• Elliot Harper

The Tales of a Yorkshireman living in Texas: Quarantine

Nothing is so painful to the human mind as a great and sudden change.”

- Mary Shelley


It’s been a strange few months. The world has changed in the blink of an eye. One minute, we’re living our normal lives, going out for dinner, taking the kids to school, walking the dog, shopping, going to the pub. The next minute, we aren’t.

2020 started off pretty badly. It seems like a million years ago when you stop and think about it. We had uncontrollable wildfires in Australia, rumours of World War 3, Boris Johnson had somehow won a landslide General Election, Donald Trump continued to exist despite all common sense. Things were beginning to look like the year were in the pan before it had really got going, and then COVID-19 hit, and we found out that we hadn’t seen the worst of it yet.

Now, I could easily launch into a rant here. I could dive into a lengthy, anger-laden blog where I lament all the things that everyone is pissed off about, but I’m not going to. It’s not that I’m not angry, but there’s only so much negativity I can take. It’s bad enough that I read about it every single day (of course, I could stop, but I won’t.) I see the failures and the heart-breaking death just as much as everyone else, but I’m not going to talk about any of that. I’m not trying to make light or it or brush it under the table. I would just prefer to look at the positives. I’m going to do this by debunking two myths that I’ve heard time and time again.

Number One - that the internet is just an evil, shit-stirring entity that’s tearing us all apart.

Number Two - that community is dead and hasn’t been around since the “good old days.”

I’ve come to these conclusions over the last few months, but they are my own, so feel free to disagree, but don’t bother to contact me about it, as I don’t really mind what people think. I’m not reinventing the wheel here, just voicing a few observations.

Before I get into all that, I’d just like to give you a quick run down of my current situation. Naomi has been working from home for over a month. We already had the office set up for me to write, so I’ve moved to the dining room table, which is fine for me, although she does have the good chair, but I’ll get over that eventually.

We aren’t locked down as much as you guys in England. The restrictions are lighter, we can go out as much as we want, but everywhere is closed, so there’s not much to do. We also are lucky because we have a large back garden and access to a park and some trails. So, it’s been quite easy for us.

In reality, my life isn’t that much different. In some ways, I’ve been practising social distancing for three years. The only real difference is that Nay is here all the time, and so far, knock on wood, we’ve been getting on fine. She even admitted that she is quite enjoying it. We’ll see how long that lasts! Anyway, on to the myth-busting.

Number One – The Evils of the Internet:

The internet can be a scary place. Shady things are going on in there if you know where to look. The dark-web, hacking, scams, phishing, the comments section on Facebook, TicTok. You know what I’m talking about, it’s continually in the news, and it’s been a hot topic of conversation for a while now. I’m not here to defend any of that. Clearly, there’s a lot wrong with the internet, but let’s just say this. Without the internet, the world would have ended two months ago. You might be thinking – wow, that’s a pretty strong statement, but it’s a fact.

Just look at the world right now. A massive number of people are working from home, they can do their jobs because of that connection to their work networks. It’s saved their careers. I know there’s a lot of people applying for welfare/job seekers, which is horrible, but it could have been a lot worse. As bad as the economy is right now (and will be for a while) just imagine what would have happened if people couldn’t work remotely!?

The speed of information has been a lifesaver as well. Instantaneous news and social media have allowed us to receive up to date information about the virus, its symptoms, what we do about it, how we can help, etc. Without that, people could easily have panicked. I know there’s a lot of misinformation out there (disinfectant miracle cures for starters), but I think it’s fairly obvious when you see bullshit (again, disinfectant… let’s just call it whatever comes out of Trump’s mouth.) We knew what it was, where it was, and what was happening so quickly that we were able to react. You could argue that the internet fuelled the hysteria (buying toilet roll, for example), but I think that with or without it, people would panic buy. It’s just what people do when they get a sniff of trouble.

Video calling, WhatsApp messaging, Facebook, Twitter – all of these things keep us in constant contact with our friends and relatives. We can see and hear from them all the time. How would we know if they were in trouble without it? Just last week I had a ten-way Zoom video call with my friends from back home. What did we do? We talked absolute shit for nearly three hours, and it was brilliant. We laughed, we told jokes, we took the piss out of each other, we asked how loved ones and family were, it put us at ease.

I’m also a gamer, I’ve been regularly gaming with two of my friends online for a few months now, so I knew how good it could be. At the moment, it takes on a new role. Now, it provides the necessary social injection that we need. Yes, we talk shit, but then we get serious and discuss recent events. I’m thousands of miles away from them in England, but yet we speak in real-time. That’s some sci-fi shit right there! The future is here!

Video calls with friends in Houston, messaging family and friends in England, sending pictures, sharing videos, House-Party quiz nights. The list goes on. Me and Naomi can even do yoga online because our yoga studio, Soul Tribes, is providing that service, and it's wonderful. We can get exercise and still get a bit of socialising in there as well.

The internet has kept us connected when it could easily have all gone dark. Without it, we would have had to cope with dodgy twenty-four-hour news networks, filled with adverts and their own political agendas. At least now we can shop around for our news. I’m not going to sit here and say there isn’t a lot of bullshit in there, because we all know there is, but if you’re clever and know what to look out for you can protect yourself and use it to its fullest. I literally can’t imagine what we would do without it. Especially now.

Number Two – Community is dead.

I’ve never really been one to bother with strangers or been particularly friendly with neighbours or random people. I’ve always been polite, but I’ve never gone out of my way to meet new people. It’s just how I am, I guess. A hangover from a shy childhood, maybe. That being said, I’ve spoken to more people in my neighbourhood in one month that I’ve done in the whole year we’ve lived in our house.

Most days I’ll take Hank out for a walk. He needs more exercise than Bray as he’s younger and prone to anxiety. He needs his exercise. I get this completely, I’m the same. I take him out as much as possible. Now that everyone is either off work or working from home, I see the neighbours all the time. They are either walking their dogs or going for a stroll, running, cycling, sitting in their front gardens having a drink, driving a golf buggy around the suburbs (this did happen.) People wave to each other and ask how you are. We chat and smile, all at a distance, but that wasn’t there before. Some of them sit in their front gardens across the road from each other in camp chairs and have a beer. Socialising at a distance, but socialising none the less.

We’ve also been going to the Elanora Farmer’s Market. It runs every Wednesday and Saturday and is an open-air market where they sell local food. We’ve made the decision that it’s safer than going to the normal supermarket with it being open air but also because it has less foot traffic. We still get curbside shops when we can, but that isn’t always available at the moment, and this is a perfect alternative. Everyone keeps their distance and wears masks, so it’s safe enough.

The thing is, right now, it feels like the closest thing to being out and about that you can get. It’s never overly busy, but you get a chance to speak to the sellers. Everyone is friendly and gracious. You can buy a sweet treat, or a coffee, or some empanadas as well as getting fruit and vegetables, cheese, soap, dog treats, honey, eggs, and much more. It really makes you feel part of the community as everyone remembers who you are. It makes you feel part of something.

All of this, plus what I’ve already said about multiple-person video calls and instantaneous communication, adds up the one thing. Community is alive and well. It’s thriving. It’s changing, but it defies distance, it defies barriers, it defies a virus that’s threatening the world. While everything else is going on around us, while the economy is teetering, while politicians point fingers, while sensationalists try and devise the most outrageous clickbait, the community of ordinary people is thriving. I think that’s worth remembering, now more and ever.

I’ll leave it at that. I hope you’ve enjoyed this week’s blog. I’ve got something in the works at the moment. I’m sure you’ve seen a few teaser videos. So, keep an eye out on my various social media accounts and website, because it should be ready very soon.

That was a tale of a Yorkshireman living in Texas.

A bloke with a ginger beard who writes.



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