On yesterday’s walk I ran into a young singer and a photographer clearly planning a photo or video shoot on the shoreline. They chose what I thought a rather odd place for it: rather than the dramatic backdrop of the bulwarks under the terrace next to Pelican Stairs they were on the sandy bit of shore by the steps behind the apartments I can never remember the names of. I could hear the singer saying he wanted to do some things close to his roots but he didn’t want to do any Afro-beats. He wanted to do trance music. Then I walked off. Wapping is very yuppie-white. A few Indian and Pakistani families, though I think most of the young urban teens I see walking by are actually from Shadwell. It was exciting to see a young Black artist sharing the space I use to collect shards of pottery and stare at boats. Tried to get to bed earlier last night. Managed 11:15 but read until just past midnight. I can feel my body alive and wanting the attention of pleasure but I can never seem to settle on a fantasy that feels right: they take odd turns or develop plot lines that don’t lead towards sex. Maybe I’m starting too far back: I usually try to start from why they’d be in the room with me–a chance encounter, a series of flirtations leading up to the intimacy I crave. But I’m either asleep or my mind has wandered on a different tangent by the time we get to the undressing bit. I haven’t felt very lonely in lockdown, for the most part–I rather like my quiet secluded life, it feels natural to me. And honestly not very different to the normal pace of my existence. But yesterday I felt it. The quiet repetition of a thousand evenings just like it. Tied to my computers, multiple, unable to switch work off at the end of the day because of trying to get the approval for my research paper to go through hto the conference. Instead of truly settling in to my free time I was tied to the desk, shuffling over to the work laptop occasionally to check progress. It made my world feel small. For me, the loneliness isn’t about lack of contact with others: I have a rich and vibrant network of friends and family. It’s more about feeling unable to connect with myself or others because of the intrusion of work–or rather because of the choice that I make to prioritise work over other important parts of myself. And then filling in the waiting with “junk attention”– scrolling on social media with no intention to engage fully, just for something to do. Watching a TV show I’ve watched a dozen times already to fill a background space. Checking my phone while eating. But what’s in the foreground on an evening like that? It feels thin–lonely.
Yesterday evening I was watching the dramatic clouds at intervals: sunshine broken up by heavy bands of rain. At one point the basin was being splashed so hard it looked like diamonds rippling across the surface of the water. And we had a lovely rainbow. I’m getting more used to my new pudgy love handles, the Rubenesque body.
It’s 11:30 now, too late for a walk before the groceries at 1. But if I wait until the afternoon it’ll be crowded. And if I don’t walk I’ll become old before my time. The pandem-paunch is bothering me but only I have the power to change it. Walked to the ATM at Shadwell yesterday to change all the PINs on all my cards. Apparently no regard for distancing, not that it’s possible up there given how the road and sidewalks are configured. No, I won’t be going anywhere I can’t reach on foot any time soon. My emergency savings, I worked out, is only good for 3 months. Need to be more diligent. But I keep buying “pandemic soothers”: weighted blanket, cover for weighted blanket, new plant pots, special guacamole keeper pot, bralettes… my spending on unnecessaries hasn’t been great. But I still find the idea of moving from Newlands Quay hard to stomach. At least if I’m staying in London. I think I’ll give myself until September to decide.
Yesterday the heat wave continued, with predictable results on the Shadwell Basin crowd. A sudden downpour around 7 PM scattered many of them, leaving a relatively quiet evening. Though the fishermen were being rather rowdy as far as they go. Pelican Stairs deserted for a change though I did go later than usual. Night: a dangerous time to be skulking down a dark alley towards slippery riverside steps? Maybe the danger is part of why I like it. But I admit the two extremely drunk men with a bulldog, unable to walk in a straight line, earlier on my walk gave me pause for thought: what if they’d been at the mouth of the alley when I emerged? There is no way out. You could get trapped down there. But who wants to live their life believing everyone’s after them?
Weather continues sticky and sultry. Hard to concentrate in the day, hard to sleep at night. Evening walk yesterday. Still crowded when I went out, as for the past three nights. Again people stopped on Pelican Stairs but they were just temporarily paused. It seems my solitary sanctuary isn’t so solitary anymore. This time there was a family playing in the dusk under the terrace as well as on the sand. Couples seem to like it–they tend to sit on the steps themselves with drinks (inconsiderate!) And the occasional gang of youths is down there throwing rocks at cans or skulking. My blue and white pottery finds are continuing–I should get a display box. Need to figure out how to mount them non-destructively. My archaeologist friends might know. My body is fatter–rolls of fat visible above my hips, pronounced paunch, uneven breasts (for some reason the right one puts on weight a lot faster than the left). It was inevitable with more eating and less movement. I’m trying to think of it as seeking abundance putting on reserves, in a disruptive time. When I went for a walk a bag of co-op shopping was on the ground floor in the vestibule. I wonder if it was misdelivered. I hope there’s no dairy in there. If It’s still there today I’ll check the receipt, no point in letting the food go to waste.
My sense of time has been slipping: I keep turning my alarm off and dozing until 8:30 which doesn’t leave a lot of time for writing these pages or the morning routine before making my way to the desk. More and more reopening: July 4 is the big day. New rules, less strict. Everything can open up except a few places including theatres. I don’t like it. My agoraphobia has become pretty high. I don’t like being outside in crowds. But a move is a big thought. A very big thought.
Evening walk yesterday. An inconsiderate young couple sitting on the Pelican Stairs, refused to go down on to the sand to let me pass. The distancing rules are still two metres, as it happens. Just because we’ve gotten blase about it doesn’t mean things are normal. I dread the day I can’t avoid the Tube anymore. God help us. That was why I wanted to move to Edinburgh in the first place.
My “ordinary life” alarm has just gone off. Thirsty. Sleep so elusive at night, seeks me now in the morning when I should be bright eyed and bushy tailed. Another week. Yesterday’s unfinished chores. Many intentions uncompleted: no tray of muffins. No writing of a fictional scene in my newly started commonplace book. Laundry unfolded. Did watch TV when I said I wouldn’t. Stayed up past midnight. Did not pleasure self. I did get my sewing done, and showered, and was in touch with a few old friends. I did my mid-year passion planner and looked up grave costs and finished my note about looking for a new job. I read in my hammock, and brewed tea. I repotted some of the plants and called my parents. In short, it was a very full day. No need to overstuff it with the unaccomplished. Yesterday Siobhan mentioned something I had no memory of happening, me larking about with a harp bag pretending to be a humpbacked shark when we were in graduate school–10 years ago. And it occurred to me my life has changed so much that those memories now take up a very narrow band of life’s whole frequency, but perhaps for her and for the others it’s a much bigger part of who they still are. Maybe not. But perhaps so many of the attention-getting and emotion-driving factors of my life right now will similarly recede into curious relics in another 10 years. Occasionally I imagine myself older and I’m flooded with an image of kindness and calmness I don’t yet feel I’ve achieved. This fills me with hope and with a kind of satisfaction or a sense of completion–but I know too that this kindly older self isn’t automatic, I must create the conditions for her: I must work to be kind and calm, and self-accepting. But the clarity of the vision gives me hope.
Could I run away with the circus and write movies? Or would it feel boring if it were my job? Do jobs by nature of being jobs become boring? And could I write like that? Or am I too boring? Who wants to hear another middle class white lady telling her earnest story of self-discovery? Haven’t we enough of those already? Maybe I am where I belong: boring.
The usual rigmarole with falling back asleep after my alarm. I promised myself I’d stop scrolling my phone at bedtime and go to sleep at a decent hour. 12:15 not too bad. And my scrolling showed me Amazon is pausing their facial recognition tech for a year and Nascar has banned the confederate flag. My goodness. What rapid changes. Will they last? The speed and vehemence makes me wonder if they’ll return to the mean as quietly as they arose. But then, it felt like this when Trump was getting elected: it felt like an inevitable, shocking, unbelievable sweeping tide. And Brexit. It feels…it feels like we’re snapping back to the timeline we lost? So what now for Brexit, I wonder? Can we delay further? I do hope so. Can we get out of this utter, utter mess? Redistribution–that would be the ultimate change. Dismantling the billionaire’s club. Great, lads. You accrued wealth like a black hole. Well done you. You did it. Now throw it all back. No point keeping it all to yourself: gameplay just stops then.