28th March – Week One

How are you doing? Aside from all the very big questions about whether you’ve got a home anyway, and sufficient income to keep you and it together for we don’t know how long, how are you doing? Also assuming you and whoever might be locked down with you are well, what’s life like for you right now?

As is more or less normal when I start writing one of these blog posts I’m not entirely sure where I’m going with this, but let’s see. What this certainly won’t be is an instructional manual on ‘being productive anyway’ or ‘my life’s better than yours’ during a pandemic. This is just me, writing. Writing being one of my main occupations even in ordinary times, which these days definitely aren’t. I’m not writing as much as I’d like, either, because I’m finding the silence too distracting for writing whole chapters of my PhD. The reading’s going ok, more than ok, I love the getting lost in people’s theories and opinions. But when I emerge from my Munoz, Braidotti, Irigaray, Hartog and the rest, and find there’s still a virus going on and lives to be lived, well it’s not easy to do the usual smooth slip from reading to writing. Not that sort of writing anyway.

But I can do blogs, my gatherings of loosely associated random thoughts, so here I am. And I’ll bet with that title up there you didn’t come here to find me going on about PhD stuff, did you. So let’s get on with home life.

Well as an example, because this is the only home I can experience and write about right now, I’m writing this late in the morning at one side of the table in the back room of our house, while Sarah’s opposite to me doing the things I’ll use to illustrate this post. Next to us is Sarah Walker, the BBC Radio 3 presenter. She’s not really here of course, but talking to us and much appreciated for her friendliness and taste in between the music she’s playing us. Yesterday Elizabeth Alker on Radio 3 filled this same place in our room and our lives.

So, Sarah’s course. A plant identification correspondence course that’s distracting and delighting her, and has played a big part in our home life this weekend. In the weeks she’s a key worker, running funerals that only direct family members can attend and that she’s glad to do, because they’re the best that all concerned can do for now. But each Friday, for her course, she receives instructions about which family of plants to study, draw and write about next. This week its Brassica, the cabbage family. Meaning that our permitted walk yesterday was to go out and find as many as we could of the seven samples specified. A tough ask in a pandemic? Well no, we only walked round the Penny Lane block from our Wavertree house and managed a more than sufficient five of them. The first ones, tiny little weed-like things with microscopic white flowers, were against the gatepost of our house. Others growing between cobbles down the road, or in mosses and up against brick and sandstone walls around our block. Together with a whole bag of ‘not brassica’ for ‘that might come in handy.’


Then early yesterday evening and so far this morning Sarah’s been analysing all them, including her creative way of holding them steady involving the clamp and tupperware box you can see.

Peaceful. And not about “corona, pandemic, food supplies, toilet roll and how are you feeling?”

Meanwhile I’ve been reading and writing what I’ve told you, but also finding what’s next on Netflix for our later evening escapes. Essential, we’re finding, to escape into really good storytelling for some of the time. Even if it’s a bit ‘soap’ as we’ll say, or occasionally overacted. So what, we value the engrossment of having episodes. Of eight part escapes we can go and live in for a couple of hours each evening. For a few evenings, our current escape is ‘Safe.’ Earlier in the week it was ‘The Stranger.’ And right now we salute every self-employed artist, actor, storyteller, technician and creative involved in their making. Sarah would also want me to mention ‘The Archers’ here, rejoicing in Ambridge’s freedom from the virus, so far. Long may that continue.

So that’s about it. A brief glimpse of our home life during a pandemic. No sea kayaking for Sarah, no Bean There to meet daughter Clare and family for me. But we’re well, we’re occupying ourselves, doing Zoom and Skype for work and friendships, and now we’re off out for today’s short walk. Turns out there are a couple more Brassica samples Sarah could do with.

And home again…

So how are you doing? I hope you’re well, have got what you need, enough anyway, and are occupied and entertained. Because this home life during a pandemic, it’s strange isn’t it? xx

Raspberries growing on Plot 44, for afterwards.

Published by Ronnie Hughes

Writing about life, Liverpool and anything else that interests me. As well as working with others to make the world a fairer and kinder place: http://asenseofplace.com.

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5 Comments

  1. Hi Ronnie love your blogs.
    I know the feeling of being immersed or almost drowning in theories. When you are in there treading water you get it. You swallow it. But when you emerge from Marx – psychoanalytical readings -semiotics – thematics- Capitalist- Freud – Showalter – Feminist – Queer- Gender– Green – readings and theories ( to name a few) you PhD brain can be frazzled. I found free writing helped. A stream of counciousness that un burdened my brain. And later I could make sense of it and how it worked and applied to my reserach.
    Remember you dont have to know everything but know about your orginal contribution to knowledge.

    1. Thank you Linda. The academic stuff is around literature review and finding my way, hence the breadth you’ve recognised. But I am finding what’s feeling like my own contribution now. About which…to come.

  2. Im rather envious of Sarah’s skills. Not only the sea kayaking, but now the plant identification. I love the way she tackles things like that – ordered and committed. In these days of isolation I think I need her as a role model. Honestly, despite having more time I’m all over the place; scattered thinking, no ability to focus …. I’d better pull myself together. Meanwhile, keep inspiring me.

    1. Thank you Sally, I’ll pass your compliments to Sarah. And scattered thinking is, I’d say, more understandable than not scattered. This is a strange place we’re all in, and interludes of peace, like with Sarah in this article, are all the more precious because of that.

  3. I’m a home worker so it’s interesting to see the dual problems of “not working so don’t know what to do with myself” or “home working for the first time so finding it hard to concentrate”. I can’t understand the first problem, and I’m only just learning to deal with the second! I wonder whether people will change their approach to free time once they’ve had to find something engaging to fill it with. I’m always trying to get myself to switch off in my free time (Netflix, TV, computer games) – when you’re hobby is similar to your job is easy to get stuck in one place.

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