Not Business as Usual
Before COVID-19, “lockdowns” only happened in tough, maximumsecurity prisons in response to an emergency such as a prison breakout. Sirens wailed, metal doors slammed shut, and armed guards boomed orders. The new “lockdown”, the social restrictions that we’ve all come to know, may well be a less violent event but it hits many people with the same dread as the deadening banging of prison doors. Indeed, it’s a kind of imprisonment.
If businesses get closed, especially restaurants and cafes, it can be especially distressing, as a void replaces the morning coffee, the afternoon tea, the evening beer. At most, you’ll be able to purchase a takeaway, scurrying away with your latte in a plastic beaker like a squirrel with an acorn.
What do you do to pass all the extra time that the pandemic has heaped on you? Here are some ideas, all of them virus-proof, meaning that they won’t be affected by the current state of the world.
Take up Bird Watching
Collecting birds’ eggs, or, from a bird’s point of view, stealing the kids, has been illegal in the UK since 1954, and egg thieves have had to turn to a less harmful pastime. Bird watching is, like train spotting, a solitary, nerdy hobby that requires patience and just a touch of whatever it is that makes somebody with compulsive- disorder- syndrome tick. Indonesia has a frightful diversity of birds, such as the spotted whistling duck, the plumed whistling duck, and the wandering whistling duck – not “quacking” ducks, you should note. Incidentally, Indonesia’s national bird is an eagle, which derives from Garuda, the mythical bird vehicle of Vishnu in Hinduism. Garuda is also the name of the national airline, so you could do some plane spotting while you’re at it and multiply your nerd credentials.
A dropped stitch may provide the ultimate moment of drama in knitting, but this pastime is more interesting than it looks and should be learned at leisure. Once you’ve bought your balls of wool, needles, and creaky rocking chair, it’s best to begin by creating itty-bitty baby booties and progress gradually to more complex creations like cardigans. Don’t worry if your early efforts come out looking more like a straitjacket. Keep it. You might need to wear it if the pandemic goes on for very much longer. While wool, the customary knitting material, is totally unsuitable for Indonesia’s tropical climate, you’re not confined to knitting garments.
You can knit other articles too, like tea cosies, mobile phone cosies, television cosies. The list of cosies is endless. You’re not restricted to using wool, either. You can knit with string, with wire or dental floss, even with tape measures. Yes, knitting can be freakin’ mad! Ultimately, It’s the pattern that counts, be it traditional diamonds and stripes, a scene from Alice in Wonderland, or even magnified COVID-19 viruses lined up like a row of arcade space invaders.
For some people, enduring lockdown may be as boring as watching paint dry, but not if the paint in question comprises the masterpiece you’ve just produced on canvas. Painting is immensely cathartic, be your soul tortured by Jakarta’s pandemic turmoil, inspiring you to produce Zdzislaw Beksinski hellscapes, or uplifted by the national stoicism, inspiring you to paint Van Gogh sunflowers. Don’t have a paint prick of talent? Never fear. Modern art to the rescue. Splash your canvas with several murky colours and, while the paint is still wet, get a dozen COVID patients to repeatedly cough on it. You can call your artwork Big Spotty Feet and Uncle Ya-Ya.
William Shakespeare was affected by the bubonic plague throughout his life. It killed many members of his family and outbreaks of it closed the theatres where his plays were staged. I’m not saying you should knock off a quick Henry VI Part One whenever there’s a lockdown, but how about trying poetry? You don’t need to be a Wordsworth or a Larkin. Poetry, like any other art form, can be great, good, or rubbish. Any sequence of words can be called poetry, just as any sequence of notes can be called music. Then, after plenty of practice and with your first “There was a young man from upfront” limerick behind you, Covid-induced nightmares could have you delivering verses like this anonymous piece:
The mind frozen
Like an ice- age sea
The jaw stiff
Teeth a crooked row of stones The eyes wide
Balls of unseeing gel
The ears numb
Hearing not these words
The blood still
Like in a bunged- up pipe
The heart a lifeless lump Valves empty and dripping The skin frigid, indifferent Layers of switched- off nerves The brain pitch- dark
Not a sound to be heard
The lips terse and thin
Like a stretched- out worm
The tongue deathly slumped Undelivered words strewn and crumpled in the mouth
The throat an abandoned wind tunnel Its last sound a strident scream
The soul an extinguished candle
You could even write a poem about the latest pandemic statistics. You just need to find a word to rhyme with “56,000”, which is the latest number of daily cases as I write this article, bringing total cases to 2.67 million. You may also wish you were wondering lonely as a cloud with numbers like that.
Learn a Musical Instrument
While no significant songs have been written about the virus, except perhaps for the eerily prophetic Rocking All Over the World by Status Quo, plenty has been written over the years about having a miserable fever and wanting to die. These are love songs of course. Other signs of love, especially unrequited love, can also be mistaken for symptoms of COVID-19, such as a continuous dry cough as you discreetly attempt to attract the attention of your stubbornly indifferent beloved, a change to your sense of smell and taste as you hoover up their phonemes, muscle aches – particularly the heart muscles – and shortness of breath from longingly murmuring their name over and over. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against love, no anti-aphrodisiac. Music can however ease the pain. You can even try the age- old romantic tactic of serenading your beloved from below their window. Be sure to choose a gentle instrument though, like the violin or f lute. Avoid brash, crashing instruments like bagpipes or cymbals, whose racket will only convey an uncontrolled and wholly unromantic infatuation.