I work on Saturdays until quite late, too late to start cooking dinner. So my husband Marcel cooks on Saturday. I thought it would be nice to capture him in action in the kitchen, and I was put in mind of Parisian urban sketcher Mat Let’s USk Talks Challenge: “Observe and Sketch a Story of Love”. This is my story of love. Marcel made sweet and sour pork spare ribs, stir-fried vegetables and noodles. Mushrooms and carrots lay chopped up on the counter, waiting to be cooked. Then they were cooked and put in a ceramic dish; you can see both before and after pictures of the vegetables, just as you can see two sketches of Marcel, because you can do that with a sketch. I guess the story of love only goes so far – he told me there was no chance whatsoever that he would stop cooking and keep still to be sketched. I probably shouldn’t complain, as the dinner might not have turned out so nicely had he stopped doing culinary stuff.
These days, things are finding their own Corona Groove. The family has all started taking turns to cook one day each week. They’re making beautiful crafty things and fixing stuff. I have started to leave the house. I still haven’t travelled far, but the dreamy state of semi-suspended animation that I was in has given way to a feeling of normality. I’m sketching less.
To be honest, my life hasn’t changed a whole lot during the lockdown. Marcel and I have worked from home for many years, so it’s not as if we were suddenly thrown together. The kids are around all the time, true, but it’s not so long since we had them around more often anyway. My dog hasn’t sprained his tail from extra wagging with joy at seeing me more often (as I heard someone’s dog did) because I was with him all the time before Covid. The uncertainty about where my next paycheck was coming from has been with me for well over a decade, as a freelance artist, so no difference there. I’m used to thinking creatively about my next financial scheme, and to be honest I thrive on it: my father, Paddy, is an engineer and true entrepreneur, so I grew up with it. So all in all my life is not very different from before.
But I think some things will be different. In the absence of a vaccine (whose advent is by no means certain), there is a time coming when no one will know when or if the virus is going to strike them down. Just as our ancestors lived through periods of plague, with none of the knowledge of how to stay healthy that we have now, so we will live through our own period of plague. It might turn out to be a time of tremendous creativity, as we realise that there is nothing to be gained by waiting for the time to be “right”. The time is right, right now. Seize the day.
People you haven’t spoken to in a while say “How are you doing, in this crazy time?” It strikes me that the time before this was a lot crazier. The intensity of the travel, the get-it-now culture (of which I took a most enthusiastic part). That was weird. This is less weird. It’s less weird for my kids and husband to take a day each every week to cook than to expect one person to do it seven nights a week, especially when that person is busier than some others. It’s less weird to smell the roses when their loveliness accosts your nostrils, than to hurry past. It’s less weird to have young, clever humans using their hands and imaginations to make and mend stuff than to operate a game console all day long.
I am conscious that it is not November, when we are far from long sunny days and the riot of fresh green they are now, but are instead short and dark and dismal. It is May, the most glorious month in Ireland. And, for now, I have stepped off the hamster wheel, and it is calm and still where I am standing. The view from here is good.