25/05/2020 - Budapest

The calendar read 12th of March on the last day we visited a Playground with my daughter, Vilma.

I had my concerns, but the weather was too pleasant to stay inside. The nurseries were still open during that week, but Vilma was staying home already. Two days later the government closed all schools, kindergartens and nurseries. Vilma’s father is working abroad, and due to the closure of the borders it was impossible to say when he would be able to return. This is how we ended up, just the two of us for the time of the quarantine.

As soon as it became apparent, that in addition to the closure of the Universities, all Kindergarten and Nurseries are shut down, I already knew that my main focus for the coming weeks will be to figure out how to maintain our life and sustain ourselves, physically and mentally, instead of participating in online University classes, Zoom Meetings and working on School Projects. I spent sleepless nights trying to figure out how to make this period bearable for the both of us, how to make up for the missing activities and stimulate my daughter in a confined environment. In addition to planning for food supply and other everyday housework.

Fortunately, the garden of our house has a small grassy patch which belongs to us. Vilma has always been a big fan of the Trampoline, so it seemed like a good investment to buy our own.

I placed the order, and a couple of days later we were ready to put it together. This latter part was the more complex process.

Weather permit, we were jumping on the Trampoline, rode the mini motor in our street and visited Vilma’s cousin, who lives nearby. These were the main activities in the early days. When we went further away from home, we faced an unexpected challenge. In the first couple of weeks, I was afraid to pass by any of the Playgrounds in the neighborhood. How will I explain to Vilma, only a couple of months older than two, that she cannot go and play? I imagined loud and energetic tantrum as her reaction, so I tried to find routes, which avoid any of the well-known playing sites. This significantly reduced the roads we could take.

It turned out later that my fear was baseless. Once I have shown to Vilma the lock on the Playground gates, and as soon as she saw that no one is inside, she understood that we cannot go in.

Our next project was to create a sandbox in our garden. A couple of month ago we inherited an old and used sandbox frame from our neighbor, whose grandkids have grown out of it. With a little renovation, and a couple of bags of Sand, it became usable again.

Soon after the garden developed further, this time with the addition of a chair and table. The spring helped us with its own wonders, we could see every day how the bushes and trees are turning into flower, the arrival and departure of the Green Cockchafers, and the slow motion of the Slugs, after a rain. The garden has another part, still quite jungle like. This is where an old Swing frame is located, maybe the next new/old addition to our Play-Garden….

Tamara Juristovszky

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It's been almost 2 months now that our whole life has been transferred online. Although most of us have been using online tools for communication for years now, this type of communication was almost just an enhancement or an add on to our everyday lives.

This new post-COVID19 breakout reality makes us realize how much different the societal rules or to say the «savoir-faire» of online communication is. Everyone expects you to have plenty of time for responding, from friend messages to work emails, everyone thinks that since you have to be at your home you have plenty of time, so they have the right to flood you with numerous emails or messages regardless of the time when actually, the reality of time in quarantine is much more different than the one in normal everyday life, let's call it “the pre-covid19” life.

Most people tend to think that time at home now is the same as the time that you were spending at home before. But the reality is so much more different. Body and brain function is different when you are isolated during the most days of the week or you don't go out at all. And maybe that is why in prisons being in isolation which means you are not allowed to go outside or speak with anyone is a punishment.

Truth is that isolation from isolation really differs, it is much more different to be quarantined in a small apartment without a view and much more different to live in isolation in a house with a garden and your loved ones.

Although the current quarantine measures in Hungary were not really very strict, which means that you can still go out if you want, all these online communication tools seem to impose on us the stricter measures of all. The punishment of always being online and available to everyone.

From online classes to friend messages and all kinds of emails that we are constantly flooded in an almost hourly basis that has to be responded or red, it now seems a kind of luxury for many of us to take a shower uninterrupted by a new notification or walk to the grocery shop or even walking up the stairs. It is now a luxury not to have to respond to anyone or to be offline, it is a luxury to have time to process information or feelings until the next trivial notification pops up. Maybe this is how social status will be measured in a few years when every “white-collar worker” will be asked to work from home. The status will be measured of how many times someone with a degree and a job had the opportunity to go out for a while.

Personally, the first days of quarantine were a kind of relief from always having somewhere to go, and a chance to dive into silly Hollywood apocalyptic movies and precooked fries. This was the fun part, you could easily sit at home watching the and of civilization, on-screen while you made parallelisms with what you were living. But the fun quickly vanished after 2 weeks. Staying most of the week inside, due to the online lessons and not have to follow the small ritual of preparing my self to go to a different space, to have a lesson or a conversation with fellow students, made the whole experience of studying abroad completely dull. Assignments and lessons that were supposed to be interesting, fun, and performative became more and more boring until everything became a burden. An ongoing fight between laziness, procrastination, deadlines, and emails that keep you always connected.

We tend to relate spaces with the action that we do there. It would be odd to have to go praying in a supermarket, watch a movie in a gym or work out in a restaurant. Space, function, and memory go together, and space is never neutral. So, how easy is it to cram your whole life, work, rest, and entertainment in a small space designed to be your refuge for a few hours? It is not. Habits fight each other and guess which wins, the one that is easier to be followed.

On top of that, the easiness of communication and the numerous applications and platforms ask you every day to familiarise yourself with the next hip communication app, the next trendy platform the one with that tasteful, colorful illustrations that make everything seem so cool, young and cheerful. All our reality is now on a screen. Maybe the next pandemic should not be an organic virus but one that doesn't let our devices connect with the online servers.

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15.05.20 / Worthing, UK

At last the grass in the park has been mown! It’s everything I hoped; the clear distinction between park and perimeter, tamed and wild. After longing for it to be cut, it gives a sense of time passing, of something significant happening - amongst the mundanity of everything else. With the smell of freshly cut grass and sunny weather I’m waiting for the onset of summer - and all the uncertainty that comes with it.

The signs that signalled the growth (or, if you prefer, the lack of maintenance) of the grass to walkers by have come off their sign posts. Just the wooden sticks remain, the middle of them significantly lighter than the rest, like a bad tan line. Their authority gone, they reveal themselves as another measure of time in the same daily walk in the same park. They become part of the landscape in their own way, part of the growing grass. Finding things like these and remembering them become highlights from my walk, observations to distinguish this one from yesterday’s and tomorrow’s, and to ground myself and my thoughts in the here and now.

One area I have neglected in my observations has been the children’s playground at the bottom of the park. With lockdown it’s been empty and therefore left, like the perimeter of the park, to grow freely and unrestrained. It feels completely different though, because rather than being a planned growth with purpose, its growth has come from absence. The grass is a consistent reminder of its lack of use, and of the time that has passed. It is pressing up against the fence encasing the area, poking through the holes, and makes for a stark difference between the grass on either side of the fence. Because that decidedly deserted area has been off limits, it evaded my observation, and its slow growth has taken me by surprise. Each day on the same walk I seem to notice something else.

Some changes are so gradual you hardly notice them. You can let them fall to the periphery, the perimeter of the park - you can observe them, make something of them. Other changes take you by surprise. The changes just outside your reach, off path from your daily walk.

The other day we stopped by my auntie’s house to deliver a card for her birthday, consequently walking by my old house. It was strange to see it; it had completely changed. Things taken away here, things added there. My brother noted that despite its changed appearance, he would still expect it to be the same on the inside. I imagined my room, carpet stains and all. I wondered if my dog remembered that we used to live here, I wondered if she had realised it had changed. I remembered the grass.

None of us really wanted to maintain it. The grass would grow incredibly long, that length where it tickles your legs, where you wonder if there are any bugs lurking at the bottom (or is that just me?). We didn’t want our grass that long. It was just a product of neglect, growth without purpose. It seems absurd comparing that grass to the fake grass we have now. I think the fake grass has frustrated me so much because it can’t really change. It’s consistent to a fault. But we have moved on from the grass in our old house. The grass that would grow so long, beyond what we intended, always slowly changing. Since my observation I can’t help but wonder about the grass in my old house. About what length it is now, and how it compares to the park. Is it being cut or growing freely? Is it neglected? Is it cared about? Is it ever observed?

Jenny Brown

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