Thoughts on lockdown.

I started (and abandoned), the blog below in January, but since then everything has changed with the arrival of this dreadful virus. When I first heard we would be in lockdown, I imagined that I could get lots of work done, what could be simpler? In my studio with no distractions, no visitors, lots of notebooks to work from and the lengthening of the days. But I couldn’t have been more wrong:

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It turns out that the constant news bombardment and all the sadness has left me without the heart to work on anything. And my thoughts are filled with dread for what is happening now and what life will be like when it has passed. This pandemic has shrunk our lives. We are living a much simpler life, not rushing about “chasing our tails”, taking time to cook meals and looking out for each other. Having the time to phone or with varying results zoom people to talk and see how they are. With the lack of traffic we are hearing the birds and smelling spring turn into summer. We have been forced to live like members of a small town, aware of the seasons, where people take enjoyment from the everyday; what I thought was nosey is simply being more caring.

People have been saying that nothing will be the same in the world when this is over, I really hope this will be the case and we can try to keep some of these hard-learned qualities.
When this is over I’m going to be more Italian: I’m going to hug every person I meet, spend more time with friends, I’m going to paddle in the sea and treat myself to a Teddy’s ice cream! And maybe get down to some new work.

January 2020:
It’s been months and months since I’ve written anything, mainly due to travelling a lot. Also Amy (my niece), and my cousin’s daughter, Kate, had weddings (yes, a lot of weddings last year!) and finally the mother of all things, I had a total knee replacement. The knee replacement was inevitable, after many years of procedures, jabs and denial, I pressed the nuclear button and had it done in August. The operation and hospital stay is worth a blog of it’s own and perhaps I’ll attempt that after this, but the physio and sheer tiredness I felt since had me “mithered”, as my mother would have said, for months.
What’s prompted me to recommence my writing has been our sojourns in Italy over the last 13 years and the contrast between life in a city and a small town/village.

I have always lived in Dublin: in fact I was born in the house we live in. As a child I spent long summers in Kinsale, and now as a sort-of-grown-up in Radicondoli. Recently it is the contrast between life in a city and that of a small town, be it Kinsale or Radicondoli, that has struck me most.

In Dublin I can be as reclusive / anonymous, or as out-going / interactive as I want/desire, but this choice is strictly off the menu when in a small town, and I don’t think it’s such a bad thing. At times this can be frustrating, other times comforting

To give an example, in 1980 I drove to Kinsale with Ma, and on popping into the grocer's we were asked when did we get down. Never wearing a watch my answer must have been little too vague when I said it was about 4 o’clock, as I was immediately corrected, that we had been spotted and it was an hour earlier. (This should be read in a sing-y song-y Cork accent). It did beg the question why they asked in the first place...

Many years later the exact same scenario happened the first time we drove to Radicondoli. This time the question came from a seemingly ancient ex-carabiniere neighbour who spoke with the deep husky Mafia-like voice – that all Italian men seem to acquire at a certain age – making it feel a bit more like an interrogation. Once again our time of arrival was the subject of the conversation, and again our time of arrival was corrected! At the time I was infuriated and thought that Mario was a meddling little man, but this was just his, and in fact the whole town's natural curiosity and concern for each other

On another occasion I had to go to the doctor as I had an eye problem and felt very unwell. I waited ages with a large number of mainly older residents of the town. By the time I actually met the doctor I wondered why on earth I had bothered at all as everyone in the waiting room had given me their opinion and remedy; whether I wanted it or not. At one point my unasked-for-prognosis was so serious, with lots of head nodding and hand gesturing, I was almost planning my funeral.

Another Italian small town quality I admire is their closeness to nature. They look forward to the different seasons: particularly the food they bring. And of course have festivals to celebrate them too. We’ve been to festivals of Cinghiale (wild boar), Funghi and Porcini (mushrooms). There’s even a chocolate festival in Perugia! They celebrate the wine and olive harvests with large collective dinners and parties. Italians take time to make and taste real food – in season. They frequently take time to meet and talk to each other, even if it’s only for a quick coffee. From now on I am going to try to be more Italian, even here, in Dublin.