Hello again. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I wish that I could tell you that I have somehow had a lot on, but in fact, the opposite is true: I’ve had so little on apart from the grinding dullness of lockdown that I haven’t found much to write about.
This week, almost exactly a year to the day of my getting COVID-19, I booked an appointment to get vaccinated against it. There’s a neat symmetry to this. But more importantly what a feat of technology and science going from zero to multiple vaccines in a short period of time is. It’s not likely COVID-19 will ever become an eradicable disease in the way smallpox is, but it will be a controllable one that isn’t going to overwhelm health services and decimate the population, anywhere. That’s something to celebrate.
This morning was also a reminder that I’ve been writing a personal diary more or less daily for over 11 years. This is something that the iPad changed for me. Before its release in 2010 I was an intermittent journaler, writing occasionally in Word or Google Docs to a lesser or greater degree, and very much off and on. After the iPad was released, and once the wonderful Day One app appeared, I started writing much more. There’s something about the form factor of the iPad, even then, which encouraged the daily habit of writing for me.
Writing privately is always cathartic but what makes tools like Day One more valuable is their ability to surface what you were writing, how you were feeling and where you were over time. You start to see the repetitions and rhythms of your thoughts and your life and that is what allows you to grow and develop. When you see the same themes cropping up, year after year, you start to understand the habits and considerations that have become ingrained in you, filtering out (or at least better understanding) the shorter term worries and joys.
It also lets you see the periods of your life which became dominated by the events of family and friends around you and see how for a period of time they came to define a large part of who you were. For me, and for Kim, a large part of the last ten years was defined by caring for her mother and father and for my mother. My forties were defined by caring, death and grief. So strange to think that a decade of your life can vanish like that.
The pile of books that I want to read expands with every issue of the London Review of Books which arrives. Reading more is the yin to the yang of writing more:when I don’t do one, I don’t tend to do the other either. Whenever I reacquaint myself with one the other quickly follows. Of the many parallel lives that someone shaped like me is living in the multiverse, I sometimes wonder if the most content of all Ians is the one who reads and writes the most.
In the garden, one of our jackdaws — dubbed the CORVID-19 because there’s so many of them — has discovered that if he perches just so on a particular part of the bird feeder, he can happily peck at the one containing the fat balls with their delicious crop of worms and seeds. And, of course, he’s also worked out that pecking at bottom one will ultimately lead to all the other fat balls dropping down: like a bottomless soft drink at the restaurant, this is the gift that never stops giving. Meanwhile the blue tits, sparrows, long tail tits, robins and occasional woodpecker also come to feed, and are looking fat this year already. I suspect a crop of chicks will be getting well fed soon. The rabbits who feed on the lawn continue to mostly ignore me, and the healthy country foxes continue to patrol every now and then, making the rabbits scatter.
Our cat, George, continues to be old. At nearly 19 and with virtually every organ having a slightly different level of wonkiness, her hunting days are over and she has taken to sleeping in my armpit. She will even happily let me cover her with a blanket, which would have been anathema not that long ago. Old cats are often anxious — every fibre of their instincts are telling them they are likely to be eaten soon — and so they often tend to seek the company of their owners. George will now come and settle with me whenever I sit on a sofa.
In a week and a bit, the first quarter of the year will be over. How’s yours going? Or, like mine, has it just… gone?