Listening for Wendy Cope’s silent drum

I’m an introvert, so lockdown ought to be, well… not a walk in the park… that’s not allowed… but not so much of a burden as it is for those who need people around them the way I need sunshine. Except, as I enter my ninth week, the loss of my vanished future is making my emptier-than-it-should-be present echo with undone things.

I’m fortunate to be living comfortably and peacefully, with my wife for company, in a Spring that feels like early Summer. All should be well yet, as a friend put it recently, there is a creeping sense of unease, of dislocation, of distance from reality.

The hardest change is discontinuous change. The floor drops out from underneath you. The assumptions you’d didn’t know you were making about your future now seem absurdly out of place. Your reality has broken and will not be mended. Whatever comes next will be something different, unplanned for perhaps unwelcome.

And there is nothing you can do about it, except wait and hope and be kind to one another.

So, I find myself listening for the sound of Wendy Cope’s silent drum.

If it be now, ’tis not to come:
Hamlet, just before the fight
That sent him to eternal night.


It’s always there: a quiet drum
Sounding when I have a fright:
If it be now, ’tis not to come.


Choking, breathless, falling - numb
With mortal fear, I hear it right
On cue and silently recite
If it be now, ’tis not to come.

I know that feeling well but when I’ve felt it before, the threat was immediate and obvious: getting caught in an undertow, being thrown off a motorbike, waiting for a test result.

Now, if the drum starts, it may keep me company awhile as my old future unravels and reknits in a different shape and I am not sure I’m ready for that.

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