Silent running

My phone provider is concerned about me, sending me a message which tries oddly to combine friendliness with a call to action. I have made no calls or texts in the last fifteen days, they say. Is everything OK? They’d love it if I could spare two minutes to complete a survey about why…

I blink at it for a bit, bemused at first by the idea that someone, somewhere is still keeping track of time , since it slipped away from us a while back. The kids say they only know it’s Thursday night when people open their doors and clap. On reflection, it’s almost certainly an automated process, driven by an algorithm.

There is nothing sinister in it, though – in truth my social life was a scant and patchy thing at the best of times. 95% of my phone use was to people who are now rarely more than twenty feet away from me (although text requests for snacks are still not unheard of), and the rest was to places now closed and empty – hairdressers, opticians, schools and such.

One night – again, don’t me which, streaming has made the idea of a viewing schedule so last century – I watched Grayson Perry’s Art Club, and he talked about the comfort to be found in making things. I wonder if I am comforted by it.

Certainly I am doing quite a lot of it, with four or five paintings on the go as well as a set of prints, some stamps, monoprints, collage, cards. Certainly it fills the time and absorbs my attention, makes a break from the doomscrolling and working, the passivity of watching television; but I’m listless over it, or perhaps just reluctant to finish anything, and so be confronted by the pointlessness of the finished object.

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