Sunday, 12 April 2020

Life in lockdown and the joy of the outdoors

It’s 3 weeks into lockdown here in the UK.

The enforced isolation is affecting us in so many different ways. As a Teacher, I came to terms with the oddity of remotely teaching my students, seeing photos of their Art homework ping into my inbox ready for feedback or a deeply sought well done. I checked in on a vulnerable student via Facetime, we had a virtual brew together whilst she cuddled her dog on the sofa. The absence of the formality of the classroom felt peculiar and I realised how much I craved the normality of seeing these young folk at school again, even if they ordinarily drove me a little bonkers. 

A rota system was created to look after the children of fellow keyworkers. Upon my turn to go in, I approached the door handle with trepidation, fearing the presence of the virus on everything I touched. My imagination turned my cosy art classroom into an environment that could potentially kill me. The trouble is, it’s not just my imagination is it?

Mercifully, I’ve spent the duration of the Easter holiday safe at home, in the grand fluffy company of my beloved cat. As time passed, I’ve grown calmer. In some ways I’ve become used to the isolation. What began as extraordinary has turned into the new way of living, the lack of pressure to ‘do something’ is unexpectedly gratifying. 

The saviour of my mental health has been exercise. As The Government released the order that we were only allowed to exercise close to home, I began to take to local untrodden paths. Living close to some truly picturesque moorland, I’d previously driven to my hiking spots, but now I began to explore my immediate surroundings. The thing is, you have to walk very steeply uphill for a couple of miles before the good bit starts. The journey involves shady woods full of plastic waste, a residential area where folk queue for strong lager outside the local shop still in their slippers and gangs of bored teenagers ignore social distancing whilst sharing a spliff. If you’re lucky, you’ll avoid being mown down by topless lads racing through the streets on a quad bike. By the time you’ve reached the top of the hill you feel so invincible that you want to carry on. And I do, I carry on for miles and miles. 

Never has a little green sign been so valued

Once out on the hills a network of trails weaves through the moor and farmland. Narrow lanes are lined with Hawthorn busting into fragrant blossom. Clumps of Narcissus and Bluebells sway a gentle scent into the breeze and remind me that despite the human horror, new life blooms. Up here there are few others, but there is so much beauty in the isolation of the natural world. Bees and butterflies fill the air. A Red Admiral appears to accompany me, landing periodically to spread its wings and bathe in the unseasonably early heat.

I begin to make new friends. A chestnut horse becomes a regular morning pal. I stop to say hello and scratch his neck as he reaches over the fence to nuzzle his enormous head into my belly. Every day I rue the fact that I’ve forgotten to bring him an apple yet again. I keep an eye out for the ginger farm kitten, a confident little fella who strolls over for affection, then prances off proudly displaying his surprisingly large furry orange balls. They remind me again that new life emerges just as it always will. 

I follow a stream through the woods and take a pause to stand on a slate slab over the trickling water. The sun beats down and I find myself raising my arms high in salute to the rays. It feels like a prayer. 

Right now, the relentless pursuit of perfume is far from my mind. I’m reaching for familiar scents that blend with the landscape, mossy chypres, oily green florals and fresh herbal colognes that fit these energetic hikes. Just a little spray, nothing noisy. I want to smell the world around me and connect with the fragrance of life. 

To all my friends in the fragrance community, I wish you good health and happiness and hope that you find some peace and harmony in this unthinkable situation.