Given that I’m used to being at home during the day you’d think this lockdown lark wouldn’t be much different for me. But I’m also used to being able to leave solitude when I need, or want, to. I would walk around the corner to shops where they know me by name; I would meet a friend for coffee, or lunch. I went to a weekly Pilates class where I overlooked the sea as I strengthened my core, then walked along the beach to one of Wellington’s best cafes. All involved social interaction, chatting with acquaintances and friends. Call me a dinosaur, but online chatting isn’t the same.
I grew up on one side of a wide valley with a view across the town to fields on the other side. I always wanted to see over the hill. It took me many years to realise that it was my first experience of wanting wide open spaces, to not be confined or, if I was, to have an expansive view. The horizon from our apartment is too close – I can walk to the top of this hill in fifteen minutes. (Neil does it in ten, taking his book with him to read whilst he waits for me to puff up.)
The truth is that even without lockdown I would find city living claustrophobic. Moving here was always going to be temporary (whilst we wait for a house to be built) but the straitened space was to be balanced with frequent escapes to the bach. Well, Mr Covid had other ideas.
We moved here mid-March, a week or so before the autumn equinox. Then, the sun shone on us from just before noon to after 6pm. Now, still two months from the winter solstice, it is gone behind tall buildings by 2pm, and even a walk is in the shadow of similar buildings. I try to focus on the positive side of things: that I can get out for a walk, even if the sun is hidden; that I will soon be able to move freely and take those frequent trips to the wider spaces; that, when I do feel a little down, I have someone close who can hug me when there are many alone. In the meantime I’m celebrating that we are at level three and this weekend can drive the ten minutes or less it will take to get to the south coast of Wellington. The next land from there is the frozen south: Antarctica. You can’t get more wide open and spacious than that.