Here we go again

So here we are again. After a few cautious steps towards normality, visiting the library to pick up or leave books, keeping an eye out for empty pharmacies, a few nervous bus journeys at odd times, visiting my tailor to have superfluous collars removed, and even a journey abroad to Gdansk and Berlin and to Marstrand, it’s back to isolation. Back to a default mode asking “Is this contact absolutely necessary?”, the answer almost always being no, keep your head down, wait, postpone.

Hopefully it won’t have to be quite as long as in the spring but I have to reckon on not being able to travel to England or anywhere else during what’s left of 2020.

Fortunately, I have plenty to do and am running through projects which can be advantageously done here. I’ve started to catalogue my library. I’m not going the whole way with shelf marks but taking a section a day to make a digital list of my books that I can access when I’m on the move, both to avoid duplicate purchases and to more easily see the gaps that I want to fill. So far I’m almost through my collection of books on West England (perhaps the best collection going east until you hit California), Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Somerset. Slow progress with lengthy breaks to examine half-forgotten treasures. And I have my ongoing projects too – Bengali, the City of London and finance capitalism, Dorset churches, and my 90+ pictures of St Jerome, patron saint of translators, to which I want to add descriptions. It’s all rather luscious and I’d like them to have them on display but finding space for an art exhibition in a 45 square metre flat is going to require some thought.

It would feel good when the pestilence is over to know that I’d used the time usefully and managed to set the agenda for my life and not allowed it to be mangled by Covid.

I’ve been troubled by the approaching winter, concerned that it won’t be easy to cycle if it’s very cold, snowy and icy. Hopefully, the mild weather will continue for a few weeks yet but I’m not counting on that. As an experiment yesterday, I walked from home to the city centre and back, just over nine kilometres according to my i-phone pedometer (whatever it’s called). I crossed the main railway line to the north, following the track bed of a long dismantled industrial branch line until I came to the pilgrim trail from Gamla Uppsala to the “new” cathedral. I haven’t explored this way to the city before but it was all very satisfactory, car-free and crossing fields with just a short urban stretch before I got to Fyrisån and could take the riverside path almost all the way to my post box. Heartening that it was clearly doable. And next time, I shall smear my glasses with soap and wash it off (not too carefully so as to leave a slight film), which, from my early experiments does seem to prevent them steaming up when I’m wearing my mask. A high level of exercise is important for my physical and mental well-being. But it has to be exercise where I can think at the same time. Walking is ideal but things like exercise bikes bore me (I borrowed one for a while but spent most of the time trying to balance my laptop on the handlebar and forgetting to cycle). Not to mention gyms which I am seriously allergic to.

Despite the worsening infection situation in Uppsala, the locals haven’t taken to masks to any great extent. I wear mine everywhere. I get a few odd looks but no rude comments yet (which is rather a pity as I’m looking forward to being able to say “Please tell St Peter, I’ll not be coming for a while yet” and watching the oaf or oafess who is trying to be funny crumble to dust in front of my eyes (not literally…).

I haven’t mentioned T-rump. Like a lot of people, I was hoping he would follow in the steps of T-rex, becoming politically extinct rather than being hit by a meteor. A large number of ordinary Americans are still voting for him, however, and it’s not yet clear how it will end. Not that the Democrats are exactly God’s gift to the poor and dispossessed and there might be some arguments for Trump being able to stay long enough to disabuse those who think he will help them. But the thought of having to read about and see pictures of Trump for another four years is not pleasant.

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