By Ivana MacKinnon
Weirdly, I am sleeping really well. No restless nights. It seems to me that the world might be split roughly into people who have been waiting for something like this to happen and are oddly calm; and people who are terrified and expected things to stay as they are forever.
I woke up and Rowan (6) crawled into my bed, his cute face and sour breath. We cuddled closer than we normally do – he knows something is up but in some way he’s just excited we might all spend more time together. Frankie (11) is more aware, devastated about the things she is going to miss, and rationalising it all in strange, magical thinking ways.
I feel like we are all saying goodbye to things day by day. Social gatherings, hugs, touching people, going outside. They are narrowing. Today it felt OK to stroke the back of a friend whose play had just shut down – but only because she’s French. I feel like we are all feeling great tenderness to each other.
On a personal level, I’m seeing kindness and humanness and emotional honesty from everyone – and it’s quite staggering what it tells you about how we normally live. But I’m painfully aware too that so many of us are in a middle class bubble – we are worried about boredom, our kids’ mental health, yes our parents and the ill but as long as we can persuade them to stay away. I keep thinking though of people for whom this is bankruptcy, or 3 – or more! – months in a house with an abusive husband or parent – or people who don’t have a home.
When we come out the other side, everything is going to look different. The films I am developing now will mean something else and will need to be made in a different way. Our brains will be different. Our communities will be different. We will know our communities better. Very possibly our governments will have created states we don’t recognise while we aren’t looking – but our bonds with each other and our thoughts about how life should be lived will change radically. I think we will all appreciate nature a lot more – and we will have realised what we don’t need. In the end, and this is what I am telling Frankie, this might be the only thing that could save us environmentally, or put people on a different track. I think there will be a lot of people who change their lives after this. A lot of divorces too. But maybe things will be better.
Then again I have realised I am a mad optimist. There might also be a world war.
But for today we are still taking our kids to school and whispering at the school gates and then going home to our houses. We are planning and still using humour to cope. We are still doing work calls about projects that may never spark into life. I am struggling with the urge to take half the house to the charity shop so that it feels clear and new for isolation. We are looking at other countries shutting down and knowing it’s coming. We are despairing of our government. Although oddly I am taking comfort in the idea of evil mastermind Dominic Cummings being in Number 10 – although he doesn’t care about humans, he really, really, cares about modelling. And I am hopeful that for the first time in a long time, most people are acting out of concern and care for people who are not themselves or whom they don’t even know.
And I am planning the party to end all motherfucking parties once this is over.
In the morning I tried to work but it’s not easy to figure out which parts of the work are viable at the moment. And I kept ending up on the phone. With my mum who is getting the things she needs from her London house before decamping to the country. With my friend who is already in self isolation and already worried. With collaborators just coming to grips with the fact that nothing might happen this year.
One told me her husband had just been released from intensive care very suddenly and with no follow up, and that the ward had been emptied when they arrived and was full of doctors preparing. A scene from a 1980s movie; now reality.
For lunch I had a kale smoothie. This is not normal for me.
After school I picked the kids up from the other family with whom we share childcare and we had a glass of wine for St Patrick’s day and said bleak things.
Then we took some school work to my daughter’s friends who are already self-isolating because of their dad’s asthma. We stood two meters away and they stood on the doorstep in their onesies and told us about their day. At one point the cat escaped their house and we all had to figure out what to do so that no one got closer to each other.
On the way home, Rowan begged to be able to leave school so that he could hang out in the house all day. And Frankie started to realise that she was going to miss all the greatest things at the end of Year Six – the disco; the school play she was going to star in; signing each others’ T shirts. For some reason this hurts me more even than my films that might not get made. These childhood landmarks erased.
By 9pm I could hardly keep my eyes open – all the repressed British emotion was weighing on me.