Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

The Corona Diaries: Chapter 5 – Stockholm Syndrome

I’ve been feeling much more positive the last couple of days. Time is such a precious resource that is often in short supply – and now we are in lockdown we have more free time than I can ever remember having. It’s like being a kid again, away from the constraints of the clock and with few responsibilities. It’s quite liberating really.

I find I’ve been using the telephone much more than usual – both at work and in my home life (which are, of course, beginning to merge into one). I managed to get through on the phone to pay my bills today – an encouraging sign that THERE ARE OTHER HUMANS OUT THERE. And I’ve been messaging my friends from Walsall – many of whom live alone, in an area badly affected by coronavirus. Had my life not been quite so chaotic this past year, I might be living in isolation in Walsall myself right now. Never will I take Lee or my home town for granted.

The MOT on the car was due in early April so we’d got in ahead of the lockdown to ensure we were legal to drive by booking it in last week. Now we learned that MOTs would be waived for the next six months. It seems sometimes it pays to be less organised…

We have decided to take advantage of the Government’s kind offer to allow us out of the house to exercise once a day. This will be beneficial for our physical and mental health. Still not quite recovered from our bike ride on Saturday (cough now cleared up but still slightly chesty), we decided to go for a walk on Tuesday evening. Dear reader, can you remember the last time you took a walk – with nowhere in particular to go – just simply for the sake of taking a walk? I certainly can’t. There has always been a purpose to my walks – somewhere to be at the end of it and/or a few pubs along the way. But when Lee suggested going for a walk after tea, I thought ‘yeah, why not?’

Dear reader it was wonderfully serene, with hardly any sound to be heard, with hardly any traffic on the road. There weren’t many people about – just the occasional dog-walker. Now you know in the friendly north we say a cheery ‘hello’ to people as we pass them on the street? Well not any more. Now, when seeing another person approaching us, we get a shudder down our spine, emit an ‘eek!’ and immediately cross to the other side of the road, taking care not to make eye contact with the other person JUST IN CASE they might want to engage you in conversation, during which they might SNEEZE on you. Noooooo! Far safer to avoid public contact at all costs.

In my new liberated state I hadn’t taken my phone out with me (it was unthinkable I’d EVER go out without my phone even a week ago). However I observed so much on this leisurely walk that I found myself wishing I had my phone to take photos. There was an abandoned finger puppet on a fence post and a sign outside a church saying NO SERVICES UNTIL FURTHER NOTICE. Life is beginning to feel like a Stephen King novel at times.

It was a little chilly on our walk this evening so we switched to a lunchtime walk on Wednesday – which was much more favourable. At a balmy 16C we didn’t even need a coat. Of course I took one anyway (my summer jacket) but ended up carrying it most of the way. Again, the walk was most pleasant. We spotted a huge plume of smoke in the distance and headed in that general direction to find out what was going on. Was the garden centre on fire? A fire engine whizzed past us. We continued apace and finally reached the scene of the fire. It was a man having a big bonfire.

We continued on to the home of AFC Blackpool, whose ground I had never visited before.

We also happened across a car with a moustache!

We saw a bunny too, but he was too quick for me to photograph! Spotting bunnies always makes me smile.

Upon returning home, I opened the windows in my office/bedroom and breathed in fresh air for the rest of the afternoon. Don’t you find yourself appreciating the fresh air so much more these days, dear reader?

I don’t know if it was the exercise or the fresh air – or my new-found acceptance and (dare I say) contentment with this new lifestyle – but I was feeling really good today. Indeed I felt so good I began to suspect I had a migraine on the way (a ‘high’ sometimes precedes a migraine). But, dear reader, the migraine hasn’t materialised. Could it be that I am truly happy with this new life? This is, after all, (an admittedly fucked up version of) the life I have dreamed of. An escape from the rat race, the daily commute, the train delays, being able to stay at home and have time and freedom to BE CREATIVE? I’m at home all day with Lee, who spends all day being creative himself, upskilling and editing videos in another room. Granted I am still working during the day but I still have so much free time, with no commuting and no football. I’m really enjoying it.

Am I developing Stockholm Syndrome?

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22447726

By which I mean becoming accepting of my captor (coronavirus) and learning to adapt to and accept my prisoner (locked down) status. For what is the alternative? Mental trauma? I would like to avoid that at all costs. After a wobble earlier in the week, I am feeling much better now. If Stockholm Syndrome works for me then I’ll stick with it if I can.

I’ve also turned teetotal since becoming a hermit. I don’t doubt that that, too, is contributing to my more positive state of mind. Once upon a time I would drink at home every night without fail – not to excess, just a couple of bottles of beer – and I’m glad I’m free of that cycle now. That would not be good for my mental health (or relationship) right now.

I suggested we have a date night tonight. We were going to have our tea in the garden but decided that moving the table and chairs out there would be way too much faff (plus we were tired after our lunchtime walk, after which I needed a lie down!). But we put a candle on the table while we ate before relaxing in front of the big screen to watch a film. We had relaxed our ‘no TV before 9pm’ rule tonight because this wasn’t TV, it was a movie date.

I’d also been catching up on Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway. Last weekend’s show had been filmed without a studio audience – and at one point during the show, Dec stood on Ant’s right (to the left as the viewer faces them). The world really was being turned on it’s head, wasn’t it? First they stop filming Corrie and now we are faced with Dec & Ant. Is NOTHING sacred?

Yesterday my eye had been caught by a trailer on Netflix for The Occupant – so this was our film of choice for date night.

We were somewhat distracted at the start of the film with the characters’ lips not moving in sync with the dialogue. I soon deduced that it was a Spanish film dubbed into English but Lee wasn’t having any of it. Dubbing really is of such a higher standard than it was back in the day. I have been watching Cable Girls dubbed (I love Spanish dramas) and, after some initial reservations, find I often prefer it to subtitles.

I really enjoyed the film – although it is certainly marmite. It reminded me of one of my favourite films of all time, another Spanish dark film, Sleep Tight. If you like dark stuff that’s different from the norm, give this a go:

We rounded off the evening by watching a couple of selected episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Lee picked the one where Picard lived a whole other life in the space of 25 minutes. And I picked a classic Data episode, where he attempted a romantic relationship. I love Data. In fact I named my cat after him once upon a time.

The latest football news to emerge was the cancellation of the seasons at steps 5 & 6 of the National League system. I guess this is an easier decision to make at lower levels, with relatively little money being involved compared to the top divisions. For it is surely the money, player power, sponsorship deals and threats of legal action at the higher levels that is preventing (or delaying?) them taking the same decision. The welfare of human beings should come first, which makes the cancellation of the season a no-brainer. It is also not fair on the players to keep them in limbo for all this time. If they could have closure they could enjoy a proper break with their families like so many of us who are safe in the knowledge that we don’t have to worry about going out to work, exposing ourselves to this virus over the coming months. For goodness’ sake let them get on with their lives for a few months and don’t leave them in limbo.

What with Donald Trump now up in arms and threatening to send US citizens back out to work to die to keep the economy moving, because, apparently, the current solution being trialled by the rest of the world is ‘worse than the problem’, this whole coronavirus pandemic is beginning to feel like a global social experiment. We’ve all seen the TV programmes where groups of people are cut off from the outside world and subjected to different realities to see how their behaviour is affected. Derren Brown even engineered a situation where someone was prepared to kill another human being. And of course there is Big Brother and Love Island and I’m a Celebrity. But this isn’t a game. This isn’t a TV show. This is our life now.

How will the human race survive this? What will the world be like on the other side? It will be much changed, for sure. We are part of history here, dear reader. If we stay safe we will get through this.

This too shall pass.

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