The prospect of dying in a nuclear war was something I thought I left behind in the 1980s. It’s not something I have thought of much since then. But this week, twice, I have been engaged in a conversation about the prospect of nuclear war, or to paraphrase how someone described it, “we all die together”.
I was in the office this week with almost all my colleagues for the first time since two years ago when we were told to start working from home. My colleagues from Ukraine looked exhausted, but more than exhausted. They were almost shaking with anger, sadness, frustration, anxiety, grief and probably some other emotions I cannot even begin to comprehend or put words to. I have no idea what to say or what I can do to help them. Can I go back to Bloganuary and make my superpower to be some kind of big stretchy human shield that could stretch across a whole country?
The results of this conflict will be felt for months and years to come. Not just in Ukraine, not just in Russia, not just in Europe. Ukraine is a breadbasket country – it grows a lot of wheat, a lot of corn/maize and a lot of sunflowers for oil. This is the time of year when farmers would be planting their fields for this year’s crops. Very little planting is probably happening right now, which means come the summer, there will be a big gap in the world supply of wheat/flour for bread, maize for beef production in Europe and for a food staple in southern Africa. Add this to a drought across northern Africa and the Middle East, countries which would typically top up shortages in their home grown supply of grain with imports from Ukraine, and the outlook is very grave indeed.
It has felt very hard this week to feel positive about anything.
This week Husband, French friend and I made a second visit to the local pub quiz, where we improved our result from 3rd last to 3rd overall. In the picture round, French Friend identified the old black-and-white photo as Louis Pasteur. Then she decided no, it couldn’t be and crossed it out. Then she decided it was Charles Dickens but we were sure it wasn’t, because from what I remembered, Charles Dickens had a long beard. As the round was coming to an end, we started to panic. I suggested it was Thomas Edison, and Husband agreed with me, so we crossed out Charles Dickens as wrote Edison instead. Of course it was Louis Pasteur, French Friend’s first instinct was right, and we are learning that in pub quiz you should always go with your first instinct and not change your mind and overthink things. Our aim is to hold our place at 3rd and try to work our way up to 2nd over the coming weeks.
This week I finished my 7th book for the year, The Invisible Mountain. I was reading it and thinking about how well it was structured as a multiple POV novel and then I started to feel sad because I haven’t written anything in what feels like months, although it’s probably weeks, and I wonder when I will have time to sit and write and work on those much talked of but still unfinished novel ideas? All my writing energy is being directed work-wards right now and not to my personal creative projects. This may be part of why I feel that everything is so heavy and joyless.
Looking ahead, next week is my last week in my current team before I move to start my secondment. I’m looking at my to-do list and feeling slightly panicked. So many reports! I have tried to estimate how much time I need to complete certain tasks, and blocking this time out in my calendar. I have filled Monday and Tuesday with the most urgent tasks; by Wednesday I’ll have to start to address the “tier 2” urgent tasks. I wanted to leave everything tidy but it’s become apparent I won’t be able to, so I just have to swallow that and accept that I’ll do as much as I can and that’s the best I can do. And it’s not like I’m leaving outright, I will still be available to answer questions, it’s just that from next Monday, I will have a whole new set of priorities and answering questions on my old job will not be very high on that list.
International Women’s Day is coming up on Tuesday. Best wishes to all International Women who are celebrating!