Writing from Quarantine, 25th March 2020

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Something strange is happening.

There are no planes flying over my house. Why is that weird? Because I live in Reading, which lies under most of the flights either coming in to Heathrow or circling before landing. The sky above my house is usually criss-crossed with white jet trails, but today it’s an unbroken ceiling of azure. Equally, the roads are practically deserted. Rush hour here, usually a murderous slog through endless queues of traffic and red lights, now consists of small convoys making their way to and from the town centre. Logically, I know that this is a good thing, that people are staying home and reducing their chances of spreading the disease. But it’s still a touch surreal to find the roads empty when I am running at half seven in the morning. Reading’s a commuter town. It should be busy.

All that being said, I’m thinking this could be worse (touch wood). I’m doing my best to keep active, which feels a lot better than you might think. Since hockey and the gym stopped being an option, my fitness has declined more than I would care to admit, but running as regularly as I can is helping, although slowly and, at times, painfully. But if there’s one thing I am bound to have in the near future, it’s time, and lots of it; it’s good to get out of the house, feel the sun on my face, and get some fresh air in my lungs. Plus, burning off energy tends to make staying inside easier.

Not that I’ve much shortage of things to do at home. My deadlines, as I mentioned last time, haven’t gone away, even with everything that’s going on. To be quite honest, come the apocalypse, the four horsemen will probably say  ‘just a reminder that you have your essay due in on Thursday at 4 pm, which is to be submitted through turnitin‘, before engulfing us in a tidal wave of devastation. They probably wouldn’t even give timely feedback. But all jokes aside, having to think about the Tolstoyan colonies’ function and reception in the British context (it’s a long story) does make for a good distraction. There is also the minor detail of the fact that it will impact my grade, but I’m sure that’ll be irrelevant. Right?

But there’re other things keeping me busy. This thing, for one. It’s been surprisingly useful so far for using up time, and what it’s about can change each time I sit down to write, meaning I don’t think it will get stale. It’s fun like that. I keep meaning to try writing creatively again – it’s something I did years ago, that I never seemed to pick up again – but I’m not holding out much hope on that score. I’ll probably just end up watching the rest of ‘His Dark Materials’ on BBC iPlayer, or something like that.

Speaking of things I’ve been watching, I watched the first half or so of the Aladdin re-make last night. And I noticed something I hadn’t picked up on before. The vision that Aladdin presents of the Middle East. It’s a vision of bustling bazaars selling all manner of goods, of grand palaces and magic, an ‘Arabia’ that seems far removed enough to be exotic, yet familiar enough to be comprehensible. Yet there is something missing. Religion. Islam, which still has enormous influence over the region, is absent, cut from the picture by the scalpel of the corporate surgeon. Am I worked up about this? Of course not. I doubt that the filmmakers of the Arab world make a point of portraying Christianity in their work.  I do, however, find it amusing that Disney would rather erase a 1000-year civilisation than maybe face some unwarranted questions as to whether the inclusion of Islam means that the company supports its political brand.

For myself, I’m feeling alright. It helps that the weather is good, which is surprisingly good for your mood. That sounds obvious, but it’s one of those things I’ve come to appreciate since lockdown. If it starts raining, then we might have a problem, but until that happens I’m inclined to stay optimistic. Though how I’m feeling about the Situation™ changes frequently. At times it could be just another Wednesday during a break. ‘I could go out’ I think to myself. But the moment that happens, reality seeps in and I’m reminded that time outside is rationed these days. So, short of running, or a trip to the local shops, I’m pretty much at home, following the guidelines. I may as well be 11 again, sat inside on my laptop watching YouTube videos.

Anyway. I should probably wrap up here, seeing as I’ve not got much time left to exercise now. In the meantime, I’m going to hope the days start passing quicker.

More articles in Writing from Quarantine
  1. Writing from Quarantine, 23rd March 2020
  2. Writing from Quarantine, 25th March 2020
  3. Writing from Quarantine, 30th March 2020: Long Live Society
  4. Writing From Quarantine
  5. Writing From Quarantine, 8th April 2020
  6. Writing from Quarantine: Politics and Science
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Politics. Foreign Policy. Counterterrorism and associated issues. Anything else I might be drawn to writing about. Thats all really.

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