The world is coming back and a recent plateau of tranquility has been replaced with a dolly zoom of existential dread, with me in a supporting role as Roy Scheider in ‘Jaws.’ The civility and sensibility of the past three months is eroding and with that a return to the ambient noise I’d loved to live without. Neighbours’ power tools and housebuilding projects that have been on hold for months all roared back into life at once, transforming a human-diminished landscape into a daily symphony of power tools and radio, replacing the previous noise of nesting gulls and jackdaws with the motorised reminders that people were returning to dominate.
I’ve had a fortunate lockdown as we’ve both been healthy and I’ve continued to teach full time from home and so I’m writing from a position of privilege where I’ve been able to work and do meetings from my attic drawing table, my happiest place and where I choose to be most of the time anyway. I published my book and hand delivered it around town and became a home distribution mailing centre instead of speaking at the literary festival. I lost a dear friend in New York to the virus, a blindingly bright light switched off that I still have yet to properly process. Many of my friends work in hospitality all over the world, many own small businesses and some have been made redundant or lost their businesses. The economic landscape will not be the same when the machinery grinds back into operation but there’s been a kindness in the air, a levelling sense that we were are all in it together and it is the loss of that element that I’m grieving, like the melting of snow after a blizzard. Fowey has been a lovely place to be the past few months, with people looking out for each other and the local shops going out of their way to provide the essentials and try new ways to do things, not to mention a spate of magnificent weather that tricked us all, like it always does, into thinking it would stay that way forever. I have left town about 5 times since March, Melch has not left at all. I celebrated my birthday at the end of May with a comic but wonderfully socially distanced grouping on the Town Quay. Across the river, Polruan has ceased to be a three-dimensional landscape element and instead has flattened into the theatrical backdrop of my days sitting at my desk in the window at the top of the house looking out into the silence over the empty river.
I’m not an economist nor am I a super-forecaster or even a good guesser, but have been spending hours staring out the window, listening to the radio and consulting news and social media far more than is probably healthy in order to try to put my finger on why I keep seeing Mayor Larry Vaughn and Chief Brody and that woman who owns the motel out of the corner of my eye no matter where I turn. I keep looking for Quint but can never find him. I think it’s probably because I feel the ‘s-s-sh-shark’ girl with the red bandanna who is painting on the beach yelling futilely as she sees the shark going into the pond while the boys are in the water. I’ve been up here in my attic window watching the river fill up with boats and seeing more and more people walking up and down the Esplanade and wondering where it’s all going to go and what people are expecting to have happen. I want town to thrive and all the businesses who have been struggling to spring back into life but am terrified in a way that I haven’t been for months, and that is because I fear the stupidity and entitlement of people in general. Call it the Bournemouth Effect. None of us have been anywhere in months. Taking a masked bus ride to Richards’ in Par to buy vegetables and frozen prawns was the highlight of June for me and it would never in a million years occur to me to book a holiday anywhere at the moment or to go into a crowded place for fear of getting sick or causing an issue. Not all of the pubs in town are opening on the 4th of July. Some are waiting a few weeks and some are taking a wait and see approach. The biggest problem I have is that the thing I love most about the local pubs in Fowey is the thing that is not going to be there, which is socialising. The alcohol, while not incidental, exactly, isn’t really the main reason I go. I can drink at home. It’s to get out of the house and see friends or unwind after a long day working. The last thing I want to do this Saturday or any time soon is be near strangers and have another anxiety channel to tune into at 3 am when sleep is elusive. I am worried for all of my friends in town who are working on the front line in various capacities and I hope that the visitors who will be descending show respect and understand that, no matter how beautiful this place is, it’s not their pasty filled playset to do with as they please.