Those fortunate to live in Beech Croft Road received an email from the Residents’ Association congratulating us on surviving a week of lockdown. That’s presuming everyone did survive. Difficult to tell from behind closed doors. It’s definitely more than a week, M said at our morning agenda setting meeting. Depends when you started counting, I said. From the beginning, she said. [The ‘Duh’ was silent though I detected it]. Yes, but what constitutes the beginning [Silent ‘Duh’ in response]. This led to a fruitless 15 minutes of argument about the beginning of [a] the virus in the UK, [b] the lockdown advice from what we laughingly call the Government and [c] life, the universe and everything. We even forgot the most important matter: what to have for dinner. [BTW those desperate for news of our battle with the breadmaker you will be pleased to know we are 3-0 up. Mind you, I’m worried about complacency. The machine has infinite patience].
Time. We have lots of it though is that possible? Is time a commodity like prunes or bread flour, things that seem to loom large in my mind these days? I recall that several months ago I bought a slim paperback called The Order of Timeby Carlo Rovelli. I dig it out from under the to-be-continued reading pile. A bookmark tells me I got to p.37, possibly put off by the next section heading, ‘Now’ Means Nothing.
Digression: I am reminded of my Philosophy Finals for which I was, shall we say, woefully underprepared. I confronted the question: Is it possible that there should have been nothing? Three possible answers popped into my head: yes, no, and it depends what you mean by ‘nothing’. None seemed satisfactory. I wrote some waffle on Spinoza and only later realised I had meant Leibniz. When the marks came in, I got b+?+ on that paper. I have always wondered if I hadn’t got that ? how my life might have been different.
Back to time. Rovelli opens Chapter 1 with “Let’s begin with a simple fact: Time passes faster in the mountains than it does at sea level.” Really? Yes, really. That seems a bit unfair. So time will pass more quickly for those on lockdown in the Cairngorms than us poor folk in Oxford. Two pages on and we are into Einstein’s Theory of Relativity and I’m struggling to hold on. I find I have underlined a comment: “But there are not just two times. Times are legion: a different one for every point in space. There is not one single time; there is a vast multitude of them.” I am immersed in a multitude of times, it seems, only I don’t know it. Rather like Moliere’s bourgeois gentilhomme discovering he’s been speaking prose all along. What I really want to know is why when I have an infinite amount of time, or even infinite amount of times given there’s a multitude of them, I never seem to have enough time for the things I want to do. I mention this to M who says try getting a Waitrose order.
Passing the time
So what are others doing? Apart from posting jokey stuff found on the internet that everybody is doing. Most of them involve Trump but then there’s scarcely a dearth of material. Sometimes a person is called a mass of contradictions, indicating a complex personality. In Trump’s case he’s entirely made of contradictions and nothing else. No complexity there. Simplicity of the infantile kind. Charitably, one might say that it’s his poor memory; he can’t remember what he says from one tweet to another. But ‘charity’ and ‘Trump’ should not be in the same sentence.
Many friends are discovering the delights of virtual communication using one of several Apps, Zoom, House Party [which sounds like a rave], or Google Hangover [which sounds like the consequence of House Partying]. Inspired by our natural leader, Bahram, the pub group met at the usual time [6 pm, Saturday] and conversed over Zoom. Some brought beer and pistachios. One of our number was knocking back a bottle of white wine at a great rate [no names…]. Bahram wore a skirt, which he claimed was a dhoti, though looked like a skirt. Perhaps forced isolation has made him come out as pangender, to use the word my MP, the delightful Layla, chose to identify her sexuality. Good word that. You can truly be all things to all men and all women. One good thing the virus has done, I mean in addition to kicking Brexit into touch, is curtail the endless discussion of who should use the woman’s loo. This comes under the label of ‘trans’ for some reason. Please don’t enlighten me.
Zoom – I can’t speak for the other communication Apps – allows you to project everyone onto the screen at the same time in what’s called a gallery. This is not a good thing. Not only are you faced with a full-on view of your friends, who – let’s be frank – don’t look exactly film star material, but you also see yourself. Horreur! And there are what I will call issues. What’s the etiquette on who’s to speak and when? One of our members claims expertise in Zoom although I am distrustful of Paddy claiming expertise in anything other the politics of Northern Ireland. If you are not speaking, he counsels, put the mute on. What? We are here to chat not to listen respectfully to our friends. You can’t chat, Paddy, if you are on mute. Mind you…sorry, perish the thought. Chris decides that anyone who wants to speak should put up their hands and then proceeds to ignore his own suggestion by cavalierly interrupting all the time. Richard, who by three-quarters of the way through had not yet spoken, put up his hand and then by the time we’d got to him, he’d forgotten what he wanted to say. Easy to prompt though: West Brom. Then there are the inadvertent aspects. Keith, if you are going off to take that private important phone call, put Zoom on mute. We can all hear. Yes, I’m sure it was your daughter, Kate. Anyway, time passed whichever of the multitude of times we were in, and then how do you leave? Obviously, you press the Leave the Meeting button on the screen. But who goes first? Easy. Tim does. I have had enough of you lot, he says, and he’s gone, leaving a black screen in his place. Tim tells it as it is.
I confess. M and I went out for a walk yesterday. It was only round the block. We could describe it as ‘essential exercise’ but in truth there was not much in the way of exercise. We were just desperate to go out. Those who did go out yesterday, most people of our age judging from our friends’ stories, will know that it was freezing cold and there was a howling gale. We were glad to get back inside. Will we all develop agoraphobia, do you think? This was our daughter, Kate’s question as we zoomed each other. That would be ironic. M and I cut our psychologist teeth treating agoraphobics, taking them out for walks on Denmark Hill and around Camberwell Green in the heyday of behaviour therapy. This seemed to work pretty well until I met the redoubtable Mrs Hewittson on the Peckham Estate. I tell the story in my memoir, The Gossamer Thread. My Life as a Psychotherapist. It reads like fiction although it is the unvarnished truth. A resounding defeat for the therapist in three bruising rounds. I would like to tell you it changed my life. It certainly didn’t Mrs Hewittson’s.
Antidote No. 6
The delicate playing by Vikingur Ólafsson of Rameau’s The Arts and the Hours from his new CD, Debussy-Rameauhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FoFQJ7pcA2c