Psst… want to know a secret?
Want a crazy-but-just-might-work way to survive social isolation and distancing? Even if you have to work from home?
Go through a secret portal and enter your favourite land. No, really.
At the moment everyone is driving themselves mad wanting to get back to the real world, a world we just can’t get to. We’re looking at life wrong. What we need at the moment is to be escaping from the real world and into a world that will do us some positive good, spirit-wise and learning-wise. So, why not embrace the total escapism of your favourite book or book series and go for it?
Be adventurous, be bold and embrace that mad voice inside your head that is saying “That just might work” even as your rational side says “She’s crackers”.
Here’s an example: You’re a Narnia Fan. Make believe that you’re on the Dawn Treader. You go to bed in a bunk or a hammock every night, your daily walks are explorations of lands on the way to the Edge of the World that weren’t in the book and you need to take careful notice of everything to write a detailed account of your journey when you return. Eat well, but eat food like you know they eat in Narnia. Apples, good, healthy stews, fried fish, sardines on toast. If you want ideas for good food from good stories, then Cherry Cake and Ginger Beer by Jane Brocket is one of the best Children’s story cookbooks out there: sadly out of print but available second-hand.
Harry Potter fan? Your bedroom is the dorm, your sitting room a common room, your dining area the refectory. Actually, that combination works for most school series: Malory Towers, The Chalet School, The Worst Witch. Have a tin of biscuits and sweet treats for midnight feasts, wear your scarf in your house colours, and carry a pile of books around in subjects that you have always wanted to know about, but never had the time to study.
If Sherlock Holmes is your jam, then set your living room up as his study. Write out clues from the short stories, print off a map of Victorian London and set to to know your opponent inside out.
It’s a way of surviving that anybody can do. Collect your favourite reading together, visit old and familiar surroundings in your head and settle down to hibernate properly.
Now, let me tell you my coping mechanism, for the next couple of weeks at least. I am channelling my inspiration from the new BBC children’s series of Malory Towers. Now I’m feeling better, and can sit for a whole afternoon without coughing my guts up or falling asleep mid-sentence, I can see the advantage in not actually following real life for most of the time. As a child, I loved reading school stories. I’d have made the worst ever pupil at boarding school, I would have hated it, but the idea of cosy dormitory feasts and learning Latin, History and Geography appealed to me then and still does now. I think even then the idea of escaping the cruel reality of life as an introverted reader with no sporty skill by reading my way through long series about prep, Latin exposition and schools that had French mistresses who were always small, hot-headed and ver’ demanding.
My bedroom, funnily enough, is already quite ready to be a dorm. Crochet blankets are my norm, and I have chests ready to keep my personal effects in anyway. I’ve sorted out my satchel (remember when everybody used a satchel as a handbag? I have a red one, of course, and still love to use it) and ordered some exercise books. Yes, really. A pack of 10 to use with my ‘lessons’.
All my children are way past home-schooling age, so this will seem crazy to any readers trapped in the home-schooling hell with actual children, but I’m planning to follow a rough timetable. I want to do some history every day (Tudor history, A level standard: it is the A level I should have done), some poetry learning, perhaps some Art or exercise. I have plans to learn either Latin or German, but I’m not sure which yet. I was only ever a B grade student in French, so I didn’t get the option of studying Latin at school, but I was a Chalet School fan and they spoke German as the local language, and I never worked hard to learn it.
And food will play an important part of my comfortable fantasy. Whether that’s afternoon tea or Kafe und Kuchen I will make sure to eat well, healthily and allow myself (and my family) some treats. Perhaps a home made cake, some jumblies borrowed from What Katy Did At School, or chocolate frogs ordered online for Harry Potter.
I’ll keep my fantasy to myself, for a while at least. I’m sure the young adults I live with will just shrug and go “That’s Mum for you”, but the Husband will look at me like I’m mad. And then shake his head and ask me what’s for tea. I know him so well.
And, of course, it will be sausages, cabbages and mash and a good steamed pudding to follow.