March 19, 2020

I am halfway through Day 16 in #CoronaCentral.  I have #iostoacasa – not left home now for 8 days and since I have plenty of food that will probably extend another 5 until Tuesday.

There are things that have changed.  This morning when I reached for my phone it would not recognise my face…..  it was my hair, all wonky after a week of not caring much; not making those sorts of things matter.  I put my head under the tap to ruffle up those curls again and still it will not recognise me. Yes, things have certainly changed.

Lots of other things have changed.  The world is a different place since my last blog only a few days ago. Britain has shut down. Australia has shut down, but not its schools. America; I can’t bear to watch that idiot so I’m not authoritative on their news except that my beloved Italy has sent them half a million ventilators overnight.  New Zealand has closed its borders.

In Italy I saw a picture of a street last night in the northern town of Bergamo filled with Army trucks removing dead bodies. Two priests have been charged under the new Decreto because they conducted funeral services.  I have seen video footage of a hospital in Cremona; the IC unit with a dozen or more bodies lying motionless, face down on beds, attached to ventilators. It’s clearly warm in there because they are only covered by a towel around their middle bits. Let me say, they are not old bodies. I couldn’t see a single one that looked like a Nonna or a Nonno. And over 2600 Italian medics are infected – far worse than it was in China.

Last night in Bergamo, Northern Italy

I read that the European Central Bank has launched a surprise Pandemic Emergency Purchase Programme of EUR 750 billion until the Covid-19 emergency has receded.  As well they are considering a Covid-19 bond to support European countries: an unprecedented and significant measure to help sustain European economies in this crisis. And I think of the smug Brexiteers who will miss out on the strength and collaboration of a greater Europe.   

I’m mostly in fine fettle.  My days don’t have a great deal of variety but I try to do something different to change the routine.  Today I moved my computer from the sitting room beside the fireplace to the dining room.  Big deal you say.  Yes, it is a big deal. It gives me a different horizon and a bigger glimmer of hope as I look outside to the world and see the sunshine on the villages below me where people are stuck at home, many way more fearful or compromised than me.

Yesterday I felt a bit crappy to be honest and probably not surprising after 15 days at home and with news that this thing might keep me here in isolation for another month. Maybe more. I long to go downtown to the bar and hang out with friends over a vino. And to enjoy paying my €1 for the pleasure, just to keep money flowing in my own community.

Until then there is humour. Oh my god now I laughed at that guy flooding the internet with his wine glass saying ‘cin chi, thank you for coming’, to himself in a bathroom full of mirrors. I screeched out loud at that genius. Today I find out he is the son of one of my British in Italy mates who banded together to face Brexit and who are now organising on line quiz nights and book clubs and who support each other to the max, sometimes with a couple of hundred messages each day.  This guy works for Oxfam and is based in Kurdistan, and he had the humour to make that video?  I’m proud to know his dad.  What resilience! Kurdistan I ask you…where the fuck? Iraq. He probably hasn’t been safe for ever out there.

25 years ago I was in the front row of a week-long seminar in Maui, Hawaii. It was day one and the presenter, Tony Robbins, the world’s leading peak performance coach, came on stage with the words ‘the quality of your life is in direct proportion to the amount of uncertainty you can comfortably live with’.

As a variety junkie, those words changed my life and gave me freedom to be whom I needed to be without societal judgement. Today they are even more relevant.  None of us know how, or when this is going to end.  Yesterday I was down because I heard that we may remain in lockdown for another month when I thought it would be lifted by March 25 or, at the latest, April 3.  Today my son sends me a message that I should get some chickens as he’s read research from eminent scientists that we may be in social isolation for another year.  Chickens I think? I couldn’t kill a chicken. But I definitely need a couple of Burmese puss cats … and I start searching the internet.

Cleopatra and Polyester…how I wish you were here with me

The world is not as it was when I left London 16 days ago. London is not the same: 40 tube stations have closed and 200,000 troops are assembling to enforce lockdown when it occurs. BoJo seems to change his mind every day about what needs to happen and I’m jolly glad I’m here in Italy where the government took harsh measures from Day 1 and is focussed on protecting its people more than its economy, which itself is in dire straits. That can happen later. If people die, they cannot be brought back to life after it’s over. Bad enough that funerals are banned.  I find it depressing every day to get another raft of emails saying they are closed – all my favourite joints, the Royal Academy, the National Gallery, Colbert and so on, then I realise what a rich life I’ve had being a regular at these fabulous places. And I will again.

So how does one stay afloat?  Certainly with resilience. And resourcefulness. And with humour.

The amount of brilliant memes going around on the internet is fantastic. I’m gobsmacked at the creativity of some people. Laughing is so good for us, even if there is no one to hear you (lol). I’m amused by a friend buying pasta in Antigua on her way back to the UK and appalled at the selfishness and repulsive behaviour firstly in Australia, and now in the UK, at supermarkets. But I’m not going there today…either in this blog or literally as I don’t feel like a run-in with the Polizia who are checking ID and the Declarazione that we must carry to leave home.

I read that type A blood people have a greater chance of getting infected and I rush to my wallet to extract my card. O Positive. Phew. Small mercies, yet I believe I am pretty safe in my hills anyway. The night I was diagnosed with breast cancer 21 years ago I lay awake planning my funeral because every single person I knew who’d had it was dead. But I survived that too.

There are signs of spring in my paradiso and this is the second day of 18 degrees although a friend in Sydney who’d been looking at my weather pointed out that snow was predicted next Wednesday! Although the air is still cool, the sun is wonderfully restorative of the spirits and I’ve enjoyed the noise from two of my neighbours who have been heard on their tractors this morning. Thinking ahead to the wonderful vegetables grown up here, I hope to see some ploughed fields soon. I’m soon going to work on preparing my little orto for its veggies, when I can go out to buy some seedlings. Planting may be later than usual this year. But it will happen.

Nature is bringing new life

But mostly how I’ve kept ‘up’ in my solitude is you.  You, out there, my friends who have been unbelievably diligent and caring in checking in on me, seeing if I’m ok, asking how I am, sending me funny shit to make the metre-thick walls of my prigione move as if an earthquake is coming. But I mustn’t mention that. In a few months it will be 100 years since my entire village was razed to the ground, on 7 September 1920.  Life for them then was far worse than it is now, in my opinion. Everything is ‘compared to what?’

This thing will pass. No-one knows when. And we must soldier on in the unknown. Be kind and considerate to everyone. This is a time when connection is the most important thing that will get us through these challenging times.

Until next time from my beautiful sunshine and pristine hills. Stay safe. Laugh a lot. Care a lot. Embrace the unknown and the unknowable. It’s all we really have.

Baci e un abbraccio

Cin cin


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