I’ve been meaning to start blogging again on a regular basis since February 2017, when I started working on my PhD. The realities of unfunded PhD life have meant that many excellent intentions have stayed sitting in a nice little list in my bullet journal (yes, I have one) and every week when I cross out the things I’ve done and copy the things I haven’t to the next page, it’s pretty much at the top of the list. It’s been on the list for so long that the shape of the words are almost ghosting through the pages as each week’s entry sits above the last. But maybe that emphasis is in my head. It’s between me and the bullet journal anyway.
So what’s changed you might ask? Or maybe not, because these days we’re all working from home, wondering what to do with all the hours we’re not spending on the commute, as a virus sweeps the globe and the supermarket shelves are empty. These are not normal days.
These are days that feel like episode one of the end of the world, That episode where you see people’s lives slowly change, the gradual realisation that this is a set up for our main characters trying to survive against zombies/despots/gangs who commandeer all the food/rapey guy the main female character meets on her travels – delete as appropriate. We’re so familiar with these narratives that they have seeped into our bones, part of our collective imagination. It is downright eerie to see images online of army trucks full over bodies being taken to crematoriums or fistfights in supermarkets over supplies. Still worse when you start hearing stories of general weirdness in your own social networks, when everyone you know, regardless of the country or time zone they are in, are working from home to hide from the virus. As the realisation sinks in that this is serious, that this is one of those events that you will remember for the rest of your life, that generations will be defined by, that time will be measured by, then thoughts turn to marking it.
We save momentos of significant days – weddings, birthdays, first dates. We also save records of events we instinctively know are historic. I have a file of newspaper front pages from days like that at this stage in my life. I started this blog, back in 2008, to write about the court cases I was covering on a daily basis. After a while, I realised that sometimes, if the copy I filed for the agency I was working for at the time wasn’t picked up, this blog was the only place those cases were written about. I always believed in the principle of open justice, in keeping a record of things and this blog was part of that. It’s also been a record of my life, my changing careers, changing focus over the past decade. I had wanted to write about my PhD because I knew that would be a significant period in my life but I never found the time to start. This time is bigger than my life or an individual trial. This is a collective experience. No matter what happens over the next week or months, we are part of a collective experience.
I remember covering the Columbia disaster as it unfolded one Saturday in February 2003. It was so unexpected, all hands to the pump, a journalistic rush. This is not like that. This will be a long-drawn-out slog, a collective experience of small realities, everyday annoyances and reaction to this strange new world. The journalist in me and the future historian both want to create a record of this as it unfolds. This will be a personal account as everything on this blog has always been. It is time to resurrect it. I cannot promise however that I will be sitting in my underwear on a bed with a frothy coffee and a Mac. My days rarely turn out like that, but it’s a pleasing picture to start off with. We’ll see how we go from here.