There are unpleasant things happening in the world currently and my sympathies to anyone whose loved ones are ill or worse. However, for writers, the spin off measures being imposed or recommended by various authorities should not be as much of a hardship as they may be for others.
Social distancing? Pah! Self isolation? That’s writing. It takes a certain acceptance, if not love, of solitude to churn out the words to make coherent stories. Of course one would hope for a certain dual personality; a fun loving party animal for part of the time and a focused hermit for the working bit.
I’m not sure I have ever been a fun loving party animal. In the cold light of reason or a hangover, most parties are hardly worth the candle in my experience. I am quite prepared to accept I have been doing them wrong.
I have however, managed to live a sufficiently socially engaged life to accumulate a fair amount of understanding of how people live. It is a short hop from there to identify the interesting borderlands, the creative fractures in well ordered existence into which can be inserted the seeds of diversion from the norm. What happens if James Bond’s mid-life crisis takes the form of stamp collecting? How far will he go to get his hands on a Mauritius Blue? Of course Mr Bond is hardly normal, but the subversion of the idea of normal is part of the deal.
But the current desire to avoid our fellow humans has meant the suspension of various support mechanism for writers, established and aspiring. Major book fairs in London, Bologna, Leipzig, L.A. and Taipei among others, along with countless smaller fairs across Britain and no doubt the rest of the world. Writers group have also done the decent thing and stopped meeting at least in face to face mode for the time being.
This does perhaps lead to more isolation than all but the most anti-social dedicated author would wish for.
One group I attend is trying to maintain support and enthusiasm through email and other online means. Recently one of the group sent round a short piece, just to keep spirits up, about snowdrops. At the end was an admission of sneaking a few to replant at home and an admission of a small frisson of guilt, or uncertainty about this practice. The person concerned was well aware that the snowdrop is not a native species of the UK, is not threatened and not protected by legislation so she was not doing anything particularly wrong but still the worry, given the history of our predatory approach to nature.
It made me wonder among other things why the snowdrop is so out on a limb. It isn’t one of those hated invasive species like Japanese Knotweed, Himalayan Balsam or the Signal Crayfish deemed too dangerous to live, but it still hovers in a limbo; officially tolerated while loved by many, but open to redesignation as ‘not one of us’ at a government whim.
I am unaware of any plans to oust the snowdrop. No doubt too much poetry and emotion has been expended on it as a harbinger of hope in times of darkness and a sign of better times to come soon, for it to fall prey to a desire for native purity.
Let’s hope this desire to live and let live survives a closing of ranks and borders and we return very shortly to social inclusion and giving snowdrops and other ‘non-native’ Brits a warm embrace. Social distancing for as short a time as required, okay. But let’s remember to open our borders, our arms and hearts again as soon as possible.