Wednesday 26 August 2020

Lockdown Meanders

Meanders in Isolation 

The dictionary defines ‘meander’ as to follow a winding course or to wander aimlessly. Or as the Scots say to stravaig–– to wander without sure purpose, glad of the possibilities of moving freely on foot and of being––even temporarily––unconstrained. Walking is the art as Rebecca Solnit suggest of recognising the role of the unforeseen, of keeping your balance amid surprises, of collaborating with chance.[1] Solnit deeply resonates with me and my daily meanders have made me more conscious of the beauty in the ordinary and of overlooked and unconsidered. It has taught me to look, to really look. The feeling of isolation I’m sure we have all felt during this time of separation, of being walled off or being confined, and at the same time feeling a terrible sense of exposure.[2] This tension between separation and exposure – the rows of windows where life is going on behind the net curtains and the smiling china cats which you can look in on, but you cannot reach. We feel the loss of intimacy and social interaction greatly, on one hand, and on the other the feeling of self-consciousness of the harshness of the stranger’s gaze, and the anxiety induced by the supermarket queue and the one - way system. Do I apologise for not being near you when we talk in the street? is that delivery man too close?

The words are not all my own, but the pictures are, and they record Newmarket and Cambridge from 31st March to 25th June 2020. They flow, meander, and are not constrained by any chronological ordering. Pictures pre-dominate as Berger says seeing comes before words. The child looks and recognizes before it can speak.[3]

[1] Rebecca Solnit A Field Guide To Getting Lost.

[2] I would point you to the work of Olivia Lang The Lonely City: Adventures In The Art Of Being Alone who explores the feeling of isolation and loneliness and is a superb.

[3] John Berger Ways of Seeing.

Walking I have found during these lockdown months has offered purpose and solace in difficult times. But also to leave your front door in the early hours of a weekday morning was to be confronted by a familiar landscape of shops and streets and workplaces that had been transformed by these strange times into an alien unpeopled place where the clocks had stopped and the common place has taken on an almost sinister aspect. When a day that you happen to know is Wednesday starts off by sounding like Sunday, there is something seriously wrong somewhere.[4]

[4] John Wyndham The Day of the Triffids.

                                               George looks around
                                               He sees the park
                                               It is depressing
                                               George looks ahead
                                               George sees the dark
                                               George feels afraid
                                               Where are the people
                                              Out strolling on Sunday?[5]

[5] Stephen Sondheim, Lesson 8, from Sunday in the Park with George.

There is beauty to be found in everything, you only have to search for it.[6]

[6] Algernon Newton 1880–1968 b. Hampstead, ‘Canaletto of the canals’.

Newmarket Shop Signs

With Angels frolick in a purer air,
                         Then shall our soul now choked with fenny care,
              This low Nadir of darkness must it shend
             Till it aloft to th’ radiant Zenith wend.

[7] Thomas Walkington, The Optick Glasse of Humors, 1607.

Post contributed by Shaun Fry, Squire Law Library