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  • Writer's pictureHighland Croft

We'll get through it, Together / Apart

Since the beginning of humankind, we have never lived in peaceful times. Whether it was a Viking invasion that would burn down your entire village (yourself included), the hardship and human cruelty of the 30-years war or the frequency of diseases like tuberculosis that meant that the average 400-soul English village of the 19th century would see one funeral a week. The end of the world, maybe not as a whole, but your individual, little world, was forever palpable, tangible, within touching distance.

We, as in us right now, have had it too good and too cushy for too long. We got away with only popping to the shops for £5 worth of shopping. While previous generations always kept a month worth of supplies at home, we are now always just nine meals away from starvation as we don't have more than three days' worth of food in our cupboards. Farmers in remote places may be the exception of the rule - I'm always stocked up, even with loo roll. And if I wasn't, I'd grab nature's finest in the form and shape of some bracken.

A friend of mine always used to say "Thank God that I don't live in exciting times." And now here we are - exciting always equals dangerous.

Self-isolating in paradise
Self-isolating in paradise


Now, shall we try and count our blessings together, before we descend into apocalyptical gloom? So firstly, the corona virus is not a war. We are all in this together, every country, every age, sex, religion - the virus doesn't discriminate. Would it not be endlessly more demoralising if we looked down the barrel of each other's gun? The dark humour of people gets me through it, there are hilarious videos and comments going round on facebook and ironically, in the wake of this frightening crisis, for once social media is quite a nice place to be where people cheer each other up and give support that makes my heart glow. Keeping the moral up is the most important thing, even Napoleon knew that. It was more crucial than all the other factors of warfare, more so than food supplies or equipment: An army that has lost its moral was doomed. So let's keep pulling each other up with videos about toilet roll maths and playing knots and crosses with cats. Whole communities, though physically separated, come together by singing, playing bingo and exercising together from their windows and balconies.

Secondly, the corona virus is not the plague. The plague euqally didn't discriminate and took everybody, man, woman, child, old and young. However upon contracting the Black Death - it's not called that for nothing - you could confidently expect to be dead within five days. Some people did of course develop an immunity - and then often worked as corpse carriers, with bells around their ankles to warn the living of their coming. Let's be honest, would you have enjoyed surviving all this hell? And while the corona virus does kill, it seems to go for the elderly particularly and spare children. The Spanish Flu, in contrast, went for the young and able-bodied, for reasons which are to complex and debatable to go into detail here.

Did we not, only a short while ago, think Brexit would be a problem? Does anybody even mention the B-word anymore? And the bushfires in Australia ... they have been all but forgotten. I can't find a single mention of them in the news anymore.

There was a time when we thought the internet would be the downfall of humanity, turning us into cyber zombies, alienated from the real world, dependent on a hand-held device susceptible to manipulation, feeding us with fake news and propaganda, exposing our sensitive personal information to greedy profiteurs. Now this is ironic again, as the internet is more vital than ever to our mental wellbeing, it has become our lifeline to the outer world, while we retreat into solitary, more or less voluntary indefinit confinement. Immediate feedback from our loved ones about their wellbeing is a luxury our ancestors had to go without. The mail was slow and unreliable at the best of times and the constant not-knowing, fearing and dreading must have been a gut-churning way of spending life in misery.

Maybe it is a good lesson for all of us not to take the conveniences of our modern lifestyles for granted. Be humble, grateful and appreciative. Redifine our values and priorities. We take it for granted being able to fill our bellies every day, three times a day. Maybe we should start with the little things.


Have we learned our lessons from history?
Have we learned our lessons from history?

Our business will take a hit this year - as is the case for so many other people, and so many others are a lot worse off. It is a great inconvenience for us. Not being able to move freely, to see our friends and live an independent modern life hurts me. But what breaks my heart is the shutting of the nursery, a place where our daughter was blossoming, had friends, did and learned the most amazing things. This is a profoundly forming time in her life that she will never get back and I feel bereaved on her behalf. No matter how much excitement and joy we can provide on the croft, it will never be like the Golden Age she was lucky enough to experience in this nursery. I wasn't ready for it to end like this.

But we are lucky, too - we are together, we are with our animals, we are remote and have space around us to roam, on the croft. We have enough to eat, and long may this continue. What's money worth when we can't eat it?

All major catastrophies of humankind have proven themselves to be great social gamechangers, from the plague to the Great Wars, the collapse of the Mediterranean Bronze Age Civilisation to the French Revolution. The peasantry has risen, women have risen, old orders were broken up, new ones formed. Progress was forced into being. Even though not much is for certain now, this one thing is: Nothing will ever be the same again and we will have many shards and pieces to pick up again. But we can do it together. My grandmother was a "Trümmer Frau" after the Second World War - one of the many women picking up the rubble with their bare hands, tidying up what used to be Berlin and what was now a field of devastation. The time will come when we have to roll up our sleeves, but for now we have to do what is maybe the hardest thing: Nothing. Stay away. Save the world by sitting on the couch.


Self-isolation can be a chance to grow and create
Self-isolation can be a chance to grow and create

I saw - on facebook, would you believe it - a post how Newton delevoped his calculus, optics and his gravitational theory while in "exile" in the countryside in a small farmhouse - an outbreak of the Bubonic Plague had meant that the University of Cambridge had to remain closed for 2 whole years. Had I read about this years ago, it wouldn't have struck the same chord in me as it does now. Nowhere near. How would I, with the experiences I have made in my lifetime even remotely have been able to comprehend? Reading about things and experiencing them first-hand are two entirely different kettles of fish. So it was Newton's enforced confinement that led him to produce some of his greates works, and had he been able to pursue a normal university career, who knows how things might have panned out then? He is of course a difficult act to follow, I know. As is doing a good job of home-schooling our children. I don't feel adequate for it. But maybe the unexpected, grave situation we find ourselves in provides us also with an opportunity to grow with our challenges, be creative, do things we always had in us. Maybe now is the time and the place to do it. We thrive within the confines of the challenge and abiding to its rules makes this task even more attractive, don't you think. Imagine it like a game, if that makes it easier. You are allowed to do whatever you want, but you must do it at home and it can't involve any poeple that are not isolated with you. Read a book, write a book. Learn a skill: Knitting, making jam, reciting a poem by heart. Listen to podcasts, sing. I just spent an hour and a half dissolving myself in the bath, piling books into my amazon shopping basket. There is so much I want to know about this world, now is the time to inhale knowledge and use it, pass it on, enjoy it.

Let's not forget that during the plague, during endless years of war, murder and conflict, through natural catastrophies that toppled seemingly invincible high cultures like the Mayas and Minoans, people would have always felt like they were in the middle of an apocalypse. The world as they knew it came to an end. Everything they had built up, crumbled and got washed away. But if we can learn anything from history, then this: civilisations may come and go, cultures rise and make way for new ones. But we, as humanity, continue. Life changes, but it goes on. We are not powerless in this fight, and I take great comfort in standing against adversity with you, with every sould on this Earth. Let's make our ancestors proud who have gone through hell and back. Let us be brave and patient, sit the storm out and when the time is here, knuckle down. I'm already looking forward to quite a few hugs.

Now, how many blessings have you counted? I make it quite a few and I think this will get me going through the weeks and months ahead, and whatever lies beyond that. I hope you find some solace and strength in this, too.



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