The past three months have been instructional, in fact, pivotal.

    For the first two I was immobile with sciatica. Anyone who’s had it properly has my unreserved sympathy. With the aid of an institutional metal walking-stick my existence revolved around fridge, TV chair, computer and bed. Usually accompanied by a suitable snack. Hence when April came to a close I was a stone heavier than the end of February.

Thank you Amazon for plenty of decent films. Little thanks to terrestrial TV for the standard garbage. Two exceptions: Richard Osman’s house of games, which made us think a bit and realize we were much smarter than most D-list celebrities. And ‘Flog it’ which makes us wonder if we hadn’t binned so many valuables we could have been living on a yacht in The Caribbean.

    Then I ditched the yacht envy realizing that we’d basically already done it.

    So the month of May (and on in to June) has been a time to re-programme. I needed to get rid of the extra, physical and mental.

    Out in the garden I built some raised beds in addition to rescuing some dormant ones through masses of digging and adding of compost. Then we ordered a hundred quid’s worth of flowers and plants and buried them. Historically we’re not the most talented gardeners. More stuff keels over than thrives. In fact digging up the (expensive) plants that have died is quite good exercise in itself. Two fitness bites for the price of one. Mr Rotavator eat your heart out. Then I built a fence, re-arranged some flagging (which is bloody heavy), made a couple of gates and built a pergola. During the last one I only fell off the ladder once. Boy does that happen fast. One moment up aloft, the next on your chin in the gravel. I was lucky. Last year a friend of ours fell six feet, broke his neck and died in hospital a week later. And he was a professional roofer.

    And I started walking more. Previously about three miles a day with the dog. Now up to ten a day. I’m averaging over fifty a week which isn’t bad for a knackered old git.

    On top of the physical stuff there’s been a mental shift too. While walking-stick-reliant I realized (possibly illogically because my immobility was only temporary) that being over three-score years and slightly precarious of health, the eternal pine box was hovering out there in the dark.

    There are things to do.

    I withdrew my two latest books because I felt they could be improved. I’m re-writing them both and will feel better if I can get them done. Don’t want to leave a pile of manure behind should I keel over. I’m encouraged to battle on because people still buy the boat-based books, written six or seven years ago.

    An anecdote..... I used to live in Todmorden. I spent happy years there up till the early nineties. I returned nearly thirty years later to find one or two folks metaphorically sitting on the same bar stool in the same pub talking about the same things. (Bear with me, it’ll all come together.)

    While in lock-down I discovered some daft stuff on the internet which I sent out hoping to give people a smile. Some jokes I thought really funny. Usually that was early morning, pre five A.M., after that I’d do some writing and walk the hound. While idling around waiting for dawn and the dog walk I’d scroll through social media. In that electronic world I had an epiphany, one that has taught me a lesson.

    Whichever group I trawled I found people doing the same thing as the folks on the bar stools in West Yorkshire. It was Groundhog Day, or rather Groundhog Year. There were many posts almost identical year on year, the only thing different, the date-stamp, 2018, 19, 20.... In fact people were plagiarising their own posts year on year, and it wasn’t that interesting first time round.

    As dawn broke on my realization I saw my wooden box floating closer, and the lid was creaking open.

    Another thing that’s occurred is that lock-down hasn’t been good for people’s hypertension. The hatred and bile I read is extraordinary. Some of it regurgitated by people I thought of sound judgement. I expected it from the media, from whichever side of the right / left divide they’re paid by, but I didn’t expect it from some of the quarters whence it came. Seems even normal folk get wrapped up in the miasma. Ordinary people from every part of the spectrum appear to be carrying round such hatred and frustration.

    It’s funny, when I read at length about the awful effects of this bloody virus and the devastation it wreaks on individuals and families, I start to feel queasy, as if the written word is manifesting itself physically. I imagine things. Am I getting a head-ache, is my vision blurred? Psychosomatic probably. But (so far) the headache is forgotten when I go and dig a flower bed.

    In a similar way perhaps people are influenced by what they read about other things. Trump, Brexit, the virus blame game. Trump may be a pillock but posting regurgitated trash about him to internet friends won’t change the course of his presidency (or re-election). Brexit is going to happen, we voted for it and posting made-up shit about it won’t alter that course. The bile does two things. It makes some people look silly and bitter, but more importantly it looks like a selfish effort to divide our country, just when we should all be pulling together. I truly believe we can get through and be great, if we work at it together.

    So, how long have I got? How long have we all got? Who knows. A day, a year, ten? Everything in this piece is me, original warped me. I really hope that my last word, wherever it’s written or spoken, won’t be a bitter one, nor do I hope to leave things unsaid.

    One thing is for sure, there is some lovely stuff on social media. I love funny, inncent things. Posts without an edge, interesting things from old friends. But I’ve decided to wind down my involvement with social media. The tedium and the hate is just too loud, it's giving me a headache. Despite my stepping back a bit, I ultimately I have to give thanks. Whenever I’m a bit down I feel enlightened when I compare our lives to the bitterness I see. My Mrs and I are doing OK. Also, I realize just how full and varied our life is when I see the same things appear daily, weekly, yearly. I think, for goodness sake, don’t let me end up like that.

    Jo May © 2020