Saturday 4th April
The new Lockdown Blog is here! New name, new theme! I overhear my husband Marcel telling his mum Erika (91) that Ró is writing a Living in Lockdown blog. And he didn’t share this much cooler name with me before now because…? So I have a new name, and a new theme, which is Nature, suggested by my dear husband himself. Yes, that beautiful, everlasting, everchanging thing that is unstoppable, year upon year. In Ireland we endure a horrible winter. We can just about hack it until the end of January, and then we think “great, it’s all up from here”, but in the west it’s not really like that. It goes on and on. Rain, wind, storms. Rinse and repeat. Then the end of March is suddenly upon us and once more we are astonished at the crazy stuff happening outside out windows. April arrives and suddenly you’re being woken up at 5.00am by birds going nuts. I decide to take a little scout around. Normally at this time of year our lawn is covered in cowslips, but our lawnmower had a few issues last summer and so the lawn was basically feral for the guts of a year. That meant no cowslips, as wild flowers don’t grow well in overgrown lawns, only clipped ones (that have no chemicals in them). This year, therefore, we have no cowslips. But I spy a glimpse of pale yellow in the trees at the edge of the garden. I go a little closer, and to my delight I find an enormous clump of cowslips under the larches, better by far than the slightly slender ones we get on the lawn. I drag my mother’s folding chair out, fight the whiplash branches of larch in bud and make myself comfy. I get stuck in. My first attempt is to paint directly in watercolour, with no line, as I’m frightened of the delicacy of the flowers. I don’t want to be ham-fisted with line. This does not go well, as the paint refuses to dry fast enough to do creative stuff on top. You see, there’s a fine line between control and lack of control. If you get the balance right, it’s as if you are flying, with a great aching void beneath you, which you are somehow still managing to stay above. Too much control, and it’s as dull as sitting strapped into a Ryanair seat; too little, and it’s freefall. I take out my fude pen with brown ink and I use the skinny side of the nib to catch those pretty petals without being too heavy. It’s what I know, yes, but I’m also driving very fast, so that I never catch myself getting silly about shapes being exact. Then I lash on a delicate yellow watercolour for the petals – it’s not quite right but it’s the best I can do – and I accept the results. I discover I have taken my Rosemary rigger brush out with me by accident, and it proves perfect to whip out blades of grass. All good.
I’m all done, and I’m thinking loving thoughts about dear little Reuben the terrier. This is due in no small part that he is the first “easy” dog we have owned. You don’t have to look up to know he isn’t far away, even though there are tempting barks coming from the neighbours’ houses, and even a lady dog who tends to the, well, lusty. But it’s more than that. It’s the way he amuses himself while I paint: he tootles about in the undergrowth, clearly delighted that I am in his patch. He doesn’t get bored, and finds ways to amuse himself: a branch that needs carrying off, his frisbee that needs growling at and wearing, a stone that needs rolling along with his nose, a loose pile of earth that needs digging (see muddy nose). I never worry that he’ll knock my jar of water over because he knows his own body and is not clumsy. Then he sits between me and the clump of cowslips, and allows me to scoop him up and rearrange him prettily next to the flowers. I tell him to “stay” so I can take a picture, and while he finds it hard to meet my gaze, I call his name, until one of my photos is just as I want it.
My pals in one of my whatsapp groups share a funny video. It’s an Italian man, Paolo Camilli, on the phone to a friend: he’d love to catch up with a video call, he says, but his 2020 Quarantine Agenda is full…he has two lunch dates on Skype, one or two flashmob songs on the balcony to join, a Messenger birthday celebration, a live yoga class…there’s just no time. He suggests they get together at the next End of the World event, and no sooner has he rung off than he’s reminded that his live Zumba class has started.
I go out for a fast walk around the block. As usual these days. the roads are thronged with walkers. “None of them have done any exercise since 1994,” says Paddy (18), “and now they are all on continuous marathons.” It’s true. I walk the road every day in fine weather and I barely pass a sinner. There is the couple who are up early, walking fast, the man always leading. There is the very fast guy on his own who waves briefly. There is the man in his mid-eighties who still rides his bike around and looks about 65. There are a couple of neighbours. I never see more than one of these per walk, and very often I see no one at all. But now I am weaving in and out of groups with kids, in couples, on bikes, running. I wonder will they keep this up “when this is all over”. I wear my mask because I am making a point, even though I am as sure as I can be that the air on my walk is disease-free, despite the hordes. I want to give a message: wear a mask, because you protect me, and I protect you. One of my neighbours messaged me the other day to tell me that they find me scary in my mask while I’m on my walk. However, despite the occasional naysayer, I will go on and on about wearing masks until everyone is doing so. I have a platform in my social media presence and in this blog, and I’m damned if I’m not going to use it. But there’ll still be pictures of fluffy dogs and wildflowers, and as I live in deepest rural Irish countryside I can promise you lots and lots of lovely nature stuff to come.