Meeting is the most human of inventions by Roma Havers

Heart

Meeting is the most human of inventions

Photograph of young white person with a laundromatte in the background. The person has short brown hair, a moustache and is wearing a brown jumper. The photo is framed inside a free flowing shape with round edges and small black lines border on 3 edges to give the shape a sense of movement. The photo sits on a vivid purple backdrop.

‘Human nature is not just your loved ones, it’s the people you meet’. That was Dudley’s response to our first call together back in July. Throughout lockdown the potential for adventure, discovery and meeting new people has been a loss we have all felt, but perhaps none more so than the age bracket who were told they were most vulnerable to coronavirus. I spoke to five people across Greater Manchester who have been isolated during lockdown. Each series of conversations were completely different and at first I wondered how it would be possible to write about them into one piece of work but a running thread emerged, how we can help each other imagine.

I’m broadcasting to you from the lighthouse at the estuary of the River Styx…

I’m broadcasting to you from the turret of my ice castle on pluto…

I’m broadcasting from the rusty VW Camper in the Nevada Desert…

I’m broadcasting to you from the inside of a snowglobe, that padded sound, nothing falls forever here, and the edges of the world are cool, looking up is a kind of hypnotism, it’s always the same snow and I know each flake by a name my mother taught me, it’s hard to miss mountains when you have been upside down……..

I could tell you I’m anywhere. That’s the beauty of telephone calls, that’s the wonder of meeting someone when they don’t know what you look like. On our last week talking Suraj told me she could ‘draw my face, I can picture you smiling’, I could picture Suraj’s smile too, in the way our brains can manifest a smile in a voice without having to concretise a human face. The brain is so much more creative at picturing who you are speaking to when you can’t see them. I could tell you I’m a cross between Christopher Robin and an art critic or that I’m definitely more tadpole than frog. Our ability to imagine beyond where we are, to imagine other people more complexly and the ability to communicate in more creative ways is our greatest power.

Me and John spent a lot of time discussing the power of radio which he fell in love with going out on boats to try and catch the radio-waves of the pirate radios on the ships in the dock. This broadcast is inspired by John!

For our first segment Intro(per)spective!

I’m broadcasting this from a beehive’s insides. My hands are honey but I don’t feel trapped, I am the tiniest I have ever been, I used to be fruit but now I am becoming…

During our calls, Pauline and I talked about poetry and taking time to become introspective, even if you’re not sure you’re good enough yet. She suggested ‘finding something everyday that moves you in some way, even if it’s a bee flying past’. Pauline has written poetry across lockdown and was willing to share one of her pieces of writing! I thought I’d make the most of what I had, and to reflect the times I stayed inside Pauline’s poem and made a new piece with her exact words.

A pink box with 2 columns. The left hand coloumn reads: Staying sane in isolation Alone for 12 weeks long what does it mean to me? where do I belong how sane will I still be? Thanks to Radio Manchester hearing music and voices when all seems to fester help in a time of choices Phone calls with friends and with family also on face time chatting on FB without pens so many ways of being on line Shopping delivered to my door thanks to my helper from MAG Bury and those folk from the Radcliffe market floor without them I would be full of worry Seeing the sun glow hearing birds and seeing bees Spring is here now lucky to be here eating cheshire cheese. Pauline Smith April 2020. The right hand column reads: Making a go of it Without spring to belong to what does long mean? Where do choices fester when time is eating to line the floor? Without hearing worry glow, birds will also be sane-sun voices, shopping for all those ways of being, help with me - Many bury friends’ calls seeing lucky from a would-now I, bees full of time-staying market, and a lone radio chatting on. to be delivered into 12 weeks sane with ‘be here and’ Folk on! it seems so family music onto my door ‘cheese!’ Pens seeing I from isolation, on how staying still thanks Radcliffe and Manchester and Cheshire.

Our second segment Fantasy Journey

I’m broadcasting from the hull of a freight ship, I’ve been here two months, everything tastes of salt, I think when I am done here I will be part boat.

Gulia and I spent a long time discussing travel, one of Guilia’s dreams was to take the Orient Express, our conversations even sparked me to think about where I’d like to go if I could go anywhere. It’s not always easy to let yourself imagine properly, too often it feels silly to imagine something that could never happen, but it feels even more vital now to let us imagine what we want. I recently felt that I had not taken advantage of my freedom; but why should we limit ourselves inside our minds. Who knows, someone  might read this and fund Guilia’s trip (I’m looking at you billionaires!) I planned some questions to ask Guilia and I’m sharing them with you to have a go, I’d love to hear about everyone’s fantasy journeys.

A pink square box. Inside black text is scattered with each sentence starting with differing indents. The text inside reads:Design your fantasy journey! There are no limits on time/space/money! What would you take with you? Who do you want to take with you? Where do you want to end up? What is the route? What would you travel by? Planes, trains, hovercraft, skateboard? Or maybe you’d want to design a new form of transport? What do you want to do in each place? What tourist destinations have you always wanted to see in person, what views have you wanted to see? Where would you like to return to? Is there anything you’d want to buy there? What would you like to eat? And where? Who would you want to cook for you? If you could travel to a different time where would you go and why?

Our third segment – unbottling the letter!

Illustration of a pale blue postcard on a bright purple background

I am broadcasting this from inside my grandmother’s piano, you can only hear the metronome for now, but if you think hard enough perhaps you can make her play.

‘You can make yourself laugh with memory’ said John on our final meeting. This theme also returned often in mine and Dudley’s conversations. During this time I think many people are reflecting, whether that’s because of loss, or separation, or simply more time. Dudley said he had many questions for his great-grandfather, so we devised a structure for how to write a letter to an ancestor, what kind of questions you might want to ask yourself. Dudley has offered to share some examples from his letter and I’ve also developed the questions, so anyone else can have a go.

A pink box split into two columns of text. The left hand column reads: QUESTIONS Why do you want to write to this person? Why now? How would you introduce yourself? What do you want them to know about you and your life? What would you struggle to explain? What do you want to know about them? About their family? About their life? Work? What stories have been passed down to you that you would like to know more about, want to know are true? What’s the most exciting thing about ‘now’ you want them to know? What do you think would surprise them? What would you like advice on them from? Is there anything else you want them to know? The right and column reads: EXAMPLE Dear sir, given your certainty in the afterlife, it may be possible that you already know me, in your heart, if not in a physical sense [...] If it were possible, could you tell me: I know your faith was important to you, and know of your father’s concern that you work in the foundry- how were you able to reconcile those two things- the hard physical work, with the study? How do you live your days in Samoa? What are the most pressing things you have to attend to, on a daily or weekly basis? So much of one’s perceptions are bound up in a photo, and a few facts- what would be an ordinary day for you, or is there one? Robert Louis Stevenson was probably the island’s most famous resident at one time. What do you think of him? Do you understand his perceptions about the native life? You ask about changes in this world of 2020. I suppose for you, who relied on letters to communicate so much of your thoughts and your work, the most revolutionary change would be the use of a form of electricity to transmit words and pictures in a matter of seconds- even faster than the Morse code. The major drawback of this great advance is that allows all manner of people to spread mis-information on a scale you could have never thought possible. Secondly, the world you left in 1910 was largely God fearing. Now, faith, in Europe at least, has dwindled, and many are sceptical or unbelieving. What do you make of that? What would you want to do? With all best wishes Your great grandson

Our last segment before my transmitters give in

I’m broadcasting alone/unlonely in my flat

As Dudley said during our last week ‘there aren’t any ordinary people’, by my experience we just have to get better questions. I am grateful for the company John, Suraj, Pauline, Guilia and Dudley have given me over this summer, their stories, their answers to my questions. This one’s for them!

A pink box with black text inside reads: Dial Meeting is the most human of inventions and you shared in pilgrimages to kitchen sinks and plush compartments where glasses clink and voyages to treasure islands and parks with lacrame dinos, and holiday plans or seances and british rail free passes, and radio from baths in the channels and pirate ships and paper lanterns and ancestors in hibernation, and birthdays in isolation, and uptown funks and Sinterklaus and adventures all inside the house and Simply the Best on cassette and a month of kindnesses So I hope you don’t mind me calling you...Thanks for tuning in folks and goats!