A year ago, I was optimistic that the Pandemic might soon end. With the arrival of summer, I hoped the prevalence of the virus might diminish and I would no longer need to wear a mask and gel my hands. I anticipated meeting family and friends, locally and further afield. However, though many people have been vaccinated; many, especially the young, remain at risk. The fear of dying from Covid has receded, but not the need to protect myself and those I meet. I need a different sort of resilience from that a year ago. Keeping going is part of it.
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During the hot days during July, I noticed bees on the pavement under the lime trees outside our house. They seemed to be dead. Another, its wings flapping, lay on our pavers. I thought it was dying, so I walked round it, letting it die in peace. Later, my husband was watering the runner beans which grow alongside the jasmine a favourite haunt of bees adore, and droplets fell on the bee. Wow! didn’t it revive.
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Books revive me. I’ve just read, Anthony Ferner’s literary novel, Life in Translation. It’s his third novel, and like the others, describes a character’s working life and how that impinges on his personal relationships. The pandemic forgotten, I quickly became absorbed in the narrator’s adventures as a student translator in Lima, Peru and his frustrated relationship with fellow student, Gabi. It wasn’t easy for him to find work and his first job in Paris was with a difficult boss. I thought back to my own career, how full of hope and, how that clashed with the reality. By the end of the novel, he’s learned his craft and we get to see him at conferences – sharing a mature passion about translation, having made a name for himself. Yet though he’s had relationships, they haven’t truly worked out. That troubles him. As a mature, still learning 50 year old, he adjusts his expectations to recognise love isn’t always what we expect. The language is beautiful, and as required by a translator, is specific and exact. The meaning is multi-layered, so yes, I kept wanting to know what happened next, but I wanted to pause, think some more about the translator’s life. Also my own.
Published by Holland Park Press May 2019
Because of the health restrictions, I have slowed down. Instead of going to the gym, I went for walks or rode into the countryside on my bike. Like the translator I have chosen to reflect more, writing more poetry along with trying to finish writing my novel.
One afternoon I cycled to Brandon Marsh, local nature centre, where through the window I watched two squirrels fighting for a place on the bird feeder. The winner couldn’t access the nuts, so it scratched and nibbled the plastic top of the feeder. Wasting your time, I thought. By the time I’d finished my coffee and cake, prepared to cycle home, the squirrel was into the nuts through the top. Sure, the nuts still didn’t come easy, but it was there.
Photo by Connor Danylenko
And so with my life. I seem to need the doggedness of that squirrel. Look around a bit more, turn the pages of novels I’m enjoying a bit more slowly. Taking one day at a time, I look forward to a time when I’m no longer as confined.