Published

In the mirror, Wednesday

She’d always had circles beneath her eyes, but in recent years they’d grown darker, deeper, puffier. Vague attempts to get more sleep or eat better usually fell by the wayside, and only stretches of rest seemed to have an effect. Today, remnants of mascara showed, faintly smudged, at the base of both lower lashes.

At some point, she couldn’t remember when, sun spots had appeared. The largest one, the size of a shelled pistachio, enveloped the narrow end of her left eyebrow. Another sat just above the end of her right eyebrow, and made her wonder about the correlation between sun exposure and the sensitivity of the eye area.

Two distinct freckles rested on her left cheekbone, forming a discreet constellation with two more pairs on the delicate underside of her neck. More subtle freckles were generously distributed across her face, evidence of a childhood in the sun now dulled by grey skies that had pervaded the last decade.

Faint blotches are visible on either side of her chin. As a teen her skin had been enviably clear, but in her early twenties her hormones had wreaked a late vengeance. His appearance marked their disappearance, an indication of his stabilising effect on her.

An exercise in paying attention, after Anne Lamott.

Published

Pandemic policy update

Today’s national pandemic policy, announced 2 February

Status: Continued strict lockdown with a curfew

• primary schools and childcare centres will reopen as of 8 Feb *
• retail stores will remain closed, however as of 10 Feb customers can collect goods ordered in advance, at pre-agreed times *
• the curfew, between 21.00 and 4.30, will remain in place until 10 Feb, when it will be reviewed *
• only go outside with members of your household, on your own or with 1 other person *
• no more than 1 person aged 13 or over at your home per day
• visit no more than 1 other household per day
• Work from home. Only people whose presence is essential to operational processes can go to work
• do not travel abroad and do not book trips abroad until 31 March
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
• public transport should be used for essential travel only
• food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted
• all retail stores, museums, zoos, cinemas, amusement parks and other public spaces are closed
• no alcohol sold after 8pm

*revised from the previous policy update

Published

In the mirror, Sunday

Windswept, white tips splay forth, like piercing sunbeams, their roots merging into a medium-brown part just left of centre. A blonde wave gathers fine glossy strands upward and across, eventually disappearing from sight into a messy tuck at the back of the head. The hairline cascades, as if a curtain pulled back by ties, not once, but twice. Wispy soft tufts gather delicately before small, pinned ears ending in rounded lobes, each displaying a bright gem encircled in gold – a rare gift from her father.

An exercise in paying attention, after Anne Lamott.

Published

Pandemic policy update

National pandemic policy, effective from 23 January

Status: Strict lockdown with a curfew

• no-one is permitted to be outdoors between 21.00 and 4.30 without an official curfew exemption *
• no more than 1 person aged 13 or over at your home per day *
• visit no more than 1 other household per day *
• work from home. Only people whose presence is essential to operational processes can go to work *
• do not travel abroad and do not book trips abroad until 31 March *
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
• public transport should be used for essential travel only
• no more than 2 people can form a group outside the home
• food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted
• all retail stores, museums, zoos, cinemas, amusement parks and other public spaces are closed
• no alcohol sold after 8pm

*revised from the previous policy update

Published

Pandemic policy update

National pandemic policy, effective from 15 December

Status: Strict Lockdown

• public transport should be used for essential travel only *
• no more than 1 group of up to 2 visitors to your home in one day *
• no more than 2 people can form a group outside the home *
• all retail stores, museums, zoos, cinemas, amusement parks and other public spaces are closed *
• do not travel abroad and do not book trips abroad until mid-March *
• work from home, unless that is not possible
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
• no alcohol sold after 8pm

• food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted

*revised from the previous policy update

Published

Pandemic policy update

National pandemic policy, in place from 17 November:

Status: Loosened Partial Lockdown

• travel as little as possible *
• maximum of 3 visitors to your home in one day *
• no more than 4 people can form a group outside the home *
• all food and drinks establishments are closed, takeaways excepted
• museums, zoos, amusement parks by staggered appointment *
• work from home, unless that is not possible
• masks to be worn in indoor spaces
• retail stores closed by 8pm
• no alcohol sold after 8pm

*revised from the previous policy update

Published

Suffering like Sadie

In her essay ‘Suffering Like Mel Gibson’, Zadie Smith more eloquently argues what I was hacking at in ‘What we’ve lost’. In short, she suggests that the acknowledgement of suffering can be seen as an act of self-care. She writes, ‘suffering has an absolute relation to the suffering individual’ and therefore no-one has the right to judge the severity of another’s discomfort. Extracts pieced together here as a summary.

The misery is very precisely designed, and different for each person, and if you didn’t know better you’d say the gods of comedy and tragedy had a hand in it. The single human, in the city apartment thinks: I have never known such loneliness. The married human, in the country place, with partner and children, dreams of isolation within isolation … The widower enters a second widowhood. The pensioner an early twilight. Everybody learns the irrelevance of these matters next to ‘real suffering’…

Early on in the crisis, I read a news story concerning a young woman of only seventeen, who had killed herself three weeks into lockdown, because she couldn’t ‘go out and see her friends’. She was not a nurse, with inadequate PPE and a long commute, arriving at a ward of terrified people, bracing herself for a long day of death. But her suffering, like all suffering, was an absolute in her own mind, and applied itself to her body and mind as if uniquely shaped for her, and she could not overcome it and so she died…

…when the bad day in your week finally arrives – and it comes to all – by which I mean that particular moment when your sufferings, as puny as they may be in the wider scheme of things, direct themselves absolutely and only to you, as if precisely designed to destroy you and only you, at that point it might be worth allowing yourself the admission of the reality of suffering.

Zadie Smith in Intimations, pg 29

Published

All eyes on the presidency

Over the last four days I’ve been unusually attached to my phone, regularly refreshing The New York Times to note leads, margins and the percentage of reported votes.

First stats showed strong support for Trump – at face value looking as though the polls had got it all wrong. Again. Cue flashbacks to the 2015 EU referendum and the 2016 US and 2019 UK elections. But pandemic disruption in 2020 has impacted voting methods too, with an unprecedented proportion of ballots being lodged by mail. Those inclined to vote by mail for reasons of social distancing tend to be science-led and Democratic-leaning, located in more densely populated counties which take longer to tally. Hence, the widespread approach of counting in-person votes first and mail-in votes second created a false sense of ‘count manipulation’, or as Trump would call it ‘voter fraud’, as Arizona and Nevada, and more critically Pennsylvania and Georgia slowly turned blue.

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