When locking down means opening up

We’re told that we’ve reached the COVID-19 peak, that we now have to look towards a ‘new normal’, that the economy has to rise again, first to its knees, then to full height, that easing lockdown also has to be gradual. True. I can’t wait to cuddle my granddaughter again, to see my brothers, and to meet with friends or relations face to face. And yet in a strange sort of way I feel we’ve been cleansed, improved; that the ‘new normal’ is somehow better than the old, that by concentrating our funds on people who care for us rather than on useless chattels or greedy investments we have learned the real value of money. Social distancing has, quite by chance, taught us that we may have undervalued what it is to be physically close to someone, how a ‘high five’, a spontaneous hug, even an affectionate peck on the cheek can elevate the moment.

Just now I’m watching couples walk past my study window. That never used to happen, at least not often. It was a case of ‘through the car door and out again the other end’. People seem to have re-learned what it is to stroll … and I’m not talking much-vaunted exercise, which is of course important, but the chance to take in your surroundings, the beauty of trees for example, or of birdsong … and the air – how much cleaner is that, now that traffic has eased (and should ease more). And speaking of song, there’s of course music, whether making it yourself or listening to others make it; and reading those books you always intended to tackle but never had the time. Proust maybe, or Tolstoy, Dickens, or the novels of Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates. New-found talents are also important: writing, drawing, painting, photography and other ‘new’ ways of experience what used to be a dusty old, world. If you have a novel waiting in the wings – go on, write it!

My great worry is that once the locks are off and ‘normal’ is no longer quite so new, we’ll return to the bad old ways, start rushing around again, forget what the recent past has taught us, not that the economy must once again maintain a healthy complexion – that’ll happen soon enough – but that our personal economy must factor in what should be the most crucial aspect of our lives: love.

6 thoughts on “When locking down means opening up

  1. Cynthia Gamble

    Dear Rob,
    I much appreciated your thoughtful piece today. So far, my day has been enhanced by a simple recipe a friend has shared with me…thinly sliced apple, thinly sliced avocado and mackerel pate for a light lunch!!
    Bon appetit!
    Cynthia G


  2. Sir Humphrey Burton

    Dear Rob, I have had a wonderful day. My eldest daughter Clare drove up from Woodford. She brought us delectable lunch of roast chicken and afterwards we repaired to the music room where we played Mozart piano duets not as 4-handers on a single duet stool but on my two pianos correctly separated by at least three metres. Ensemble remained tolerable and the joy of playing those fantastic sonatas( in D major and B flat ) was inexpressible. Just to add that I am very grateful for your blogs and also – looking back a couple of decades to innocent times – for ypur review of my Verdi Requiem performance at the RAH – I have of course quoted it in my autobiography –

    coming out with Boydell and Brewer in 2021,touch wood.

    All best, Humphrey


    1. Thanks so much for that Humphrey – and for the quote! Look forward to the autobiography. Playing Mozart’s C major ‘Facile’ Sonata lavishly arranged by Grieg for two pianos (Richter and Leonskaja) on tonight’s Cowan’s Classics on Classic FM from 7pm . That lunch with your eldest daughter sounds a delight and so great to be making music afterwards (I love the idea of two pianos correctly separated by at least three metres!). I hope you’re keeping chipper and many congratulations on your knighthood. Saw my adorable granddaughter Elizabeth this morning – still can’t have a hug but we do have fun spotting flowers, birds, insects and helicopters! Again, do keep well and stay in touch. Fond wishes. Rob


  3. Great to see you here Cynthia. Your ‘light lunch’ sounds delicious! Meant to ask you – do you know Derrick Leon’s Introduction to Proust? Strikes me as rather good. Fond wishes. Rob


    1. Cynthia Gamble

      Dear Rob,
      Many thanks for your instant reply. Good to hear from you. Yes, Derrick Leon’s Introduction to Proust is a very good book. Such a shame that he makes a major error on the first page…Marcel Proust was born in Auteuil, not as Leon states at 9 boulevard Malesherbes. The book is engaging. Are you reading it, or just curious? I only have one copy. A tragedy that such a talented writer died so young from the deadly disease that Ruskin had when in Oxford and had to be taken away in great secrecy to avoid scandal, as it was regarded in those days. Have you read Leon’s Ruskin the Great Victorian? Am busy with a major publication on Proust and Ruskin!
      Am enjoying your show tonight, but took a break to reply to you!
      Now back to the music! Fond wishes,


  4. Many thanks Cynthia. Yes, I am reading Leon’s Proust – prompted by my reading of The Great Victorian a couple of years back, its style so reminiscent of Ruskin himself. There’s also a Leon Tolstoy book. A tragic loss indeed. Thanks for pointing out the error. Hope you enjoyed the rest fo the show. Fond wishes, as ever, Rob.


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