Day Fourteen: That is two weeks lockdown. Ten to go or if you take it from the date of the letter it’s eleven like all the other twelve weekers. I’ve not been outside, outside for ages it occurred to me that all this time I’m not wearing my trainers out which I almost certainly would have done in normal times.
This may be the most banal blog post ever. I never promised you a literary classic. I suppose I’m just taking stock, perhaps the duration of these measures are sinking in.
The phone calls and messages online are a great help, so to the shopping deliveries from friends. I have to order my next months prescription before the end of this week I think, to be sure. Not stockpiling just aware there might be a delay, so building in a window for that. This really is the most boring blog. So be it, if it’s all in the name of trying to keep people safe and out of hospital.
On the phone earlier I discussed whetherI’d rather be in lockdown alone or with somebody. I’m definitely happier on lockdown on my own, if I was forced to be with somebody who I wasn’t getting on with for whatever reason, then I might really lose it. I haven’t had my letter from Bojo yet. I do wonder why we need a letter, since we have the restriction measures delivered to us, on a daily basis on every kind of platform, multiple times.This may not have been the most exciting read today but as I was saying to my friend earlier, there does seem to be a kind of social pressure to achieve something new, during this lockdown. All the talk of take up a new hobby, write that novel, learn a language whatever it is, can put untold stress on people, making them feel inadequate. It becomes a competition and a hierarchy of social isolation coping methods. If whatever you are doing works then that’s good enough.
And you shouldn’t have to feel bad about not signing up to that online yoga class; or high tempo work out, or not recreating old masters with household objects, or holding the best Zoom parties. I suppose it goes back to the idea that it is okay to feel crap in this situation, to feel afraid for your loved ones, to own all those feelings and to not have to mask them under a sense of false jollity, and just get through the day the best you can.
Stay safe and stay in touch!
Here’s a great record called Zoom from 1982 by Fat Larry’s Band… enjoy.
Day Thirteen: Last night my exploding head syndrome delivered a circular saw or other unseen DIY tool which shook the room at 5am. Either I have very cruel neighbours or it was once again all in my head. I pictured burglars cutting through the door and the two words break in whirling through my mind took on very menacing proportions. I want more security measures.
Apart from all the sleep disturbance today has been okay. I joined in the first Bluebeany Art Club online along with dozens of talented artists and makers creating work on the theme of cats. My contribution? This poem inspired by observing my mom’s rescue cat Milly. I look forward to another one soon, and if you want in just do it, you don’t have to be art school trained or anything just willing to jump in and have a go.
I’ve done a fair bit today what with working on the poem, so in order to not tire these hands out further, I’m not going to write reams today. Sunday is a day of rest after all.
Take Care Everyone!
Day 12 and my rheumatism decided to kick in with a vengeance. Not for the first time I am reminded of Hardy’s classic short story The Withered Arm, as I try in vain to fill the kettle first thing. Denied the curative effect of the neck of a recently hanged man, I manage by refilling the cup a few times.
While were on this literary kick I often think of my fingers as brittle twigs rammed into bloody stumps Titus Adronicus style. And although it is the worst thing I could be taking right now I have the immuno-suppressant drugs to make it that bit less painful, slow down the progression.
Today’s immobility might have been due to the fact I did quite a bit yesterday and maybe pushed it by cleaning the cooker top. It’s a kick in the teeth when your body punishes you for doing a good thing. Also the sedentary pace of life isn’t agreeable, but all the time it’s about finding a balance between keeping the joints moving and not overdoing it.
Enough about me and my aches and pains… we passed the 1000 dead today, thats 1000 families all grieving for someone who died suddenly in horrible circumstances. They keep talking of keeping deaths under 20,000 as being good, I say they, it’s a revolving door of spokespeople at the parliamentary updates, seeing as Bojo’s gone down with it, and Hancock (Health Secretary) and the Chief Medical Officer has symptoms. I would like to know how come they get their results in twenty-four hours and people in care homes staff and residents had to wait more than twenty days.
We do appear to be well behind the curve in testing: Germany half a million a day, relatively low number of fatalities whereas here we spent 2million on tests we don’t know actually work and the roll out of tests has been abysmal. Not to slight Wales but they were testing NHS staff well before us.
Unprecedented challenge translates into we haven’t got a clue and ‘We have followed scientific guidance all the way through this… translates into ‘We know that you know we acted too slowly but if we admit that now it would be professional and political suicide. The lost email argument for missing out on the EU purchasing deal for ventilators, displays incompetence and arrogance at the heart of govt. I have no faith in their ability to flatten the curve or protect our NHS, or come through with these financial packages, they will find a way to weasel their way out of them, while filling the coffers of their CEO cronies, and donors. One more thing, just before this post starts to resemble one of those ranting facebook posts if it doesn’t already, that money tree must have shook itself silly by now.
Good Luck Everyone!
In my defence I’ve no-one to talk to and I have to get all this stuff out somehow don’t come after me with pitchforks I’ve got enough problems.
Day Eleven: Woke to the sound of the Allegri: Miserere Mei by The Sixteen on Radio 3 and felt today had to be about music. Music as a salve for all my ills. After revelling in the beatific choral music, I switched track and dug out a slab of disco synth from Mr Beasley, with an equally sonorous vocal from Sara Johns. I played on repeat for over an hour, even having a shimmy in the front room.
Next I found a compilation a friend had made for me a decade or so ago, and with no track listing, it was like eighteen surprises one after the other. Among them were some rarities from The Beautiful South, electro pop from Secret Machines, dirty rock n roll from the 5 o’ Clock Heroes and a glorious disco singalong from James.
Uplifted, I set about cleaning my cooker top, you wouldn’t believe how clean it looks now. I washed up, including baking trays and frying pans, with the scourers left for me on the doorstep in a bag of cleaning essentials. I looked at the kitchen floor and decided I’d do two squares at a time, the same way I eat a Dairy Milk – could go a Dairy Milk right now – so I will set about the floor tomorrow.
Another lifesaving errand was gratefully accepted, my friend dropped me off a tubular bandage for my ankle, so I can support it better and hopefully stop lurching around my flat like a broken clothes peg doll. Who else but me lives in a flat with six steps between lounge and kitchen, and who else but me tries to traverse the chasm in the dark?
Just now I joined Ruth Getz and dozens of you online to join in the Vintage Sing Up and enjoyed every minute. My mom has emailed back saying I need to look to the future and prepare better. She is right of course, being a freelancer I have always existed day to day month to month, project to project.
Talking about being a freelancer I wasn’t entirely buoyed by the news of the self employment package announced yesterday. Looking at the calculation they suggested would be used to work out the amount to be paid out is not going to cover me at all. Despite appearing to be active and involved in multiple projects throughout the past few years, I haven’t earned enough for that calculation to benefit me. I’ll have to look at it again, perhaps after I’ve taken some advice from someone who knows whats going on inside and out.
Tomorrow I was due to be performing inside Hull Minster for the Butterflies Memory Loss Support Group Tenth Birthday celebrations. Below is the piece I developed with the Thursday group of members and carers just a few weeks ago. It is the last in a quartet of poems for a wider event/workshop series called The Butterfly Effect that responded to themes from Hull 2017. Please support Butterflies as they partner with the Give As You Live scheme when you do your online shopping during these troubled times.
Stay Safe Hull Stay Home Save Lives!
Day Ten: I don’t who it was who said there would be days likes these… that’s not the best start. How about the it’s a bit like a roller coaster cliché? What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger? Maybe not that last one. To use another cliché it might have hit me today. I’m in here till the end of June: unless things change out there.
But I’m not ill, I remain symptom free and I can hop about the flat and eat and sit and write and watch garbage on tv and listen to the radio. My mom emailed me this evening, she and dad are isolating and they are classed as vulnerable being in the elders group. My sister is also on lockdown, she is in the highest category mega vulnerable. She lives in a residential home with many other highly vulnerable people with compromised immune systems.
Normally she would have every other weekend at home and then I’d go over and I’d get to see her and maybe paint her nails, do the veggies, sit in the sun when it’s good weather, whatever. First she can’t leave the home, nobody can visit not even mum and dad (theres talk of maybe being able to talk to her through the window) but she can be non-verbal so that makes communication… not easy.
Back to the email my sister is prone to fitting, serious seizures that have lasted hours not minutes, and mom says if she has a fit she can’t go into hospital and that we might lose her. I know she hates disruption to her routine, it puts added stress on her and certain changes can bring on seizures… now you see why I am not my usual sunny self.
There must be hundreds of other families, who can’t see their loved ones due to the lockdown, who can’t be there if the worst happens to them. Add in the no hospital admission thing and it becomes, to use another cliché, the perfect storm.
I had my NHS letter today, I’m in the category 2 risk, multiple auto-immune meds, so if it hadn’t sunk in before it is beginning to now. That letter says if my sister is ill and something happens, the most I will be able to do is make a phone call. So yeah feeling pretty helpless right now. I know she might be fine, she might not have a fit, the fit mightn’t be that bad if she does have one, the fit might be treatable in the home… not forgetting the risk of the virus actually getting into the home.
Thanks for the milk delivery and the potatoes and the phone calls today. That email has come as bit of a shock so I’m still reeling a bit.
Stay Safe Everyone!
Day Nine: Today has been a better day than yesterday. I woke in a more positive mood and had a long bath, washed my hair and put on fresh clothes. It seems a small thing, but after nearly a week, it takes a bit of effort to do these simple tasks. It didn’t help yesterday when I turned my ankle which led to a day of gingerly hopping around my flat, trying not to put any pressure on my foot.
There are a number of reasons why today has been a better day, not least because today was the final part of my dear friend Barbara Grabher’s journey in getting her doctorate in Anthropology. She did her viva online, successfully defending her thesis, in a multi-screen arrangement with experts each quizzing her on her paper, and has now earned the right to be called Dr. Barbara Grabher.
Over last few years I have been a social scientist in her research programme, and have spent many illuminating hours discussing her work. Well done Barbara, very proud of you, and to do this during the current crisis is nothing short of spectacular. When this is all over I will give you a very big hug ,and we’ll have a glass of vino without the two metre restriction.
I love theatre, I love companies that do theatre differently and in unusual places. Middle Child Theatre Company based in Hull, is one such company, but their latest production has been a very deft response to the plight of artists during the crisis.
As venues, tours, gigs and shows were closed and cancelled they immediately set up a Crowd Funder to provide an emergency fund, for artists who are in real financial strife. Passing their initial target they have now set their sights on raising more money to grow the fund. Well done Middle Child.
In the last few days I’ve watched BladeRunner 2049 which was okay but not a patch on the original and Alien Covenant which was good and better than some of the sequels. Covenant being a prequel you always felt you knew what had to happen, in order to fit with what you already know about the story. Also I just can’t get to grips with a clean-shaven Billy Crudup: he’s no Willem Dafoe is he.
It struck me that both films are creation narratives probing what it means to be human and the responsibility of reproduction. In fact if I was asked to come up with the title of the next in the Alien franchise I’d plump for Alien Progeny.
Thanks to all of you who are reading these posts, there’s lots more good stuff to explore throughout the site. I hope you all can have a better day just like I did today.
Stay Safe Hull!
Day Eight: The world has changed there can be no mistake about that, a whole raft of new measures governing every aspect of our lives. It really is everybody’s responsibility to socially distance and self isolate as required. And with rising numbers of young people becoming very sick and hospitalised, it is painfully clear that this virus can infect the entire population indiscriminately.
All that being said I am conscious that I started this blog for me to document my experience of self isolation, and not just to do a running commentary of the crisis with regurgitated news updates. So day eight is about writing something else.
I said last week that I began taking a bear to bed with me as a source of comfort and I just wanted to explore that a little more. Last night I had a terrible night’s sleep. My tinnitus kept me awake and I have several sleep disorders, including sleep paralysis and exploding head syndrome: both very scary and even more so in a heightened stress state.
Exploding head syndrome makes the person just on the verge of sleep hear loud noises like doors slamming, or windows crashing just as they sleep into the first stage of sleep. The noises only exist in the person’s head but they are so loud and startling that they jolt the person awake. They then have to go through all the processes of trying to go to sleep again. On very bad nights each and every time they get to the verge of sleep it happens which can be increasingly frightening and lead to trying to stay awake to avoid the loud noises.
The other sleep disorder that of sleep paralysis is more common, and is often described being awake in a body that is asleep. It too can be accompanied by noises often a voice calling the sleeper’s name or making unintelligible vocal sounds roaring. The roar can be accompanied by intense feeling of heat and most often reported the feeling of a presence in the room. The last element has been connected by some as evidence for paranormal activity.
Last night I didn’t have bear with me, he is called Roden after my grandfather, and I experienced a bit of the first exploding head and a significant amount of sleep paralysis. I did sleep, I did dream I dreamt the doors were misbehaving, they were closing and opening rapidly and shaking and vibrating and at some point I felt something crawl into bed with me, fingers wrapping around my wist and a palpable presence beside me. I froze and immediately forced myself awake sweating cobs, heart racing.
The feeling of fingers on or near your body is also reported in case studies of sleep paralysis, but it is so unnerving when it happens. I’m not surprised I spent months with an abject fear of sleeping and have struggled with my sleep pattern all my life. I think sleep specialists would have a field day with me, perhaps I can look more into getting some help, rather than having the occasional, and I mean occasional, sleeping pill.
Back to Roden: after calming down I found my bear, who I have had since 2003, and hugging him tightly, fell into an unbroken and peaceful sleep. I am reminded of Harlow’s work in privation and the way the rhesus monkeys in his infamous experiments, preferred contact with the surrogate mothers – wireframes just covered in cloth – over the bare wireframes containing the food source.
It’s a almost two decades since I did Psychology so please do shed some light on the power of a fur covered bear to provide comfort and security to one with very disturbed sleep.
Stay Safe Sleep Well!