“The plates that others spin, we wash”

Living critically with(in) our struggle

Francesca Bernardi and Eamon Gamee

In and out of time, troubled by the ghost of employment.

Someone texted me in the afternoon yesterday. Then my father rang, and after I called my mother, another person on my infinite list of people waiting for me. I attended an online seminar at 5 pm about international solidarity. Then at 7 pm, I had a Zoom meeting with a collective I’m a part of. Dinner happened around 8.30 pm and after the dishes and sides were done it was well into the night. I messaged them back eventually, around 10 pm. This is a relatively fast turnaround. The unfortunate can wait months for a reply.

Weeks are marked by recycling, fortnights by general refuse.

Life is a tiny cycle of small things that pass without fanfare.

Forever busy and totally unemployed.

The plates that others spin, we wash.

Ideas and dreams remain in the freezer while lunch or dinner is forever in the oven. The oven is largely responsible for heating the cabin. When the food is cooked, the open door offers us residual heat.

I remember collapsing in the staffroom after a day of teaching, so exhausted I could not gather myself home. Now I fall asleep on the sofa.

Too tired to engage my routine that stands between this moment and bed: cleaning the kitchen, and possibly the living room, flossing and brushing my teeth, taking the dog’s food out of the freezer. Unable to gather myself to bed, unable to engage the inevitable. I dream of waking up at 6 am, instead, I sleep dreamlessly to eight.

Waking up at eight means being washed and fed by nine, possibly 9.30 am, before long, the day sees 10 am. Lunch is 3 hours away, tops, the cooking of it probably in 2. It’s quite likely that a friend will message me and I’ll speak to several people on the phone. Emails will arrive. There will be laundry. Possibly shopping. Forever cleaning. And constant reflection.

I’m up at six and in bed by eight.

Being busy is never a challenge.

Boredom has not featured in any part of this year, while solitude reigned.

Having minimal paid work has not solely meant financial difficulty, but has enforced an evaluation of time, how it passes and how it is spent; forcing an engagement with what can be learnt from the complexity of managing day-to-day activities to nurture the intellect, while solace and loneliness alternate (unhelpfully).

Informal – yet radical – feminist analysis makes the abundance of unpaid silent labour forcibly visible (and inescapable).

Political thinking fills the mind with intangible and unaccountable processes that remain unseen.

Unless these are uttered in a space of solidarity or written (sometimes in a tweet).

When questions on how our time, over the past twelve months, was spent interrupt the ordinary, we choose our answer carefully.

Who ‘s asking? Will they understand?

We are thinking. We’ve been ceaselessly thinking about every facet of our existence. Day in day out.

Exhausted, it emerged – while largely unemployed and somewhat orphaned from a system that designs what education, employment and personal worth should look like.

We have never been busier.

In solidarity with others and in keeping with our values, we have been making every moment of hope and of struggle count.

It is a time for reflection, understanding and potential.

Writing to re-engage and reimagine research, in contexts that are different from those studied during the original field activities, this is inner fieldwork.

Finding ways to participate in educational and political debates, which the online world seems to have propagated.

Digital spaces have enabled a type of connection and connectivity that is humane and culturally enriching, while providing a vessel to traverse the bounded relationship between the worktable and lone reflexivity.

There is comfort in knowing a similar experience is felt by others, in this shared and (for some) similarly precarious moment.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *