The Travelling Companions by Augustus Leopold Egg

Time to move on

I know I have been quiet lately, but in my defence I am new to all this and haven’t really got into my stride yet. After all, what should one consider to be a suitable interval between posts? Too frequent and one becomes open to accusations of vanity and delusions of self-importance, too few and one is going to be ignored. I have come across individuals who are pouring out their hearts on an almost daily basis. It is hard to keep up with these people and their outpourings. Others seem to limit themselves to more infrequent postings. If there is an etiquette to this sort of thing I have yet to find it.

My lack of online activity is in no way a reflection of my offline life. Quite the opposite in fact. Since the start of the year, I have been forced to re-evaluate my life and reassess my priorities. Last year was rather difficult for me personally and financially. Both the relationship and the business I started the year with suffered dramatically thanks to Covid-19 and the restrictions it brought with it. My relationship with Robert ended in the summer after a disastrous couple of weeks in isolation with him.

Over the past couple of weeks, I have been busy winding down my gallery business and sorting my finances. Exhibition items hve been returned, stock sold on and my lease ended by mutual consent.

It has been stressful and emotional. I had invested a lot of time and effort into the gallery felt it was just beginning to break even. Now it is just another statistic, another victim of the pandemic. Whilst the newspapers publish daily updates on the number of people who have contracted Covid, died from it, and now have been vaccinated against it, how many people have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, or their businesses through it?

Many of the artists I have exhibited and sold works for are struggling to survive. Friends who work in the theatre have had no work for almost a year now. My own story may be devastating to me personally, but it is nothing compared to what many others continue to endure with little or no support.

On the positive side, both of my daughters are keeping well and, if anything, are thriving. Emily has just started a new job working for a large law firm in Manchester. She is working from home which seems to suit her very well. Charlotte is settled in Edinburgh and seems to be enjoying student life, all-be-it not quite what she signed up for. She is lucky enough to be living with friends and not having to cope with student accommodation. I wish I could be with them. Hopefully by spring one or other of us will be able to make the journey.

Now that I have settled everything with the gallery and am satisfied the girls are safe and happy I find myself feeling somewhat adrift. With no gainful employment, no one to look after, and no social life to speak of, I am at something of a loose end. I suppose the first thing I should do is look for a new job or project. I have no immediate need to work as financially I am reasonably secure. For me, it is as much about self-respect and sanity as anything else. But what can I do in this strange and topsy-turvy world?

Maybe it is time to think outside of my comfort zone. I am not afraid of hard work and am open to suggestions. One of two of my friends have suggested volunteering to help with vaccinations or one of the foodbanks that have sprung up recently. I will give these ideas serious thought.

Actually, there are a few things that will require serious thought. I am a single woman, of a certain age, and although I am not exactly desperate to start a new relationship I do miss having someone around. But how does one go about finding new friends in the middle of a lockdown? I don’t really like the idea of those online dating websites. It all seems so clinical and detached. Yes, I know that some lucky people have found their soul mate that way, but I just don’t like the idea. And I have heard enough horror stories from others to put me off the whole idea. But where does that leave me? With no art galleries, theatres, bars, or other venues where I might normally expect to meet new people it seems I will simply have to learn to cope on my own for while longer.

Of course, I know I can always call on Robert. He has made it abundantly clear, on several occasions that he would take me back in an instant. Rather than being a comfort, I find that rather sad really. He is a good man, but not built for relationships. He is under a lot of pressure from his family to get married and settle down but I can’t honestly see that happening any time soon. At least not in a way that would make him happy.

As for what would make me happy, I am not so sure myself at the moment. For most of my adult life, I have been responsible for the welfare and happiness of others, mainly my husband and two daughters. Now I only have myself to consider and I am not sure how to do that.

Whatever the future hold, I am sure it will be an adventure.

Sunday Afternoon on the Island of la Grande Jatte

These are interesting times

“May you live in interesting times” is reputed to be an ancient Chinese curse, but apparently it isn’t. Not that it matters where it came from so long as we all understand its meaning and intent. The idea of living in “interesting times” is, for many of us, a curse indeed. After all, what most of us really want is peace and stability in our lives, not the constant upheavals that “interesting times” would inevitably bring.

It is fairly clear, I think that we have all been living in interesting times recently. Any idea of “normal” has become something of a pipe dream as our lives have been turned upside down by events beyond anyone’s control. But, on reflection, I am in a bit of a quandary over all these “interesting times” curse. Yes, I do like my routines and stability. It is good to have some idea of where your life is going and what you can expect from day-to-day. But change and the pressure to adapt are key elements of Darwin’s theory of evolution and it is only through change that we can hope to grow and develop. Organisations or groups that rest on their laurels are destined to fail, often quite dramatically.

Personally, I don’t have a problem with change Change is good, even when it isn’t! I know that sounds like a contradiction, but as I see it, every change brings with it opportunities. The change itself may be initially perceived as bad, but in most cases, one can find something good, even if it just a foundation on which to build something positive.

Of course, what we have all been facing over the last 10 months has forced many of us to reconsider our priorities. My own circumstances have changed quite considerably since this time last year. Some of those changes are only loosely connected to the Covid-19 and its impact. The biggest change for me is my decision to close down my gallery. It is a shame and I wish I didn’t have to do it, but back-to-back lockdowns and a landlord who wants me out have combined to force my hand. If I am honest it was more of a hobby than a business anyway. Whilst I enjoyed it, I am clearly not a businesswoman and most weeks it barely broke even.

And this time last year I was in a steady relationship. It was hardly full of passion, but we were comfortable with each other and I enjoyed Robert’s company. He made me laugh even if we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on things. In retrospect though, it is clear that we had very little in common, no common areas of interest. But we made it work and things were going well until the first lockdown. We decided that I would move in with him as we were both living alone at the time.

For the first week or so, everything went as well as could be expected. The rot set in about week three when Robert decided he was bored with the whole isolation thing and started socialising with various friends. I was not happy about that but turned a blind eye at first. I know, I should have put my foot down, but that is not easy with a man like Robert; he saw the whole thing as some kind of joke and refused to take the pandemic seriously. In the end, it became intolerable. It was also obvious that after just a few weeks under the same roof we had run out of things to say to each other. So I left and returned to my flat.

Robert and I remain good friends, but any spark that may have existed between us has long since been extinguished. Inevitably, he contracted Covid-19 shortly after I left and was quite ill for about a month. If it hadn’t been so serious I might have laughed, but he was very ill and it did change his view of the situation. He still resents lockdowns and seems to go out of his way to flout the rules, but he does keep his socialising to a small, select group. That I think is the best we can hope for there.

So I head forth into 2021 as a single, widowed, failed businesswoman in her middle age. When put that way it doesn’t sound very good, does it?

During the past year, we have seen so much change in the ways people work, socialise and live that it is becoming increasingly difficult to remember our pre-covid lives. There is little chance of things going back to exactly what they were. With so many of us embracing the technologies that have kept us together and allowed us to work throughout this tumultuous year, some permanent changes are inevitable.

We have been living through interesting times and think we will continue to do so for a while yet.