Wednesday, June 16

“Now I Can Do It In Less Than Two Minutes”: A Rubik’s Cube And Nine Other Objects Readers Trust To Lock | Life and Style


‘This brush speaks of a freedom of expression’

Brush by Helen Halliday-Huitson

The only object that summarizes my confinement is a paintbrush. There is nothing particularly spectacular about this one, although it is my favorite. It just represents the amount of time I have spent painting large and small pictures in different mediums. Painting has given me a different purpose than working at home and I have sold some pieces and developed my style. It’s freedom of expression, increased confidence, and people’s reactions to what I paint that this simple brush counts. Helen Halliday-Huitson, 48, information governance officer for a nonprofit organization, North Tyneside

‘Long live my Strat’

Alasdair Lambie playing his Stratocaster

I took up the electric guitar in March 2020, almost the same day that the confinement was declared in Spain. Even though I never stuck to other hobbies (gardening, learning Italian, collecting stamps), I have managed to maintain a two-hour daily practice regimen with my two teachers, Ignacio and Brian. I’ve even gotten to the point where my wife recently told me, “You could hear some of it.” It has kept my head in the right place most of the time, even though I had surgery for cancer and had my first seizure, all in the last year. Long live my Strat. Alasdair Lambie, 72 years old, retired teacher, HuĂ©rcanos, La Rioja, Spain

‘My journal helped me make sense of everything’

Louise Baillie Abstract Floral Bound Journal

During the confinement, it was helpful for me to keep a journal. It hasn’t been full of the most exciting observations, I admit. There was a lot of “I went back for a walk around town” and “I tried a new recipe today.” However, in those early days of the pandemic, when everything was new and puzzling, it was a comfort to write it all down. Now the diary is like a good friend. I keep updating it as the restrictions slowly ease, and I keep describing my attempts at banana bread in fascinating detail. Looking back at the early 2020 entries where the coronavirus is first mentioned, it’s clear how uncomfortable and anxious I felt. But the diary has been there to help me make sense of it all. Louise Baillie, 25, editor, Ayrshire, Scotland

‘My partner designed this panel as his closing project’

Stained glass panel that Anne Murphy's partner designed and manufactured as his closing project
The stained glass panel that Anne Murphy’s partner made as his closing project. He died last November, at the age of 65.

This is a stained glass panel that my partner designed and manufactured as his closing project. He died in November when his cancer returned. He was 65 years old. Stained glass was his retirement hobby. He positioned the panel so that the sun would shine. It’s not perfect as there are several cracks in the glass, but Don felt the cracks were part of the situation we find ourselves in. The panel is a reminder of the start of the lockdown, when Don had the energy to be creative. Anne Murphy, 59, retired, Nottingham

‘My cup of coffee accompanies me every morning’

AllPress coffee cup on a desk

The object that sums up my confinement is the brown and black AllPress coffee mug that accompanies me every morning while I work at home. Before I sit down to write my thesis, meet with students, or analyze some data, I walk the 15 minutes to my beloved cafeteria and have a latte with brown sugar. I don’t want to be dramatic, but these coffees were the only thing that kept me sane during the confinement. Madeleine Pownall, 24, university lecturer, Leeds

‘My Rubik’s cube helps with my mental health’

Phil with his Rubik's cube.

I’ve been practicing mindfulness for a while to help with my bipolar condition, but the blockage allows me to overthink, which is not good. It seems like I work longer hours than when I was in the office. My Rubik’s cube gives me a break; something to keep me in the moment. I used to be able to figure it out decades ago, when it was all the rage in the 80s. It seemed easy when I was a teenager. So I looked up the algorithms, it’s about algorithms, you see, and I worked out the patterns and the routines. Now I do it three times a day. It helps with my mental health and exercises the brain. Sometimes I forget a pattern and fear that my mental capacity is waning, but then I stop, think, and go back to the routine. Now I have a record of less than two minutes. Phil, 56, Product Designer, Wrexham

‘The urn is my daily reminder that life stubbornly goes on’

Juliet Stavely

Ten years ago, with the allure of the prosciutto and a human trap, I picked up a wild kitten with a badly broken leg. I called him Brave. The kitten’s leg had already healed at an odd angle, which he used to his advantage as a kind of lever, shoving it into cupboards, drawers, and bread buckets to steal food. He was the most brilliant, dumbest and greediest tycoon imaginable. During the first confinement in Italy, he was hit by a car at high speed and thrown to our land. With so much human death and suffering happening in the world at that time, its end was small and insignificant for anyone except me and my partner. I have a long-term health problem that has left me in chronic pain, and the cat was my constant companion through sleepless nights and rough days. Pain, in all its forms, is magnified in confinement. This urn now symbolizes many things: painful loss, incredible memories, deep gratitude for my friend who helped me find him in the pouring rain, the compassion of an amazing small family-run pet crematorium. It is my daily reminder that life stubbornly goes on and love is never wasted. Juliet Staveley, 46, writer and editor, Northern Tuscany, Italy

‘We made a quilt that portrays 20 people who died from Covid’

Rita Collins.

In the spring of 2020, some of us started working on a project. The quilt is made up of wood-printed portraits of 20 people who died from Covid. It took us most of the summer to carve the blocks, then in the fall we started sewing them together to make them the top of a quilt. Later in the fall, a small group of women who had started meeting once a week (wearing masks), padded the layers together. The quilt sums up the blockage for me. The long and slow process. The sadness of recognizing those we lost. Rita Collins, 69, community activist and travel bookstore owner, Montana, USA

‘I played the trombone again after a 28-year hiatus’

Richard Jones holding his trombone

After endless Teams meetings in the cold, dark third lockdown, along with the realization that I wasn’t really fueling my creative side, I said to myself out loud, either I write a book or I choose music. I picked up the trombone again after a 28-year hiatus, after playing in marching bands and a local Compromise-style soul band. Now I practice most days and hope to be good enough to respond to a wanted advertisement from a jazz / funk musician and take the world on stage. Richard Jones, 47, civil servant, Cwmbran

‘It is unlikely that I will pick up the Nintendo Switch again’

Nintendo Switch displays the Animal Crossing home screen

I bought a Nintendo Switch last June, when they were in high demand and often out of stock. The Animal Crossing game was a mundane activity and perfect for a night of confinement where one could escape to an imaginary world where Covid-19 did not exist. I probably won’t pick it up again after closing so it will always remind me of those nights when nothing else could be done. Megan, 25, director of education, Colchester


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