The second banana loaf of lockdown has just emerged from the oven. Max sniffs the air. He will try anything. My thoughts fly all over the place these days. I get distracted considering a jar of lentils. Getting creative and even more economical with food is just one ingredient of these strange times. Against a backdrop of snow, rain, wind (yes it’s one of those days) there’s a rollercoaster of emotions. Tears come without warning. Inexplicably. Watching fellow musicians in Oslo having their jobs put on hold and wondering when our turn comes. Life as we know it is cancelled.
Max is confused. The rhythm of his naps is disturbed. All the same, he wants to be involved. In, and on, everything. His furry presence is a lifesaver. Another being in this empty place. Trying to find my own rhythm, to stick to a rough schedule. Some days it is all too much and worry gets the better of me. Uncertainty is all around us. Easter is cancelled. Festivals are cancelled. Maybe summer will be cancelled. Any positive thing becomes a highlight, turns the day tulip yellow. That elusive Bergen sun. Walking to the deserted harbour and feeling the brightness burn through my eyelids brings the return of perspective. Indoors, panic shortens the breath, encloses.
I enjoy time at home, but I have already been there for a considerable time before lockdown began. My back has taken time to heal. Soon I will carefully begin the process to build back up to full playing strength. I have tasted enough of my own company for now.
Everything is magnified in isolation. Especially noise. The whining complaints of the refrigerator. My upstairs neighbour, also stuck at home. Pacing the room constantly with every phone call. Eight steps across. Eight steps back. I try to think charitable thoughts as my wine glasses rattle and the pounding echoes in my head. I listen to music. Watch films. Sometimes I want to be able to think. And write. I’m aware that irritations are magnified so I resist the urge to write said neighbour into my crime novel. Breathe.
Technology now IS my friend, allowing me to balance out the horrors of the world crisis with the blossoming absurd humour popping up as an antidote. There are many toilet roll jokes. Yes, even here there has been a rush on them in shops. As someone points out, if you need THAT many toilet rolls in a week you should be speaking to your doctor urgently. And not about Covid-19. Apart from nurturing my own Pythonesque sense of humour, the internet allows friends to reach out to each other. Hearing from someone lightens the day. We exchange reading suggestions or news of others we have heard from. The community that we were is intact still. And enlarged by contacts as far apart as Ireland, Australia, Canada. Distance shrinks online.
Oh yes, there’s also the yoga. Missing my physio, I unroll my mat and attempt a basic online class. The expression on Max’s face is priceless. I’m embarrassed. Yes, well, I’m just beginning, I tell him. And my still numb and weakened foot doesn’t quite want to obey.
I find myself desperate for flowers. On the rare trips out to get groceries I bring tulips home. Their vibrant colour draws me in and makes me smile. I try to organise my table and desk with enticing vases full of spring, candles and my pile of waiting books. It would be easy for a day to escape me in the company of one book. So I try to ration it. I learn things, practise in my notebook. I hang a list on the wall of writing tasks completed and, in some cases, submitted to competitions. Deadlines give structure to the drifting days. I try new genres – flash fiction and poetry. And I submit my first poem written in Norwegian.
I also have music waiting to be transcribed into cello duos for a future project. More importantly, I’m keeping a journal, making entries most days. This is cathartic and will be a useful insight later on. We are living through extraordinary and devastating times. We will not be unchanged by them. We will have learned much, our priorities and perspectives will be altered by what we have lived through. I hope the world will be a kinder place, that we will consider one another more. We owe it to those who didn’t make it, and to those who have fought to save us.
Right now nature seems to be bursting out like never before. Listening to the blackbirds song from my windows is calming and precious. The days pass in an absurd jumble of highs and lows. I dig deep for those highs. Today we had an online meeting – the whole orchestra and management team. No mean feat for those of us who are still challenged by technology. One after another of us needed assistance to get literally onto the same page. Only the leaders of the meeting were visible, but feeling the virtual presence of my colleagues reduced me to tears for the first few moments. How I have missed the “us”, the teasing, the challenges and the companionship. The striving for the same goal. The sense of common achievement. Our beloved Kari’s soup in the canteen. The birthday songs. And of course our faithful audience, both in the hall and online. As society is dismantled piece by piece, we find out how much we value the arts and culture. Like nature, it enriches our lives. We need it in this tough world. Today I felt some hope at last. We will be making music together again. In the not too distant future.
Meanwhile, Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra maintains a strong presence on our streaming page at http://www.bergenphilive.no
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