Hello Darkness My Old Friend

And we are officially in lockdown lockdown. The real deal. “Tier 5” in what was a 3-tier system just a few weeks ago. It now feels like we’re back where we were last April (but with worse weather). We’ll be doing at least half a term of homeschooling/virtual learning, as Bo-Jo announced that children won’t go back to school until after the February half-term break, meaning March. At the earliest. Now is the winter of our discontent.

Stress-eating through the announcement that made me a homeschool teacher again

January is always a dreary month, after the holidays are over. Time to cut back on the excesses and do Dry January, or Veganuary, or Nothing-Funuary. The twinkly lights come down and it’s just… dark. The street corners become Christmas tree graveyards (which then become dog-pee hotspots).

But at least in past Januarys I’ve had trips planned, and friends visit, and other things to look forward to. We can’t plan any trips, or really anything at all. We can’t go anywhere right now, other than the parks within cycling distance. So this will most likely be the dreariest January on record. The weather certainly hasn’t helped. It’s really cold, but not quite cold enough to turn the rain into snow. Blah.

And though pretty much everyone in the world was eagerly counting down to 2020 ending, the calendar flipping to 2021 didn’t magically make things better or easier.

Brexit actually happened, after all this time. My home country of America is attacking itself from within; like a cancer, which the patient was warned about, but refused to treat, allowing it to grow and spread.

And with this new (homegrown right here in the UK!) fast-spreading variant of coronavirus easily outpacing vaccine dispersal, the numbers of cases, deaths, and hospitalizations are higher than ever.

My predictable coping mechanisms have ranged from binge-eating chocolate to drinking wine to going for runs on muddy paths in the near-freezing temps just to escape my house and have some alone time for half an hour. I crank up the ragey music in my earbuds and try to dodge all the other people (and their exhalation droplets) out there, who are probably also trying to escape their houses and/or children.

So where can we find some rays of light in this dark time?

Well, for starters, how about on our very own street? (Can’t really go anywhere else anyway.) A few nights ago, when I was taking the recycling out to the front garden, I heard people singing, very loudly, about a block or two up from our house. I just thought it was drunk people, carousing in the streets, since the pubs are closed. Turns out it was out-of-work West End performers, performing in our street!

And of course, I had to do my small part to attempt to bring some smiles to some masked faces, with a new Victorian boot scraper/mouse hole winter scene.

Nothing was going to top my lighted Christmas mouse hole, so I scaled back a bit. But I think this little guy is still pretty cute.

Besides, by the time I cleaned out the Christmas stuff from the mouse hole, quite a few things had been added, and it was looking as busy as a Waitrose on Christmas Eve. January is the perfect time to Marie-Kondo your mouse hole.

I took the dog for a walk today, and spotted people stopping to take pictures of it. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside when I see people enjoying it.

Here’s my 2021 new year’s resolution for all of us, one that doesn’t make me cringe at the sacrifices it requires: If you can think of a way to life people’s spirits, do it. Whatever it is, however small.

UPDATE: January 18: E and I checked on the mouse hole this afternoon, and as I was tidying it up a bit, a man walking towards us yelled out, “You aren’t meant to touch it!” Taken aback, I replied, “Well, I’m the one who made it”… and it turned out he is the homeowner.

I thanked him for being a gracious host for our mice. He said he and his wife call it “the shrine,” because it has so many worshippers coming to see it every day. He said he estimates about a hundred(!) people a day stop by. And that often it’s adults without children, armed with cameras. Pretty incredible.