It’s strange how pieces from different places connect sometimes. I’m not talking about jigsaws here (for once). I heard this week that one of the more interesting novels I’ve read in recent years, Drive your Plow over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, has been made into a movie called Spoor. I found this out while looking at a list of Era-defining Polish films from the Calvert Journal (news from the New East). I’m not particularly interested in Polish film, so it’s a surprise that I even thought to click on the link and look through the list, but I’m glad I did, because there it was. Now, my challenge is where to find a copy of this film, and then to try and persuade Husband to watch it with me – a Polish language eco-murder-mystery set in winter in a remote rural part of Poland. Yes, I can see him going for that.
This week I went to the theatre. Actual live singing-and-dancing musical theatre. For the first time in nearly 18 months. I took my friend to see Singin’ in the Rain, and it felt good to see something so light, so chirpy, so colourful, so familiar. My friend was a bit anxious about being with so many people (the theatre was quite full) – and yes, I haven’t been in a room with this many people in over a year. Pretty much everyone was wearing masks (not initially, but when the pre-show voiceover asked us to, most people complied) and almost everyone stood up at the end to applaud the cast. I think we were all happy to be out, happy to be entertained, and happy to see actors/singers/dancers doing what they do and (I know it’s acting but…) enjoying themselves. The cast did seem genuinely happy. Especially Adam Cooper in the role of Don Lockwood, who, during the eponymous scene, kicked water all over the audience members in the front five or six rows.
I’m trying to store the feeling of leaving the theatre – to add it like a coal to warm some part of my soul. It’s a kind of buzz, like excitement but not quite excitement. It’s the buzz I had after our BBQ last week – seeing people, hanging out with people, talking to people. I had a strange kind of warm buzz for some days afterwards. And seeing Singin’ in the Rain topped it up again. Is it even a buzz or is it just the absence of fear? The feeling that things look a little bit more like The Before? That some kind of knot I’ve been carrying around in my stomach for the past 17 months has started to loosen?
Also this week I went in to the office to work, but not at one of the anonymised desks, at my very own desk on my very own floor. The space I worked at for all that time in The Before and (truth be told) that I spent so much time in I had started to resent it. But this week I went there and sat in my chair at my desk and thought… Wow, those screens are really small! How did I ever work from such small displays?
I’m happy to report that all my work shoes are still safe in their drawer. No signs of mice making a nest or gnawing at the straps.
Being in my own work space again felt like I’d stepped through some kind of time-tunnel. All the calendars were still on March 2020. Post it notes stuck to the edges of my screen with reminders of things that aren’t relevant any more. It was hard to settle and concentrate, the whole office experience felt so novel. And there was the eerie silence. Normally a busy environment, the whole floor was empty except for me. No other people in sight, no other voices to be heard. Same-same but very, very different.
Of all the office plants we used to have, only one has survived. There are a whole lot of empty pots where plants used to be and this strikes me as a metaphor for the whole Covid experience. Where there used to be abundance, now there are empty spaces – spaces that were once occupied by people, shops, cafes, experiences. Spaces that it will take some time to fill again.
Book club update: local book club was supposed to meet on Wednesday, but it was bumped to Thursday as some people couldn’t make it. And on Thursday people were also saying they couldn’t make it. So it seems there were only me and one other person were waiting to get the Zoom link from the organiser at 8pm, and when it didn’t come, the other person (let’s call her Nadia), messaged the group to ask for the link. “Sorry,” came back the message from the organiser at 8.05pm, “but I haven’t sent it as there’s only three of us. I think it’s better to wait until there are more of us.” She cancelled the meeting five minutes after it was due to start! Nadia was obviously just as pissed off as I was but she got her reply in first, telling the group WhatsApp that “being in a book club takes commitment which means not just reading the book but also keeping the date of the meeting free to show up for the meeting. No date will work for everyone all the time but everyone should commit to the date agreed.”
Now we have a poll to pick the date for the next meeting which will be in September. There are 10 or more dates proposed, which seems ridiculous. By September I won’t remember anything about the book we’re discussing. I’m really only hanging on to this book club now because the whole thing is so farcical it’s giving me great blog fodder!
In the meantime International Book Club had its first meeting across three time zones: morning, afternoon and night. We mostly chatted about life because we haven’t seen each other in years, but we did set a date for the first meeting and picked the first book (Wild, by Cheryl Strayed); and the date for the second meeting and the second book (The Dry by Jane Harper). So already we are way more organised than the local book club (which I’ll point out, is amongst people who live in the same suburb).
This week we finally finished the 3000 piece jigsaw and despite Husband insisting throughout the process that there were pieces missing and that the charity shop we bought it from had ripped us off, there were no pieces missing. We did have a friend who was staying with us help us finish it over the last two days. More eyes and more hands obviously helps with puzzle building. Especially as everyone approaches puzzles differently, and everyone sees things differently. We’re leaving the completed puzzle on the table for a few days to celebrate its completion but once it goes away, no more puzzles until September.
Also while our friend was staying, she wanted to go out into the garden and check out the fruit trees. I’ve been looking at the apple trees dropping their windfalls for the past weeks and saying, “I should do something with those windfalls” but not actually doing anything. Having my friend over inspired me to make some windfall chutney. I gathered up the apples from the ground and she helped peel and chop them. We added the handful of gooseberries which was all we saved from pigeons this year, some redcurrants from the freezer that I think were actually last year’s crop, a handful of prunes that we found in the cupboard, an onion, a blend of the vinegars we had, a blend of the sugars we had and after cooking it all up for an hour – voila! – four jars of Garden Harvest Chutney. I’ve put it away in the back of the cupboard to ripen (chutney takes 4-6 weeks to ‘settle’). It felt good to be productive. I used to make jam every year but last year – strangely, considering how much time at home I had – I hardly did any preserving at all.
I think over the past year, the uncertainty and unfamiliarity of the situation we were in pushed people in one of two ways – either you ran about trying to fill your days with activities in an attempt to prove to yourself that you were still in control, leading to possible burnout or fatigue, crashing when you realised you couldn’t outrun the uncertainty; or the uncertainty drained you of drive, and you really had to push yourself to get stuff done, to move out of the uncertainty inertia. I think I’ve been in the second group, and even now, when we’re starting to see more glimpses of life that looks like The Before, I’m having to push myself to start to move again, to re-engage with things again. To remember that at some point I will have to start participating in life face-to-face again, not just interacting with it through a screen.
On that note, I’ll sign off and go do some face-to-face interaction with my laundry basket. I hope this week you manage to put some pieces together.