2020, Lockdown, News

Coronavirus letter to Louise

April 2020

Dearest Louise

I often wonder why has it taken me so long to write to you. I think of talking to you most Sunday’s and other days too, collecting both ideas and questions for you. It’s a reward, you see, a gift to write to you. I feel the need to clear the decks of all the other things I have to do, so I can settle down to the pleasure. Meanwhile more decks arrive to clear, news breaks, time passes.

How is it at LangAr Lockdown? Have you Furloughed (a word like Tsumani I never heard of before and now it is everywhere) all the staff, to give them security? Are you and Lila and her beau and Alfie all alone there? In a house originally a family home, back to being a family house for a time? Are the LangAr snowdrops out? The Daffs?

I was thinking the other day, lockdown won’t be so different for you in your little cocoon of LangAr, but actually that’s not true. The world comes to Langar and so whisks you one way and the other, and without this whisking Langar will be very different. In the emptiness what are you doing? I bet you are madly gardening. I imagine you there, outside with the soil. I’d like to imagine your new home as I’ve only glimpsed jigsaw parts of it, like the garden.

I too threw myself into the earth when – back then – it all began. Phew I thought, time at last to do all those things I want to do. We’d just finished coppicing in the woods, so there was a mass of fresh cut hazel staffs and cords to work with. Sam – a workaway – has become marooned in the cabin, and has been making hazel hurdle fences.

Very early on, someone reminded us that in the Chinese language, the word “crisis” is composed of two characters, one representing danger and the other, opportunity. This view stays with me.
Yes, loved ones will die. I may die. Health workers, bus drivers, grave diggers will jeopardise their lives, work far too long hours. Uncertainty will dominate. Stock markets may crash, businesses fail, pensions may sink. However, the fish have returned to the Venice water systems, carbon emissions fell by 25% in China. The English have stopped bitching about Brexit. We are being less frivolous about decision making. Joined by a universal threat to our lives, it has taken us all by surprise how ‘co-operative’ we have been. We are realising how interconnected we all are, amid this invisible enemy, talking to each other (2 meters apart) eye contact, exchanging, taking meals to lock down friends. We are digging our own gardens. Locked down, we are seeing what has been in front of our own noses while we have been far too busy driving to the greener grass the other side of the fence. Indeed we are humbled in the face of death.



Will we be this co-operative about the Climate Crisis, and if not (which I suspect the answer is) why not?
Like a black hole moment, life has sped up, we’ve accomplished what would have taken years to do, like putting stuff on line, realising what we want with our lives, (like slow being, slow cooking, slow yoga).


I’ve moved in with Michael. At 85 with diabetes he’s in that vulnerable category, so i’ve got my habitual ‘need to take care’ taken care of. (I also had a pulmonary embolism in my lung late last year, so a little voice right at the back of a cupboard says, I need to take care myself too) He lives in a lovely home, with a beautiful garden which was tended by his wife Tamsyn, (who died 3 years ago) where I have found 4 ‘fit for purpose’ raised veg beds, which i’ve prepared and planted out with seeds. (I imagine England is gong to be one glorious and edible garden at the end of this time – there was not a seed potato to buy in the whole of our town!). There is such a primal joy in watching the green shoots emerge from the soil. You know all about this.


One of many aspects of this sudden paradigm shift has been the bringing together of all the world, hearing how each nation copes, feeling the common denominator of the human condition, in both pain (London and New York stories from hospitals ill equipped, people, in particular a 13 year child dying alone, and joy (the Italians singing on the balconies, the Spanish clapping every night). We are watching Al Jezeera news each night after our own domestic news, which gives an un English-centric view.
And when it’s all over (will it be all over?) is it going to change us? Are we changed? Is it it going to rock the capitalist, increasingly unequal society we have developed, our individualistic uncooperative system of profit for today and who cares about climate change tomorrow, not my problem. Stephen Pinker, (who we saw at Hay last year, – i’ve been a fan of his for many years), while he acknowledges the positive effects of world lockdown, such as co-opration, says this paradigm shift is unlikely to last because we have short memories: when all is over the businesses will tempt us with their advertising to buy more for happiness, as the need for profit catchup dominates.
Forest school was naturally cancelled, so a few days I made a video for the kids which I’ll share here with you. It’s 15 minutes. It takes you around the wood where we have forest school twice a week. Seeing my rounded shoulders, I’ve embarked on Gym with Jo each morning, Pilaties with Linda and Yoga with John! (I remember I first heard of the Zero to 5K challenge from some guests at Langar, and last year I almost hit 10 k but i’ve gone back since them – Michael is a great lover of 3 meals a day and food, and with someone to share now, who wou;dn’t have a glass of wine each evening?) Nothing I can do about my voice, which is inclined to sound bossy (follow me)! But you

will see the wood. i did this

Tentatively I’m doing a bit of sketching each day – buds on trees curled up and about to burst. It’s happening all so fast. It takes me away from this computer screen, to a different part of my brain, and a very creaky rusty hand holding a pen. Colour is far too complex!


Discovering jewels in local shops
Our car batteries will fall flat.
Grass may grow on cracks in roads
Our gardens will become baskets of edible joy A cruise boat will attract barnacles in dock

No one or no thing needs to fly
As everything is here for
What I want becomes only if i need.
Finally time enough to life and drop a question
 or two in the emptier vessel of life

and know the earth is for all species including a virus which may
outlast me.


Now tell me, how are you? Have you changed during this time? Will we change after this time? Any news of is Sharat in India?



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