This evening, for the ninth time, people across the country stood on their doorsteps or leaned out of their windows and make noise in solidarity with people providing care during the pandemic.
This weekly ritual has become a poignant marker of time for me and many other people. This clap is my only contact with people outside our spaceship. Quite quickly a routine has emerged for us which involves:
• Joining our neighbours in applause at 8pm
• Playing a tune with a particular relevance. We started with ‘Night Nurse’ but have also played ‘Health is Wealth’, ‘Walk Like A Champion’, and tonight we danced enthusiastically to Whitney Houston’s ‘My Love Is Your Love’.
• Some of our neighbours also play music at the same time.
• Our spaceship crew then share a meal together and I do a drawing that aims to capture the mood of that week.
I now have nine drawings and plan to do one more and then share them all in a post.
I’ve written before about the role that music and dancing has played in my life, and in my relationship with my tics. I find certain frequencies soothing because they temporarily replace the sensation of tics with the sensation of rumbling bass. Being moved by music is a welcome break from the involuntary movement of my body.
During one of the first claps for carers, something happened that gave it special significance. I popped my head out of our garden door and people from neighbouring houses spotted me and waved. I immediately shouted, ‘I’ve been glimpsed!’ I’ve not been out of the castle since early March, so being seen by people outside felt surprisingly significant.
Each week since then I’ve repeated the move and been greeted with waves. This fleeting exchange matters to me – as long as I’m seen once a week, I know that I still exist! This might sound nonsensical especially because I’m chatting to people on the phone every day. But this brief non-digital connection is important to me. Taking part in this collective action is an opportunity for reflection and connection and it’s helping me feel part of a community.
As lockdown lifts for some people, it’s important to remember those whose activities are still restricted. It’s particularly crucial because, in recent weeks, there’s been very little political discussion or acknowledgement of people who are shielding, and what they should expect in the medium and longer term. This isn’t simply about making sure people have their practical requirements met – it also means continuing to find ways of acknowledging the existence and experience of those who are shielding.
For the last nine weeks there’s been a solidarity in our shared experiences. If you’re lucky enough to take advantage of the easing of lockdown, please have empathy for those who can’t.
The main way to show your compassion for those who are at high risk is to follow the social distancing rules. This virus has revealed just how reliant on each other we are, and if we’re all going to get out of this situation, we need to act collectively.