Tuesday, 26 January 2021

Coping with lockdown (or not)

One of the guys who works for me commented to me today that I seem to be the only person he knows who is dealing with lockdown and not cracking up. He'd told me he had 'writers block as he was obsessed with the horror of what is happening.  I gave him a pep talk about using the free time to write some new music and if he was having difficulty getting inspiration, to try and write something left field and out of his comfort zone. I've no idea if my words will help or have any positive effect. I said to him "Don't be in a position, in two years time, when you don't have the time then to do stuff that you could be doing now, and wished you had". Being creative is hard and cannot be forced, but sometimes you can reboot yourself artistically with a bit of reinvention. Bowie was the master of it.

One of the most pervasive aspects of this situation is that it seems to be sucking all of the life and postivity out of creative people. I have a confession, I went through a period when I was struggling. I've always had structure in my life, always worked towards goals. It is hard to have any goals at the moment. We've no holidays booked, no desire to book one. The only goal for the business is to survive until 'things pick up'. With my band, our singer is isolating, so rehearsals have almost become a self help group, jamming abstract ideas, to work out for a forthcoming album to follow the forthcoming album we were due to release in December, but have postponed indefinitely. We are having our first rehearsal of the year next week. We are also working on a track we are planning for release. The main purpose is actually to learn our new software in the recording studio. Today, the UK passes 100,000 deaths from Covid. That is a really awful number. I think it would be distateful to say too much about the reasons today. But if that doesn't make you feel slightly down, then maybe you need to take a look at yourself. 

But I am coping now. Whether I will be tomorrow, next week, next month, who knows? But I am coping. I've achieved this by making some sort of routine for myself. At the start of lockdown, I was drinking too much. This was mostly boredom. I am not a three bottle of scotch a day person, but I was having a few beers, sharing a bottle of wine over dinner and then maybe a nightcap. After a few weeks of this, I realised that this was not good for my health. I had a consultation about my Prostate cancer last May, which focussed my mind. I returned to my "not drinking for three days a week" rule. During the first lockdown, the weather was great, so we did lots of long dog walks and I did lots of sunbathing in the garden. The lack of traffic meant that the air was fresher, with less pollution from the M1. As it became clear that lockdown was lifting, we made plans for reopening the business. Risk assessments, improved ventilation and other measures. As we moved into August, things seemed good. Gradually the tide turned.

Now we find ourselves back where we were in March. It is frightening. What seems worse is that whilst we should be more positive, from a rational point of view, no one seems to be feeling anything other than bereft. There are three vaccines that seem to work. It should be the case that when we are open later in the year, the vaccines will mean we are in a much better place. But it seems to me that the mood music is negative. Listening to todays Boris briefing, I am worried that he is painting the wrong colours on the picture. I believe that his message should be more positive (perhaps not today, but generally) if he has the evidence that the vaccines work (which he certainly should have). We need to stick to the rules now, so we are around and healthy to appreciate the benefits of this later in the year. n the picture. I believe that his message should be more positive (perhaps not today, but generally) if he has the evidence that the vaccines work (which he certainly should have). My biggest fear is that Boris is not helping the nations mental health with his approach, both the rambling chaos and tardiness or the mixed messages from manic bohomie to dire predictions of doom. I do wonder whether he ever seeks counsel on what effect his words may have on someone who is struggling to keep afloat.  We don't even have our churches, mosques, temples and shuls for solace. The normal support networks are broken. Many are cut off from friends, family and work colleagues. I have 14 staff at the studio, I've not seen eight of them since March 2020. People I'd see every day. Some of my studio customers have seen me more than they've seen shielding parents this year. It is truly awful.

As to me, I have done various things to make myself feel better and more positive. Here are a few things (you know how I love lists).

1. I am not drinking during the week. That means I have something to look forward to and makes the weekends feel special.

2. I am writing some new music, this gives me a channel for my creative juices.

3. We have a family takeaway curry on a Friday. This gives me a degree of normality in my life and I look forward to it all week.

4. I play myself some Ska music every day. Ska always puts a smile on my face, we all need to smile.

5. I am building a portfolio of pictures from around Mill Hill, working out the best time of day and lighting patterns to get various pictures. When this is all over, I intend to get some prints made.

6.  On social media, I've done everything to purge negative influences, by blocking trolls and other people who I do not need in my life.

7. I've put down my pen, I was writing an auto biography, but I realised that I was dredging up extremely negative feelings about some episodes in my life. This is not the time to address these things. I should add, 90% of the book is fun and full of laughter. The trouble is there is a very dark 10%. I was getting fixated on this, it was not healthy and with nothing else to think about was destructive.

8. I am walking everywhere, unless it is not practical or possible. 

These things may not seem like much, but they have given me focus. In life we all fall. There is nothing wrong with falling, it is human. Picking yourself up is hard, especially when the future looks difficult. But picking ourself up is what we do. We get on with it. Hopefully we'll all live longer than a few months, if we do, at some time this period will look like a strange period in our lives a long time ago. Like the three day week in 1974, like the cold war, like the hurricane of '87. Like 9/11. I remember after 9/11 when I was working in central London, every time I heard a low flying plane I flinched. I stopped flinching a very long time ago

 As George Harrison said, all things must pass. This will.

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