Sam Baldwin – founder of BREG Apparel reports from the snowy Hinterlands of Koroška, Slovenia, where he is spending isolation alone.
Read Part 1 here
It’s been 11 days since I arrived at Breg, and things are starting to feel strange. The initial euphoria of having made it – after some transportation problems and worries over border closures – has now worn off.
Like many others loaded with lockdown energy, I embarked on a raft of ‘when-I-get-round-to-it’ jobs in the first few days. I made a shelf from an old piece of plum tree felled in the garden, some years ago. I did a big clear out of some cupboards and rearranged all my tools, making them accessible. I plugged a few small air gaps in the walls and eves with some insulation. But now, almost two weeks into isolation, my productivity has slowed. It’s a strange irony that having more time to do things, seems to reduce the amount of things you do.
Days are now melting into each other; the significance of their prefix lost. A [Satur]day is no different from a [Mon]day. A [Wednes]day identical to a [Fri]day. They are all just days. Following a brief spell of warm, spring-like weather, winter has very much reappeared, dumping a decent cover of snow over the entire landscape. And while Breg in its winter attire is certainly a beautiful sight, life up here is cold.
By morning, the temperature inside Breg House has fallen to 10°C, so my first job of the day is to get the wood stove lit. I then brew a coffee and sit close to the fire, deciding what jobs to tackle that day. The snow has put a halt to my outdoor tasks for now so I focus on indoor duties.
Life has become quite surreal. When I wander the frozen forest as the snow falls, I feel like I’m in a dream. I guess this is the effect of spending so much time alone. I couldn’t bear to let all the beautiful, light, powdery snow go to waste, so I gave in to the urge to do a couple of laps on my snowboard, down a meadow slope next to the house. The ride is less than a minute long, and perhaps five to walk back up, but it felt good to be surfing the snow and breathing crisp air.
The local heroines of my situation are my two lovely Slovene neighbours Štefka and Ančka. They have been bringing a hot homecooked meal to my doorstep each day. I think they worry about the strange Englishman, alone up a mountain and want to ensure I’m kept well fed. The meal arrives in a basket, complete with a salad, some bread and a dessert. Hearty soup, pork chops, struklji - who needs Uber Eats, when you have neighbours this thoughtful?
In the evenings I dip into the Breg House DVD collection. Despite the ribbing I got from friends, all those hours spent trawling charity shops back in the UK, amassing a library of classic movies for 50 pence a disk, is now paying off.
I phone a friend each evening to ensure some amount of sanity is retained. As lockdown sets in around the world, I start to hear how others are affected. Fear for small business survival; fear of job losses. But some optimism too: perhaps some changes for the better.
I think the coming weeks will be the real test. The initial ‘excitement’ of the situation is fading. It’s only the start of what looks to be a long haul and it’s unnerving not knowing how this will all play out. The houses of the world have never been so thoroughly cleaned and tidied but how will we all feel in another three, four or five weeks of social isolation?