Raging Toothache, Creativity And Maslow’s Hierarchy Of Needs

Sunday 24 May 2020 4.05pm

From the moment of the UK announcement by BoZo almost a fortnight ago, telling us he was lifting most aspects of the lockdown, my anxiety levels rose again. Not to the degree they were at the start of all this, but nevertheless my focus on at last getting some creative work done was somewhat shot again. I reminded myself of Maslow’s Hierarchy, and that you can’t expect to concentrate on making ‘pretty things’ when you’re frightened for your life, and tried to cut myself some slack.

After a few days I really was managing to focus a bit. The weather was going to pick up again and my garden story idea continued to fill me with enthusiasm. I was coming to terms with the apparent fact that everyone immediately surrounding my physical world was just going to do as they pleased. I had routines in place to keep myself as safe and healthy as possible. It was going to be a long haul, but it was going to be ok.

Then last Sunday, the toothache started.

Not long before last Christmas a chunk of one of my teeth broke off, taking an old filling with it. About half of the tooth remained, not in a very good condition, but apart from the sharp edge it wasn’t troubling me. I booked an appointment with the dentist anyhow, expecting a quick new filling and thinking probably best to get it done before the Christmas break; just in case.

He took numerous x-rays and, directing me to look closely at a specific point on one of them, made the observation “it’s terribly close to the nerve!”. From that moment on it seemed clear that he really didn’t want to touch it.

Even when I returned for a second visit, one at which I thought we’d agreed I was going to have it extracted, he revealed that doing so was almost certainly not going to be straight forward, and then declared he wouldn’t be able to enjoy his Christmas knowing I was in pain from the extraction; so it was left. At that point it wasn’t causing me pain (I’d long ago taken a nail file to the sharp broken edges), and I couldn’t reconcile asking a dentist to work on it who I knew didn’t want to work on it, so I pretty much decided I’d forget about it.

Until last Sunday. When it began aching.

A couple of times in recent weeks I’ve bitten on it and winced with pain (oddly, raw spinach, as in a salad, was an absolute no no – I can only think there must be an acid or an enzyme it releases), but it was a sharp pain and gone almost immediately. This was different. This didn’t go.

By Monday evening it was unbearable. I tried a mild painkiller and it did nothing. I tried every “old home remedy” I could find. I had no clove oil but I had cloves, so I chewed one lightly and then stuck it in the hole. No help, just bits of soggy clove stuck in my tooth.

I thought I remembered brandy being the thing to put on a poorly tooth. It’s not something I’ve ever drunk, but I was certain that somewhere I had a tiny bottle, bought once upon a long ago Christmas when I’d resolved to make my own pud (I never did). I pulled everything out of a kitchen cupboard. Yes, there at the back was a very pretty hip flask shaped bottle of, according to the label, a very good cognac. It could be 15 years old. (Does cognac go off?) It appeared to be unopened so I took a chance, swizzled a cotton bud inside, and stuck it on the tooth. No relief at all (but I did discover that very good cognac is NICE, and wondered if maybe I should just forego solid food and buy a few bigger bottles and drink the pain away).

My dilemma was going to turn out to be multi facetted, but at that point I hadn’t quite taken this in. My first thought was quite simply that although the pain was unquestionably bad enough to make any fear of extraction redundant, with my car off the road, and with a lift or taxi out of the question given the impossibility of social distancing, I’d have to walk to my dentist; only a couple of miles, but would I be ok to walk the half an hour home after being sedated?

With my stress level rising again, I remembered the dentist at the end of the road! OK yes they’re private and so it would cost money I need for food, but it would solve the problem. Yes. I’ll see if someone will loan me the money and I’ll go to them. Sigh of relief. Stress level starts to drop again.

I checked the website of the expensive dentist and it said they are doing emergency work. I rang them but only an answerphone giving a mobile number for emergencies. I rang the mobile number. After many rings it was answered with silence, and then a hesitant, “Hello?”, which didn’t quite sound to me like a very expensive dental practice poised to be answering calls from patients! I carried on regardless but was told in no uncertain terms that they are not at this time doing ANY face to face dental work, and that anyway I should contact my own dentist. I was further told my own dentist may refer me to an emergency clinic (where??), but the clinics are only taking patients who have had a course of antibiotics (“…but I don’t need antibiotics, I just need my tooth out”).

As instructed, and because it now seemed the only option, I rang my own (not absurdly expensive or private) dentist and the phone was answered by a real, efficient, dental receptionist. Promising. A few recommended immediate things to try (all of which I was already doing) and she assured me she’d ask my dentist to ring me the next day. Progress. I’d resigned myself to the walk. Soon be over.

The next day my dentist rang. No, they (too) are not doing ANY face to face dental work (the assurance on these practice websites that they are there for emergencies, apparently means they are there to advise you only). Again, I was told of a few recommended things to try (like painkillers, as if it wouldn’t occur to anyone with raging toothache to take painkillers!). It was suggested that I might like to ask the pharmacy for an Emergency Dental Kit (apparently this comes with some temporary filling material, like putty, which as in my case it’s not a hole so much as a half a tooth missing, I knew wouldn’t last 5 minutes), and then, “Sorry. That’s all I can offer. If it gets worse ring again. There is an emergency clinic about 25 miles away [I can’t walk that far!], but they probably won’t do an extraction either. Only life threatening work.”

So there we are.

To be fair the pain fluctuates. Some of the time it is just a sort of background soreness, and providing I’m ultra careful eating (nothing hot, nothing cold, nothing crunchy, or sharp – in fact, lukewarm soft suckable food is the only sensible choice), then most of most days I can get through providing I keep calm; stress exacerbates it instantly, as does evening, and attempting to sleep sends it raging so that’s the time I keep the painkillers for if I can, as I don’t want to take too many. This is going to be for the long haul, not just a few days, and given the condition of the tooth, it can only get worse.

Old Maslow got it right.

I’m hoping if I can just manage the pain, I can move up to the next levels. Because, like the virus, this isn’t going away any time soon. For the moment I’m somewhere between red and orange, and I’m going to have to work my way slowly up (obviously leapfrogging things like ‘connection’ and ‘freedom’!).

I didn’t think about it when I chose a sky blue to colour in the top level of Maslow’s hierarchy, but just at the moment it feels a little like the sky is what I’m reaching for.

Making Plans and Finding Focus

Thursday 14 May 2020 10.00pm

Since the idea popped into my head recently, of writing about how my garden became what it is today, I’ve been thinking about it a lot, and realising how much more of a story there is behind it; or to be more precise, how many stories.

I really hadn’t thought about it before, but much of the story of my life for the past 25 years or so is written in my garden. Highs and lows. Life and death. Love and loss. Friends and lovers. Successes and failures. Battles won and lost. They’re all there; all have formed the garden into the place it is now. 

The more I’ve let the idea percolate, the more stories keep coming to mind, and it’s paved the way to a new focus for my Patreon page.

The big picture of “seeing if I can make a living through writing and drawing” still applies, but just for now – while the world is in crisis and I for one am very much locked down – I want it to reflect the focus on one particular project.

So I’ve changed the description of my Patreon to “…creating a story about a tiny garden”, and altered what I’m offering for the different tiers, to reflect a new – albeit perhaps temporary – plan.

It’s still “using my writing and drawing skills” but now to create a book about my garden, that in turn tells a bit of the story of my life, and in particular highlights how good things can grow out of times that seem only bad.

First I’m going to create a timeline of all the changes that took this small outside space from just two plain strips of grass, open to the passing world, to the enclosed, semi private and secure garden full of beautiful, fragrant, colourful planting, with seating and working and storage areas, that it is today. I’ll be making notes as I go about the life events that prompted the changes – the wishes, the dreams, the hopes, and the fears. Digging out photos, and making drawings and design plans for each stage.

When all the planning is complete, I’m going to write the stories, chapters telling the life of the garden, with those bits of my life that influenced its growth woven in. I’ll turn the rough sketches into finished illustrations and use image editing programs and publishing programs on the computer to pull it all together and produce a book layout.

Finally I shall set about seeing if I can get the whole thing published.

For me it will be a journey of remembering and it won’t always be easy, but for the reader I intend for it to be something very different, full of creative solutions, practicalities and a fair sprinkling of triumph of hope over adversity! Something that’s needed now more than ever.

While this is is not going to be the answer to the “How do I make a living …?” problem – let’s be brutally honest, this is not going to be the next Harry Potter or make my fortune – it may however lead to other things. Who knows.

For now I’m writing it for my patrons. I can’t over state how much the support I receive over on Patreon is helpIng to motivate me and keep me accountable, and how immensely grateful I am for it.

I’m very excited about this little project – it feels as if this is the book I’ve been meant to write all along, I just didn’t know it until now.

A Little Early Morning View From Outside My Garden

Thursday 7 May 2020. 11:50am

I’m getting up very early at the moment in order to water and tend the troughs and tubs that are outside the front of my garden. They border the pavement, and as the road is very much a pedestrian thoroughfare, particularly with the footpath to the little shop at the far end, I don’t feel safe to be out there during most of the day or evening.

With the limitations on being able to look after them, and of course no money to spare, I haven’t added any colourful bedding to the front troughs and pots as I usually do, but am letting them do their own thing with the perennials that are already there, and the odd things that have self seeded. I’m a big fan of self seeding plants!

The stocks along the outside of the hedge are sort of semi self seeded, having had a little assistance from me by shaking them along the border over the last summer and winter as they produced their seeds. I’m aiming to get them growing all the way along, and have just shaken some more in the remaining gap, so fingers crossed they’ll be popping up later this year.

With my garden very much my focus at the moment, I’ve been giving thanks for all that I’ve done over the years to give it as much of an air of seclusion and privacy as possible; so important at this time. I’m going to be running a little series of posts for my Patrons, looking back to the very start when all that was out there was a couple of very tiny strips of open grass bisected by a short straight concrete path from the pavement to the front door. I’m digging out old photographs, and drawing up ‘floor plans’ of the various stages of the garden’s development.

If you would like to follow the journey that my garden’s taken over the past 25 years or so, hop over to Patreon and sign up. I’m opening the posts to all tiers, so whatever you feel you’re able to give will unlock them.

Meanwhile, here’s a little excerpt from the Patreon video I made first thing this morning, showing some of the pavement side of the garden, before the rest of the world was out and about.

Finding Delivery Solutions As Mail Doesn’t Really Arrive By Snail

Wednesday 6 May 2020 10.15pm

I’m gradually settling in to this strange new world, and not feeling the weight of the anxiety and fear resting on me quite so heavily. I’m well stocked now with essentials – good because it means I don’t need to panic over huge deliveries, and all the washing and quarantining they entail.

My entrance path is rapidly becoming even more overgrown than usual, and delivery drivers have been looking in disbelief when I’ve called out to them, pointing to the entrance.

‘It’s very narrow!”, they cry, hefting great wide shallow plastic crates stacked with carrier bags. “I know! “Sorry!”, I call back, “I have no way of getting rid of garden waste at the moment, so it just has to be left to grow I’m afraid. Sorry.”, I repeat. But I’m not at all sorry really. If passers by are dissuaded from venturing onto my property at the moment, that’s all to the good.

The one comment that does strike a chord though, and even in normal times it’s repeated by everyone who encounters my semi-hidden, and undeniably narrow-ish, entrance path, is a slightly sarcastic, “I bet the postman loves you!”. Well, no, probably I’m not his favourite customer, especially when it is, or has been, raining. And when the broom is covered in flowers. And when the dying flower heads are abandoning their branches even without being brushed against. And when the bees are enjoying the lavender underneath…

Since the very early days of the virus threat, I’ve sealed over my letterbox – not wanting ANYTHING entering the house, even for a moment, that hasn’t been either quarantined or thoroughly washed. We’ve been blessed with mostly dry days, so I’ve got round this by placing a large open topped cardboard box on the path, with a note inside to “Please place post in here”. That was ok while the entrance was still accessible, and on dry days, but I knew it was only a temporary solution, and I’d need to come up with something more sustainable.

Right at the start I bought a cheap wall mounting post box online, to accommodate for wet days, but hesitated to fit it to the wall by the front door, recognising that would still entail the postman battling with the broom. What I needed was some way of fitting the post box nearer the pavement. However, there was nothing to fix it to, and I still needed to get at it to remove the post; the problem seemed unsolvable. Then I had a brainwave.

Gazing out of the upstairs window my eyes alighted on my mum’s old sundial. I’d removed the pointy bit last year, that created the necessary shadow to tell the time, so the top was relatively flat, and being cast iron I knew it was quite heavy. On close inspection I realised it had a hole already in the top where the pointy thing had been bolted on – that got round any need to try to drill through the cast iron, and I began to feel it might just do the trick.

With a bit of thinking through, I realised I would need to raise the post box slightly from the top of the sundial, so that the drain holes already drilled in the base could do their job. A short chunk of wood left over from one of the legs of the sink stand that I made last summer took care of that, and the design was set.

Two extra holes drilled in the base of the post box allowed me to screw it to the small chunk of wood, and the hole already in the sundial top, with the addition of a couple of large washers, accepted a screw that then secured the wood to the sundial. Job done. Now, where to place it?

I chose a position inside the front hedge, near enough to the front door that it could be picked up by the security camera, but still on a narrow part of the border so I could reach it from this side of the hedge too. Then I discovered it was too short for the flat top of the sundial to rest on top of the hedge. Luckily there was already a (empty) pot sitting in a pretty convenient place inside the front hedge, so I ‘screwed’ it down a bit more firmly into the earth, popped its saucer on top, and stood the sundial-postbox on it. And “voila!”.

I’m hoping the whole thing will be firmly seated and heavy enough to withstand any strong winds because, providing I don’t have to actually stake it to the ground, I can simply swivel the sundial around in order to unlock the postbox and remove the post.

I’m happy to say the postman yesterday didn’t even hesitate, he just paused as he walked past and popped the post in. I then swivelled the whole sundial round and unlocked the box to remove the post (with gloved hands of course!), and felt an absurd sense of satisfaction at a problem solved.

Oh, and I realised a practical solution for deliveries is to direct them to be taken beside the car to the top of my grandmother’s old trolley that is bordered by a low ‘fence’ but accessible from both sides.

So short of actually building a moat and a raisable drawbridge, I’m pretty unlikely to get unwanted visitors, and as wanted visitors aren’t allowed at the moment, life in my garden has become restful again.

Tightening Budgets and Rediscovering Potatoes

Friday 24 April 2020 20:45

Well, I thought I’d pared my normal budget down to the bare necessities already as I headed into this year of challenges; of course, little did I know how much bigger those challenges would become! With seven months of working at the boatyard now not happening, taking the expected income with it, the real prospect of going hungry has been looming even larger and closer.

An urgent bit of crisis-within-a-crisis budgeting was called for. And it turns out there are quite a few more things that aren’t actually essential.

My small daily glass of wine with supper, and healthy quick to cook ready meals have been just a distant memory since the beginning of January. Now they’re joined by biscuits, cake, chocolate, crunchy bars, ice cream – in fact any edible treat at all! Ah well, maybe it’s time to diet.

Memberships of the very few groups and societies who I’ve supported for their good work – like the Basingstoke Canal Society – or to give me frequent entry to places I could otherwise either not see, or only afford to visit once or twice a year – like the RHS garden at Wisley have had to go.

Hardest to accept I have to let go are my regular monthly donations to half a dozen charities, but those are now all cancelled from May too.

Websites that have been dormant for a while are being mothballed when their hosting and/or domain name renewals become due. Obviously I want to keep this and D4H going, and ideally find a way of developing them even during the crisis…

My car is once again a dilemma. I decided in January not to get rid of it, especially as I was anticipating returning to the boatyard. Now I don’t expect it to be safe to return out into the world for the rest of the year. Quite what to do though, I’m not sure, but at this moment the car IS utterly non-essential. Update 28 April: I have decided to keep the insurance going just in case it gets stolen – although I don’t think it’ll start after nearly 2 months – or around here sadly likely, vandalised. I have however today SORN’d it, which means I get a refund of 10 months tax (although I’d like to hope I’ll be back driving before another 10 months is up, but for now the cash will be welcome).

The only other possible cut back – or even complete cut out – is my small storage unit. I believe storage providers are on the “essential services” list of places that are allowed by the government to stay open. As I’m not venturing out of the house even for a walk though, going somewhere like that – where unknowable numbers of other people are milling around (and the small units have doorways within only inches, or at most two or three feet of each other) – is utterly out of the question. I have to accept then that even if I was inclined to clear it out, it isn’t going to happen. With all the council tips closed, what would I do with it all anyway!

So my budget is down pretty much as low as it can go at the moment, and still comes in at a hefty £750-£800 a month. (Little Jessie, with her vet bills, litter and food, costs an average of about £100 a month, but she is, of course, a non-negotiable absolutely essential necessity!)

Food is where I’m learning to be more adaptable. Pasta, spaghetti, noodles etc are all in short supply for delivery, but I’ve reacquainted myself with good old potatoes and finding them extremely useful especially for lunches. A quick steam of a few finely chopped spuds, a dob of butter, maybe a little grated cheese or a third of a tin of tuna, mashed to a yummy perfection and dressed with ketchup – food for the Gods indeed.

A week or so ago I bit the bullet and applied for Universal Credit – something I really hoped to avoid doing – and it does look as if that will be forthcoming. It gives me just over £400 a month, far short of what I need, but every little helps.

Being accepted for Universal Credit should also make me eligible for Council Tax relief – in a nutshell, a saving of just under £125 a month. This is proving nowhere near as straight forward to apply for from the local council, with endless somewhat absurd hoops to jump through and impossible datelines, but I’m hopeful it will happen.

All in all it does look as if the government help coupled with tightening the belt another notch or two will mean my remaining rapidly dwindling savings will stretch a few months further than I’d feared, and should at least see me through to early next year. By which time I hope to be able to go out!

In the meantime, I need to get through all the stress and anxiety I’ve been feeling, and get back to working on my aim of NOT being ‘bowled out’ at the young age of 61. The coming months will be a far bigger test than I could ever have imagined, but I’d like to have Drawing 4 Health ready to launch properly in some form or other for the summer of 2021, and I need to get back on track, and get writing and drawing again.

Let’s face it, it’s not like I have anywhere to go!

Why It’s A Hard Time To Have ADHD And Why I Wish More People Had It

Tuesday 21 April 2020 13:50

People with ADHD don’t tend to become politicians.

We don’t have what it takes to be ‘yes men’. We’re not followers – oh we’re not leaders either (that needs focus and single mindedness)! We’re questioners.

People whose brains are wired in an ADHD way see and hear everything. It’s why we get irritated by the use of the word “deficit” in Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. It’s not a “deficit” of attention, it’s an “overload”;  everything gets our attention, like it or not.

Our brains are wired in such a way as to constantly be aware of the ‘Big Picture’, and we’re aware the whole time of not only all that is happening, but also all the possibilities of what might happen; good and bad. We’re bombarded by a constantly running array of “what if?” scenarios in our brains. 

While this is quite mentally exhausting, it has benefits.

I would put good money on the fact that those people in the world with ADHD wired brains could see how this virus situation would pan out long before the rest of the population (and the politicians). If governments had a few more ADHD wired brains in positions of power, I guarantee there would not be a shortage of PPE, lockdowns would have been applied much sooner and enforced with much more severity. And in all probability, a lot less people would have died.

But there’s a caveat.

Those with ADHD wired brains need trusted and trusting – the latter being of equal or even greater importance – ‘partners’ in the fight, who have not one shred of ADHD wiring. Those people are needed to focus on the tasks that need to done, but they need to do so with absolute trust in that which they can’t necessarily see, either right in front of them or, crucially, lying ahead of them.

The politicians with the power to carry out the tasks needed at the moment, must trust the scientists who are asking the “what if?” questions and doing the modelling, and the people must trust that the politicians are right to do so. This is not about something as petty and pathetic as party politics. This is not a time to be placating ‘the people’ and to be asking them politely and meekly to “abide by the guidelines, if you wouldn’t mind, we know you’ll do the right thing, thanks ever so”. This is not a time to be afraid to be authoritative.

Those people in authority who do believe what they’re being told by the scientists, must keep their focus entirely on that, and give clear, firm instructions to the people they’re tasked with protecting. This is not about finding favour, or about necessarily being ‘liked’, either now or looking back. This is about preventing a vast and increasing number of human beings dying. 

Here in the UK, it’s just not happening.

Our politicians, our law makers, and our law enforcers are tip toeing around, anxious not to upset anyone, and none of them are prepared to give the firm clear message that if you don’t do as your told, you will (at the very least) be served a hefty fine (a real fine, not a pathetic £30 for pity’s sake!). We are not seeing or hearing anyone prepared to say they accept that the people may be upset, even furiously angry with them for restricting everyone’s movements, but that they’d rather the people they are charged with protecting were upset or angry with them, than dead.

I am seeing, right here, outside my window, right now, people who think that it’s fine to not quite abide by what, after all, are only “guidelines”. In their eyes a little bit of “bending the rules” is to be expected. No-one (certainly around here!) is enforcing anything. No-one has actually TOLD us not to carry on as normal.

A probable 24,000 + deaths in the UK SO FAR, including those in the community. But they personally haven’t suffered, so it’s ok to bend the rules…


Protect the NHS.


Are these idiots who are behaving as if nothing’s happening, really thinking, “Yes, I know what that’s what the government keeps telling us, and splashing across our tv screens, and on hoardings, and across news sites – but they don’t mean it, not literally.”?


So, it’s ok for them to have family dropping round, to swop between each other’s homes every few days, to go out in their car for long and unnecessary journeys several times every single day because they want a “change of scene”. If they get stopped they know they can claim that it’s their one journey today, that they’re on their way to do “essential shopping”, or they can lie and claim that they live in a tiny flat in an urban situation that provides nowhere for their “one hour of daily exercise” (ie not the reality of a large detached house with ample private garden in a quiet estate with many green open spaces). And they can drive on with a smug smile on their face because in their view they “got away with it”.

They see a tiny bit of the picture, that revolves only around themselves, and is concerned only in this moment. They are consumed by selfish, irresponsible, stupidity and ignorance, and I guarantee that even if they knew the potentially catastrophic consequences of their actions, they would deny any culpability.

Because “the Government haven’t said that might happen”…

Oh mon Dieu! Je désespère!

Anyone can be carrying the virus, and be thus capable of spreading it without being aware that they have it. It’s been proved that symptoms may only present several days after the virus has been caught. Some ‘lucky’ people don’t even present any symptoms severe enough to cause them concern. But they can still spread it.

So ‘what if’ the selfish ignorant irresponsible smug git who goes off in his car for no good reason is carrying the virus. And ‘what if’, when he’s pulled over by the policeman who is putting his life on the line trying to get idiots like this one to see sense, he passes that virus on, maybe by doing something as obvious as coughing involuntarily, or maybe just by the transference of tiny droplets while talking, or maybe any one of a myriad of possibilities. And the officer, during the course of his duty over the next few days, before falling ill and dying himself, and before he’s even aware that he now carries the virus, passes it on to his colleagues, and other members of the public. And they take it home, and pass it on to their partners, and children…

Or ‘what if’ the copper that pulls our arrogant idiot over, himself has the virus already, and what if he does the involuntary cough, or the over spraying speaking…

Or ‘what if’, just because the sun is shining and he’s feeling a bit cooped up at home, the shortsighted and narrow minded self obsessed fool goes off for a drive and has an accident. And the emergency services that are called out could be attending a small child suffering with the virus, who is having a serious, and as it will transpire with lack of immediate care, fatal asthma attack? Or ‘what if’ the driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident is carrying the virus and in the chaos and panic of smashed vehicles and trapped bodies, social distancing is completely forgotten…

At this point I’m sure many of you are laughing and declaring something along the lines of “Oh for goodness sake, you can’t worry about what might happen, you’d never do anything!”, or words to that effect. Well, no, I agree in the normal course of life, if you were so afraid of having an accident you never got in a car, that would be extreme. But these are not normal times. In normal times if, heaven forbid, you were alone in your car and you had even a serious collision with another solo driver, potentially two lives might be lost. At the moment, just such a scenario could result in a spreading of the virus that ultimately extrapolated to 20, 80, 500 people dying.

These are not normal times. The ‘normal’ rules simply and crucially do not apply.

Having a brain wired in the way of ADHD is a huge advantage in being acutely aware of the dangers at the moment, and of the means to avoid them; but it’s also a huge disadvantage for much the same reason – or rather, for being acutely aware that other people astonishingly, just, don’t, get it.

Having to constantly observe the actions of others – aware of the potential consequences and yet realising that they either aren’t, or they just simply don’t care, and recognising that I can do nothing about it – is mentally exhausting and paralysing. Seeing (not watching, but unavoidably seeing) the actions of my neighbours repeatedly, throughout each and every day, that have the potential to put an unknowable number of other lives at risk, and being unable to do anything about it, is completely mentally overwhelming. I have very little problem with the lockdown; I’m terrified by what’s happening outside my windows.

I have spent the last few weeks descending into what feels like a sort of madness, and I have now to protect my mental wellbeing as much as my physical health. I realise I have perhaps two options: close all the curtains or at least stay away from the windows (not easy in such a tiny house with rooms, and indeed windows, on one side only), while keeping the windows and doors closed and playing music or podcasts so even the sound of cars coming and going is cut out; or live at night, when the rest of the neighbourhood is sleeping.

I’ve extended the coloured film that I originally added to part of my lounge window so that I would not be in the direct gaze of my unpleasant and frightening neighbours opposite, so it now blocks out their coming and goings entirely. Sadly it also means I can’t wave to friendly passers by, and I lose most of the view of my soon to be blossoming rose. It has helped though.

I get up shortly after dawn and tend my little bit of garden that immediately borders the pavement outside – I won’t risk being out there at all when the constant stream of passers by are inches away; I may in due course just let that part of the garden go wild, or die. I don’t sit outside at all. I keep the curtain closed upstairs beside my desk on the side of the scary neighbours. At the moment I still like to watch people coming and going on foot further along the road. If I witness any more acts of threatening behaviour or vandalism – like the young people spitting at passers by, or the two who thought it amusing to set fire to the rubbish bin – I will close those curtains too; or take that final, and rather drastic action, and move into the night.

The actions of those around me will not improve, in fact I’m sure they’ll get even worse as this lockdown, in their view, “drags on”. I realise that my brain wiring is unable to allow me to do what others would find so easy, that is to ignore it. So I have to take what would otherwise be extraordinary steps to prevent my being aware of what they’re doing, in order to preserve what’s left of my sanity. I’m not sure that actually makes sense to anyone else. But if it works, that doesn’t matter.

So I will continue to do whatever I need to for my mental health, and I have the means to stay safe physically, and I’m grateful for the ability to have seen just how essential that was going to be even before it all became official. Now I just need to deal with the “deficit” bit of the attention – the bit that makes focussing on the essential tasks required to stay safe frighteningly haphazard. But that, as they say, is another story.

(I realise I could have subtitled this: Judy’s Slow Decline Into Madness. Hmm. You decide.)

Random Thoughts On The First Days In Lockdown

Friday 27 March 2020 14:30

There are no longer different days of the week. Just “daytime” and “nighttime”.

(Does nighttime really have two “t’s” in it?)

As my brain continues to be a little fuddled, I’m increasingly grateful for Spellcheck.

9pm now feels very late and “way past my bedtime”.

Video links are no longer thought an odd way to catch up with friends, even local ones.

I’m writing my Will at last. It would have been sensible to have done it ages ago, but I’m only now realising who truly warrants being included.

I’m appreciating the option of including “in the event that they pre-decease me” alternatives, but wish I didn’t feel the need to.

My brother is right up there on the list of people I don’t want to lose.

I find I’m now just a little frightened of strangers who are innocently walking by.

My partly hidden entrance way is now an asset not a nuisance.

The Screentime limiting feature on my iPad is coming into its own.

I don’t need to eat nearly as much food to stay healthy as I think I do.

“Comfort food” really isn’t, and it may need to be Supper one day.

You can exercise indoors with just a staircase.

Suddenly not remembering the thing you went upstairs for until you’re back down again is a health benefit.

I’m not as ‘law abiding’ as I thought I was when it comes to sneaking garden trimmings into the household waste bin for collection.

Jiggling and pausing to air dry instead of using toilet paper after only “spending a penny” is neither a health hazard, nor a cause for discomfort.

I’m reminded of a saying I heard a great many decades ago, “Sometimes I just sits and thinks; sometimes I just sits.”.

The pile of books in the bathroom are being dipped into more often.

When this is all over, I shall save a fortune on toilet paper.

Focussing On Gratitude, and The Need To Be My Own Parent Now

Tuesday 24 March 2020 11:10 am

It feels strange to be so deeply grateful that the free country I’ve called home all my life is in almost complete lockdown. But I am. It won’t stop all of the stupid selfish people, but it will stop some, and that means that those I love – and I – stand a slightly better chance of surviving than we did yesterday.

I’ve wondered, over the most recent days, if having ADHD at this time is a real curse. I’ve felt so alone in seeing ‘the big picture’, all the gathering storm in pin sharp detail approaching from all around us, while others seemed able to cling on to the certainty that everything would be fine (or maybe a bit of a nuisance now, but all cleared up by June). I felt like the child playing musical chairs who had no seat when the music stopped.

Everyone else’s focus seemed to be on ‘knowing’, or thinking they did, exactly where they were, while outside their narrow field of vision, the chairs were bolted to the floor, the seats were smeared with super glue, and the fire alarm was about to sound…

They had no idea how lucky they were, all those people who were spared the anxiety of seeing the approaching storm. I can’t though, help but wonder, if only more of those in charge had ADHD wired brains, we might have been safer, sooner.

It’s academic now. I’m shutting all the websites with stats and forecasts – keeping those with real verified scientific facts and advice that I may need to check from time to time in a list of links that I visit only when it’s absolutely necessary to do so.

I’ve let myself become exhausted with caring about the world. Now I have to care for myself.

Keeping the world out now is my priority.

I know I’m lucky, and being ‘home alone’ in itself doesn’t feel like a hardship at all (only knowing I must not see the person I love most of all – that tears at my heart, but I do it because it helps keep us both safe). Somebody told me the other day to imagine myself in my favourite place, and seemed a little taken aback when I immediately laughed and replied, “I’m in it.”.

It’s what’s outside that scares me.

I wish I had a garden that wasn’t so vulnerable to other people. Today for the first time I’m keeping Jessie indoors, and will be doing so for days ahead. Until the child who lives opposite stops kicking her football in the street and across to my garden, and until any remaining danger from it and her being there has passed. Jessie hates being in, and so do I, but the threat is too great, and the risk that the child is unknowingly carrying the virus is too real.

So we are indoors, looking out on the sunshine, and I’m starting to plan our new life. I’ve begun what will become, I’m sure, a huge colourful sanity saving project of thinking of all the people and things I love, and have loved, in my life, and all the things that I’m grateful for. I’m writing each on a post-it note and sticking it wherever it will stick and be constantly in my line of sight. At the moment that’s on mirrors, and the now forever dark screen of the lounge tv that stopped working last week. I’m aiming to include walls but need to find a better non-permanent glue; luckily I have a lot of mirrors, the small space dweller’s best friend.

I have hundreds, maybe thousands, of books – and, I just realised, the time to count them – and cupboards full of art supplies. The tiny old tv from the bedroom now sits very cutely in the corner of the lounge, and of course tv and so many other options for entertainment are available online. I have cupboards that need turning out, at least two years’ worth of filing, and a LOT of tidying to do. With literally no spare space anywhere indoors or outside, it will be hard to de-clutter because there’s nowhere to de-clutter to (and not even space outside for a tiny incinerator, let alone a bonfire), but while we still have bin collections, I will see if i can do at least some throwing out.

And though the friends I am blessed with are far away, they come and visit through the magic of the internet and video calling and virtual meeting rooms, so I’m not really alone.

I would really like to survive, and am desperate for those I hold closest to my heart to survive. Nothing else matters right now. If I only have sardines to eat and have to drink tea without milk, I care not. I can even jiggle and air dry to save toilet paper!

Losing what I hold dearest to me is the only thing that makes this so hard to bear, and the child in me just wants to cry and grieve from morning to night. So just as all the parents worldwide are doing, I have to distract that child, give her fun things to do, let her be silly, let her dance and sing very loudly, tire her out so she will get the sleep she needs to stay strong, and feed her as well as I can with what I can find.

I have to be my own parent now. And fight fiercely for my own safety and survival, just as I would for my child’s (and do for Jessie’s), while ensuring that the child who survives is even happier, even stronger, even more knowledgeable and skilled, and never, ever, this scared again.

Quick Thought For The Ladies, To Start The Day

Friday 20 March 2020 10:40

(I’m still working on a photo for this one 🤣)

All you ladies hunkering down to self isolate, and even you young healthy lasses who are social distancing, just think…

Now is the time to wear all those big pants, and frayed bras that are so comfy! 😁

Cos you’re not going to be out on the pull for a while 😉.

Stay safe. Sing loud. Dance energetically.

Setting Seeds Free and Not Pretending We Have The Luxury Of Normal

Sunday 15 March 2020 12:50

This is not going to be an easy read. It’s certainly not easy for me to write. In fact I’ve not posted here for a few days because I can’t write in anything other than a very serious way, and people don’t want to read that; ‘serious’ is already all around them. We all want to carry on as normal and pretend it’s not happening. But we mustn’t.

Only by taking this seriously will we beat it. So this isn’t about drawing, or finding ways to make money creatively, but it is about my life (and yours, and everyone else’s) – very much here, and very much now; and I find that I have to write it.

Those of you who are “carrying on as normal” please, stop; now. There is nothing about the entire world today that is normal.

If you are lucky to be young and healthy enough to survive a bout of the Covid-19 virus, then please, I am begging you, take responsibility for the millions who aren’t. If the spread of the virus isn’t controlled millions of people are going to die unnecessarily in the coming weeks.

Here. Now. I’m frightened, very frightened, and my heart is breaking.

The people I love the most are included in those who are most at risk; as an asthmatic, so am I.

If those I hold closest to my heart catch this virus, they will die. There is also a very real possibility that my own life is at risk. I have to be sensible and am ‘putting my affairs in order’, making provisions for the worst case scenario. I hope it will turn out to be just another job out of the way that needed to be done anyway, but the importance of doing it right now is real. Paperwork and planning I can do. Persuading strangers and even friends to take this seriously and not put anyone else in danger, that’s not so easy.

I’m used to ‘self-isolation’. For me, in itself, that is no hardship. But the thought that I may never see again people I love; that causes me untold grief. Already. They’re still there. I just can’t hug them.

Not “carrying on as normal” seems to be unthinkable for some people. The idea that they should not go out, meet friends, touch, breathe in the same air that strangers just breathed out. So what if they get “this fluey thing”! So they’ll be a bit poorly for a few days… But what of the people they will unwittingly infect before they decide they really need to take to their beds? The people who touch the surfaces they just touched (after coughing into their hand), the person sitting next to them on the bus, the retired person they garden for who they happily took a cuppa from and then rinsed it out lazily declaring they’d washed it. The elderly relative they called in on to return something borrowed, but not cleaned…

Carrying on as normal may mean you end up spending a few days feeling absolutely crap. Carrying on as normal may mean – unintentionally, unwittingly, unknowingly even – you cause the death of another human being. Perhaps a loved one. Or a friend. Just as likely, a stranger.

At the moment there is no normal. Yes we must carry on, but this is not pretend. For too many it still seems to be a game. For hundreds of thousands of people, others “carrying on as normal” may be the difference between life and death.

Think about every move you make, and if it involves any possible risk to other people, please, think very very carefully if you really need to make it.

If you woke up this morning thinking you’ll just carry on as normal…

Please. Stop. Now.