La vie est belle

When I last wrote there were 80,000 dead in the UK. Now there are 148,000 dead. 

What was I doing while 68,000 died in just over 2 months?  

Not much. And plenty. 

It’s now month 4 of lockdown #3. All restaurants, bars, libraries, museums, and indoor leisure facilities are closed. Schools finally re-opened after three months of closure and we have been given a date for our lifestyles to resume (26 April 2021), but the virus is refusing to be quashed. New infections in Scotland are hovering at 5-700 a day, many in school age children, and there’s this niggling worry in the back of most thinking-people’s minds that the virus might mutate again, or the South African or Brazilian variants might get a foothold, and our defences ie. the vaccines which are being rolled out in the UK at a phenomenal pace, will be breached, and we will all be sent straight back to jail, do not collect £200. Please no.

I have been creating into this abyss. Not words, they have felt strangely too small and discomforting. My impulse has been to create spaces in the world where we can safely be together. COVID defying outdoor landscapes full of colour and light and love. 

First I built @OutdoorPlaybarn, which has become a mainstay for many Glasgow toddler mums – myself included – through this interminable lockdown, and just last weekend I opened The Belle Tent Field, a series of bell tents and play tents surrounded by outdoor games and toys on the edge of Pollok Park, where children can mark their birthdays and experience the joy of celebration. 

And now, with some young souls I have met along the way, I am plotting the next thing: The Pony Club. We used to run a horse riding school. It was my mother-in-law’s business. After she died we kept it going, but eventually it was too much for us and so we transitioned into a DIY livery yard with just a handful of horses. The riding school had 5 stable blocks, and one particular block, nicknamed the ‘pony stables’ was soon squatted by a family of pigeons whose disgusting habits could have started another pandemic. But they are gone now. The stables have been decontaminated, the builders are stripping out wood, the walls are getting whitewashed, and we are moving in with big rugs and wooden tables and couches, and under the beautiful original wooden ceiling, something new is going to grow.

The Pony Club will be an indoor space, and it feels audacious to imagine us back inside together, but yesterday I acknowledged how much I missed that. Writing workshops. Art classes. Discussion groups. Crafternoons gathered around a wood-burning stove, exchanging ideas, sharing our creations, laughing. God, how I miss the casual laughter of a gaggle of close friends, rather than the anxious exchanges with just one other as you pad side by side through the park, trying not to breathe on each other. But I am no a fool. This pandemic has taught me the difference between idealism and optimism, between magical thinking and science, so The Pony Club has a big new window, 2 doors which will be left wide open (with screens to stop the pigeons coming back) and in Phase 2 – underfloor heating and an improved roof – there will be skylights that open. Ventilate, ventilate. Float away virus. Away from our bodies, away from our dreams, away from our little lives that mean so much to us. 

I should probably take pictures of the renovations, in the same way that I should probably be taking detailed notes of the pandemic, but it’s too hard to take snapshots of the murk. I try to write things down, to remember this time, this time we really lived through, this time that future generations will want to read about. Providing it doesn’t kill us all. Because there it is. The fear that we don’t dare speak aloud, but still we wonder. Other creatures have lost their habitats. Other creatures have gone extinct. Why not us? Will our intelligence save us? Is science enough? And to quell those fears, we put up some more bunting, write some songs, make some music, bake some cakes. Because while science is trying to save us, creativity is making the inbetween tolerable, sometimes even beautiful.

Follow me on Twitter @writerclb

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