... feminist, atheist, autistic academic and historic narrowboater ...
Likes snooker, beer, tea, rivets and solitude, and is strangely fascinated by the cinema organ.
And there might be something about railways.

Sunday, 10 May 2020

Forty days

'A world outside your window isn't free...'*
A period of forty days crops up a lot in the Bible. It''s the length of time Christ spent in the wilderness; it's the period of Lent; it's the number of days and nights it rained  on Noah, and many other things. It's also the number of days it's meant to rain if it rains on St Swithun's day. These biblical examples might arise from the fact that 'forty' was often used to signify 'a really big number'.

Forty days is also the traditional period of quarantine, and, indeed, the source of the word, from when the Venetian authorities imposed it on ships arriving in their city state in an attempt to prevent the spread of the black death. (If thirty days had been effective, we'd now be talking about trentine.)

Today is the fortieth day of my self-imposed seclusion. I last left the precincts of my home on April 1st, for an early morning run that I didn't enjoy. I last went to a shop on March 21st; to a supermarket (and to someone else's house) on March 18th; to work on March 16th, and to the pub on March 13th.

Obviously this level of isolation goes beyond what the government demands of me, and that's the point. By choosing not to go out at all, I avoid having to think about the regulations and their petty parsing by the authorities, and shopkeepers; I avoid the surveillance and judgement of my fellow citizens-turned-vigilante; I don't have to notice people avoiding me, or likewise, ostentatiously shun my fellow-humans as a threat (ironically, because I've never been keen on getting close to most people), and I'm not constantly confronted by examples of a world turned upside down, which I find rather disturbing. 

So, it was always a coping strategy, but I've been surprised by how easy I've found it.

I have not yearned to go further afield at all. I have not missed the shops, the streets, the people. I would be sad if I was told I would never go to a pub again, but I haven't felt a desperate urge to be in one. I would only be devastated though, if pubs ceased to exist. I wouldn't mind if I never went to a supermarket again (and indeed, I am going to try not to, but to continue to support local producers through Beanies, and local breweries directly and through local pubs). I am only slightly concerned that when I eventually emerge, it will be as a blob of lard with bits of string for limbs ...

I knew I liked my own company, and valued solitude, but even I have been surprised at how well I have taken to being a recluse. Worryingly well, perhaps. At some point, someone is going to have to come round and drag me back to work. Possibly literally.

*Remember Tanita Tikaram? Perhaps I should add that one to the plaguelist - got it on vinyl.

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