Deferred Gratification – Part 1

A few weeks ago, I was inwardly bemoaning the fact that my calendar for 2020 was looking a bit sparse in terms of backpacking trips, with just the TGO Challenge and one long weekend on Dartmoor, inked in. No trips to the Lakes, no section of South West Coast Path. Nothing that would involve taking time out of work – such was my work pattern that every day counted.

Now, how things have changed.

On the one hand I have all the time in the world, and on the other no ability to actually use it doing the things I like doing. And in a complete reversal, work is no longer the barrier, but the means of occupying myself for the enforced hibernation of life generally. The diary is now empty: gigs rescheduled to later in the year or next year; the TGO Challenge scrapped in favour of a bye into next year’s; no Easter break that we’ve done every year with friends since 1994; no Dartmoor Perambulation. The only things in the diary for the rest of this year either haven’t got close enough to be cancelled yet, or are themselves rescheduled due to the current situation.

We are fortunate though, and know it – we’re well equipped to hunker down at home, and we’re not the sort of bellends to blatantly ignore government instructions and head for the beach merely because the sun is out. I’m currently trying to get my head around the chance that sunbathing (ie emphatically NOT exercise) could conceivably lead to ACTUAL exercise being banned.

Some people are going to suffer from the enforced isolation and inability to be social 24/7. For me, this is more like a government-approved endorsement of my normal modus operandi !

I like my own company.

I always have.

Nevertheless, things are still needed to help fill the time and provide a bit of variety, and with the hills closed to me the fact they’re closed to everyone else too, is as if they don’t exist. No point in mourning their absence. With that removed from the equation, everything I actually need is at home, or in the supermarket nearby, or deliverable.

So how have I been passing the time ?

Well, since this all started I have been out in the car precisely once, and that was a nocturnal mission to recover our daughter from university before the lockdown took proper effect. Whether that was right or wrong in the spirit of the “rules” is probably debatable, but it was the right thing to do in practice, given her situation and the timescales we’re looking at. She spent a week quarantined in her room when we got her home. She may have had “it” as she lost her sense of smell, but we’ll never know – this is the girl who combated swine flu with a lie down one afternoon. We briefly thought we might have picked something up, but looking back it was almost certainly the onset of hayfever season.

I was initially pretty good at establishing a wholesome routine – I’d get up at the time I would normally have done for going to work, and use the time to “travel” to work (ie go for an early morning walk). In the first week of lockdown proper, I went for not one run, but three. The irony that after weeks of struggling to get around Parkrun once a week, I’m now running the same distance, with more ascent in it, without stopping, and doing it multiple times a week.

On one of my local walks, I ventured a little further – outside of the estate I live on – and I have to tell you reader that it was like the Wild West. Distancing was a concept that hadn’t made it to that area, and it was a profoundly scary walk, under the circumstances. I haven’t set foot there again. Walks have been confined to the nicer part of town, and wherever possible taking advantage of what meagre strips of quasi-countryside exist.

Most people around where I live are following the social distancing guidelines, but you do meet the occasional bellend who completely ignores it. Most commonly these are runners. I had one this morning. Remarks are made on the standard of distancing, the severity and audibility of which are proportionate to both the degree of invasion of my 2m exclusion zone, and my perception of my ability to win a fight with the offender (today’s was a moderately volumed “twat”).

The early good intentions, have of course slipped a bit. The clocks being put forward NEVER throws me out when I have to get up to go to work in the immediate aftermath, but it’s completely torpedoed my routine now. To the extent that I’m waking that bit later and missing the optimal window for avoiding interactions on the local pavements.

Then there’s camping. Yet to have my first camp of the year, and with all prospects of being able to do so removed, the appeal of camping in the garden has soared. For some backpacking is more about the journey and the landscape, but for me it is as much about the camping too. I like camping. There, I’ve said it.

Missing proper camps, I’ve spent 3 nights in the garden instead:

One other thing I’ve been quite conscious of – the balance between supporting businesses, particularly small businesses (where most of my gear comes from), and minimising the amount I have delivered. Each delivery risks spreading the virus further and exposing those workers further, but at the same time it’s supporting their jobs. It’s a tricky balance. Of course, with no prospect of getting out anyway, there is no need to be buying large amounts of gear. Plus a small part of me thinks it sensible to not buy stuff I might not live to use.

Art has stopped completely. You’d think this would be an ideal opportunity, wouldn’t you ? But, the simple point is that I tend to have a good pause after a show/fair, as it can be quite intense preparing for the show/fair. And I had a fair mid-March, immediately before everything went nuts. It’s nice to put painting to one side and pick it up when I’m ready, and not try to force it. Even so, I can see this is a good opportunity to spend the time experimenting a bit, and also to dust off the old watercolour skills, having not touched watercolour for a good year or so. Watch this space…

So we enter into week 3 of full lockdown, and week 4 of full or partial lockdown. The sun is shining, I’ve just spent the night in the garden in my favourite shelter, and my legs tingle with the effort of an 11km walk at sunrise this morning. Not everything is awful.

I debated whether or not to write about the current situation, sure every man and his dog will feel the need to say something, but in the end wanted to record this time, which is likely to remain significant in retrospect, for myself, as a reminder of how I spent the time. That’s all.

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