Squeezing More than Lemonade from Life’s Lemons, 2020-2021 -- Mari Howard

'Off my branch, young squirrel!' Just look at that pigeon's face!

Depending on the place, the era, what’s fashionable, your face conforming to the ‘look’, whether revolution or conformism is in the ascendent, being the most popular person in your group takes work. Learning the latest lingo, and using it correctly. Wearing what’s on trend. Being seen where it matters. As a writer, you learn (or defy) the memes:  taking a (pretty) notebook everywhere, all-day pjs and writing in bed…Popularity, ironically, can and often does come to those who conform to the memes of the age and stage… and includes nascent ‘leadership skills…’

So, once ‘lockdown’ was achieved, memes shot around, people inevitably were picking them up. One popular stance was resentment: you were bored, you felt like a prisoner, you were buying jigsaws to do, or flour to play baking with the children (flour, for a while, disappeared). Whatever it was, nobody should welcome lockdown, and those who did were in danger of being defined as eccentric. We who prefer wearing pjs for sleeping than for work, who love their home and garden over travel and new places, (I am one) were not going to be popular or in the forefront of the latest thinking. 

Coming to write this, I am missing lockdown: zooming with friends living in faraway places and not seen in years; radio presenters broadcasting from home under the stairs, or in their garden shed, padded with duvets; performances by feisty, inventive theatre companies with interaction; exercise classes on-line, so nobody to observe one’s uselessness at balancing on one foot, arms in the air, one leg extended forwards… 

And yes, missing the space in the business of life it gave to get stuck into writing that had been suffering from my being, well, not by nature the most solitary of humans and way too fond of keeping a clean house, while the cleaners were furloughed. I have really enjoyed lockdown and made use of it, spicing up an almost-abandoned first draft, with time to get to know my characters. Re-discovering stories I wrote 30 years ago, when the kids were small, and finding they are actually good enough to publish, with a bit of editing. Caring meticulously for the garden through the winter, weeding, hoeing, digging, pruning.  Watching each stage of plants waking after the coldest time, putting out tentative leaves, clearing away those which have not survived, caring for the rest, watching for seeds to come up.

Dawn, early April,
from a back window

And finally, Nature: now this may be a meme, but for me and I would guess for many us, getting into nature has meant taking up again what we loved and knew as children, way before adult life got in the way, drove us into offices and cities, turned up the need to hurry rather than to stand and stare. 


Photography* came to the fore, whether out of the window, charting sunrises from January (6.00am) to April (7.30am) as clouds parted and re-formed, and the sky turned gold, then pink, before heralding a rainstorm (again), or catching birds and squirrels doing funny                                                   things up trees...

Bluetit, on a high branch, in a gale....

Observing the first flowers appearing in our local nature reserve, buds almost hidden close to the ground. 


Or appreciating how dedicated swan parents are, even before the cygnets emerge. This swan had patrolled the pond for weeks, taking turns with its mate who sits on the nest... and is seen chasing away one of a pair of Canada Geese.

'Out of our pond! Shoo!' 

Hoping to see catch on camera some of the less common birds. There are also  Muntjac deer, but their presence is more often seen by the evidence of a footprint, or chewed vegetation, and sometimes there's the brown flash of a weasel…

A Jay, one of a breeding pair
A fly which suddenly landed as a Brimstone butterfly rested on the grass

This picture of a huge Bumble bee, one of several who were buzzing around a Berberis bush in the garden, was simply a lucky try which turned out better than hoped. It's been an interesting time, stuck at home exploring the possibilities of the local area... 

Large bumblebee seeking nectar from a flowering Berberis shrub..

* photographs, copyright, all by the author, CMH Weiner


Eden Baylee said…
Hi Mari, great pix and a very positive spin on lockdown. I too, have enjoyed lockdown to some degree. When an adult tells me he/she is 'bored', I really have to wonder what that means.

There was never a shortage of things to do. It was only a matter of whether I wanted to do them or not. In Toronto now, we are just emerging from winter, so the garden and outdoors will take up my time. Our lockdown continues until June 2 and then there's a tiered approach until our population is fully vaccinated. It's been a long haul. I'm ready to get back out there.

Be well,
Griselda Heppel said…
I am in awe of your photographs, particularly the swan chasing away a duck and the bumble bee on the berberis. But they are all terrific.

I don't miss lockdown but I DO miss that gorgeous warm April 2020 when it was no hardship to be allowed out only for exercise once a day, because the days were so beautiful and the once a day could easily be a 3 hour walk in the sunshine. Now it's nearly June and I can't feel the end of my nose for cold. In my own house. With the heating on. Gaaaah.
I too can see your point about missing lockdown, and in fact I'm finding it quite hard to go out anywhere much even now that I've had both vaccinations. I seem to have got into a good routine at home and to be catching up on all kinds of activities and starting to listen to audiobooks too. When did I have time to fit in my day job?!
Lovely comments, people - at first I had none, and I worried I'd made a big mistake and upset or annoyed everyone with this piece... O so feel the same as Cecilia Peartree on this, so much to do potentially... it is the NHS staff and those who have lost their jobs who should complain, not those of us who have managed living at home (not "stuck") and to find those things...

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