The BF has taken up jigsaw puzzles. She’s currently doing a one thousand piecer of the 99 most beautiful places she won’t be going to any time soon.
My neighbours have got cupboards full of jigsaw puzzles. They have even got up to the moment puzzles that their grown up children have given them for their Birthdays, so they wont get bored during lockdown.
There has been a lot of WhatsApp action about jigsaw puzzles on The Road WhatsApp group. I can’t say I’m up for jigsaws even though I once enjoyed doing them. Pleading failing sight doesn’t disqualify me since you can get jigsaws in braille and in large pieces and all VAT exempt. I’ve checked. Most of them represent landscapes that I won’t be visiting any time soon and it doesn’t look as if any one else has either, at least, not since Queen Elizabeth’s been on the throne.
The Road WhatsApp group is facilitating a roaring trade in buttons and old duvet covers as sewing machines swing into action to boost reserves of scrubs and masks. It’s keeping us all in sourdough and ant killer. We shop for each other. It’s generous and Its brought neighbours together. As more than one or two people have observed, it’s made us all “vigilant” as we look out for one another.
The WhatsApp group is not the only way that “vigilance” is exercised. A colleague of mine was telling me that his brother dropped his dog off for a day of doggy sitting. My colleague, who was sitting in his garden, heard a curiously whispered exchange between his neighbours. “He had someone in there this morning.”
“Yeah. Now he’s got another dog in there.”
“Do you think we should call the police?”
My colleague didn’t say a word but he could have. “What about all those times you smoked drugs in the garden? Should I call the police?”
I don’t know what my neighbours get up to in their gardens unless I can smell it or hear it. I suspect its sausage and ping pong. While I can’t see the neighbours, and I’m oblivious to the gaze of others as I go about my garden business, that’s not the same as feeling I have privacy. I don’t.
Observation comes in many forms. The Road WhatsApp group has served as a useful reminder of the power of knowing that you are being observed during lockdown.
We are reminded to clap for carers on the WhatsApp group. Those with hedges, come out from behind them. Clapping is not enough. We have to be seen to be clapping. Who gives what to the food bank does the rounds on the WhatsApp group. Giving is not enough. We have to be seen to be giving. The Road WhatsApp group is proving a valuable aid to vigilance and leaves us in no doubt about who is a good neighbour and who is not.
I do not know the faces of the people in the Road WhatsApp group. Some of them have voices I would recognise if they said hello. Yet, I feel observed and after the observation comes judgement. Is this vigilance?
In my small world in which I do not see the people who are exercising vigilance on my behalf, I remind myself, that most people won’t take as much interest in me as I take in myself.
Now that the evenings are getting longer, we are all out in our gardens. The ping pong is in full swing. People are starting to entertain. My own vigilance is paying off. I’m enjoying the soundtrack. Last nights choral impersonation of howling dogs was movingly performed. Should I call the Police?
Image is Siobhain Santry's drawing of two people looking out through the slits in their window blinds.