The Lockdown Chronicles 6: John

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John is homeless and lives alone in a cave.
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John Bigg (bapt. 22 April 1629 – bur. 4 April 1696), also known as The Dinton Hermit, was a 17th-century English hermit. [Wikipedia entry]

Text adapted from: various sources including Hearne 1869 and Caulfield 1819. (Internet Archive)

Source images: Panels 1 and 2: John Bigg, an eccentric hermit. Etching attributed to R. Livesay, 1787, Wellcome Collection, CC BY 4.0. Panel 3: Handmade leather shoe which belonged to John Bigg, the ‘Dinton Hermit’ (AN1836p141.392) © University of Oxford, Ashmolean Museum. Panels 4 and 5: John Bigg, an eccentric hermit. Line engraving by Wilkes. Wellcome Collection. CC BY 4.0. This comic strip CC-BY-NC-SA.

References

Hearne, Thomas (1869). “To Mr. Browne Willis, Feb. 12, 1712”. Reliquiae Hearnianae. 1. London, England. p. 275-276. Internet Archive. Available from https://archive.org/details/reliquiaehearni03blisgoog/page/n294/mode/2up [Accessed 15 April 2020]

Caulfield, James (1819). “Bigg, John, the Dinton Hermit”. Portraits, memoirs, and characters, of remarkable persons. 1. London, England. p. 9-11. Internet Archive. Available from https://archive.org/details/portraitsmemoirs01incaul/page/9/mode/2up [Accessed 15 April 2020]

“British Collection Highlights: The Dinton Hermit’s Shoe”. British Archeology at the Ashmolean Museum. Available from https://britisharchaeology.ashmus.ox.ac.uk/highlights/dinton-hermits-shoes.html [Accessed 15 April 2020]

John Bigg, an eccentric hermit. Etching attributed to R. Livesay, 1787, Wellcome Collection, Available from https://wellcomecollection.org/works/etgjqzff [Accessed 15 April 2020]

John Bigg, an eccentric hermit. Line engraving by Wilkes. Wellcome Collection. https://wellcomecollection.org/works/f5hqp67m  [Accessed 15 April 2020]

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at https://epriego.blog/tag/the-lockdown-chronicles/.

The Lockdown Chronicles 5: Emily

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For Emily, home is a holy thing.
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Emily Elizabeth Dickinson (December 10, 1830 – May 15, 1886) was an American poet born in Amherst, Massachusetts. Evidence suggests that Dickinson lived much of her life in isolation. [Wikipedia entry]

Text adapted from: poems and letters by Emily Dickinson (see references below).

Source images: Panels 1 and 4: daguerreotype portrait of Emily Dickinson, in a leather case, circa 1846-1847. Public Domain, Amherst College Archives & Special Collections. Panels 2 and 3: Emily Dickinson Museum, Amherst.

 

Selected References

The Emily Dickinson Collection, Digital Collection, Amherst College Archives & Special Collections, available from https://acdc.amherst.edu/collection/ed

Koukoutsis, Helen (2017) At home with Emily Dickinson, The Conversation, June 18, 2017. Retrieved from https://theconversation.com/at-home-with-emily-dickinson-78179 [Accessed 14 April 2020]

Emily Dickinson correspondence via Dickinson Electronic Archives, particularly Dickinson to Higginson, 25 April 1862, retrieved from http://archive.emilydickinson.org/correspondence/higginson/l261.html [Accessed 14 April 2020]

Emily Dickinson Museum, 360° virtual tour of Emily Dickinson’s second-floor bedroom [Accessed 14 April 2020]

Emily Dickinson Museum, “Emily Dickinson and Health”, retrieved from https://www.emilydickinsonmuseum.org/emily-dickinson/biography/special-topics/emily-dickinsons-health/ [Accessed 14 April 2020]

Emily Dickinson, I’m Nobody! Who are you? (260), Poets.org, retrieved from https://poets.org/poem/im-nobody-who-are-you-260 [Accessed 14 April 2020]

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at https://epriego.blog/tag/the-lockdown-chronicles/.

Physical Distancing: Everyone is Different; Let’s Be Kind

Poster on phsical distancing and visual impairment for a WHO call for submissions on physical distancing.
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Poster on phsical distancing and visual impairment for a WHO call for submissions on physical distancing.
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This image was co-designed with Francisco de la Mora. We produced it in response to this call by the World Health Organisation to “use any creative medium” to produce work that captures one of their coronavirus key messages:

  • Personal Hygiene
  • Physical Distancing
  • Know the symptoms
  • Kindness contagion
  • Myth-busting
  • Do more, donate

We decided to address the “Kindness contagion” key message whilst referring to physical distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic. We believe the message can also be applied for more general situations. The audience are people without visual impairment.

The image is an output from ongoing user-centred research with visually-impaired participants, and reflects the actual experience of a visually-impaired person going shopping under COVID-19 social distancing measures.

We consulted experts on accessibility and followed accessible design guidelines (colour, contrast, layout). So far most of the social distancing measures have been communicated through mostly ableist means that exclude the visually impaired (like the sign on the window in the poster; see for example this post by the Royal National Institute of Blind People).

Our main message is that physical/social distancing is harder or more complex for the visually impaired- there is a need for kindness when observing physical distancing measures because everyone is different.

The lettering is hand-drawn but we could draw the same message (or adaptations of it) in different languages. With many thanks to the colleagues and participants we consulted with and who provided us with feedback during the different iterations in the production of this image.

As required by the WHO call, our submission was uploaded here as a PSD file (layered; large version) and here as a JPG file (to fit Instagram etc).

If you like it or think the message is important, please share this post with the hashtags #UNCovid19Brief  and #ViralKindness or #KindnessContagion. Thanks in advance.

 

[NB. This post does not replace nor preempts other outputs about or from our ongoing work on visual impairment during the pandemic].

The Lockdown Chronicles 4: Samuel

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Samuel is an extrovert. He finds staying at home hard.
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Samuel Pepys (23 February 1633 – 26 May 1703) was an administrator of the navy of England and Member of Parliament who is most famous for the detailed diary he kept for a decade while still a relatively young man from 1660 until 1669. It provides a combination of personal revelation and eyewitness accounts of great events, such as the Great Plague of London, the Second Dutch War, and the Great Fire of London. [Wikipedia entry].

This comic strip is based on Samuel Pepys’s diary entry for Tuesday 9 April, 1669. For a previous recent post on this blog about Pepys, go here.

Source image: Portrait of Samuel Pepys, 1690. Engraving. British Museum P,7.84. Image licensed CC-BY-NC-SA © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at https://epriego.blog/tag/the-lockdown-chronicles/.

The Lockdown Chronicles 3: Roger

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Roger is a vegetarian who self-isolates and helps his community as a herbal doctor.
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Roger Crab (1621 – 11 September 1680) was an English soldier, haberdasher, herbal doctor and writer, best known for his ascetic lifestyle which included vegetarianism and veganism. According to the Hillingdon archives, Crab “fought for Parliament in the Civil War, suffering a severe head wound. After the war he opened a haberdashery in Chesham. Following a mystical experience, he sold his shop and gave all his money to the poor. Moving to Ickenham, he began an ascetic life, dressing in sack cloth and eating vegetables, dock leaves and grass. He said he could live on three farthings a week.” Crab wrote his autobiography while living in Ickenham. He titled it The English hermite, or, Wonder of this age… etc (London, 1655). [Wikipedia entry]

Source image: Portrait of Roger Crab, the vegetarian… etching, London: 1813. British Museum 1920,1211.451 AN1613130620. Image licensed CC-BY-NC-SA © The Trustees of the British Museum.

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at https://epriego.blog/tag/the-lockdown-chronicles/.

 

The Lockdown Chronicles 2: Richard

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Richard Rolle (ca. 1300–30 September 1349) was an English hermit, mystic, and religious writer. He wrote The Form of Living and his English Psalter for a nun, Margaret Kirkby, who also became an anchoress.
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With apologies for the liberties taken with the source material.

Richard Rolle (ca. 1300–30 September 1349) was an English hermit, mystic, and religious writer. He wrote The Form of Living and his English Psalter for a nun, Margaret Kirkby, who also became an anchoress. [Wikipedia entry].

Source image: Richard Rolle, c. 1400. Richard Rolle and another hermit. Shelfmark: Bodleian Library MS. Laud Misc. 528 Folio/page: fol. 002v. © Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford. Permalink: https://digital.bodleian.ox.ac.uk/inquire/p/e5b1654a-8d86-4b62-ab27-c67be1cd4492

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at https://epriego.blog/tag/the-lockdown-chronicles/.

The Lockdown Chronicles 1: Julian

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Julian is self-solating and has been working from home for a while.
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Julian of Norwich (late 1342 – after 1416) was an English anchorite. She wrote what is thought to be the earliest surviving book in the English language to be written by a woman, Revelations of Divine Love. [Wikipedia entry].

Source text: Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love.

Source image: Statue of St. Mary and Jesus in Julian Shrine, via the Julian Centre, Norwich, UK. With gratitude.

The Lockdown Chronicles is a series of periodical comic strips made at night (in candlelight!) adapting and reusing openly-licensed or public domain items from online digital collections. Publication and tweetage are scheduled in advance. Historical sources are adapted and updated for the current pandemic; please refer to each strip’s references on each post for further context.  Catch up with the series at https://epriego.blog/tag/the-lockdown-chronicles/.

 

Face Masks

Mask XIV, © John Stezaker - Tate
Mask XIV, © John Stezaker. Low resolution image file licensed by Tate Images under a Creative Commons CC-BY-NC-ND (3.0 Unreported) License.

 

The question these mornings of birdsong

to wear a mask or not

working from home:

intimacy inside out

like a glove

after this- will we all go back

without pretending

there’s no life back home

the commute as space travel

the atmosphere of the real left behind

no crying children, no flushing toilets,

no hammering next door

no washing up, no clothes drying

will we keep using virtual backgrounds

last year’s hols behind the blue screen

of yet another online meeting,

or maybe that poor chap’s dancing kids and

hurrying stressed-out wife

(the office worker has no clothes)

zoom in, skype me, hang out

make believe, do something else

mute the mic, camera off

what masks we are used to wearing

when the disease is something else

 

 

The Burial of the Dead

When churches fall completely out of use

What we shall turn them into

-Philip Larkin, “Church Going”, 1954

 

 

I woke up this morning thinking

T.S. Eliot had no clue

but (truth be told)

he must have known a thing or two.

 

Larkin, he must have done so too.

 

As we turned the corner

we were confronted

by more rows of coffins”

 

Everyone dies alone

new rules regarding the handling of the dead

 

April Fool, like every year

The Waste Land comes to mind

(I can connect
Nothing with nothing.
The broken fingernails of dirty hands.)

had there been a month

as cruel as this,  just about to start?

 

“For those who die at home,

the bureaucratic process is lengthier

as deaths need to be certified by two doctors.”

 

Cities like unused film sets

videographed by drones

What is that sound high in the air

Murmur of maternal lamentation

each in his prison

Thinking of the key

 

I read everything there is

I keep count of every dead,

every body who’s recovered,

every voice who’s lived to tell the tale.

 

I step inside, quoth the poet-

letting the door thud shut.

 

 

“In a sickly time”: Reading Pepys in 2020

Samuel Pepys, Image via Wikipedia. Image file by John Hayls - Walthamstow Weekender (file), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=210769

 

I have a little bookcase where I have books about London, short story collections and other brief volumes (such as Penguin’s Little Black Classics) thinking of visitors who might want a quick read. Lately this bookcase has been my go-to resource when I can’t sleep.

Last night, unable to go to bed early worrying about everything that’s happening in the world, at work and at home, nearby and faraway, I grabbed one of those Penguins, number 47, “The Great Fire of London”, containing entries from The Diary of Samuel Pepys dated May 1st to June 31st, 1665, and September 2nd to 15th, 1666.

It’s common-place now to think of Pepys as a 17th century protoblogger. I have, in the past, many a time recurred to the Diary in a second-hand two-volume Everyman edition I treasure. I like dipping in and out from it at random.

 

My copy of The Diary of Samuel Pepys, Vol I., Everyman's Classics

The first half of the little Penguin volume, May 1st to June 31st, 1665, contains many references to the plague. What’s striking to me is how contemporary the account feels- though Pepys was noticeably concerned about the “encrease” of the plague, he also continued his daily life as socially active as ever, kissing people’s hands and all.

Pepys keeps count of the increasing fatalities, and the safety he feels being in the “City” relatively diminishes as the plague gets very close home:

10 June 1665

In the evening home to supper, and there to my great trouble hear that the plague is come into the City (though it hath these three or four weeks since its beginning been wholly out of the City); but where should it begin but in my good friend and neighbour’s, Dr Burnett in Fanchurch-street – which in both points troubles me mightily.

15 June 1665

The town grows very sickly, and people to be afeared of it – there dying this last week of the plague 112, from 43 the week before – whereof, one in Fanchurch-street and one in Broadstreete by the Treasurer’s office.

26 June 1665

The plague encreases mightily- I this day, seeing a house, at a bittmakers over against St Clements church in the open street, shut up; which is a sad sight.

The last entry from 1665 in the Penguin edition I read last night is from 30 June, where Pepys writes:

Myself and family in good health, consisting of myself and wife – Mercer, her woman – Mary, Alice and Su, our maids; and Tom, my boy. In a sickly time, of the plague growing on.

The Diary of Samuel Pepys is online at https://www.pepysdiary.com/and selections from entries mentioning the plague can be found at http://www.pepys.info/1665/plague.html.

 

The Plague

We should have known it well

it thrives. indeed, on being human

our touching each other; hands on face

speak out loud, droplets & breath

hold on to the handrail

move down the carriage,

use all available space

it’s proximity & closeness

shaking hands, kissing once or twice,

(don’t stand so/don’t stand so close to me)

the embrace, the popping in,

the cup of tea, the walk together,

y’alright mate,

saying cheers, give me five,

would you like a top-up,

anytime, here for you.

And they thought we could raise fences

 

 

“Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will”: Empathy and Solidarity in the Times of COVID-19

 

 

As expected I have been too busy to sit down and make another video. I made an extra video for my students instead.

Last night a friend shared this. The news arrives at a time in which I have been taking action to support in any way that I can students and colleagues online. Personally, I have also been trying to support those businesses that have been now closed due to coronavirus and who will surely struggle, such as bookshops, record shops, indie bands and musicians, newspapers and magazines that I like. For the time being, while I can, I am happy to make an extra financial effort that hopefully sends a small message of appreciation and support.

This led to me reflect out loud, as one does, on a Twitter thread today. I have reused some of that writing below, expanding on some related ideas.

I’m not a political economist but I find it sadly ironic that a system that eminently depends on the circulation of capital simultaneously would be so efficient at making participants so disconnected/alienated from the economic responsibilities and consequences of our actions.

The student petition covered by the BBC in the link above made me write in the thread that in the case of higher education it’s clear its marketisation is embedded in a system that depends on social polarisation; the dehumanisation of universities and their staff, seen by some stakeholders as semi-automated service providers.

I do think we had not experienced in our lifetimes such a paradigmatic moment where the consequences of fostering market competition through rankings, metrics, funding allocation, student fees will demonstrate its most acutely negative consequences. Where the educational experience has been transformed into an experience that can be bought and satisfaction measured (like one books, say, a package holiday or a cruise) we can’t be surprised solidarity and empathy between competing providers and their consumers will be scarce.

It is now more than ever that we urgently require solidarity between everyone who is part of society (and that is everyone); this is essential if we want any resemblance of an optimistic present and future to take place. The system of exchange we have all embraced has disconnected consumption from production and has made consumers believe they are always right and in a position to get what they want when they want it how they want it, irrespective of context.

Attitudes to Higher Education do not exist in a vacuum. In the context of immigration, health care and welfare we see a similar phenomenon too, where those ‘unskilled’ workers that a hostile environment has made its best to exclude are very likely to be the ones keeping society running at the moment. One wonders how many deaths could have been and be avoided if only the NHS, welfare, education, equality and societal cohesion had been priority instead of the sustained campaign against it in recent years, fueled by the bigotry of those who favour ‘the market’ over human rights.

Though it’s easy to focus on what seems negative or pessimistic about the ideas above, I’d like to emphasise that what I seek is to communicate the urgent need for greater empathy and solidarity. It is possible for an apparently optimistic stand point, that focuses on individual, family unit or organisational self-care to fit within the structures of alienation/disconnect that have enabled inequality in our societies.

Any optimistic or ‘positive’ approaches to the coronavirus pandemic should, in my opinion, be framed and motivated by an awareness of the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. In order for us to be well others need to be well too, and others will be well only if we are well too. It goes both ways- and this wellness is also dependent on the circulation of capital, and this depends on people’s ability to earn a living. The pandemic affects everyone- and this means it affects everything we humans do.

Finding the balance between critically engaging with what is happening and trying to maintain a semblance of normality is important, but not easy. Gramsci’s motto, “Pessimism of the Intellect, Optimism of the Will”  calls for this ongoing interrogation of what happens whilst having trust in our ability to stand up to challenges pragmatically and strategically. There cannot be solidarity and empathy unless there is awareness of difference, and this implies an awareness of privilege, and of the fragility of that privilege.

In a time in which nearly everyone has the ability to broadcast publicly aspects of their private lives, and when many -but definitely not all- will be at home, some of which will be working from home- it’s to me essential that we try to reflect on the interconnectedness of everything- home, until recently the quintaessential ‘private’ space, does not exist outside society, even if we never physically leave it.

When we make a complaint or ask for our money back, when we buy all the possible loo roll packets we can afford at once- let’s think carefully about the consequences those actions have on others and on ourselves. This is not a time to treat others, including organisations or services, as mere means to an end- but as key interconnected points in the wide network of society- all playing a role, and forced to play many other roles whilst under these exceptional circumstances.