham. Every morning, in the light of one or several of these books, from six til ten, I examine sentence construction, both by looking at the sentences of favourite writers/books, and by making up my own. I’ve been having a ball.
Last week I was in schools teaching imaginative writing to five-thirteen year olds for four days, but I still worked on those sentences before having to go out. I set my alarm for five in order to do so. By the time I got home each afternoon (fourish) I was so tired all I could do was stare at my feet till bed time. But I couldn’t imagine not doing a couple of hours of my own work every morning, it was more important than eating breakfast. This week, however, things have changed. This week, now it’s become eye-wateringly clear that the monster is here and it’s going to get us, and we’re all being advised to self-isolate to ‘flatten the curve,’ I can’t concentrate on determinatives or positive paucal indefinite pronouns.
Yesterday we went out and stocked up on frozen vegetables and tinned sardines, and it felt like the last time I’d be able to leave the house for some time. As I rarely leave the house you’d think this wouldn’t be a problem, but it seems it is, I don’t quite know why. I like my own company; I like sitting here all day trying to solve the problem of getting a minor character from one place to another; I like idly picking up a book and losing hours trying to decide which is the Head Phrase in a Kafka sentence. But I can’t seem to do any of those things right now.
Right now I feel oddly compelled to stay informed – which means I’m losing hours trawling Twitter and Facebook leaving little hearts on community minded posts – and to bake. If I had all the ingredients, instead of doing this, I’d be making lemon polenta cake, or chocolate cream pie, or something with apricots and brandy and bitter almonds. Or plums:
Or up in Glasgow getting a haircut. ‘I badly need a haircut’ is something I say at most twice a year, and only then if I need to go somewhere where people are. The last time was early December when I had to go to London for my aunt’s funeral, and I realised just in time that I’d probably offend all my relatives if I turned up looking like that! Generally my personal appearance has ceased to be a priority.* But at the moment the length of my hair is driving me nuts, it feels not just too long, but too wide, it keeps getting in my face. I keep fantasising about a Claire Underwood crop.
I think I may be reverting to stereotype…
But how are you? What are you doing to fill the time between now and the vaccine?
*as long as my weight stays where I like it, when that goes up I become freakish!