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  • Hetty Crane

Writing During Lockdown

It's late Saturday night, and it's been over a month in lockdown for me. I think March 16th was the last 'normal' outing I had to see my dentist, and even that was not quite normal, for their office was preparing for lockdown, cancelling all but emergency appointments, though the government had not announced an official 'stay home' directive as of that date.

Since then my partner and I have been observing all the social distancing rules and regulations when having to go out to buy groceries. Only one of us goes, wearing a mask, and we are diligently keeping lists of things we run short of, making only one trip a week, if that. There was enough advance warning that we did stock up before the official lockdown began, so we are more or less okay. But what we miss, of course, is the old stress-free outings to stores or events, and more than anything we miss the company of extended family and friends. Thank goodness for social apps that keep us all connected.

I'm finding it hard to write at this point in time. Even though my writing partner and I are writing essentially 'escapist' fantasy (that's certainly what the literary world calls it), we are finding it hard to escape to that world of imagination right now. We are rooted to the world of society, and how this pandemic challenges all the norms we are used to living with - freedom to come and go as we please, to hug people, visit family and friends, shop, go to concerts or films, dine out - and it is educational to live this new life, which is daily filled with fear and sadness as we hear the news, grieve, and worry about our loved ones.

I am desperately hoping this is an education for our world - that we, as a society and a culture, learn to live a better, less wasteful and more compassionate kind of life. Our planet is in trouble. We use resources recklessly and are systematically killing off the natural world, poisoning the air and water, killing mammal and marine life with pollution and the destruction of the natural habitats of wildlife. We need to slow down, look at this beautiful world, and take the steps we need to, to save it.

As the days pass and I spend the time inside, keeping busy, cleaning, cooking, watching news, chatting with family and friends via technology, I can't help but think this is teaching me how to be happy and occupied with what we have, that we do not need to rush out and endlessly buy more things and dispose of things, that we don't need a new this or that. I think about my grandmother who was born in the late 1890's and lived through two world wars, and how she made do with next to nothing so many times in her life, and how hard she worked to raise a family of five children, to feed and clothe them, and make a life for her children in a new country, after immigrating from the old one. She survived disease in the days before vaccinations and antibiotics, and childbirth, and lived into her eighties. She was remarkable and even when she had stroke and her speech was severely impaired, she still managed to communicate to us what mattered, how to behave, how to work hard, and how to be happy. Her favourite expression was "Waste not, want not," and I hear her voice inside my head every day as I go about my daily tasks and think about the future, not just of my family, but of all families.

I will keep trying to write, because more than ever in these trying times of enforced solitude, we need art to keep us whole. As Winston Churchill famously and wisely replied, when asked about cutting arts funding during WWII, "Then what are we fighting for?"

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