At Home in Lockdown – 22nd May 2020
Unanimously, contributors have stated that their lives aren’t very interesting, but we’re finding that just is not true. The ways in which people are adapting to life in these extraordinary times is varied and remarkable.
After a particularly wet winter, we had a period of three weeks of sunshine – uncharacteristically fine at the start of April. Those of us lucky enough to have a garden space had been spending time outdoors soaking up the rays and it seems that many of us got to work on our gardens and homes. Contributors confessed to spending time outdoors rather than on their work:
“First of all the weather, which obviously hasn’t read the script properly, is unnaturally nice. Lovely sunny days, some of them warm, others ideal for a short permitted walk. The garden beckons, and it seems a shame to stay indoors. OK then – I’ll write in the evenings, after dark…. No. Didn’t work either. Not able to concentrate. It’s hard even to read for very long, without my attention drifting so I just end up staring out of the window. I’ve heard other people reporting a similar problem – OK with practical tasks, but not with things requiring very much attention.”
In particular, we are all exploring our local paths and taking in the sudden explosion of nature that the wonderful weather has brought.
‘local walkers, joggers and cyclists are more in evidence!’
Though as A. Burt has pointed out, going out walking has its hazards:
‘…passing other people out and about is proving to be an adventure. We step aside and I smile and call `nothing personal’ and receive a smile and a wave in response. Never fails!’
And we’re discovering new places on our own doorsteps:
“The walk combined two of our Truro treasures – the disused railway-line up from the river to the station, and also the Coosebean Greenway which has been put in (with tarmac and street-lights) so walkers and cyclists can take a pleasant short-cut into town from near Treliske Hospital. The part connecting the two “treasures” was new – I found it by walking down the country-lane which the disused railway crosses just before it joins the main-line.”
But what does lockdown mean for our homes?
For some, it has been necessary to set up a temporary home in order to self-isolate from family members – this can mean essential-workers away from family for weeks. We’ve seen in the news that some people who normally live in mobile homes have been mistaken as tourists and had their homes vandalised. For me, the home has become my workplace, my university and a pre-school. I feel immense pressure to deliver on all counts, while also to trying to maintain a sense of the domestic. Often, I feel very simply happy to enjoy time at home with my family, but this is not always sustainable.
So what do we do? We give ourselves a list of things we were meant to get around to; we find new hobbies or learn new skills; we get on with projects; we binge-watch TV and enjoy some down-time; we find and use our inner creativity.
Having expected to be canoeing down Utah’s Green River, artist Tony Foster has instead been inspired by his beautiful corner of Cornwall during lockdown:
‘Now confined to home, I am constructing a daily diary of painted and written observations made from notes and drawings done during my daily walk.’
Visual Lockdown Diary by Tony Foster, Watercolour. March 2020. © Tony Foster. All Rights Reserved, image used with permission from the artist.
For the first time, his work is exhibited in Cornwall’s smallest art gallery, Tywardreath ArtBox (Tony’s own brainchild). Those of you unfamiliar with Tony Foster’s work, you can view more of his works online here: https://www.thefoster.org/
Once again, this new situation shows us how much we have within and around our homes – and how much we do not; it also shows us just how adaptable we are as human beings. Weekly contributor, Kate Mole, eloquently discussed the facets of ‘home’ in her most recent entry:
Monday 27th April 2020.
All this ‘staying at home’ – do you think it might change what we mean by ‘home’? The phrase can mean a number of things: when I was at school, or doing a job I didn’t like, staying at home was a wonderful thing to do – the ultimate luxury. A lie in, daytime TV maybe, a good book, eat what’s in the fridge, don’t bother getting dressed, or not much. On the other hand it can be pejorative – a stay-at-home girl used to be one who was too shy to go out in the evenings; a boring, home-based social misfit. A stay-at-home mum also once had connotations of lack of initiative or education. Both of these highly unjust, of course – what’s wrong with staying at home anyway?
But now, our houses might have become something else to us, mightn’t they? For some people, perhaps, their house becomes their sanctuary, their safe place. I’ve heard several people mention this. The house becomes the one place you can be sure there are no Covid-19 viruses, because only you and your partner or family are allowed in it, no one else. In some cases, everything is disinfected before getting inside – hands and shoes, groceries and packages as well. Door-handles are wiped and contaminated clothing left outside. Inside the house, then, becomes something else – an intensely protected personal space.
Our place isn’t quite as fiercely protected as some, though we observe all the precautions, of course. But I do feel it is becoming much more ours, more reflective of our own interests, with our little projects dotted all around it – neat rows of cassette tapes (remember those?) awaiting review, pieces of needlework with yarn heaped up around them, a pile of 19th century diaries for transcription, the toilet in pieces (briefly) on the bathroom floor, heaps of things we’re going to mend, alter or polish, various gadgets with wires trailing out of them, open recipe books surrounded by vegetables….
Which raises another function of our homes – as places of work. Many of us are working from home now, and it looks as if this might continue a way into the future. But this is what we used to do in the past – people used to live amongst the tools of their trade, or their animals. It was only in the recent past that the house became ‘private’ – a house solely for living in.
So what we have just at the moment is maybe an iteration of both of these: a house from which we do our work and where we store work-related equipment and paperwork; and at the same time, a very private space into which only the owners are allowed. That’s sensible, isn’t it? Works reasonably well, and plenty of people are doing it. But it comes out a bit – intense, at the same time, doesn’t it? Everything concentrated into one domestic space, one small sphere? Might be bad for the mind?
The civilised norm is what we had before – a private house devoted solely to the personal needs and tastes and leisure activities of the family who live in it, but able to be opened to visitors and socialising. Work to be conducted in a separate place. We’ve taken centuries to arrive at the point where we can have this. Maybe one day we’ll be allowed to do it again……
However COVID-19 is transforming your home, please let us know! Email us about your COVID-19 experience at: [email protected], or to find out more about the COVID-19 Cornwall Collection: www.royalcornwallmuseum.org.uk/covid-19-collection
With thanks to contributors: A.Burt; R.M. Heard; Tony Foster; Kate Mole; A. Rowell.