Why am I avoiding being the new Samuel Pepys?


‘But, Lord! how sad a sight it is to see the streets empty of people, and very few upon the ‘Change. Jealous of every door that one sees shut up, lest it should be the plague; and about us two shops in three, if not more, generally shut up.’

There will be many, diarists of this time.  I have written some stuff, but nothing that will be discovered centuries later about life in the middle of this pandemic.  Perhaps I should have started a year ago, when the first smatterings of news of COVID19 had us at, what, when, how and now, almost a year later, more anxious than ever that this will ever end. I honestly cannot say what I think about it, believe about it, but that sadness has descended on the world is the truest thing I could say.
A friend lost her husband yesterday, on Christmas day, to the virus.  Forever to mark the day. The loss of life, the horror of it all, I don’t want to think about it, cannot even bring myself to read the statistics and wonder, and I do, if I will succumb to it. I fear more for my family, friends, and those I love and yes, I have prayed for release from this all.  Walking the empty streets of London, I am so reminded of Mr. Pepys and how history is a great lesson.
A little about the man.  Samuel Pepys kept diaries, particularly from 1660 to 1669 which covered the Great Plague, the Dutch War, the Restoration and the Great Fire of London.  His biography is riveting stuff, the diaries written in code, but this was more to mask all his numerous affairs and undesirable associations – the man married a girl of fourteen for goodness sake! Yet he is the one we look to for day to day recordings of what it was like back then – he witnessed the execution of Charles I and was on the ship bringing Charles II back to royal power.  A man of Naval office, walker of streets, observer of all.
I walk the streets now.  London is empty and filled with stories.  I love the mesh of lives past and present.  We have soared since then, technology, space, medicine and education.  Yet we fail with Cancer and COVID. But this is not why I walk the streets of London at this time.
I walk because I feel the passion for life.  Senses acute, eyes averted up and far, touching, reaching, immersed in life.  Lives lived and remnants of their being here, lives loving and birthing and painting and writing and creating lace, buildings, taming rivers, trading in coffee houses, putting on plays at the Globe, I am part of something bigger than just now.  And that is what gets me through.  I am watching the same view, tripping on the same cobbled streets, caressing the same pages.
Our pain is universal.  Our achievements too.  I could not imagine getting through this if I did not have the past to show me how. Perhaps it makes me feel small in some way, that I am but a little human at this time, and not so significant in the big scheme of things.  No Kingdom, no Papacy, no Master of Art or developer of the latest app – but I am part of something great. And as much as this time is a tragedy we, as modern day, solve it all, super achievers have been knee amputated and no real answer, we are still part of something magical. Life.
Part of our own story.  Like the millions that have been before, simple workers, homemakers, mothers and daughters, we have a right to be here.  To write our own story. Diarise it, paint it, print it … or just be in it.
Who would have thought I would ever get to be in the ‘high risk’ category?  The close up there to getting the vaccine because of my age, underlining conditions, and just plain on the other side of fifty? Does it scare me – you betcha it does, but I cannot just sit and wonder if living every day is going to be unfulfilled, without curiosity, without hope?  I do what is needed, isolate and follow the rules. When I go out, I am alone, choose the empty carriage, touch no-one and wear my mask.  I know how serious it is.  I know how much I need to cherish my children. But I do go where I am allowed, and in this city, I am allowed to wake up super early, be the only one on the bus, exit and begin the journey to the past, to validate my present.
I will not diarise this time, for this time is not what we are supposed to endure. Pepys wrote everyday, I appreciate everyday now. Follow amazing people writing blogs, filming on You Tube, being creative in a new normal.  I embrace every single person who still wants to act, write, sing, paint, build a building, fly a plane.  I embrace every midwife, nurse, teacher, lawyer, politician, fisherman, baker, barista, decorator, truck driver and everyone who is making the best of this time, without documenting their journey, but doing their journey regardless. One has to love the final recognition of true heroes at this time. It is time. It is long overdue.
In my fifth Lockdown, worried and afraid about the year that has been, and the year ahead, I will not diarise the darkness, but the light of being here, part of an amazing journey.
I will leave the light on. To music, love and just being human.
Suffering exists and my heart breaks all the time, but somehow, I don’t know how … she keeps pumping.