I’m in a queue. The council have arranged a rubbish collection in an adjoining village and we’ve seized the opportunity as our wheelie bin is full to the brim. Being in lockdown means more food consumption and general waste. The queue itself is very orderly. Us Northern Irish are good at waiting in line. Everybody observes social distancing and follows the instructions of the council workers to the letter.
The council worker supervising my line informs me that currently ‘every day is like Christmas’ due to the unprecedented demand for their services. More Groundhog Day, than Christmas, I think grimly. But before long I’m dumping my mandatory six black bags into the back of the bin lorry and driving off the site. In and out within five minutes. Not bad as I had been expecting half the county to descend en masse with a tonne of garbage.
Waste. The coronavirus is overflowing with it, and I’m not just referring to the smelly variety. Everywhere I see waste. Our time, the economy, and human life itself. The global death toll rises every day until the numbers threaten to lose all meaning and relevance. 250,000 dead, 260,000 dead. It’s just numbers and I struggle to digest the enormity of grief and trauma behind those bare statistics. My mind is boggled, blown, baffled by the casual senselessness of it.
The Americans blame the Chinese. The Chinese blame the Americans. The Russian government isn’t telling the truth. The British government is, and being slaughtered by its media for doing so. In a few days the U.K. death toll will have overtaken Italy as the highest in Europe. Many are terrified to step over the threshold of their front doors for fear of infecting a loved one, while others don’t care as long as they get their hair cut or a day at the beach.
Waste. But can we turn the tide and make something of this enforced hiatus in our lives? What can we do to fill the void as the hands of the clock drag interminably on another tedious circle? Well, there’s plenty to do around the house, all those tasks and chores we had been putting off forever. Rooms are being decorated, gardens tidied up and work surfaces gleaming. Boredom isn’t an option when you have a to do list as long as your arm.
We are exercising as never before. When I’m out on my daily run I see others walking, running and cycling along the country roads outside the village. Inside many are hitting treadmills and exercise mats, lifting weights and burning calories. When all this is over the streets will be flooded with a nation of fitness fanatics. Pilates and yoga YouTube sites are seeing unprecedented numbers of hits. We are stretching and sweating away the lockdown blues.
Then there are us bloggers and writers. Documenting our new way of living, sharing our experiences and reaching out to others through the online communities we have immersed ourselves within. I am reading, writing and researching; working on book cover designs with my publisher, reducing my TBR list and getting back into a daily routine while starting research on my third novel. This is time well spent, not wasted. My creative juices are flowing and filling the void of boredom and inactivity.
So, yes these are days of waste and despair, but they also offer opportunity and hope. We stand on a precipice and the choice is ours. Succumb to inertia and the voice telling you no more, or rise and seize the sliver of inspiration and innovation shining its light onto your upturned face. What do you choose? To curl into a foetal form and wait until it’s all over or stride towards the horizon, no longer a victim of circumstance? I know you will choose wisely.