Through A Glass Darkly - Debbie Bennett

I wrote on Facebook yesterday (Sunday) that it was a strange day. We went out for a walk late morning – down and over the river and onto Whitegate Way – the old railway track-now-bridleway/footpath. Off onto another footpath and back down to the bridge again and home again. About 3-4 miles in total, I think. Things to note: large and spreading clumps of Japanese knotweed in the field and across the path; I’ve never actually seen it in-the-flesh so to speak and it really is a distinctive plant, isn’t it?

In the afternoon, the weather was very still. It was more overcast, but the atmosphere was heavy and pensive. Not the thundery precursor to a storm, but more like the world was holding its breath, waiting, anticipating … something. I’m not sure what. I know I couldn’t settle to anything, and I just wanted whatever it was that was going to happen to just get on with it and happen. It hasn’t yet.

Comments on Facebook varied from lockdown-fever, through moon phases and pagan festivals to El Niño. In truth, I suspect a combination of all of those things, with hormones and age thrown into the mix too for good effect! But I think we’re all doing it at the moment, aren’t we? Waiting for something to happen? And it’s not so simple as the end of this lockdown period at all. For many people, life will never be the same again. I don’t want to trivialise any of the horrendous experiences I know many people have gone through in losing loved ones or being ill themselves – but even those of us who have been lucky enough to have come so far relatively unscathed have still faced life-changing times. I have single friends who are living through this physically alone; prolonged periods of introspection must make you face yourself in the literal and metaphysical mirror and come to terms with what you see.

I think we are all doing this to a greater or lesser degree. Re-evaluating ourselves and our lives, examining our priorities and realising that nobody ever lay on their death bed and wished they’d spent more time at work. The absence of flour and other baking essentials from supermarkets shows how many families are rediscovering baking; gardens are blooming (despite the lack of green waste collections – at least in my area) and neighbours are swapping plant cuttings. The sense of community is emerging – it’d be clichéd to call it the Dunkirk spirit because it’s more than that.

Last month I wrote about pandemic reading. But what are we writing about? Will this strange spring of 2020 emerge in fiction at some point? I think there are probably enough post-apocalyptic novels around at the moment and I’m not sure people want to relive what we are currently living through, but maybe we’ll focus more on the re-evaluation bit – stories about life-changing experiences, stories about spiritual growth written from the heart, stories about facing inner-demons and winning. Because we will win – as individuals, community and the wider country and world. We will come through this stronger and better as people. And as writers.


Jan Needle said…
Yes, it's a weird feeling, isn't it, Debbie. Much excitement engendered even as I type by an enormous bumble bee flying through my open window (well it'd hardly be closed would it. Mr N?) and - oh, it's buggered off! I actually found it almost impossible to work for the first couple of weeks, but then it all came back to me. Not necessarily untouched by insanity - I'm writing the definitive biography of a junior reporter called William Shakespeare. It's going very well, and will soon be finished. Fortunately I have a photograph of him for the front cover, and Amazon will never know it's not entirely authentic. It's called Shakespeare of the Globe, and I'm going for a lie-down now.
Umberto Tosi said…
Strange indeed - given that our perceptions arise from our interaction with the world, not just from "out there." Yes. We need winning stories - albeit plausibly complex and engaging - not more dystopian cynicism. Our problems and failings are obvious already, but not so much our strengths.
Peter Leyland said…
Thanks for the really positive comments Debbie. Makes me want to get writing more.
So true about people reviewing their lives - I've definitely realised that although my part time day job can be done from home (better than I do it at work, in fact), I would be happier not having to bother with it at all.

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