Life as usual

This is the second in our series of thoughts, stories and reflections by the Brothers in times of lockdown.

When staff return to the Charterhouse after a weekend, they often ask Brothers, ‘have you had a nice weekend?’ Our response tends to be, ‘every day is the weekend for us’. We are, for the most part, retired, and are free to do what we will with our time.

When Brothers take up residence at the Charterhouse they make much of not becoming ‘institutionalised’. A questionable aim, as they have entered an organisation founded for an institutional purpose. However, I get their drift. We want to be active in mind and body for as long as we can and lead fulfilling lives (while taking advantage of four meals a day, comfortable board and lodging, and the security of living behind a very high wall).

Lockdown could therefore be seen as curtailing many of our abilities to do everything we want in order to feel independent and fulfilled. And for some Brothers this is proving the case.

I spent my life as a graphic designer. It was my career but also very much part of my life, being interested in art, architecture, photography, and a plethora of visual cultural pursuits. When I arrived at the Charterhouse, although I was ‘retired’ and no longer working on paid commissions, I continued to turn my hand to pro-bono design work for friends and the Charterhouse.

Slowly though, as the years passed, I began to lose interest in my work. Sitting at my computer, untangling and refining content, synthesising it into a cohesive visual communication, became an irritant rather than a pleasure. I no longer needed the challenge. I needed to really retire to discover what the rest of my life could be like.

I have spent a lot of my life in my mind. I like to think, to observe. Spending time alone, apart, has never been a problem for me. I delight in it. Not to say I don’t like people. I have had wonderful relationships, marriages, friendships, and have a very fulfilling relationship with my daughter. But I do not ‘need’ to share a sunset, a scene, an architectural wonder, or to discuss a film or book. I am content to appreciate things alone or in company.

In the past year, I have been enjoying a ‘new’ life. I read (I just finished Proust’s À la recherche du temps perdu), I search out films, concerts, galleries, art. I sit in our garden, go out and about, listen to music, or stare and just let my mind drift.

So, apart from not being able to go out, to shop, roam, see theatre, concerts, cinema, lectures, eat in restaurants, visit friends and relatives, go to the gym, travel near and far… life at the Charterhouse under lockdown is, for me, pretty much life as usual.

Tim Epps 06.05.20

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