April 11 2020

Deborah Levy's Lockdown Diary from The Guardian

"I am discovering that I am not that good at coping with uncertainty."

Deborah Levy shares her experiences of confinement from London, March 17th-April 5th.

Tuesday 17 March 2020

"I know you don’t want to read another coronavirus diary. Frankly, neither do I. Maybe I can strike a different tone. Here goes. Today I levitated above the fridge and when I was more confident with my technique, stretched out my arm and opened the fridge door to see what was inside it. I have not been panic shopping, but I am panicking all the same. At this time the underpaid cashiers and shelf stackers in supermarkets are not highly respected workers – neither are most of the people who will keep the infrastructure of the country from collapsing. Like many self-employed writers, all my international literary events and teaching commitments are cancelled. With this in mind my fridge is not overflowing, but in retrospect I wish I had bought more flour – it will soon become hard to find. Everywhere, the city trees are in blossom. Which reminds me of a quote from Anaïs Nin. 'And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.' At this moment we are all tight inside the bud where it feels safer. One of the two lifts in my block of flats (more than a hundred apartments) is broken. We are now using the stairs."

Wednesday 18 March

"When I hear an ambulance siren it is now more ominous than it was before the plague. My daughter arrives home from university with a big suitcase. It looks as if there will no summer term. She is anxious about infecting me. No hugs, no kissing. This was how upper-middle-class Edwardians lived in EM Forster novels, physically distant from their families, no unseemly expressions of love and affection. Perhaps it is how Enid Blyton’s schoolgirls at Malory Towers lived with their parents when they returned from boarding school in the late 1940s. We are learning to live like this.

I am trying to keep cheerful for both my daughters – the oldest lives away from home. Yet they both tell me they are nervous by how eerily calm I am about becoming ill with Covid-19. It seems, they say, that I have accepted the possibility that I will die, and they would prefer it if I freaked out more. After all, temporary morgues are being built around the country. Later, when I Google a recipe for shortbread with my younger daughter, the words that come up at the top of the search are 'short of breath'."

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