At times, I manage to forget the wider world and focus on what I’m supposed to be doing – be it painting or writing or faffing around on the internet. Then, with a feeling like an infant’s startle reflex, I remember. And the world comes crashing in.
That would be the World v.2.0 Our new, altered world. Oh, people. This is a strange and dangerous time for us humans, isn’t it? Full of rumour and fear and people behaving in very strange ways. There are acts of magnificence and mendacity ; intelligence and idiocy side-by-side but please would you maintain the 2m approved personal distance or I might start screaming and never stop. And what’s with the toilet roll? We’re all going to die but our bums will be squeaky clean? Not the most glorious epitaph for this sorry chapter of human history. I know, you know, we all know that we can do better.
For small furry comfort, I watch my last and solitary guinea pig, the surviving Boy of The Boyz. He’s unaware that his kale supply is about to run out. His last romaine lettuce got frosted at the back of the fridge, but he’s not going to starve because I read the runes a fortnight ago and bought him two bags of nuggets and a sack of Timothy hay, so he’ll hopefully come out the other side of lockdown as a lean, mean, fighting machine. And best of all, he doesn’t know that the world has changed. He’s secure in his little guinea pig world, tunnelling through hay, gnawing my fingers and settling down each morning for an extended huddle with his adoring slave.
So that’s good.
In other news, we’ve had a very sad and difficult few weeks. My Dad died at the end of February and thanks to the amazing organisational abilities and sheer unflappability of my brother, we managed to organise a funeral in the increasing storm of the onrushing pandemic. We sent out two contradictory letters to all Dad’s friends, the first inviting them all to come and take part in his farewell, followed ten days later by the second, begging them to stay away for the good of their own health.
Sitting with a civil celebrant two weeks ago and trying to compose a eulogy to give some sense of a man who defied characterisation as a father, brother, grandparent, husband and son was an experience I would hope to never repeat. Every question our increasingly baffled celebrant asked proved to be impossible for my brother and I to answer. Had we ever heard him laugh? What made him smile? The fact that neither of us could manage any coherent replies drove us to the Laphrohaig after the celebrant had gone.
My Dad is everywhere and nowhere now. He is present in each and every one of the beautiful musical instruments he spent the majority of his 95 years making. Present in my big blonde fiddle. Present in my daughter’s cello. Present in every harpsichord, lute, viola, chair, table, chopping board, Maltese dispenser(!), rocking horse, baby swing, manuscript cabinet, bow, Baroque bow, Hardanger fiddle, clarsach and, amazingly, a hurdy-gurdy. But especially in the violins.
Peer into the secret unvarnished heart of every fiddle and there, in his beautiful italic hand ; his name and date. He was here. He walked the Earth. He breathed the air and made beautiful things from wood. And then he slipped away, alongside so many thousands of his fellow Italians. We are not alone in our sadness, my brother and I. We are not alone in our fear and uncertainty.
One of the loveliest things seen in recent weeks was the news of a message of support stencilled on crates of medical supplies sent from China to Italy:
We are all waves of the same sea, leaves of the same tree, flowers of the same garden.
One world, one heart. Better days will come.
Lots of love from LockdownUK