Very strange, difficult, stressful times. For some, already the worst of times. So far, we’ve been lucky.
But our world contracts. People our age are now being asked to stay close to home, to reduce social contacts, and so on. How stern is the injunction? It’s not entirely clear. Fortunately, we live very near the river and Midsummer Common; we can take walks out when the paths are quiet. But I can foresee that we will largely be confined for weeks to this small corner of Cambridge.
In fact, we have been more-or-less self-isolating for a week already, because that seems wisest for us, various things being considered. We’ve already stopped going to cafés, I’ve stopped going to the gym, University of the Third Age classes and walking groups have been suspended. We’re not meeting up with friends. Family are mostly elsewhere anyway. We are used to a very quiet life, so will no doubt cope better than many. But there is a difference between quietness and prolonged isolation. We’ll just have to find some time-consuming and enjoyable house-bound projects. So, for a start, there’s the decoration of three or four rooms we’ve been meaning to do ever since the builders left. Already there has been an amount of comfort baking — we’ll need to do more home exercise too, to counteract that. And then this isn’t a house without books to read …
I’ll keep you posted about how things go as the weeks roll on.
Talking of books, when I put Emily Thomas’s The Meaning of Travel away alongside other travel books, I found a copy of Eric Newby’s Love and War in the Appenines. I couldn’t remember ever having read it before. Here’s one of the advantages of age; your bookshelves renew themselves!
Newby tells of his adventures as a prisoner of war and then afterwards, when he takes to the mountains, sheltered by courageous Italian peasants, in the process meeting Wanda who later becomes his wife. This perhaps isn’t one of the reflective, philosophically-coloured, travel books: but Newby’s story is very engaging as he draws some memorable characters, and sketches both a landscape and a lost way of life. I rattled through it in a few days; a very enjoyable distraction from these differently troubled times.