I must be losing my sense of time as result of spending most of everyday communicating with colleagues via my laptop because I published today’s post yesterday [see ‘Professor soars through the landscape‘ on April 27th, 2020]. Even when a helpful reader pointed out that the accompanying video had not been published, I simply thought that I had failed to synchronise the post and video properly – see my comment on yesterday’s post. It was not until my editor asked me why I had published a post on Tuesday that I realised my error. Perhaps I am suffering from dyschronometria brought on by the COVID-19 lock-down in force in the UK.
Last week I met with research collaborators in Italy where they have been restricted to their homes for the past four weeks and need written permission to move more than 200 yards from the house; in Urbana-Champaign, IL, USA where they closed down the campus two weeks ago on about the same timescale as here in Liverpool; and in Taiwan where they are able to work on campus wearing masks but they are not delivering undergraduate lectures. Of course, to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, all of these meetings happened electronically via a variety of virtual conferencing tools. At the weekend, I climbed the Welsh hill, Moel Famau, that we can see from the upper windows of our house. We climb it most weekends, but last weekend was different because I did it virtually by repeatedly climbing the stairs in our house so that I could abide by the Government’s directions to not visit the countryside. I had talked about it during our first weekend in lock-down and calculated how many repeats were equivalent to the climb from Cilcain to the summit. A report of a virtual ascent of Everest inspired me to go ahead with my own virtual expedition from the basement to the attic thirty-five times. The first stage was like the lower slopes of well-used mountain trail where rangers have installed wooden steps to protect the hillside because we have recently installed a new oak staircase to the basement. The middle stage was a gentler winding ascent with views of hills while the final stage was steep with awkward steps leading to a hidden summit. To my surprise, I got some of the same feelings of mental well-being and renewal induced by walking in real hills [see: ‘Gone walking‘ on April 19th, 2014 & ‘Take a walk on the wild side‘ on August 26th, 2015]. As I write this post, a Government minister is saying on the radio that we might not be allowed our daily hour outside for exercise, so my virtual expedition will likely be repeated next weekend.
I am relieving my ‘gadget stress‘ by ‘reading offline‘ and allowing some ‘mind wandering‘ to stimulate an increase in my intellectual productivity and creativity with the aid of some walks across green fields and cliff tops. In other words, I have ‘gone walking‘ on a ‘deep vacation‘. If you don’t have the opportunity for a vacation, then at least ‘Slow down, breathe your own air‘.