Is corona despair actually a thing? I’m in my 12th week of what feels like house arrest. No going out, except for essential shopping. Yes, I am lucky. I have an amazing view from my terrace. I am in a big family, so no isolation. I have enough food. Squeaky the Cat occasionally accepts gestures of affection. Ramadan is over and my morning coffee is still a real luxury. My own family is well. Yes, I understand I am lucky but that doesn’t translate to feeling it: this is just too wearing and wearying. I can no longer bear to think of zoos and prisons. I can’t.
It’s not just corona despair. The horrible murder of George Floyd and President Trump’s incitement to shoot looters. Dominic Cummings’ bare-faced lies to the British people. The hashtag #scumpress when journalists are actually risking their own health to get news to us. It’s all so toxic.
But there is another reality. It’s quieter than the roar of endless shares on social media but it’s there.
Juliana Formicola is my friend. She’s a supply teacher and a model. Obviously, she’s had no work for the past three months and there’s building work going on in the house next door so she has been driven quietly mad by the drilling. In mid-March, she was in 10 different schools, mixing with hundreds of kids – a pretty risky endeavour – as well as rushing around to photo shoots. She makes lots of her own clothes, so she has spent her lockdown time sewing masks and now scrubs for the doctors – apparently there are lots of fiddly bits. Laughing at herself, she told me that she had a very dark day when one of her early attempts was used as an example of how not to do it. She’s also been knitting for Syrian refugees.
Rachid Aitelmahjoub lives in Tagadirt n Ait Ali about 10km from me and he and I did a world first together, the Atlas to Atlantic Expedition – walking from the top of Mount Toubkal (4167m) to sea level straight across the Atlas Mountains in Morocco in 12 days. I was taking essential groceries to my friend Karima in his village and spotted him at the bottom of the hill. He was all masked up (obligatory here) and standing beside his car as a steady trickle of villagers came past. He explained that he was giving out flour and oil to people who can no longer afford them. It meant that families would be able to bake bread in Ramadan and for Eid.
Charlie Mackenzie is my cousin. His story isn’t about corona at all. He has a big garden surrounded by trees and when the seeds fall, he gathers them and plants them. Some seedlings survive and thrive and when they are big enough, he drives up to the Scottish Highlands and plants them out in the wild. He is reforesting, just doing it. When lockdown in Scotland is eased he has 31 trees ready to go – oak, beach, horse chestnut, sycamore and a couple of firs.
Katie is a stranger. She came to one of my talks in Scotland about the Draa Expedition. When she read on my blog that I was worried about my parents in Edinburgh, she messaged me and sent me her mobile. “If your parents need anything, give them my number and get them to call me. I can help them out.” Not only that, she has followed up a couple of times just to check and see that they are managing and don’t need anything.
These are all small things, perhaps when balanced against the bigger, darker picture, but they add up. When I think about all these little lights shining out, it pushes back that black feeling of corona despair. So, thank you Katie, Charlie, Rachid and Juliana and everyone else who is quietly doing their best.
It’s not much but I’d like to offer you some free content – moments of escape from the daily grind so there are more blogs here
And I have a podcast, Alice in Wanderland, which is on all major platforms or here and covers my adventures (episodes 4-10 are live from the Sahara Expedition) and Corona lockdown life now.
If you’d like to buy any of my books, of course that would be great. My latest has just made the best sellers’ list on Amazon travel. Check them out here. They are all on kindle/ereader as well as in print. Bike across Africa with me in Dodging Elephants, delve behind the scenes on my TV show in Morocco to Timbuktu, or zoom round Morocco with me from the Atlas to the Sahara, from Marrakech to Essaouira in Adventures in Morocco.