All at Sea
Lockdown reminds me of that Coleridge poem – The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. If you haven’t read it, no need to – you’re probably living it right now. If the poem were a headline it would be this: Old Sailor Shoots Albatross & Becomes Physically & Emotionally Cast Adrift. That’s a rather dramatic reading of Lockdown, I’ll grant you – but these are dramatic times.
I studied The Rime at school and it’s always rather chimed with me. A Mariner sets out on a sea voyage in near perfect sailing conditions, but punctures this idyll by firing his cross bow at an albatross flying overhead. He does it, because he can. No other reason. What an idiot! But his luck is about to change. The arrogance of his actions, result in him sliding into his own private nightmare. Cruises from Hell. I think I saw that TV show.
Immediately after killing the bird, he is beset by misfortune; the wind drops, the boat becomes motionless, the food rots, and he and his crew float aimlessly in the middle of nowhere – all at sea. One of the verses goes:
There passed a weary time. Each throat
Was parched, and glazed each eye.
A weary time! a weary time!
How glazed each weary eye.
This is how lockdown feels to me a lot of the time. I HATE IT. I’m so bored of it. I want to get back to work, but there’s no work to get back to. The theatres are closed. And no one knows if things will ever get back to normal. But never mind my issues, things are about to get MUCH worse for The Ancient Mariner. First his entire crew fall down dead, then he runs out of water and finally he begins wildly hallucinting and losing his mind. Now, he really is alone. Utterly Alone.
Alone, alone, all, all alone,
Alone on a wide wide sea!
And never a saint took pity on
My soul in agony.
Basically by the end of the poem and after a long time drifting, he has some kind of ephipany and learns his lesson. He realises his mistakes, repents and as he does so, the wind fills the sails and the ghosts of his crew sail his ship back to land. He’s been saved somehow, but his penance is to be forever haunted by his experience, which he relates to everyone he meets. Wouldn’t like to be stuck with him in the kitchen at a party. Although I think I have been, on a few occasions.
Anyway – like I said Lockdown makes me think of the poem. I’ve felt cast adrift and a little lost during this time. But I have also spent much more time planting and growing things in my garden. More time creating an outside space for me to work in. More time cooking and thinking about things, more time with my family. So perhaps some good things have come out of Lockdown. Nature has loved this whole thing; less pollution, breeds and species coming back that were endangered, cleaner air, quieter towns – it’s been something of a paradise. I really hope any lessons we’ve all learned will feed back into our lives when this pandemic is over. I hope we will be better guardians of our planet and take better care of each other. But mostly I hope that the ‘New Normal’ will be presided over by wiser leadership from those who hold power. Because Old Normal wasn’t really working.