One of my core beliefs as a writer and historian is we are no fundamentally “different” as humans than our ancestors… save for the fact that we live now having come to enjoy certain tech advances, such as iPhones, birth control, airplanes, and aspirin. Exactly a century since the so-called “Spanish” flu pandemic, here we are… again. And we are behaving pretty much as our ancestors did in the face of an easily transmitted, dangerous (and potentially fatal) illness. (Thankfully this virus seems – at least as of now – much less broadly fatal than that influenza strain was.)
Medical advances since the 1920s have their limits, and unsurprisingly we have mostly forgotten epidemics and fears of them that humans regularly endured prior to the 20th century. We are now relearning how “living” in that “history” could feel… when a mysterious new and often deathly sickness was said to be breaking out in the next village. So like humans before us regularly did, we are now engaging in varying degrees of stay at home and “social distancings,” or are in self-quarantine because we have been exposed to – or even have – the illness, or we are even more or less in state-imposed quarantine.
In this unprecedented (for us) situation we need to have something with which to occupy our time and minds and to get away from each other if we are stuck in homes hunkering down with loved ones… so we do not KILL each other in those homes while trying to avoid either catching or unwittingly passing along COVID-19. I noted the other day the net is one place to which we might retreat. However, that has its downside: the net is also saturated with postings and rumors about the virus. (Just open Twitter and in a few minutes you may think you are developing symptoms.)
If we are looking to AVOID even mention of the virus and ease our worried minds, aside from “Netflix” old-fashioned reading is perhaps the best alternative. With International Women’s Day having just passed, on Instagram I shared probably my favorite women authors; and, yes, I suppose those examples do indeed provide explanations as to why I write what I do. For a “change of pace” from other reading – I usually read lots of books simultaneously and always have – I went into my Kindle and began re-reading a novel I have not read in a gazillion years: Edith Wharton’s The Custom of the Country:
Indeed, how trying life can be sometimes. LOL!
Consulting with her in advance, and my wife and I both feeling fine, we headed to Chesham on Friday to have a brief visit (the first one in a year) with her aunt and godmother. When we arrived, we greeted each other not with kisses and hugs, but by laughing and touching elbows… and immediately we washed our hands thoroughly. She is a retired NHS matron, so she knows illness, and we could all only but chuckle at where we are currently:
Her garden is amazing. I had to snap a photo. Aside from the mowing that is done by a gardener (and which she did do HERSELF until just a few years ago – she is now 84!), she still pretty much looks after it herself.
It reminded me of one of those gardens you see on television “garden makeover” programs AFTER the work has been finished and the ecstatic family turn up and are SURPRISED at how fantastic it looks now. LOL!
As we afterwards sat over tea and cakes and “caught up” on matters, I asked her about her Kindle. Her eyesight has been deterioriating, and she has a Kindle that her late husband’s former carer (with whom she remains friends) set up for her. She said she uses it basically only to read my books. (I did my best not to look like an embarrassed 16 year old.) However, she then stated she prefers – not being wildly techie unsurprisingly – to use audio books on CD that she borrows from the local library. I took a photo of one:
It is NINE compact discs and some 9 and a half hours… read aloud. She has asked me before about my books being available on audio (as she now struggles to read on the Kindle even with very large fonts). I said again that I don’t have them available as audio books yet.
I felt kind of guilty. I have been asked by others about audio books. I have thought about it, but I had also done nothing about it.
The cost and the hassle seemed to rule it out. (No way I am reading them myself.) Yet I am beginning to think I should really look into it.
My aunt-in-law says she enjoys sitting in her lounge and, essentially, being read to. I suppose that is a throwback. It is much like ye olde days pre-radio/TV and pre-internet, when families generally read to each other to pass the time before bed, such as, say, when a young Jane Austen would read stories aloud in the sitting room in the evenings.
While we are discussing talking books, she is not a famous actor, true, but “Alexa” (which my aunt-in-law does not have) reads all of my Kindle versions. It is odd listening to her reading my words. While I have not listened to her start to finish narrating through any of them, from what I have heard she has a decent speaking voice.
However, I must also admit her pronunciation of certain surnames and other (particularly any in French or other non-English) words at times, though, could use a bit of help. LOL!
Have a good Sunday, wherever you are staying inside in the world. 🙂