Letters from the lockdown - Lettres du confinement

We asked our researchers and members to contribute to an article series called 'Letters from the lockdown - Lettres du confinement' where everyone is invited to describe their experience of the lockdown: the routine and daily life, the difficulties they have been facing, achievements, thoughts, new projects they've been putting up...
Every week you will find their contributions on this page. Bonne lecture !





'Highs and lows' 


It’s been almost 2 months since I texted Isabella that evening.

Isabella is a friend of mine, a brilliant and lovely person from South Italy, who’s been enduring my spelling mistakes in Italian and tolerating me as a friend for the last 15 years.
We used to study History of Art together in Rome. She was specialising in Contemporary Art History, while I used to study Early Modern Views of Rome printed in the Eighteenth Century. We became friends at first sight but had our highs and lows. I will never forget for example the time when, looking at me provocatively, she once tried to convince me that the Eighteenth Century was certainly the dark age of modern history... Highs and lows, right.


That night I asked how she was doing, and she started describing the progressive lockdown of Italy, the angst growing among the population, the feeling that everyone was losing control.

Misled by the comments of public figures in Britain and my own incredulity, I had not quite considered at this point what this growing threat could mean in Europe and worldwide.  From this side of the channel, people had started talking about the virus coming from China, spreading through Italy, but everyone was actually mitigating.

It’s been 2 months, and the lockdown started 5 weeks ago in the UK. It isn’t quite as strict as in Italy, though. In the region of Campania, where Isabella lives with her family, children are not allowed to go outside, not even for a short walk. On social media, people keep publishing heart-breaking pictures of little children looking sadly at sunny paths and places through the windows.

It makes me realise that with my family we’ve been organising our locked life around our one-hour-a-day exercise. We work, cook, and study in turn, but we go outside together as a gang. My children are not always happy about this imposed walk, “it’s always the same”, “I’m bored”, “we can’t even go to the other side of the city”, “what about going to the pool?” are the laments we’ve been hearing the most. Our house is more than ever the centre of their lives, we turn around it, discovering new paths and new ways of getting around it, noticing new micro-events from day to day, including the spread of white petals in the surrounding undergrowth...

But in Italy, bathtubs have become the epicentre of small children’s existence, they’re like spinning tops wondering what the outside world looks like nowadays.

Navigating a circumscribed area and interacting with a limited number of people might draw you to more concentration and, maybe, more creativity. What’s happening right now is frightening, and I’m not in a position where I can predict the future. Who is? But I feel like I need to extend my inner world to compensate for the shrinkage of my social and spatial life.

Considering this, who knows what’s happening in our little ones’ heads? They might be discovering new worlds, figuring out new forms of communication, putting up great projects we can’t even think of...
Mine are currently willing to build a fort upstairs and a giant disco downstairs. My husband pointed out that it was a good metaphor of life, alternating times of retreat and festive seasons; highs and lows.


Who knows what they will be up to once the lockdown has eased?
Who knows what Isabella’s little one will be up to once the lockdown has eased?



by Anne-Sophie Gabillas (Communications and Outreach Officer at the MFO)