At times, the end of lockdown looks like a shimmering light on the horizon. At other times, it seems like we are looking down the barrel of a gun.
My heart sees the freedom to walk and run … and even to buy whiskey … shimmering like phosphorus in the sea at night. My head sees the daunting, cold, gun-metal of tough choices, the end of the age of denial … for me.
There is no doubt, I know what I know: that I must choose between what I know and what I want. I can no longer pretend that my lifestyle is realistic, possible even, if I just tinker with a few things (meat-free Mondays and only free range eggs maybe).
Michael Moore tells us in his new movie, Planet of the Humans, that there is no other source of energy to keep feeding and fuelling the never-ending madness of escalating consumption. No new tech is going to save us. We have reached the limit, the edge. We must use less, create more, find balance. Full stop.
This is the barrel of the gun. In a post-Covid world we must reconcile what we want with what we know. It is in this context that I am watching with keen interest as my old friend, Taryn, leaves the old world and creates a new one.
Escaping just before they closed the gates
“The world will never be the same again!” We have all heard that many times since Covid-19 put us all into lockdown (or rehab if you live in South Africa). So many of us are determined to be different: less busy, more conscious, less selfish, more thoughtful … and maybe even, we hope, we will find a way to start living the life of our dreams.
Taryn and Polly, a couple in their mid-40s, got a head-start on Covid-19, albeit a tiny one. At five to midnight on the last day, “just before they closed the gates”, Taryn took a flight from her old life in the pre-Covid-19 world. London was a dusty and distant memory by the time she landed on the tarmac in Goainia (pronounced Goyanya), in Brazil, to start the life she and Polly had been dreaming of since they met at London Pride in 2012.
Well, truth be told, as I write this, Taryn, an IT engineer, is still at her computer working out the notice period of her job at a financial services company in the old world, but she is at least in the starting blocks of her new life. She and Polly are in an apartment in Goainia, a 1.5-hour drive from the little old house on a farm where theywill start their dream life as soon as she has finished telecommuting. High finance be damned; permaculture here we come.
I am looking forward to watching from afar, learning about farming and Brazil and climate change, hopefully also about rewilding and definitely about doing what you dreamed of with the person you love.
Some background: London … Brazil … London
Taryn, originally from KwaZuluNatal, South Africa, met Polly, from Goainia, in London in 2012. Taryn had been living and working in London since she was in her twenties; Polly, a sports journalist from Brazil, was in town for the Olympics. For years they saw each other every 4-5 months.
Then Polly took a job at the Rio Olympics and Taryn decided to move there for a while. They got married and Taryn got her Brazilian visa.
“Those were great Copacabana days.”
After the Olympics in Rio the two of them went back to their old life of long-distance commuting with Taryn running her IT consultancy in London and Polly doing international freelance jobs in sports events.
Their plan was to work hard for another few years, build up their savings, and then make a life for themselves on Polly’s family’s farm, where they hoped to create a sustainable piece of paradise, “not just for us, but also for our family and friends and for nature itself”.
To make it easier to spend time together they applied for a UK visa for Polly. What a palaver … different story from Brazil, where it took 2 months and 3 visits to the Federal Police. In the UK, they spent thousands of pounds battling bureaucracy over the course of 2 years, only to get a spousal visa in November 2019, just before Covid-19 started to close in.
They were in London when the Covid-19 crisis started to break. Things happened quickly. When Polly’s contract was delayed by the pandemic, they saw the writing on the wall. Realising they were facing an indefinite lockdown in London, Polly made a quick escape, with Taryn hot on her heels.
“We packed and ran way in one weekend, with doors and flights closing behind us.”
As soon as Taryn has worked out her notice period, which requires city-speed internet connectivity, they will move to the family farm in the middle of the Cerrado and start to explore ways of living that are in tune and at peace with nature.
Polly describes the farm, which her family has had since 2007, as a little piece of paradise 140km from Goiânia, the capital and main city of Goiás state. They currently farm cattle and are becoming increasingly worried about what they seeing happening to the natural order around them. “The big soya plantations are coming closer, trees getting cut down and there less space for wildlife,” says Polly.
The Cerrado is a vast tropical savannah ecoregion in Brazil. The second largest of Brazil’s major habitat types, after the Amazonian rainforest, the Cerrado accounts for 21% of the country’s land area (extending marginally into Paraguay and Bolivia).
Taryn and Polly are looking at helping with the existing farming activities, and hope to find ways to make the cattle farming more environmentally friendly. They also plan to increase the population of indigenous cerrado nut trees, Baru and Pequi, as well as to find ways to protect the spring waters as well as the wildlife.
They have plans to create some forest-field integration for the cattle, restore soil quality, install bee hives and to plant vegetables as well as the Baru and Pequi trees.
As for their home, they will be refurbishing a 100-year-old house on the farm, which sounds positively dreamy … and a hellova lot of work.
They have been using their quarantine days in Goiânia to put their plans on paper, fill in some of detail, talk to engineers and permaculture specialists, look at budgets.
Covid-19 is a concern, but not their biggest worry right now. What is on their minds is big things like how much it all will cost, how far their savings will stretch and, of course, there might be snakes.