Border Lines

Berwick, North Northumberland: Food-Travel-Culture-Community

Suspended Covidation

There’s definitely something going on around time during these lockdown days. It’s as if everything is caught in a sort of covid suspended animation moment. As if life itself is held in a very long (about nine weeks long) and ever-extending aspic jelly. What was once free in its unfolding is now glutinous.

Time behaves differently sometimes. It can even ‘feel’ different.

I’ve always felt that certain minutes have more impact than others. For example, when I’m due somewhere at, say, 9am, if it’s 8.36am I have plenty of time. But, if it’s 8.37am, my pulse picks up and my mustn’t-be-late anxiety kicks in. When the youngest daughter suggested to the eldest that they do something at 11pm instead of 10.30pm, the eldest responded that there was a massive timeshift between 10.30pm and 11.00: ’10.30’s still reasonably early but 11’s, you know, time to consider bed’.

It seems a lifetime ago that the Husband and I were fortunate enough to be wandering around Shetland, Orkney and Caithness (it was early March). As we travelled, coronavirus breathed down our necks. Hoteliers and restaurateurs repeated heartbreaking stories of cancelled bookings, how-long-can-we survives and when-will-this-ends. We wondered if we should curtail our trip. Trains became emptier, hotels quieter and queues outside chemists for antibac and paracetamol longer (remember that?). We wondered if we could last three more, two more, one more day/s until our set time to return home. It was as if the coronavirus time bubble was sealing itself around us.

Something that’s sat in a cupboard since my lovely mum died three and half years ago, is a sack of photos. My daughters didn’t want me just to throw them away, and I couldn’t bring myself to go through them. Where do you even start with a binliner full of undated memories, many of them involving unremembered or unrecognised faces? And all of which will lead to you wanting to ask your mum about them. You’ve not looked at them for years, so what’s the point now? If there are some worth keeping, how do you file them? Where do you put them? And, anyway, will you ever look at them again once the job’s done?

A sackload of memories? Or just a pile of rubbish?

Last week I was reminded of the power of photography to both preserve and engage. Local photographer, Sarah Jamieson of Pictorial Photography, embarked on a project to celebrate and record lockdown workers here in Berwick. Sarah says: ‘I just wanted to highlight the independent businesses who have continued to work through lockdown, to give them a bit of recognition like the supermarket staff and the NHS have been getting. There’s a lot of hidden stuff going on. I was also missing using my camera and speaking to people, so it was quite therapeutic to get out there and do something fun. I might do some more. I’ve had a few requests from people I’ve missed like farmers, plumbers, opticians…’ You’ll find her wonderful 32 portraits in one day here – make sure to read the quotes too.

Apparently, it’s a week since I moved Mum’s sack of photos from the cupboard to the middle of the sitting room floor. I have thought of several ways to address filing and culling the curled and creased heaps of fading pictures. But, hey, there’s no rush is there? Just as time ebbs and flows in mysterious ways, so objects magically stop being visible if they’re left somewhere long enough, right?

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