Every since I can remember, I have been the diary type of gal. Dear Diary.
My daughter was angry with me when I destroyed my teen diaries – it was the de-cluttering and moving of stuff, but endearing it was that she may want to read my silly musings of being in love with Robert Redford and that beautiful chap from ‘Chopper One.’ The seventies desire for Wesley in ‘Rich Man, Poor Man’ and who could forget Nick Nolte emerging from the ocean in ‘the Deep?’ I wasn’t fussy or anything, anyone would do to come and rescue me from a small town in the Free State, when high school was about disappointing dates and detention. I was a child living out of herself, into dreams of better things.
My diaries are my chapters. Written notes on friendships and romance, children’s playdates and visa applications. Notes on ‘he loves me not’, and divorce. On the dying, and changing and being lonely and lost. And good things, notes on Rome and Juan Les Pins. My of course, the best children in the Universe. Tangible references of jobs suffered or loved – places lived in and said goodbye to. All in those little books. It will be easy to read my life one day.
Always a thrill to get the one for next year. Clean, smooth pages to be filled. A ritual. And not just any diary, it has to be such that I have travelled the world to obtain, just the right one.
This year began the same way. Notes on clients to meet, tours to give, trips upcoming. And then the dairy just … sort of died. We went into Corona forever it seems. The willingness to write in it seems obtuse, hoping to fill, lying fallow on my table. The loneliness overwhelming, the silence too loud.
Had an entry yesterday. A doctor’s appointment in Cape Town, some thirty minutes from my home. Easily done in better days, now nervous to leave the sanctuary and dare the drive, but I had the letter of permission to travel – oh dear Lord, even writing this seems insane. I had something to do other than fear, and listen to the negativity and gloom, I could travel, albeit a mere distance. Felt like an exploration, not without dread and the dread manifested in two police/military road blocks. What should have taken little time, turned into an hour and half of stressful edging in traffic, being pulled off and questioned as to my purpose to get into my car in the first place.
Cape Town, like any other city in the world, is a lonely place, bereft of life. The doctor’s rooms a laboratory. Sanitising to within the layers of skin, shoe covers, head covers, masks and gown. How can one be amongst a few and still feel so isolated and untouched? But, as much as I have become a criminal in the foraging of wine in this country, I also discovered that there was a possibility of coffee, a real, barista type coffee, secretly vended at a service station. Which service station was elusive but having had the letter to travel, I was determined to drink the beans before going back to lockdown.
At first I thought, it must be the service station at the airport, weary travellers and needing the fix and all that. Veering towards the airport, I slammed into another roadblock, now having expired the appointment and no reason for being there. This is fear, I thought: how to explain my reckless abandon of rules in search of coffee? I was interrogated, and turned back. Before leaving the freeway, I spotted the midas gold on the other side of the highway, it was to be true, sighting of red coffee cups outside the venue. Only I was on the wrong side. Undaunted, I turned back over the bridge, made it to the place and order the largest grande whatever in existence. Only to realise, stupid, stupid me, that now I was on the highway, back to Cape Town, contravening all rules and about to be arrested for getting a cup of coffee. The fear, the angst, the delicious nectar. In the end I managed to get back without a fine, or worse.
Angry. Astonished at the lengths I would go to for a bit of normality. I am a London girl, coffee is our go to, our first stop, our conversation. In a way our identity, how we call the order, feel caffeine mix with blood and strut to the tube empowered with our morning sanctuary. What the f…k is this all about? We face months of servitude to the virus, to the government and the not knowing what is going to happen, day after day, month after month. Coming here before lockdown seemed a good idea, but will I still be lockdown when the rest of the world is coming back to life? There are questions, quiet resentment, lots of fear and no information as to when and how we shall overcome and find some semblance of normality – and most of all, be able to fly home. For me, the rebellion in finding a cup of great coffee was my stand. But is it worth a diary entry? The coffee thing that is?
The United Kingdom, and many other countries have suffered great fatalities with the virus. Life has ceased, and fallen apart in so many ways. As with the rest of the world, but where I am, hunger is becoming more of a threat, than the virus. Little can help those who cannot work, living in dire conditions and facing poverty and starvation. Seven weeks of no income is awful here.
And so, tonight, as I look at my diary, with helpless frustration, I don’t even want to think of maybe, when, whatever … hang on, at least I thought so. She may lie idle now, for who wants to record another day of nothingness (oh, I went for a walk, now allowed) and how many times I thought I saw a spider in the house … not so much. We no longer speak or debate about Brexit, or can confirm dates, meetings, visits and now that I have cancelled my trips until when … the lethargy of uncertainty is of no value for the dairy.
But then, as a friend who has also survived a few rough years, and bought a guest house in December said: ‘We have been through so much worse, this is nothing and we are going to be fine’, I thought: unlike Pepys, I don’t want to record any more pain and suffering and write a plague diary … wait for the novels and plays etc … but I should record the little things that have taken precedence at this time. Like seeing the ocean again for the first time in weeks, how my hair is about to lose control of its own nature. How the human spirit is beginning to defy draconian laws. Being there for others, supporting the frontline workers … hoping and hoping it will end, and how this mad woman, nearly got arrested in pursuit of a great cup of coffee.
Be safe, be well and dream of better … it will come.