8 April 2020

Reading During a Pandemic

Well this isn't going as well as I imagined it would.  Days and weeks without routine, doing as I pleased without watching the clock, reading sessions that would last for hours and hours.

A much slower pace and more time at home resulted in noticing the fridge had developed a bit of a  groan.  But shopping for a new appliance during a pandemic wasn't the slightest bit fun, nor should it be.  Line up, state your business, wait for your escort to the appropriate section of the store, and don't hang about.  Everything was wiped down as soon as we moved along, and for good reason, but it's behaviour so far removed from what we're used to.  We had three trips like that before choosing and each time we arrived back home was such a relief.  Then delivery day loomed ahead.   We had the choice of free delivery which meant deliverymen leaving said fridge on the curb, or pay a fee and it would be settled into the kitchen.  We chose the latter followed by an intense session of washing down everything and a small amount of finger-crossing, glad it was over.  I only managed to read a handful of pages that week.

During all of last week my plans to sail through the day in dog clothes and sans make-up were scuppered by daily staff meetings via zoom.  People less needy of human contact kept their video off but it was so uplifting to see my work family that the fuss was worth it.  And hasn't the bookshelf porn during interviews and news reports been fun?  A friend of ours has organized a weekly pub quiz through another site but it's missing the charm of passing fingers foods around the table, wet glass rings on our answer sheet and microphone feedback.  Again, nervous energy kept me from enjoying much reading time. 

After a circuit of news on local channels, then the international ones, it's best to take the dog for a walk so we can try to forget the numbers.  When the house feels too small, then the neighbourhood feels too small, we put Kip in the car and go for a drive.  That sort of thing is frowned upon but it's been the best day-brightener there is.  I sewed a mask and hodge-podged a pretty painting of a rugosa rose onto a beach rock.  A friend asked if I had any mystery novels she could borrow so we scoured the shelves and dropped off a bag on her porch along with the rock.  She swiftly followed up with a phone call, thrilled with the books but extra pleased about the rock!

When coronavirus sent us home from work I chose a very cosy E H Young novel as my comfort read.  But it couldn't keep my thoughts from going to the 'what ifs' or 'what next'.  I daydreamed through chapter after chapter, eventually there was no point in bothering.  A few days ago I picked up The Duchess of Bloomsbury Street by Helene Hanff and found it a better fit - and it was short.  The author's enthusiasm for each new day of her first trip to London reminded me of my first trip there....and every return visit, for that matter.  She writes excitedly about Russell Square, Lincoln's Inn, the National Gallery, Charlotte Street restaurants, Chelsea and Regent's Park.  In her bold American manner, the comparisons of how things are done differently in England made me laugh more than a few times.  And when I read that receiving a cheque from Reader's Digest for £50 allowed her to buy a designer purse from Harrod's and a dress from Harvey Nichols, I sighed.  Oh to visit London now with pricing from the 70s.

My estimated return date at the library isn't until the beginning of July.  At some point, strangely, more and more of this current state of drifting will become normal.  Until that happens I don't think I'll be sinking into a book in quite the same way but hopefully it's not far off. 

Melissa Scott Miller 'Bloomsbury Square'


  1. Darlene! I smiled as I read this - it's strange how all this time somehow melts into days of nothingness, isn't it? I brought piles of books with me to my sister's (where I'm sitting out the lockdown) and I've barely touched them. I'd planned to be SO productive...and yet somehow 10am arrives and I'm still in my pyjamas! Thank goodness for teaching from home via zoom - I have to be dressed and presentable, otherwise things could go downhill quickly...! Glad you're keeping in good spirits - sending love - and hoping it won't be long before we can meet again in Bloomsbury! x

    1. Hi Rachel!
      Your nephews must love having you around and it's such a nice time of year to be in a village surrounded by countryside. Am I doing a good job of not sounding too envious?
      It's great that you're still able to connect with your students. We've passed a few houses on our nightly walks...laptops, books and children hard at work at the dining room table. I hope every teacher is adding this experience to their CV!
      Best wishes to you and yours during these strange times, and yes, you can be sure I'll be back in Bloomsbury as soon as possible. I'll be expecting another piano recital so stay sharp! x

  2. The best laid plains, eh? I think a lot of people are learning right now that the hobbies we love and dream of having more time for aren't quite the thing we need in our current situation. I for one can think of nothing nicer than spending hours reading and hiding from people yet I am delighted to have Zoom chats with colleagues and friends and have barely read anything in the last month. So strange to see how we all handle this but, for the most part, encouraging to see how well people adapt.

    1. Hi Claire!
      We are an adaptable bunch, aren't we. So much so, that returning to 'normal' will feel a bit strange, and I'm wondering how many people on the verge of retirement will decide to call time on their job.
      A topic of conversation with my friends has been about the first threshold we'll cross once we can...mine is an hour long browse in a second-hand bookshop. Kip would argue it should be a trip to the pet food store so he can sniff everything in the treats aisle.
      Keep well and I hope you're back to your trip plans soon!

  3. We are on a curfew for the last month. There is no going anywhere as it is militarily controlled and I am in fits seeing the police overseas trying to prevent people on a beach and in the parks. It would be a totally different scenario here (if it happens which I doubt it ever will). Just trying to get through the days. I thought I'd read more but it does not happen. Stay safe.

    1. Hi Mystica!
      It seems the same everywhere...not nearly as much reading as we would have thought. Isn't it crazy just how different behaviour is around the world? A man in my city was ticketed for letting his children roller blade in an empty parking lot. We're allowed out for exercise but parking lots are not allowed...even empty ones. We're all learning as we go and one day at a time sums it up for most of us. Hopefully we're back to 'normal' at some point this summer, but won't it feel strange! Take care and have a lovely day.