A couple of hours later, people would begin rousing from this initial slumber. The night-time wakefulness usually lasted from around 23:00 to about 01:00, depending on what time they went to bed. It was not generally caused by noise or other disturbances in the night – and neither was it initiated by any kind of alarm (these were only invented in 1787, by an American man who – somewhat ironically – needed to wake up on time to sell clocks). Instead, the waking happened entirely naturally, just as it does in the morning. The period of wakefulness that followed was known as “the watch” – and it was a surprisingly useful window in which to get things done. “[The records] describe how people did just about anything and everything after they awakened from their first sleep,” says Ekirch.
Being on a video call requires more focus than a face-to-face chat, says Petriglieri. Video chats mean we need to work harder to process non-verbal cues like facial expressions, the tone and pitch of the voice, and body language; paying more attention to these consumes a lot of energy. “Our minds are together when our bodies feel we’re not. That dissonance, which causes people to have conflicting feelings, is exhausting. You cannot relax into the conversation naturally,” he says.
Indeed, Finns derive a great deal of pride from the high level of social trust present in the society, which in turn is an indication of the perception that people are believed to be acting honestly. “In Finland the state is a friend, not an enemy,” Kananen said. “The state is perceived as acting for the collective good – so public officials act in everybody’s shared interest. There is a great deal of trust – towards fellow citizens and public office holders, including the police. Finnish people are also happy taxpayers. They know the tax money is used for the common good and they know no-one will cheat when collecting the taxes.”
According to psychologist, psychotherapist and hypnotherapist Dr Jonathan Pointer, the appeal in returning to treasured TV, films, music, books, video games, sporting moments, and even food, lies in the connection between emotion and memory. “Emotions and memories are linked; emotions reactivate memories, and memories reactivate emotions. So nostalgic reminiscence, when we create an emotional response through reminiscing on past events, is an easy way to re-experience an emotion attached to a particular memory. This can be aided by retrieval cues, such as smells, sights, sounds, from our past,” he says.
Today’s call with my friend Giacomo was tinged with nostalgia. Suddenly WhatsApp feels like a poor substitute for a walk in the sun or preparing dinner together in real life. This time, we just pause and think about what the world will look like once the pandemic is over, what’s going to be lost forever and what we can do better in future.
Maybe surviving the short-term isolation of this pandemic can teach us how to deal with the other systemic collapse looming ahead, and the sense of loneliness each crisis instils in us. Maybe some of that longing for closeness I express through endless video calls will stay with me as I face the other existential threat that unites us all.
Nutrition is a conundrum in developing countries. The couple argue that things that make life less boring are a priority for the poor – a TV set, something special to eat, for example. In one location in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan, where almost no one had a TV, they found the extremely poor spent 14% of their budget on festivals. By contrast, in Nicaragua, where 56% of the poor households in villages had a radio and 21% owned a TV, very few households reported spending anything on festivals.
Their work also suggested governments and international institutions need to completely rethink food policy. Providing more food grains- which most food security programmes do – would often not work and help little for the poor to eat better because the main problem was not calories, but other nutrients.
The village of Curdi was nestled between two hills in the Western Ghats with the Salaulim river – a tributary of one of the major rivers in Goa – running through it.
It was once a thriving village in south-eastern Goa.
In 1986, the village as its residents knew it ceased to exist. The state’s first dam was constructed and, as a consequence, the village was completely submerged.
But every year in May, the water recedes to reveal what is left of it.
Sometimes you find your angel in the worst moments of your life. Goodness and evil always balance each other out.
“It’s amazing how our friendship came out of something so horrific and terrible,” Will says.
“We wouldn’t ordinarily have crossed paths. We’re different ages, have different professions and live and work in different areas.”
It’s a year later and he’s sitting with Cristina at the back of a busy brasserie in Soho. The sun is streaming through the windows and on the street outside office workers are mingling and sipping their first post-work pints.
Both have just come from work – Will, 25, from his job rejuvenating the area around Baker Street and Cristina, 34, from a meeting with an advertising firm. While Will grew up in London, Cristina moved to the city from Portugal 12 years ago.
It was an act of terror by Khalid Masood that brought them to the same place at the same time. On 22 March 2017, he drove a hired car into dozens of pedestrians on Westminster Bridge and stabbed to death an unarmed police officer, before being shot and killed himself.
“Work gives you meaning and purpose, and life is empty without it.”
Last month, the American Psychological Association published an article that synthesised findings on this topic that stretch back as far as 1993. Research from Harvard professor Teresa Amabile found that “no matter the size of a goal – whether curing cancer or helping a colleague – having a sense of meaning and feeling a sense of progress can contribute to happiness in the workplace.”
But finding work with purpose can be hard for many.
Still, Rick himself is above such abuse. “I don’t buy or sell human beings,” he informs Ferrari (Sydney Greenstreet), the city’s black-market kingpin. But as time goes by, Rick realises that turning a blind eye to the buying and selling is just as bad. There is a touching scene in which he rigs the café’s roulette wheel so that a Bulgarian newlywed (Joy Page) doesn’t have to sleep with Renault – thus bringing a tear to the eyes of Rick’s employees and to the audience alike. More moving still is the scene in which the café’s head waiter (SZ Sakall) has a brandy with two elderly Austrians who are about to leave for the US, and compliments them on their broken English. Rainer Werner Fassbinder, the German director, declared that this humane little sequence boasts “one of the most beautiful pieces of dialogue in the history of film”.