I see you neighbour!

by Christopher James Stone

Life in lockdown

So what are you doing with your time in this period of enforced isolation?

I watch a lot of telly myself. I mainly avoid the news. What more can they tell you? Wash your hands, keep your distance. I don’t want to hear about the latest fatalities. I don’t think that helps very much.

However, I’ve been having this peculiar sensation whenever I turn the TV on. It’s the weird disconnect between what’s happening on the screen and real life.

Like all those scenes of people in crowded places moving way too close to each other. Or adverts for things that we can’t do, like going to the movies or on holiday. We won’t be able to go out for weeks, maybe months, and who knows when we will feel confident enough to get close to a stranger again?

All of a sudden the TV looks like some alien being that’s invaded my living room. It does its best. It’s like a chameleon. It tries to mimic my life and aspirations, but this coronavirus pandemic has blown its cover. It’s no longer able to sell us the illusion that it’s one of us.

Not that I’m all that bothered. It fills the time and offers cheap entertainment, and now that I can see through it, it can’t do me any harm.

Meanwhile there are other things we can be doing with our time.

Currently a friend of mine is dancing to retro electronic children’s music on a 1970s Fisher Price toy cassette player. She’s drawn a large rectangle on the floor with a marker pen, with diagonal lines across it, from where she does faux Isadora Duncan style expressive dancing: all extravagant arm movements, and winnowing hands.

I recommend it. She’s been inviting all her friends to join her. There’s a Facebook live streaming group dedicated to it. It’s very funny, and passes the time nicely, while giving everyone much needed exercise.

Across the way from where she lives there’s a student. She often sees him there, doing his exercises, or whatever, in his living room. Normally when the two of them catch sight of each other, they look away politely, in the traditional English manner.

On one recent occasion, however, while she was doing her wacky dancing, and he was doing his, they held eye-contact for a while, and then gave the thumbs up. “Yes neighbour, I see you,” she thought. No doubt he was thinking the same thing too.

I had the same feeling the other day, while out for my daily walk. Someone passed me on the other side of the street, another solitary walker. We were walking in opposite directions. We caught each other’s eye and waved. I thought I was recognising a kindred spirit, someone just like me.

Isn’t this strange? We are, most of us, more physically isolated from each other than any of us has ever been in our entire lives, and yet, on some mysterious level, we are more connected too.

We are none of us alone, even when we’re on our own.


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Written for The Whitstable Gazette 02/04/20 but not published. This will be my last piece for them for the time being.

If you would like to write to them to express your appreciation of my work, here is the address:

The Editor, Room B119 Canterbury College, New Dover Road, Canterbury CT1 3AJ

phone: 01227 475985

email: kentishgazette@thekmgroup.co.uk

fax: 01227 762415

(The editor welcomes letters on any topical subject, but reserves the right to edit them. Letters must include your name and address even when emailed and a daytime telephone number.)

Thanks to Isobel for the picture.


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