Letters from Cardiff in lockdown: Caroline Richards

Today’s instalment for the Letters from Cardiff in lockdown series comes from Caroline Richards. We’re looking for your stories, so please contribute to Letters from Cardiff in lockdown

We’re coming to the end of lockdown – the quietest three months of my life …and most lacking in purpose. I’ve remained very sheltered from the virus and I’m grateful, for that – so it’s interesting now to reflect on the suppressed fear that occupied our minds at the beginning of the crisis. During these three months, so many thoughts have meandered through my brain. I’ve pondered if it was a global practice-run for an as yet unknown, more contagious, more deadly virus; or a New World Order experiment to observe how societies react under such restrictions. What felt drastic in March, now feels normal in June and I struggle to think of the benefits of emerging from lockdown. But as I was saying, I’m one of the luckier ones.

Permission to be, not do – do less, BE more.

This was something that took adjusting to but as we found, there are benefits… comfortable clothing, ignoring my bra, sleeping longer, cycling freely, watching the birds, listening to birds… our feathered sanity saviours; sipping a drink as the setting sun marks the end of another day, eating healthily  … adopting daily rituals.

Ritual = meditative space = self care = sense of connection -> mental and spiritual well-being.

Lack of ritual = time saving = cutting corners = loss of connection -> neglect of self and others.

One of my failings has been falling into facebookland. Mainstream media journalists write their stories to fit with a pre-existing narrative and the repetition is mind-numbing …while the more varied rhetoric found on social media is confusing and between it all I’m struggling to find any truth. But then truth is much more complex and subtle than any loaded narrative designed with socio-political manipulation at its core. Take the ego out of outrage and you’re still left with bull. Often people adhere to their pre-formed opinions, some express themselves like a vile sport but when I read conversations that accommodate diverse thoughts – showing kindness and agile thinking, it gives me hope. Gone are the days of goodies and baddies …today’s narratives stretch way beyond that simplicity. There’s so much convincing and contradictory info out there that I find it impossible to form an opinion much beyond anything is possible… the confusion, so much confusion. We become addicted to seeking information but the information lacks answers, so we feast and feast until we make ourselves sick …sick with worry and fear.

Airborne, not airborne, no long term immunity, vitamin D improves your immune system, 5g suppresses immunity, fake news, released from a lab, Wuhan has a lab, dripped from pangolins or bats, corona virus pandemic predicted years ago, herd immunity, more ventilators needed, stay at home, be alert, mutating strains, track and trace, wear a mask, don’t you know it’s more dangerous to wear a mask? lose face, 72 hours, wash your wheelie bin hands, clap for key workers, give them a pay rise, wash your shopping, become OCD, off licenses are essential, so are nannies and golf; shield our elderly, they’re care homes not share homes, hothouses of viral transmission, the young are safe, they’re not as safe as we thought, blood types, ethnicity, ventilators aren’t helpful, return kids to schools, home schooling is safer, be safe, go back to work, that’s an ill-fitting mask, only masks made of three layers work, in a capitalist societeeee.

Somewhere round the third week of lockdown, Arundhati Roy writes an article entitled The Pandemic is a Portal. And it’s true, this timely pause allows space to re-evaluate and work out how to step through into a different life. A crisis is not to be wasted. Here we are, careering towards doomsday and businesses want to return to normal!? Only a fool or a business person would wish for things to ‘return to normal’. The world pulling so abruptly to a halt has been a gift for Mother Nature …possibly a sentient act by Mother Nature. Will we ever end this era of opportunistic development? It no longer feels modern, much more fin de siecle. Unrestrained growth on a finite planet transpires as a tad problematic. Let’s move into a new era where the status of nature increases, outmoding current aspirations for (addictions to) financial gain. No more disposable value packs and lazy gratification, thank you. Instead, adopt a sense of fair that works from all angles; a-greed, without greed.

I hope that as lockdown eases, we step forward slowly, empathetically and on a different foot. I hope ‘business as usual’ takes a back seat and nature draws towards centre stage.

Spring 2020 has put on a belter of a display to coincide with this crisis. She played her best hand, reaching into our shortsighted gaze to wake us up to all we’re destroying. So much of lockdown is like stepping back in time, even my eyes regained their childhood clarity of the 1970s. Bluer skies and greener leaves, like pollution isn’t a thing; the insidious cataracts of contrails and exhaust fumes peeled away. Now, when I gaze at the blue of the sky, I can connect it with the thin blue line seen in satellite images – that finely tuned, atmospheric glow that circles our home. And just like an opal backed with onyx, outer space gives a quality to a cloudless sky that is otherwise indescribable. Let’s not forget how wonderful it is to have these deep blue skies, clean green leaves and rainwater pure enough to drink. I am so in love with our planet. My biggest hope is that we now recognise how do-able a huge shift in lifestyle and mindset can be. Please people, put our planet first… in all our everyday decision-making, allow the natural world to thrive until we find a harmonious balance. We’ve been given an invaluable chance.

Planet Earth faulty, Global Reset button pressed – system updating – initialising…

I thought this enforced break/reassessment was 100% about the planet – but two thirds of the way through lockdown saw the murder of George Floyd. This, the subsequent violence across the States and the ripples felt across Britain and much of the world remind us that the story is way more complex. We’ve been doing things wrongly. Our new steps forward must be inclusive to create ourstory not history (where his = able-bodied, white, cis, hetero). Unless we aim for equality, we’re looped into this highway to obliteration. Colonialism played a big part in warping our minds, giving us perceived status. Diverse perspectives are essential for us to rethink our future. A better, stronger sense of fairness is what we’re aiming for but there will be other bonuses that flow from an inclusive approach.

A pre-covid walk through our city centres was degrading… unable to meaningfully help the homeless was a gut wrenching affair that de-humanised the rest of us, forced to bear witness. The British government has become some macabre circus fronted by a two faced, jolly/evil blond ringmaster. It started with Cameron’s Austerity and continues onwards through this pandemic …the slow realisation that our government is conducting a cull now seems inescapable; a cull on its financially less-active citizens. Watching New Zealand’s PM, Jacinda Ardern helps bring our own situation into sharp focus – a leader who wants to save her people versus leadership facilitating a societal cull. Who can forget our PM’s jolly chilling words, to ‘‘…take it on the chin’’. Neo-Liberalism engineered Austerity – the British government is accountable. And does it need pointing out how poorly the UK government has communicated with Welsh government throughout the covid-19 crisis? Again and again it ignores the Wales in ‘England and Wales’ – in general and particularly noticeable during this pandemic. For this reason, I have one more wish for how we emerge from this crisis …Yes Cymru, I’m glad to be Welsh. We’re managing this situation with more consideration for a healthy outcome, both at governmental and community levels. We display less arrogance and less greed. Our time has come to ease the dis-ease and step away from a London-centric Parliament. Connect with other small nations, reunite with our Celtic cousins, liaise through open doorways with mainland Europe – feel our rich heritage and join the global conversation.

A world where nature has elevated status; where people do less and BE more; a place where equality and inclusivity is normal; where we’re affected by decisions that are made more locally with people and land represented fairly and without greed. This vision can be a reality if enough of us want it – so for all these reasons, please let’s not ‘return to normal’. Instead, let’s step forward through this portal of consciousness thoughtfully and on a different foot; a foot that fits its breathable shoes and walks companionably, with all who care and dare to place Nature before Business. Because one day soon, Nature and Well-being is how we’ll measure a nation’s wealth.

With love, hope and respect,

Caroline Richards

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