from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Loneliness and Life Satisfaction

June 30. We are living through a time of drama.  Every week brings a new crisis, reported or anticipated.

History will record a belated response in the early days leading to thousands of avoidable fatalities, critical shortcomings in PPE, scandalous death-rates in care homes and amongst the BAME population, widespread failings in introducing test and trace procedures, the complete failure of the NHS testing app.  Today we have the return of lockdown in Leicester and later this week there is the predicted disaster of choosing a summer Saturday night to open all the pubs in England for the first time in three months.  And so it will continue in the face of a still unknowable virus and a government of still uncharted incompetence. 

And yet, if attention is paid to how people are feeling about the crisis, a very different picture emerges.  In my entry for May 27 I drew attention to the social surveys which have been launched at great speed in response to the coronavirus.  One of the larger enterprises, the UCL Nuffield Covid 19 Social Study, has now published four further weekly reports, displaying consistent data over three full months of the pandemic.*  The questions in the survey cover basic attitudes and emotions in the lockdown.  Each topic has its own trajectory since the last week of March, and its own variations by age, income, and living conditions.  But standing back from the detail, what is most striking is the absence of change over the period.

Graph after graph proceeds in an even line as each week passes, sometimes on a slightly upward trajectory, sometimes downward.  What is missing almost completely is the kind of volatility that we read in the headlines each day.  ‘Loneliness’ (see above) has been almost completely flat since the last week of March, unaffected by the recent marginal lifting of the lockdown.  ‘Life satisfaction’ has gradually risen from 5 to 6 on a 10-point scale [it should be 7.7].  ‘Happiness’ [you may not know what that is, but here it is measured by the Office for National Statistics wellbeing scale], has been at or just under 6, again on a 10-point scale, with very small fluctuations.  Levels of depression and anxiety have been higher than in pre-Covid times but have gradually declined through the Spring and early Summer.  Confidence in the English government showed one of the largest short-term changes, falling from 4.5 to 3.5 on a 7-point scale at the beginning of May, but has since levelled out. Notwithstanding this decline, willingness to comply with guidelines has barely altered, slipping over three months from almost 100% to just over 90.  The sharpest fall has been in worries about food security, which began at around 60% of the population and are now only a little above zero. 

The scale of the sample, which involves 90,000 respondents, inevitably has a dampening effect on variability.  Individuals who have lost their jobs, or have been ill, or have suffered serious bereavement, will scarcely report so uneventful an experience.  Nonetheless the absence of sudden change across the population in such fundamental areas as depression or life-satisfaction is a necessary corrective to the melodrama played out on the front-pages of the newspapers.

When the scores are broken down by issues such as income or living conditions, there are generally only minor differences.  In most categories the young are suffering more than the old, the poor more than the rich, but often the differences are small.  Much the largest variable on almost all issues is a prior diagnosis of mental ill-health.  Again the scores show little change over the period, but there are significant gaps between the graphs of the well and the unwell. On key issues such as depression, anxiety, loneliness and happiness, the mentally fit are between half and three times better off than those who entered this crisis already in trouble. 

According to a report by the charity Mind this morning, almost two thirds of those with a pre-existing mental health problem said it had become worse during the lockdown.**  When we consider where the effort should be placed in alleviating the consequence of the pandemic, the mental wellbeing of the population at the outset of the crisis will require particular attention.

* Covid-19 Social Study Results Releases 1-14

** https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/jun/30/uks-mental-health-has-deteriorated-during-lockdown-says-mind?CMP=share_btn_link

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Reading and Solitude.

The LRB – improve your solitude …

June 22 The London Review of Books (LRB) sends me a digital advertisement: “Improve Your Solitude. Engage with the world’s best thinkers and writers, with Europe’s largest literary magazine.”

In a practical sense the advert is wasted on me. I have been a subscriber since the happy day ten years ago when I retired from university management and swapped my subscription to the Time Higher Education Supplement for the LRB in the mistaken assumption that I would now have more time for reading books and reviews.

Since then the LRB has been a mixed blessing. Most issues contain a piece that interests and informs, but not all. A great literary magazine makes you think you are a little smarter, a little better-read than you actually are. The LRB generally has the reverse effect.

Nonetheless its advert contained a basic truth. For those of us who are locked down without other responsibilities, there ought to be more time for reading. At the least it gives us a chance to replenish the shelves that we want to display behind our heads in ZOOM meetings (the prize for the politician for what clearly is the least-read, and smallest, background bookshelf goes to Iain Duncan Smith. No surprise there).

Books occupy empty hours. But they have never simply been the handmaiden of solitude. It took centuries after the invention of printing for the act of reading silently to yourself to become the standard practice. In the eighteenth-century women in particular read to each other as they worked at a household task, and one in a family read to the rest in the evenings. Increasing literacy and falling book prices in the Victorian era promoted private consumption of the printed word, but demand for books still outstripped the capacity to own them individually, and amongst the newly literate, children read to their less-educated parents and their parents to grandparents. In crowded households with unheated and unlit bedrooms, those who did read to themselves frequently had to do so amidst company. Books were less often the solace of complete isolation, and more the facilitator of abstracted solitude, the practice of withdrawing from others whilst still physically in their midst.

It is too early to take a final view of reading in the lockdown. Bookshops were shut until last week in the UK, book launches cancelled (including my own), as were book festivals. My wife and I were at the Dalkey Literary Festival in Dublin this time last year, and had planned a return visit.

https://www.dalkeybookfestival.org/

On the other hand, the online trade was already well-established, and unlike food, and (for the most part) clothing, it is always possible to re-use what was purchased years ago. It is reported that sales of thrillers have risen, and also books about pandemics. My expectation is that the overall change will not be that great. For every household with more time on its hands, there will be several more in which the adults at least have lost every minute of solitary recreation.

In my case, where not much has altered in my daily round, the problem is as it always has been, the reluctance to take a book off the shelf after an entire day at my desk, reading and writing words. I’d sooner dig my garden.

Add Mss (1). June 16. Bedtime Stories.  No bedtime stories at Styal Women’s Prison, where the stillbirth of a baby to a prisoner has been reported, the second in nine months. The medical staff failed to diagnose the pregnancy, and gave the prisoner paracetamol when she complained of severe stomach pains. Only twenty-three women across the system have been released under the scheme for pregnant prisoners and new mothers under the coronavirus pandemic (Guardian 19 6 20).

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Better Known.

John Clare

June 19.  I have just recorded a contribution to ‘Better Known’, a podcast series in which the speaker recommends six people, places, objects, stories, experiences and ideas that should be better known.*

https://podcasts.apple.com/au/podcast/better-known/id1302791677

It was a challenging task.  Most of us carry in our heads our eight Desert Island Disks, revising them from time to time in the hope that one day we will be asked to make them public.  The brief for ‘Better Known’ was much wider, and coming in the middle of an avalanche of work, there was little time to ponder upon it.  I came up with five entries, and spent three quarters of an hour talking about them. 

For places:

  • Montaigne’s Tower, in south-west France.  The man himself, the first modern explorer of how an individual should live, is well enough known, but his tower, which we visit whenever we are in the Dordogne, is largely neglected by French visitors.  Montaigne spent his days in one tower at the corner of a large courtyard, his wife in another (now demolished), and his mother in the main house (now rebuilt), a perfect arrangement for any family.
  • St Peter’s Church Melverley.  A rare, perfectly preserved timber-frame church, constructed out of local oak in around 1405, every beam pegged to another without any fixtures, standing on a bluff with the River Vyrnwy swirling around it.
  • The Stiperstones.  A long rocky ridge, in sight of my house, with the remains of Britain’s largest lead mine at its base, and long views across the Welsh Marches.

For objects:

  • Caroline Testout climbing rose.  Names for a late-nineteenth-century French couturier, a splendidly blousy pink rose, with a faint scent.  I have one growing over my front door, and any house would be improved by it.

For writings:

  • Mayhew’s London Labour and the London Poor, sometimes cited in these diaries
  • The poetry of John Clare, the great peasant poet of the first half of the nineteenth century, the finest observer of the natural world this country has ever produced.

It is in some ways a counterproductive undertaking.  The last thing I want is coach loads of tourists at Melverley, or Everest-like queues to ascend the Stiperstones.  The writings are more secure.  There will be a limit to the number willing to tackle the two million words in Mayhew’s volumes, and Clare, quite simply, really should be better known, although his reputation is building, not least thanks to a recent biography by Jonathan Bate.  Here is an evocative poem written in his asylum years on the topic of solitude, to which he returned frequently over his life:

There is a charm in Solitude that cheers
A feeling that the world knows nothing of
A green delight the wounded mind endears
After the hustling world is broken off
Whose whole delight was crime at good to scoff
Green solitude his prison pleasure yields
The bitch fox heeds him not – birds seem to laugh
He lives the Crusoe of his lonely fields

*To be broadcast on July 6

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Free and not free

June 11.   In the lockdown, I have tried to be sensible.  I have maintained my hours of work despite the absence of timetabled commitments.  I have written diary entries.  I have resisted drinking all of our not very capacious wine cellar.  My one besetting sin has been newspapers.  Deprived of hard copy I have set up online feeds from the Guardian, The Times (for an alternative view), the Financial Times (for hard evidence) and the New York Times (for the rest of the world).  Unlimited words, limitless time consumed.

Much of the knowledge thus gained has not illuminated my life.  Today I learn that there is a looming shortage of marmite (caused by a decline in beer brewing, who knew), and mounting anxiety about the closure of public lavatories.

Occasionally, however, there is a story that seems to encapsulate all that is now going wrong.  Yesterday’s online Times has an article headlined: ‘Lockdown eased to allow lonely to meet another household.’  It was part of the good news narrative that Johnson is trying to promote.  Day by day things are getting better.   In every other regard it brings no comfort.

First there is the nominative disarray I discussed yesterday; the confusion in this case between those living alone, and those who are lonely.  A third of UK households are occupied by one person.  Some of those are lonely; most are not.  All of them with grandchildren are probably missing them.

Second there is the small print.  Everyone can go and see their grandchildren except those in lockdown, which includes all those over seventy.  My wife and I, as it happens, are bang on the demographic average for the birth of our first grandchild (we were 63).  But now we have more years and more grandchildren.   Under the new regulations, we are too old to see them.  It’s as if the Government had announced with a fanfare that everyone was now free to play football, except those under thirty.

Third there is the surrounding argument.  The fifth paragraph of the same article reads:  ‘However, the government’s claim to have made the right decisions at the right time on the pandemic was dealt a severe blow when one of the architects of lockdown said Britain’s death toll could have been halved by imposing it a week earlier.’  What has collapsed in the last few weeks is not the infection rate but public trust in the entire official management of the crisis.

Every recent decision, whether about schools, testing, opening shops, allowing grandparents out of the house, quarantining international arrivals, has immediately been met by criticism, counter-argument and in some cases legal action.  The point is not so much the rights and Priti Patels of each issue, rather the belief that everyone is free to advance their own view and can find an ‘expert’ somewhere to back them up.  Deference towards politicians, and towards those who advise them, has disappeared.  In the early days there was a tendency to accept what we were told in the grave surroundings of No. 10.  We needed to believe that those with power were doing the right thing, and anyway it was difficult for amateurs fully to understand the science and the projections.  That comfort is no longer available.

The largest argument, referred to by the Times journalist, is about what was not done in February and March and how many tens of thousands of people died as a result.  The Government’s repeated hope that this kind of retrospective analysis could be left to a post-pandemic enquiry is in vain. 

We are all historians now.  And that is a measure of the trouble we are in.

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Staying alive

June 10.  If we are to learn the right lessons from the pandemic, it is crucial that we are careful with the meaning of words.

Monday’s Guardian carried a disturbing headline: ‘Epidemic of Loneliness’.*  This was a phrase much deployed in the public debate about loneliness in the years leading up to the present crisis.  It had two sets of meanings.

The first was a general metaphor.  It just meant that loneliness was a large and negative event.  If we say that someone received in an ‘avalanche of complaints’ we do not mean literally that they were covered in a mountain of rocks, just that they experienced a lot of trouble.

The second was more serious.  It was at the centre of an attempt to medicalise a social condition.  linking the experience to other crises such as smoking and obesity.  By this means the effect was dramatized, and campaigners hoped to appropriate longstanding concerns with major public health issues.

Critics were concerned about this use of language.  Whatever it is, loneliness cannot be caught by someone breathing on you.  It seemed an inappropriate descriptor before the present crisis, and now it would appear indefensible.

But in the Guardian, no less an authority than Professor Martin Marshall, President of the Royal College of General Practitioners, was cited as saying:  ‘The Covid-19 pandemic is also creating an epidemic of loneliness, not just for older people, and sadly there are some people who will fall through the net.’

The story was actually about the tragic discovery of individuals who had died alone, either of Covid 19 or of another condition for which in their lockdown they had failed to seek treatment.  A pathologist cheerfully described them as ‘decomps’, ‘people found dead at home after not being heard from for a couple of weeks.’

There are many ways in which ill health can be exacerbated by the experience of enforced and unwelcome solitude.  It is known that those living alone are less likely to seek medical assistance, even in normal times.  Associated forms of depression, or melancholy as it was once termed, can lower immune systems and increase vulnerability to a range of serious illnesses.  Conversely, various kinds of disability can have the effect of turning chosen solitude into an imprisoning loneliness. 

It might be expected that these interactions will increase the incidence and danger of loneliness in the present crisis, although there remains little quantitative evidence that this is happening on a significant scale.  The Office for National Statistics yesterday published its latest report on the experience of coronavirus in which it confirmed that the numbers ‘feeling lonely often / always’ in the lockdown remained at 5%.  As in earlier surveys, the old seemed more resistent to this condition than the young.**

With the total UK death rate now passing sixty thousand, lives will have been lost in every kind of social setting.  The evidence so far suggests that locked-down interiors, whether care homes or private residences, present the greater risk.  A recent Wall Street Journal analysis of the US population found that the virus had spread more widely in the most crowded households, irrespective of population density.***  .

When the final calculations are made, it is likely that those dying alone because they are alone will be far exceeded by those dying in company because they are in company.  Solitude has its compensations, and staying alive may be one of them

* Guardian, 8 June, 2020.

* Source: ONS survey of adults aged 16+, 3 April to 3 May.  https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/wellbeing/bulletins/coronavirusandlonelinessgreatbritain/3aprilto3may2020

*** Ian Lovett, Dan Frosch and Paul Overberg, ‘Covid-19 Stalks Large Families in Rural America’, Wall Street Journal, June 7, 2022.

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: How the old are reacting to lockdown

May 28.  Many of us are daily resisting the pressures to place us in a box called ‘the elderly’.  With the hard medical realities this is not easy.  There is no question that as you pass into your sixties, then into successive decades, the risk of dying from Covid-19 shows a sharp linear increase.  With matters of emotion and behaviour, on the other hand, there are grounds for resisting such age-determination.  Nonetheless the social scientists now conducting detailed research into how people are coping with the crisis have a tendency to group their findings into age brackets. 

Following yesterday’s examination of solitude and loneliness revealed in the Nuffield / UCL Covid 19 Social Study, here are the findings more broadly about the interaction between age and experience (most of the data shows little change over the lockdown period).  Whilst the figures are statistical facts (subject to the issues of category definition and sample quality), the explanations of cause and consequence are matters of judgement. So, feel free to interpret these findings.  The two categories used are 60 and over, and 18-29 year-olds.

The elderly are more likely than the young to:

  • Comply with Government guidelines
  • Show confidence in Government
  • Have feeling of life satisfaction
  • Have a sense of control of finances, family relationships, future plans
  • Be concerned about meeting up with family
  • Be concerned about going to cultural venues

The elderly are less likely than the young to:

  • Experience depression and anxiety
  • Employment stress
  • Financial stress
  • Have thoughts of death or self-harm
  • To have been physically or psychologically abused
  • Experience loneliness
  • Be concerned about meeting up with age-group friends
  • Be concerned about going out for a coffee, drink or meals
  • Be concerned about having time alone

Some of the differences are smaller than others.  There is virtually no variation by age in taking exercise or experiencing face to face contact.

Taken in the round, the striking feature is the lower incidence in the key categories of depression, anxiety, stress and loneliness amongst the older population, despite their much greater exposure to serious illness and death in the pandemic, and their greater likelihood of being locked down.

Addenda.  Since writing this, the Times has today published results of a reworking by a team from Exeter, Manchester and Brunel Universities of a BBC survey of 2018 which questioned 46 thousand people from 237 countries about their experience of loneliness.  As with the UCL evidence, the new research demonstrates that loneliness falls rather than increases with age

Sources

The Times.  28 May 2020

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Solitude and Loneliness

May 27 In my diary entry for April 8, I wrote that:

Enforced isolation has an ambiguous effect on the two experiences.  On the one hand it has made solitude a still more valued practice.  In families where the adults are working at home, the children are about all day long, the garden is small or non-existent, periods of solitary escape have become as desirable and unattainable as supermarket delivery slots … On the other hand, it has made loneliness still more threatening.  It becomes more difficult to make physical contact with such friends as the individual possesses.  Intermittent escapes from an empty home to shops, cafes, local libraries, public entertainments, are now forbidden.”  I concluded that, “Where the balance will finally be struck in these contrasting effects of isolation remains to be seen.”

Now the evidence is beginning to appear to answer this question.  The crisis has stimulated the creation of a number of major research projects across the social sciences, which have been planned, funded and put into practice in a remarkably short space of time.  One of the largest of these is the UCL Nuffield Covid 19 Social Study.  This is a questionnaire-based survey which currently has 90,000 respondents.  It is not a representative statistical sample of the population, but is large enough to generate substantial conclusions.  The research team, led by Daisy Fancourt and Andrew Steptoe, have a sophisticated grasp of the concepts and categories of mental health, and are publishing weekly bulletins of their findings.

The ‘Covid-19 Social Study Results Release 8’, on 13 May, was particularly interesting.*  Table 21 measured the incidence of ‘Loneliness’ on the industry-standard UCLA loneliness scale.  This was unchanged across the lockdown period at around 5%.  This is the same level as more cautious observers and social historians have projected across the entire post-war period, and about a quarter of the claims made in the Government’s current loneliness strategy.  Whatever else it is doing, the covid19 epidemic is not causing an epidemic of loneliness.

The team found that the condition was “higher amongst younger adults, those living alone, those with lower household income levels, and those with an existing diagnosed mental health condition.  They are also higher amongst women, people with children, and people living in urban areas.”  It was correspondingly lower than 5% amongst those over 60, those with higher incomes, those without mental health conditions, and those living without children.

Table 27, by contrast, measured ‘Activities missed during lockdown.’  At the top of the table, not surprisingly, were ‘Meeting up with family’ and ‘Meeting up with friends.’  Half way down was ‘Having time alone.’  This was the solitude measure.  The analysts broke down the emotion only by age.  The younger the respondent, the more likely they were to be lacking time alone.

What is really interesting is the volume.  Just over thirty per cent of the population were included in this category.

In other words, after an extended period of lockdown, solitude is being sought by six times as many people as are experiencing loneliness.

* https://mk0nuffieldfounpg9ee.kinstacdn.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-19-social-study-results-release-13-May-2020.pdf

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: snitching …

May 7. On of the major questions of the crisis is the substance of the apparent strengthening of ‘community spirit’.  My local television news spends its allocated half hour briefly reporting the daily death toll in the region, then running a series of heart-warming stories about informal and organised efforts to support those suffering in some way from the lockdown.  What will not be clear until the crisis is over is how permanent this shift in behaviour is, and how far it conceals much less commendable behaviour.  Statistics on rising domestic abuse are already giving pause to more optimistic accounts.

On the debit side of the balance sheet was a recent story in the Guardian:‘Police say they have received 194,000 calls “snitching” on people alleged to have broken the coronavirus lockdown.’ (30 April 2020). Neighbours were reporting neighbours, expecting that fines or other punitive action would follow. The Chairman of the West Yorkshire Police Federation complained that ‘the force has been dealing with a rise in domestic abuse reports at a time when people are living in close quarters without much chance to leave the house, and that there had been a rise in calls from people reporting others for potential flouting of regulations.’ (Wakefield Express 17 April 2020).  Further south it was reported that ‘The avalanche of complaints about twice-a-day jogs or overly frequent trips to the supermarket has been such that the Thames Valley Police Commissioner Anthony Stansfield felt obliged to go on the BBC and urge citizens to stop tattling on one another.’ (Politico, 7 April 2020).  Elsewhere in Europe, more draconian regulations have been matched by more active tale-telling.  The mayor of Rome has set up a website for people denouncing those who breach the quarantine regulations.  In Spain it is said that ‘snitchers’ are not only reporting infractions but taking direct action against rule-breakers.

There is in fact nothing new in this behaviour.  Nearly three decades ago I wrote a history of poverty and the state in the twentieth century.  The Great Depression was the nearest modern equivalent to the current collapse of the economy.  Large sections of the working population were forced to rely on state benefits to survive.  From 1931 they had to complete a rule-bound Means Test to get support.  I wrote in my book:

“The Means Test placed a monetary penalty on a whole range of domestic behaviour.  Questions which had always formed the substance of rumour and gossip, such as who had an illicit source of income or a hidden cache of savings, who had bought what luxury or sold what necessity, now had a larger resonance.  The greatest source of information on alleged transgressions of the new regulations was not the inspecting officers, whose public enquiries were generally met with silence, but private and frequently anonymous depositions from those who lived and worked alongside the claimant.  As Orwell discovered, ‘there is much spying and tale-bearing.’ (Poor Citizens, 1991, p. 86).”

The modern ‘snitching’ could just be seen as evidence of widespread support for government regulation and a collective anxiety to reduce the threat of infection.  There is, however, a long and less benign tradition of reporting misbehaviour to the authorities.  Such behaviour is a consequence of two conditions.  Firstly a stressed citizenry, facing threats they cannot individually manage.  Secondly a suddenly enhanced state, possessing, at least in the short term, immense powers over income and behaviour.  Historical studies of the totalitarian regimes in twentieth-century Europe, particularly German fascism and East European communism, have long established how far the police authorities relied on networks of informers.  The Stasi in East Germany raised reporting by neighbours and family members to a bureaucratic art-form. 

There is, with reason, much concern about whether computer apps will cause an invasion of privacy.  Less attention is being paid to more basic forms of surveillance, which will flourish for as long as this crisis lasts. 

from David Vincent in Shrewsbury, UK: Screen Life

April 30. Like everyone else, the fixed points in my week are mostly through the medium of Skype, Zoom and Microsoft Team.

Those connected with my work are relatively stress free.  There is widespread use of microphone cancelling to preserve the signal in multi-participator events, so every sound in the house does not have to be quietened.  The Open University History Department meetings, involving over twenty people, have adopted the etiquette of turning off the video.  This means that colleagues cannot see that you have temporarily ceased to pay rapt attention to the matter in hand, or are sneaking a look at emails on your phone, or briefly leaving the room to make a cup of coffee.

With calls to family and friends it is quite otherwise.  There is no point at all in forbidding sight of children and grandchildren you would give so much to see in person.  Or in turning the sound on and off when small parties are prone to make unscripted interventions.   This makes the whole experience both pleasurable and surprisingly tiring.  After an hour’s interaction, you feel drained of energy. 

There are several reasons for this.  The first is the technology.  Smart though the competing sites are, the quality of the sound is often poor, and the picture of limited quality.  In talking to each other we are all of us minutely attuned to tiny movements in facial expression.  The video images, under stress with so much increased use, can be insufficiently sharp, or require intense concentration to decode.  There is also the question of positioning the camera.  My younger daughter, a BBC producer, is long used to this business.  She strongly advises two techniques; always place the camera at head height so that the viewer is not focussing on the underside of your chin; and always sit back, so that your face does not dominate the screen.

The second is the intensity.  In normal life we don’t often talk to someone without a break for a whole hour, and when we do there are pauses, moments when we are looking elsewhere, or have briefly diverted attention to our own thoughts.  In my book I examine what I term ‘abstracted solitude’, the capacity to withdraw from pressing company.  Daniel Defoe in his second sequel to Robinson Crusoe, caused his hero to write that,  ‘all the Parts of a compleat Solitude are to be as effectually enjoy’d, if we please, and sufficient Grace assisting, even in the most populous Cities, among the Hurries of Conversation, and Gallantry of a Court, or the Noise and Business of a Camp, as in the Deserts of Arabia and Lybia, or in the desolate Life of an uninhabited Island.’  It is very difficult to be there but not there, if you are constantly on camera.

The third, unique to this medium, is the accompanying presence of your own image, particularly on ZOOM.  The one thing you never do in ordinary conversation is look at yourself.  I am not fond of my own image at the best of times, and now, two months and counting since my last haircut, I am beginning to look like Al Pacino in his later manifestations.  To be faced with such a sight for so long is deeply dispiriting.

These limitations have caused some of my friends to revert to the older technology of the telephone, where you are free to concentrate on the conversation, without the distracting video technology.

But then again.  A video call yesterday was held up when my five-year grandson discovered, to his great satisfaction, that if he put his bare foot up against the camera on the laptop, it would appear five times larger than the rest of him.  Can’t do that on a telephone.

from Megan in Brisbane, Australia: how will you remember this time?

April 17. Living history. There have some excellent posts recently which have made for interesting and informative reading. The historical background to life in East Africa has been fascinating, and the interest evoked in the soon-to-be released : A History of Solitude. 

History as a definition has created many and varied responses over time. The website below gives some of these definitions :

https://www.thoughtco.com/what-is-history-collection-of-definitions-171282

We, in fact, are living through history (#Greater Purpose). We may feel stuck at home, bored or lacking the energy or creativity to do something meaningful, but in years to come, our grandchildren will learn about the time of Covid19. They will hear of a time when the air was unpolluted for a short time, when dolphins swam in the canals of Venice and when aeroplanes didn’t flock the skies. They will learn of the biggest contribution that people could make to this history – and that is staying at home.  

How will you remember this time?