Nab Cottage Coronavirus Blog
28th June 2020
‘There’s no such thing as normal’, so says a quote on a postcard that we have on a kitchen cupboard and which has been there for many years, or on and off, as we do rotate the cards and bring fresh ones in most winters. And some we hang onto because they resonate so much.
So in the ‘old normal’ the school is opening today. Students from Finland, Japan, Austria, the Netherlands, Spain and Germany are about to arrive. Our wonderful volunteers from Switzerland, Brazil and the Czech Republic are putting the finishing touches to the rooms and are about to prepare the tables in the studio bringing in armfuls of flowers from the garden and carefully setting the napkins so that all the nationalities are mixed up on the tables.
Tim is having a slight panic attack about whether he cancelled the 14.00 taxi and confirmed the 21.00 one. Wojtek is balancing on his bench having a cigarette having whizzed up an alchemical meal in the kitchen and is contemplating who is going to be his prize rota student of the week. Liz is in the office doing a last minute catering order for the week and praying that no one is going to arrive who is on a weird and wonderful diet. Nicky is meeting and greeting the students as they arrive and serving them tea and a large slice of her newest creation, a deliciously moist coffee and walnut cake with a mascarpone filling. A recipe that she had planned to include in her English and Baking course. Sahara is sleeping in her bed. She’s being very lethargic at the moment and there is a possibility that she could be pregnant. Each morning when we come downstairs we are prepared for a surprise.
That is the ‘old normal’. The ‘new normal’ is that there are no students arriving today. No taxis to book or double-book. No candle-lit dinner in the studio. No catching up with old friends who have been here many times before and no new meetings with fascinating people from all over the world. All the bedrooms are empty and the studio is bare. And the rain is pouring down incessantly. The lake which has been so low you could almost walk to the other side has risen by almost three metres and the peninsula in the meadow and the islands are becoming submerged.
Wojtek isn’t cooking, hasn’t cooked for weeks and is furloughed which means he is paid for not working, not quite his whole salary but almost. Nicky is back from Azerbaijan, as with Iraqi Kurdistan, she got out the day before the airports closed, leaving most of her belongings behind once again. But she got out safely, otherwise she would still be there under a renewed very strict lockdown. She’s teaching her pupils by zoom, doing online fitness classes, learning Arabic, doing workshops on white privilege and keeping us on our toes about overt and covert racism.
It all feels extraordinary, which, of course, it is. I feel an enormous stillness deep inside and around me at Nab Cottage, a tremendous gratitude for being able to stop. Yet I’m so aware of swirling, whirling, crashing, tumbling emotions, livelihoods and infrastructure close by, further afield and all over the world.