Rippled by gentle breezes the River Wey’s khaki surface reflects sky, sunlit trees and the green of spring by the far bank. The mating calls of birds add to the promise of new life, while the tree trunks and branches scattered in recent floods are a reminder that Climate Change is nearing its tipping point – when the lungs of the planet, the wealth of our natural reserves, are at the point of failing.
It is nature that is increasingly in lockdown and it says much when a body as august as The World Health Organisation declares a state of emergency. But what about the other lockdown? The one that restricts movement, socially distances communities and imposes confinement because of a virus that few of us had ever heard of? Given that humans are naturally sociable animals, enforced isolation with no certainty of an end date is both abhorrent and an anathema. The journey ahead will be a long and emotionally draining one, although there is consolation to be had in the scope for plenty of reading to distract from our current travails.
An illustrated children’s story about saving the Last Tiger on Earth is a good place to start and highly pertinent in the current circumstances. If that sounds a bit heavy, one can always get creative in the kitchen. How about making dishes with Gin as the main ingredient? Or why not use Astrology to guide your menu planning? Now that travelling overseas is (temporarily) off the menu, a culinary journey through Turkey is a compensation (of sorts) for not being able to visit the country.
Although Coronavirus has closed Westminster for business don’t imagine for one moment that politics has gone quiet. Arguments over past and present transgressions of all the parties are still raging, even without the benefit of the dispatch box, and the political landscape is about to be challenged by a new release. Politics isn’t everybody’s game and for some people a film is a good distraction or if not that a witty, cleverly structured book on the birth of the movie industry and the tragic story of a leading star of the era.
At least reading is a pleasure that take’s one’s mind off social distancing, the practice of keeping people at a specific physical distance from each other to prevent the spread of contagious diseases. Separating people in this manner stands at odds with the abilities embedded in our genes to tame, domesticate and urbanise in the pursuit of civilisation.
Yet, socialising tightly might also prove to be our Achilles’ heel.
What this lockdown has done is to force us to confront the question about the future we want. Evident to many will be the change to working at home, with implications for communications and other infrastructures. Nonetheless business has been hit hard with high streets closed and every type of event cancelled. The retail sector, including the book trade, has gone fully online. Could the crisis be a wake-up call for town and country planners to reverse millennia long aspirations in urbanisation? Will they have the courage to better align their projects with nature, in order to capture the healthier side of communities we are currently witnessing? Let’s hope so!
Time for Change
One point of interest from the lockdown is that home schooling has been taken up by families, schools and libraries working together online. With parents taking a more hands-on approach, it’s a whole new learning experience for all. An important facet of that has been the streaming of social media to which teens and young adults have hitherto been drawn. It’s too early to say, but in the absence of activities outside of the home, there are signs that young people are re-connecting with the concept of reading for pleasure. If that’s true, the prospects are immense for unlocking the creativity of the written word – which is far greater than with social media – especially with the advent of social media links in books.
It’s clear the Coronavirus crisis will be a momentous moment in our history. Nothing will or ever should be the same again. The chance for change, be it cultural or social, should not be lost.