So we have reached the longest day. It doesn’t seem quite possible. Celia and I were talking about this yesterday: how can we be in mid summer when the usual rituals, the usual events that are our landmarks as we move through the months simply haven’t happened? I realise I am somehow waiting for them. So it’s surprising to see tomatoes and cucumbers forming on plants, surprising to find we have moved from the daffodils and bluebells to the hydrangeas and hollyhocks, surprising the days are going to start getting shorter from tomorrow.
The billboards thanking our key workers which we saw everywhere have changed too. There’s a really striking one about domestic violence saying abusers always work from home. Along the SouthBank there are pleas for cash as well alongside the poems to remind us of the poetry library and all the other wonders we cannot currently access, and which are now in jeopardy.
I was shocked by a survey where people had said the least essential job was that of an artist. Art is not a luxury, art is something we need. Even in prehistory there were artists. Art has proved its necessity in lockdown as well as at other times in allowing us a mode of communication that says things differently from words. A world where artists are despised and unvalued is a poor world, a narrow world and a dull one. it’s a bit like where people describe the humanities subjects as easy subjects, according only the sciences and maths respect. If you honestly think doing a literature degree is just a question of reading books you haven’t thought about it very much, and you probably haven’t thought about the books you’ve read much either. I keep thinking about Middlemarch by George Elliot. Someone I worked with one said that if you haven’t read Middlemarch you haven’t lived. I think she was probably right. In the novel the threat of cholera is an ever present fear. It doesn’t stop people going out and about, falling in love, marrying, cooking meals, but it’s there. Rather like Covid 19 which we are having to learn to live with.
Human beings have told each other stories to help understand the world since long before writing was invented. The best stories help us understand who we are, to set our times in the context of history, to ask questions about the whats whys and wherefores, and maybe push us towards possible futures.
I am going to the boat tomorrow so shall probably miss the socially distanced, open air, poetry reading my book group has planned for Thursday evening. Maybe I’ll read one to the ducks.
Stay safe, keep well.