4: Love in the time of Covid-19

Poem of the day: La Belle Dame sans Merci by John Keats, 1819. Perhaps my favourite opening lines of any poem:

O what can ail thee, knight-at-arms

Alone and paley loitering?

The sedge has withered from the lake

And no birds sing.

The metre, that final line – it’s pure music. And the last two lines of the opening stanza resonate particularly at this moment:

The sedge has withered from the lake

And no birds sing.

Thankfully, the birds do still sing – but something is missing. That something is the sound of human activity. There are some sounds I don’t miss, such as the angry revving of car engines, but that bustle of activity, of chatter in the street, and the laughter of carefree holidaymakers, is gone. On top of this, the sky has clouded over and the pine trees are being battered by high winds. At least it’s not the kind of weather for spending time outdoors. It would be easy to lose heart in times like these, but I choose instead to make connections, as I mentioned in yesterday’s post. There was, however, some advice I missed from yesterday’s post, and that advice has to do with love.

Love the ones you’re with

Joining hands in friendship
Time to connect with family and friends

If you’re lucky enough to be quarantined with other people, you might think this is the opposite of good fortune: a nightmare. You probably aren’t used to spending 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with your spouse, children or whoever else you share your living space with. You probably crave your own space. Try to carve out a little time in your day for yourself, but also use your situation to connect with the people around you in a way you wouldn’t normally. Try to learn something about your partner that you didn’t know before. Take time to appreciate the qualities that brought you together in the first place. As for children: yes, they’re demanding, but their biggest demand is for attention, for one-on-one time with you, the central focus of their lives. So give it to them: read them a story, paint a picture with them: give them your undivided attention for some time, even if it’s only 15 minutes: it will reap rewards. Maybe you house share with friends: ask them about themselves, learn their story, and tell them yours. How wonderful to be surrounded by others, even if it doesn’t always feel that way! If, on the other hand, you’re alone, reach out to others in a similar situation and show them you love them. They will return the love, and you will feel more love for yourself because of this. Another way to show love is through cooking for your family and friends, or (just as importantly) for yourself. With that in mind, I’d like to share the story of our quarantine paella…

No Hay Nada

Food shortages in supermarkets
Empty shelves in Lidl, Costa del Sol

My husband went to the supermarket on Monday and the fridges were empty. In terms of meat, it was literally no hay nada, ‘there is nothing.’ Probably more a result of panic buying than of problems with supply chain, at this stage. Luckily, our housemate had some seafood in the freezer. I took one look at this and thought ‘paella.’ It was my turn to go to the supermarket yesterday for the rest of the ingredients. The security guard told me off for bringing my toddler. It strikes me as a little ironic how, less than a week ago, people were crowding the aisles and coughing all over each other in order to cram their trolleys, whereas now, you can’t even take your baby to the supermarket. For sure, it was quiet and people were keeping their distance, which given the circumstances is a good thing. Driving on the motorway was also a lot less stressful than usual, which led me to think perhaps I need to ’embrace the apocalypse.’ A little nihilistic, maybe, but it’s the situation we’re in so why not embrace it?

Hay Paella

Cooking for family during quarantine
Cooking a family meal can lift spirits

When I got back, I played some Ska and Reggae classics on the terrace and cooked the paella on the barbecue with the help of my husband, who is an excellent cook. Paella takes time: it needs love to turn out right – I enjoyed my time on the terrace, the wind in my hair, the music, the heat from the cooking flame. And after a few hours, hay paella, ‘there is paella’: our household all came together and ate at the table, which we don’t do often enough in ‘normal’ times. Everyone loved the paella. We laughed and joked over dinner. And now I take time to be grateful for all those good things that happened yesterday, for the people around me, for food in the fridge, for the terrace with its fresh air and for the birds that still sing.

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