Guest post incoming – heeeeeeere's Pete, writing about his experience of coronavirus, lockdown and furlough, framed through the perspective vortex of unfolding time. Brevity bio for those who don't know Pete: he works at community bakery Loaf in Stirchley, teaches photography and makes art. The rest of the time he is also my beloved husband and bunnypops.
When this all started it was cold. While my sense of when has been skewed by pandemic mindfuckery, I can be sure of this because when we stopped people coming into the bakery by moving the counter right to the front door I had to wear a hat to keep my bald head warm. The funny thing about our bakery is while the actual bakery is hot as all hell, the ventilation draws air in through any open doors creating quite the cold wind in the winter. Where the counter usually sits is in the perfect sweet spot where the warmth of the ovens meets the cool of the outside. The counter was moved for sensible health reasons and necessitated lots and lots of changes to how we worked, but for some reason the change in temperature and necessity for a hat is what stuck with me.
Soon after this I was furloughed. It's been weird. I wrote about it.
It's now hot. We've had quite the mini-heatwave through the end of May and while today's rain has cooled things off, it feels like an intermission before June summer kicks off properly. While I was furloughed the pandemic crossed seasons.
When this all started and I was trying to get my head around it I came up with the idea that a viral pandemic is like a natural disaster but unlike a tsunami or volcano that kills horrifying numbers of people in seconds, it kills them over months, maybe years. This extension along the temporal axis is what, I think, makes it so hard to deal with. I don't know whether it's the modern media news cycle or a natural human habit of looking for the immediate threat above all else, but as a species we're shit at dealing with big important things that take place over long periods of time.
There's a project called The Long Now which is all about thinking beyond human timescales. It comes from the sort of west-coast tech-utopia thinking that should be taken with all the salt (their 10,000 year clock is being built in Jeff Bezos' private mountain, ffs) but the big idea is pretty sound – encouraging humans to think beyond their immediate timescapes and consider a different scale. The Long Now guys are futurists, but they're no different to archeologists, professional and amateur, communing with the ancient past. To hold something that was held by someone thousands of years ago and try to make sense of what they were doing with, and around, it. It puts you in perspective.
My personal version of this is considering the vastness of space and time visible above us. I love the idea the the night sky is a time machine. When we look at the stars we're seeing nuclear reactions that happened years ago, sometimes hundreds of thousands of years ago. The famous Hubble image, The Pillars of Creation, is a photograph of something that happened 7,000 years ago. For context, this is what was happening on Earth. Imagine having a photo of that.
Barring accidents and disease, humans currently live for about a century. Beyond that things get harder and harder to comprehend. My grandparents saw the arse-end of the Victorian era and the march towards WW1 and all that entailed. I can get my head around that because those epochs had a tangible effect on my life. But the lives of my great-great-grandparents? No fucking clue.
I've always had a very reactive approach to life. This came up the other day when talking with Fiona about our future plans. I realised I didn't really have any. Whatever happened, I'd make the best of it. Give me a few things to chose from and I'll figure it out, but I have no idea how to make that list. I've always bounced from one situation to the other, my hand forced by circumstance rather than by choice. I probably should have taken the initiative at times and not just waited for thing to happen, but it's not something I'm practiced at. I don't think this is a massive problem. If anything it helps me deal with the now more effectively. But it is something I'm trying to get better at.
This pandemic needs to be considered on at least two timescales. There's the day-to-day adjusting to things that used to be taken for granted and are now massively complicated. How do we do what we do when we don't know if doing what we do will kill us? Every action needs to be considered, assessed, deliberated. I've noticed this weird feeling in my hands after going outside. They feel larger, my fingers thicker, because I'm so incredibly aware of them and their quantum superposition-ness. You really haven't lived in the now until you've traversed the pandemic-scape in full awareness of your ignorance.
On the other hand, it's like watching a disaster movie at one frame every 10 minutes. To put that another way, imagine watching The Towering Inferno but it takes two years 8 months to complete. The world is on fire and hundreds of thousands, probably millions, of people will die, but it's going to take AGES with loads of boring bits between the scene changes.
Soon it will be cold again and everything and nothing will have changed again. I guess that's the new normal.
Today I am thankful for Pete's support over the past few weeks. As my furloughed forever-friend, he's brought me drinks on demand, done the shopping, cleared the back room out, reorganised the kitchen and put up a massive whiteboard (also in the kitchen) to work through lists of big and little house chores, Pete-specific tasks and shopping oddities.
And now he's written a guest blog post for me because I'm having an RSI flare up.
Blogging is how we met btw. He was an early blogger (since 2000) and eight years later I turned up and asked for some blogging advice. And now here he is blogging his blog posts on my blog. </blog>
PS. You can read more Pete perspectives on his blog.
Commission/hire me: fiona [at] fionacullinan.com