A few Saturday nights ago – a lifetime away – I had an epiphany.
I was in a form of self-imposed isolation due to a cold I had picked up from some visiting relatives. It was early on in the unfolding of the coronavirus catastrophe to come. According to the Nurse-On-Call, I didn’t tick any of the boxes that would have entitled me to coronavirus testing. So I was erring on the side of caution. And there was something seductive about cancelling all social engagements and staying in on a Saturday night. Especially with Hugh Grant for company. A Very British Scandal was showing on iview, so my pyjamas and I settled in for episode one.
It turned out I wasn’t alone in my solitary couch potato ways. Ten minutes in, I was interrupted by a group text from two friends asking for viewing suggestions. Their excitement at the thought of spending the evening with Hugh Grant bordered on the indecent. So we all hunkered down for an hour, making group text pronouncements every so often. It was almost as good as being together on the couch.
That feeling of camaraderie took me back two weeks earlier, to a very special moment in my life.
I had made my solitary way through six series of The Americans, with just the final episode to go. Anyone who has invested this much time in a series knows the feelings of anticipation mixed with panic at the thought of the imminent gap we face in our lives. When the show is The Americans – seat-of-the-pants no-chance-of-a-happy-ending stuff – you can add the need for therapy, or at least extended debriefing.
Luckily for me, I discovered by chance that a friend had just watched the penultimate episode and was facing the same dilemma. So we made a date, cleared the decks and synchronised our remotes, stopping only at pre-ordained times for the inevitable flurry of texts of the ‘I cannot see this ending without dead bodies’ variety. A fortnight later, we were still supporting each other through texts of the ‘I’m bereft’ variety.
And that’s when it struck me.
We had created our own tiny global village: the same kind of community that is spontaneously generated every time Married At First Sight infects our screens, or the once-a-year spectacle that is Eurovision gladdens our hearts and has us reaching for the tequila and the tiaras. Thanks to WhatsApp, Twitter and smart phones, social isolation is just a state of mind.
I was left with the certainty that, no matter what, as long as I had my health, my smart phone and electricity to charge it with, I need never be lonely. It was fortuitous training for the weeks that followed. I’m now match fit for whatever the next weeks and months may bring.
I have stocked up on the supplies I need (in moderation), pulled up the drawbridge and battened down the hatches. I would be lying if I said I didn’t have those wobbly moments most of us are experiencing from time to time. But I know that they will pass: all I have to do is reach for the remote, my smart phone and gather my tribe.