Isolation day 95: heatwave, ‘independence’ day and insomnia

Just thought I would write a quick update, I’ve been incredibly quiet on here this week, only publishing one blog post. We are experiencing a heat wave here in the UK and while I like the sun, it also makes me feel very lethargic.

The heat and accumulating tiredness from nights of lost sleep has sucked away my motivation to write. The previous few weeks I was writing several things in one day and I felt full of motivation. In reality I did see the ‘crash’ coming, I thought I would reach a point where I couldn’t bring myself to punch the keys or pick up a book. It’s strange how some weeks go.

My sleeping habits are all over the place from experiencing bouts of insomnia. One night I will oversleep, getting between 9-10 hours, and the next I will under-sleep and get 4-5. I can’t seem to strike the balance. I guess the key thing is to keep to the same wake up time, but that’s not always easy. This morning I had to force my eyes open to prevent myself drifting off and over sleeping again. Strangely, the heat doesn’t seem to influence my sleep, it all seems to be in my mind.

The lockdown announcement last week has been playing on my mind. Boris Johnson, our Prime Minister, has effectively called July 4th our ‘independence day’ despite the rate of infection still at a level rate, not actually declining fully and still higher than our European counterparts. The news has been showing us scenes of overcrowding on beaches and endless queues for Primark. The vast majority of the public seem to believe the pandemic is over. Partly, I don’t blame them as the government is reinforcing this message. It doesn’t help that our PM has told people he wants to see the return of ‘bustle’ in our cities and towns and denies the possibility of a second wave. It’s all very worrying.

I couldn’t bring myself to do a PMQ’s review this week as I’ve found the political situation too draining – I will try again next week. I don’t want to pressure myself to do it religiously, but I do want to get better at writing short, snappy political analysis.

Although I keep telling myself that it is pointless for me to worry about everything – as these political decisions are out of my control, I can’t help but sometimes loose sleep over it.

I have woken up a bit more motivated and with more energy today so I am hoping that over the weekend I will get some more blog posts out. I have a review of The Sacrifice that should be going up tomorrow and a few other things in the pipeline.

Also, I have now made a Medium account if anyone would like to follow. I might be publishing original content on there or just re-publishing posts, I haven’t quite decided what to do with it yet!

I hope you are all doing well and continuing to stay safe.

Violet x

Isolation: Day 6

The sun is setting on another beautiful day here in the UK. Ever since Boris Johnson announced a full lockdown there has been nothing but clear blue skies and endless sunshine. Is nature trying to tempt us?

So I have spent the past 48 hours inside, the longest consecutive time that I have spent inside for a very long time. Even at University, I always made time to be outside, whether that was walking to the library or taking time outside for lunch.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the virus. It’s strange that something utterly invisible is the biggest threat to the world right now. It’s strange how it is impacting every part of our lives, even if we personally aren’t affected by it. It’s there but it isn’t. It’s in the air that we could possibly breathe and on the surfaces we touch unconsciously.

I’m not finding the isolation too tough but it is only the sixth day. Luckily I am not alone and live with my partner, although we have our tiffs through being together 24/7, if I was on my own I think I would find this a lot harder. I would be completely trapped with my own thoughts, with little in the way of distraction.

I think a lot about the people who are on their own and who don’t have people to talk to. I hope they are okay and not suffering. When this is all over, I think we will have other epidemics to deal with, not a disease, but loneliness, anxiety, depression, OCD and the rest. I worry that this virus will shatter our NHS even more, so that when the time comes when it is all over, we won’t have anything left to treat other problems.

On the other hand – I think this experience will give room to fixing a lot of pre existing failures in our social and welfare system here in the UK. Those in higher powers will hopefully realise that sick pay should be on the agenda for everyone regardless of employment type, that our health service is not fit for purpose and needs massive reinvestment, but that access to healthcare is a universal right that should not be disputed. We should not have to pay for our own suffering.

As we spend more time inside, the environment is exposed to less pollutants. There have been many reports across the UK of clearer skies at night, due to less noise pollution. Nature is having a break from being constantly suffocated. In the coming weeks I think we’ll see even more results. This is something that needs to be taken seriously once this is all over. Do we really need to use our cars for journeys which are perfectly walk-able?

So what have I been doing for the past six days?

Not a lot actually. I have found it hard to get myself to do things due to lack of routine. I am enjoying the lazy mornings and slow starts but have found these are inhibiting my productivity. I don’t often get round to doing anything until after lunch and then I have little motivation. But, I have been reading a lot and writing in my journal. If there is ever a time to keep a diary, surely it’s now? I have been out for a few walks in the sun (my daily exercise allowance) and me and my partner have even managed to do a few home workouts together – my legs are still recovering! Next week I hope to kick myself into gear a bit more and make the most of the free time.

Hoping that everyone around the world is okay and those who have taken the time to read this post are well. Look after yourselves. 🙂

Violet.

My top 3 Classics to get you through isolation

As our lives suddenly become filled with more empty hours it is the perfect time to read! Reading the classics can seem long and arduous compared to a quick page turner, however, now is the time. These are my top three classics I think are well worth reading! Let me know if you end up trying them.

Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte, 1847

Jane was never plain! Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre follows the life of a determined young woman who has had all the odds thrust against her. Published in 1847, the book immediately portrayed a new type of heroine. One that rose beyond her ranks and respectability, to try and pursue the man she loved..

Jane grows up in an orphanage and is exposed to endless childhood cruelty. However, she doesn’t let this shatter her pride or spirit. As a young adult she works as a governess at Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester’s residence. Jane spends her time looking after the children there, all the while gradually falling in love with the mysterious Mr Rochester – she knows this is a type of forbidden love, due to her social standing. However, Jane naturally has an air of independent spirit thanks to her upbringing – this soon leads her into uncharted territory.

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will…”

Secrets start to haunt Thornfield Hall and all the while Jane is torn between staying there to be close to Mr Rochester, or leaving to pursue her own safety. Will she get to be with the man she loves?

A remarkable novel for its times, and one I loved reading very much. It is on the one hand, your classic, Victorian Gothic novel, but on the other hand, a complete re-working of its traditions. It’s a tale of an ordinary woman’s search for love and companionship and attempt to break down those traditional barriers. Never take for granted Charlotte Bronte’s use of a strong, female protagonist, it was way ahead of its times, and her execution is breathtaking.

The Grapes of Wrath, John Steinbeck, 1939

This may well be the ultimate American novel. Set during the disastrous American dust bowl phenomena, this novel follows the Joad family, in their struggle to make a living and stay afloat in troubled times.

The Dust Bowl refers to a series of storms that severely damaged the ecology of the Great American plains in the 1930s. Happening during the aftermath of The Great Depression (1929), it had long-lasting disastrous economic and social affects. Most importantly, it was not just an environmental disaster, but one that impacted the lives of many Americans who lost their agricultural lands and livelihood. Many Americans had to leave their homes in the search of a better life – and this was a promise that was more often than not, never fulfilled.

Told in blisteringly beautiful prose, Steinbeck outlines the many implications of the Dust Bowl and its influence on your average American family. The Joad family are forced from their homes to travel West in search of jobs and an income to feed themselves. Taking it day by day, the Joad family struggle to find enough to eat and make ends meet. The prose unreservedly describes the obliterated landscape as the family travels West, making it a reading joy, despite the troubled circumstances.

What becomes obvious throughout, is the falsehood of the American Dream and that great promise that if you work hard, your efforts will be rewarded. Steinbeck critiques this very ideal and thrusts to the forefront the very real struggles experienced by many American families during the 1930s, as they made their journey West in the hope of a promised future.

“…and in the eyes of the people there is the failure; and in the eyes of the hungry there is a growing wrath. In the souls of the people the grapes of wrath are filling and growing heavy, growing heavy for the vintage.”

Beautiful and harrowing, this is a must read and one that will stay with me forever.

The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, 1925

A timeless classic which I’m sure is on many people’s favourite lists. Again, this novel does not shy away from critiquing the false promises of the American dream and that importance of wealth that has been emphasized throughout American history and culture. Wealth has often been heralded as the one marker of success and ultimate happiness, but this novel exposes the human realities of pursuing this dream with a blind capacity. Endless wealth for Jay Gatsby, can never equate to a lifetime of pure happiness.

Told in myriads of beautiful prose containing metaphors, genius symbolism and expert crafting of character, this is the one novel that made me fall in love with literature. Its timeless message is one that makes it so significant and enduring, but it is in the crafting of the novel whereby it is so special.

“Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter—tomorrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And then one fine morning—

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Jay Gatsby appears to have it all. He lives in the biggest mansion known to man, right next to Nick Carraway, who has arrived to New York in search of his own American Dream. Nick meets Gatsby and is naturally entranced by his persuasive and endearing persona. Through Gatsby, and his cousin Daisy, Nick soon gets involved within the millionaire lifestyle that thrived in the 1920s. Lavish parties, fast cars, and an abundance of alcohol soon appears to be the norm.

But Nick knows this is never sustainable. Known as the unreliable narrator to Gatsby’s pursuits, Carraway uncovers the falsehood of the American Dream to readers, in his subtle critique of this lifestyle and the events he experienced with Gatsby.

In the end, Gatsby realises it too. But too late. It is a tale of impossible dreams, love, and an unsustainable lifestyle that is more corrupting than it is fulfilling. It is a novel I unashamedly go back to again and again, each time finding something new I love and admire.

Self Isolation: Day 1

It’s a beautiful March day, the sun is shining and I have spent most of the time indoors wishing I could go outside and enjoy the sunshine. However, the nature of our current reality prevents me from otherwise. So says the traditional Chinese verse, “May you live in interesting times…” We certainly do.

It was an interesting week at work, in some ways busier than ever before, but in others, such as my commute into work, quieter than I have ever experienced. I sat on the train yesterday and did not encounter a single person all the way to work, only noticing three people get off when I did. The station was empty as well as the platform. One day last week, the center of town was absolutely thriving with people – it almost felt like a pandemic wasn’t on the cards. People were buying everything they could, and fast.

I am now facing my first official day at home which feels very strange. I live next to a school, which has obviously closed its gates. On a normal weekday you can hear children playing in the school grounds and the school bell sound when lessons are due to start. There’s none of that now. The sounds of cars and buses have been muted into the distance and it’s strange to think we do not know when normality will return. Or when it returns, what it will be like.

Like many, I await 5pm when Boris Johnson is due to deliver his daily update. Will it contain useful information this time? Or more of a reiteration of what has been said before? Will it give us more answers or questions?

I believe a full lock-down should be enforced as the measures at the moment are not enough and they are not being followed. People are still travelling for leisure, shopping for non-essentials and loitering in mass groups. Until isolation becomes mandatory, the virus will continue to spread. It is a sacrifice we should all be willing to make to protect as many lives as we can. The virus is still not being taken seriously enough and that worries me.

Although isolation poses its many challenges for me – no real time outdoors (living in a flat with no access to a garden), no going to the gym or to work, it also renders itself to opportunities. I can use this time to read without guilt and write all that I can, as long as isolation doesn’t take too much of a toll. For now, the possibility of having more time is desirable. However, who knows how I will feel in a few weeks, or even days?

Hoping you all are staying healthy and happy in these difficult times. 🙂