The first is a degree of respite from the relentless pressures of the everyday and normally unavoidable characteristics of modern society, the crowds, the fumes, the speed, the omnipresent and unavoidable assaults on all the senses to which most of us have to some extent become inured. But it’s also a time when one can start to rediscover the positive aspects of solitude, which is often partnered by silence.
Because of a change in personal circumstances I have for well over a year now been living on my own for the first time in many years. At first my response to this was a craving for society and companionship and an aversion to being alone, the latter not an original part of my character.
But present conditions have forced me to be solitary once again, certainly, it’s true, more than I would wish; and that experience has done much to abate that craving and to help me find again the benefits for the soul which can come from being alone and, for much of the time, also necessarily being silent. If this sounds rather like a radio Morning Thought from a Church of Scotland minister (for those who can remember such a thing), I can only defend myself by noting that the trite can’t avoid being true.
On a perhaps contrary note, I believe that the number of deaths from flu in the UK during the epidemic of 1968 was double the most pessimistic forecasts for the present Covid-19 outbreak, yet I remember from that time not the slightest hint of anything called “lockdown”. Perhaps this society is becoming too risk-averse for its own health.
John Herdman's IMELDA will be available from Leamington Books in May 2020