Since last Monday, we've been on holiday in Madeira, chilling with friends. During this period, I've had a mini social media detox. Apart from the odd look in the hotel, where there is broadband, I've not really looked at Twitter or Facebook. I made an exception on Sunday, to post the Tweets of the week. This gave me a little chance to catch up on the local news. The TV here has CNN and BBC News, which is a bit dry and is really only watchable for 15 minutes. We found a bar in Calheta that shows the Premier League, so I was able to enjoy the weekend football, which went from the sublime to the ridiculous. The friends who we went with are Liverpool and Manchester United fans. They had the joy of sniggering at me, when Manchester City drew with Leeds on Saturday. Karma repaid the debt as their teams fell apart on Sunday. I resisted the chance to go on Facebook and post messages to all of my friends who shared their grief, I'd made a decision to avoid social media, so I think it was the good Lords way of making it a true penance.
The only break from this happened on Wednesday when I was contacted by a local elderly resident of Mill Hill who wanted to discuss street lighting. I'd been helping her with a problem with the new lighting affecting her sleep. She called to say Barnet Council had been sorted. I felt it was important to share the information, just in case anyone else had been affected by similar issues. I don't really enjoy writing about the council or local news. It has always been a bit of a chore, but I love writing most of the other stuff, the review of Viv Albertines book, the Wednesday Poem, the lists, the dyslexia blog etc. The blogs I write about cancer I find very cathartic and have helped me focus my mind through a difficult period. This year has been unprecedented. The period of lockdown, which coincided with us having all of our grown up children back at home was a very strange period. We did a lot of walking dogs through Totteridge fields, a lot of sunbathing in the back garden. If you had asked me before the period started, I would have said I'd be very creative musically, but the lockdown killed any musical creativity. I ended up doing a lot of practicing on the guitar, learning songs and practicing scales. My playing improved, but there has been no outlet. I look at some of the blogs I wrote, April, in the middle of lockdown was one of my least productive months ever. Some of the blogs were a little odd, to say the least. Quite readable, but rather odd. In June, when the studio reopened, I became hellishly busy, preparing the studios, getting them covid compliant, manning the desk (the economics made more sense for me to do the work than bring the staff back from furlough). With about 5% of our normal customers coming when we first reopened, those that did for solo practice, it was a strange experience. The first couple of weeks, people were booking just to get out of the house. One guy came and drummed for 7 hours a day for two weeks.
By the end of September, we'd reached the point where I could take some time out. I am extremely lucky to be blessed with extraordinarily good friends. When we had the opportunity to join them in Madeira, it was an offer too good to refuse. We've been eating, drinking, walking and chilling. I've been reading books and taking pictures. My dyslexia means that I love images. I tend to think pictorially. Visualisation is a big part of how I deal with things. I'm not a linear thinker, I tend to think of problems as pictures. If something is not right, I try and look at the picture from a different angle.
Which brings me to the nub of this blog. It has been a difficult time, but in many ways, I realise it has been a time of spiritual renewal for me. This may sound strange, the churches have been shut. It is hard to see good in such global unhappiness. I try and see a reason for everything. I do however think many good things will come out of this period. I think we have become more aware of our surroundings. The hours exercise a day introduced many to walking and cycling. For me, it meant we got to talk to people we met on walks. This was nice and you realise that meeting nice people and passing the time of day with them is actually very pleasant. I spent a lot of time making Spotify play lists, digging out songs from the past I'd not listened to for a very long time. Why do we forget music we love? The reboot gave me a chance to revisit these. I also had the time and inclination to learn to really improve my cooking. My Sunday roasts are now infinitely better. I have found the secret of perfect roast potatoes. I have also found the perfect roast beef. You need the best quality beef and it is a bit painstaking, but it really is good. We don't really eat much meat at home, so when we do, it should be good.
But there is a deeper change. My experiences at school as a dyslexic scarred me. I have always had an aaversion to formal learning. When I was reading Viv Albertines book, something struck me. She talks about how she decided to become a film maker. She decided to do it properly and work hard. She enrolled in a film making course. I've made many small films for youtube, as well as collaborating with talented film makers such as Han Foo Qune, Charles Honderick and even calling on the services of my nephew, BAFTA winner Chris Tichborne, to make pop videos etc. The stuff I've done, I've always wanted it to look locally produced, to inspire other people, but I've realised that I've actually being doing people a disservice. I could make far better films. I have something to say. I am seriously considering enrolling in a course. I'm now 58, but I have something to say (I'm sure you have noticed). I want to say it properly. I did a songwriting course in 1984, it made me a million times better song writer. Why did I not apply this logic to my films? In truth, the reason is that I never took my film making seriously, but I noticed the Youtube film I made with Mark Amies of Edgware has now had almost 4,000 hits, all generated organically. Don't I owe it to the people who watch them to do it a bit better? I am proud of the film and think it is pretty good for an amatuer production, but I aspire to better.
I have no expectation of winning BAFTA's but I've always wanted to be proud of my work, which means investing in myself. So when I get back, this will be my mission. Get a better camera, do some online courses and see if it is something I really love. If I do, maybe take the next step. Viv Albertine talked about "the year of saying yes" where you say yes to anything which is positive rather than be cautious and prevaricate. That will be my resolution for 2021. If it works, then 2020 may well have actually been a very useful year.