Day Twenty-eight: For many artists their work forms an important part of their identity, and in these days of distancing it is not easy to find opportunity to get in touch with that creativity inside of us. This blog has been a conduit for my voice and a platform for the thoughts and ideas running through my head on a daily basis. Using a variety of social platforms, musicians are reaching out to their fans playing lockdown shows and twitter parties, there are a number of writing and visual art prompts for people to respond to the best they can from their homes. There are also hundreds of thousands of people, who are carrying on doing their jobs the best they can from home, and for those people, the need to create may well be stronger, but harder to fulfil.
The beauty of the online art clubs is that they have a framework, however loose to work within, also a time frame, to set aside a few hours to dedicate solely to play and escape. There is a strong feeling of unity and togetherness, through the shared experience of creating in the moment. I have talked in the past about the invisible threads that hold a community/scene together, and it is during these times of constraint, we need to tend to those threads so we don’t loose them amidst the crisis.
The picture tonight comes from /actor/playwright Hester Ullyart – CLICK HERE for Paragon Dreams at Hull Truck Online she sent it to me when I was having continual nightmares. She suggested that in our dreams we can escape the madness playing out in the real world. I’m happy to report that the bad dreams have eased, so this post is dedicated to her and all those locked down miles away from their loved ones.
Today I was able to speak to a nurse at my sister’s care home, she told me that despite the lockdown, and not having her usual routine of regular home time, she is coping reasonably well. She did have a seizure a week ago, but the dedicated staff at the home were able to treat her without taking her to hospital, where there was the worry she would run the risk of catching the virus. She also received the Easter card a friend and I arranged for her, I’d normally get her a little chocolate egg, relishing every chocolatey moment.
This post is also dedicated to all the staff working in care homes across the country, may your dedication and compassion and resilience, see you and the ones you care for, through the unimaginable challenges you are facing every day, and in the weeks and months ahead. Maybe, when ministers finally reveal the figures the country is clamouring for around PPE, testing and deaths, there will be an outcry from the public, which will force their hand to direct more of their resources to easing the burden on the most vulnerable, and those that care for them.
Don’t think twice it’s alright
Bob Dylan 1963
Day Twenty-seven: It’s a month since I went into isolation. The ‘new normal’ is becoming just that normal. I have my few hours a week on the doorstep to get some sunshine to keep my vitamin D levels up. I get my deliveries of essential supplies – and a few sweet treats now and then – I write the numbers on the back of an envelope and I do my blog each day. Sunday is Art Club run by Bluebeany and I look forward to it each week. Read More Here
This week the theme for the Art Club was #Spooky so I began to think of what I could do. My initial thought was to draw the monsters from my nightmares… but not being the best at wielding a crayon I thought about sound; foley sound. That magic element of cinema where artists create sound effects using all manner of everyday objects to enhance the visuals on screen.
In Hollywood the saying goes, “The eye sees what the ear hears.”
My interest in sound reproduction began through listening to radio dramas, imagining how all the different sounds were made. The classic tropes are the gravel box to make the crunch of footsteps on a drive, and the old favourite coconut shells for horse hoofs, which they used to use in classic radio serial the Archers.
I was very lucky to interview foley artists Matt Wand and Ben Gwilliam when they presented their work ‘I Married a Foley Footstep at Glimmer 2011, Hull International Short Film Festival. The performance was exhilarating, like nothing I’d seen or heard before… CLICK REVIEW HERE
Interview with Matt Wand and Ben Gwilliam at Middleton Hall University of Hull. Filmed and Edited by Guy Hanley.
For my experimental piece called ‘Unholy Foley‘ I used a range of objects, after almost twelve hours of testing and planning, that I felt might convey a spooky atmosphere. During the research and planning I had lots of fun, as for the ‘live performance’ it was all done in one-take. Visual artist Anna Bean has taken the audio file I created and a digital image, and manipulated both. The result I hope is something that meets the brief of Spooky. Enjoy!
Day Twenty-six: You find me nesting in the past, today I’m up a Jacaranda tree during the dry season in Zimbabwe. This was our home after Sudan, not up a tree, but living in Zimbabwe. The tree is our secret hideout and we are playing at spies, we’ve all just seen James Bond at the drive-in cinema, and now its our turn to play. He was definitely a spy, make no mistake about that. Mr. du Plessis was in our sights as we slithered through the branches to get a better view of the target. Definitely a spy that du Plessis he drove a dark green sedan, not a blue company pick-up truck, like our fathers did. A strange man, no kids, driving in a strange car with two filler caps, one either side, one for fuel, the other filled with spy stuff for sure: secret papers or maybe a weapon. The evidence was there in plain sight, du Plessis was our man alright. Who needs two filler caps on one car, explain that? We had him bang to rights.
We’d discovered his ‘identity’ that morning by sneaking a look in his mail box. That strange sounding name, inked in the window of a brown envelope added fuel to the fire, obviously fake, definitely a spy. Spying for who or why or what, we didn’t entertain, that sort of examination now, would just ruin the game.
From our nest on high, behind a sea of blue and purple blossom, we hatched plans each one more elaborate than the last. That baking hot afternoon we tracked his every move, pulses racing as his green sedan passed by once, twice, three times. Where was he going to and then reappearing so soon? Trying to throw us off the scent most likely, but we were too smart for that. Back and forth beneath our secret HQ, what was he up to?
Mid-afternoon, mid-mission he caught sight of me as I called after the blue and white stripe of the Dairy Board bike. It didn’t matter that I’d been spotted as I waited impatiently for du-Plessis to choose his lolly. He turned around then, carefully tearing the paper off a Mazoe Orange Crush lolly we shared a moment that said “Everything stops, even spy-catching, when you hear the bell of the Ice Cream Man.”
Day Twenty-five: Easter beckons as the lockdown begins to bite down hard. The banana bread grows stale, the chocolate stockpile is raided early, and the outside world has become but a distant memory. The closest some will get to nature this weekend is through seeking out guided meditations in virtual forests.
Today a friend dropped a pebble in the Humber for me, on their daily exercise, to remind the water that I would return. Life beyond the front door is limited to seeing passersby on the street, dog walkers, shoppers, essential workers and delivery drivers. I want to tell you of a time when I wasn’t in govt. sanctioned lockdown, but a personal one, A time of heightened fear and catastrophising about the outside world.
I was reminded of this time in my life by the new trend of showing weather pictures from behind glass. A writer friend explained that this was called Covid-19 proofing, where the message/imagery has been radically altered to reflect the new normal. This is a piece I am calling The Window (and recalls a time in my life some years ago, long before social-distancing will become part of the vernacular, but when isolation was very real.
The Window: Somedays I get up and give myself a window to get out. If I miss my window I stay in afraid something will happen if I leave the house. I stay in and pick things up from the floor and count. I count all the individual steps to make tea, the bed, a laundry pile. I try to convince myself I am doing housework, but it is just an illusion. I count quickly, in a voice borrowed from somewhere judgemental. I’ve grown used to the voice by now brush off its admonishing tone. I count to punish myself as forfeit for failing to get out, for missing my window. I count to mark and mock the seconds as they tick down to zero. Later, when any question of the window has dissipated with the passing of another day I count the stars in silence.
I am happy to report that this type of behaviour was performed sporadically, was often as a result of spending too long inside my own head. Too long without connecting with the world outside. In the current state of lockdown I don’t feel the question of the window arising, the dynamic is different, the motivation for staying in is about survival, mine and those on the frontline. I just thought I’d share with you because I think it raises some interesting psychological questions.
Thank you to Chrissy and Paul Collinson for sending me a picture of the glorious sunset they saw taking their daily walk earlier this week.
Happy Easter Stay Home!
Day Twenty-four: On Question Time tonight some swarthy looking no-name politician – is swarthy the right word? – in a suit said that, as a direct result of the virus crisis people were more connected.
Try being in lockdown on your own matey, with just three gigs of data to stretch out as long as you can. He sat there in the studio and said that, he was in communication with people he wouldn’t ordinarily be. And maybe that’s true. Maybe people are suddenly getting in touch with friends, family and folk they haven’t spoken to for aeons, and asking… “How you doing with all this, this madness? Oh you’ve been furloughed have you? (sounds like something you’d do to a field) They’re keeping you on because your deemed essential? Oh I’m sorry, do they not? They didn’t by any chance, leave a forwarding number? No? Okay.
I had one of those this week, it was on messenger from my eldest brother, suggesting that it was probably about time we all met up, once this was all over. Nothing unusual about that you might say but it is a universally known fact that families are strange. All families are stranger than strange, they are crazy unfathomable things that surface and then slink away, only to surface again when you least expect it, like a nervous Nessie. I immediately panicked, my mind going into overdrive and wrote back “Yes you are probably right,” and then added, “That would be some family reunion.”
I pictured this reunion at some motorway services halfway down the M62, equidistant from East to West. Neutral ground. I remembered my parents used to do this, meet people on motorways. Not necessarily in a services but it wasn’t unheard. More often it would be in a hotel with leather wing back chairs, and low table,s lots of low tables in front of huge glass windows, that looked out onto a car park or the motorway in the distance.
My dad would order us lemonades and a round of sandwiches. We would greet the stranger politely, sometimes two strangers, then go and sit down out of the way, to wait for the food. Awkward glances and after awhile mumbled hellos might be exchanged with the stranger’s offspring, a veneer of manners that we instinctively knew befitted the situation.
In this way we got to know of the existence of other people in the adopted family. Did I mention I was adopted? My eldest brother, the one who messaged me, is brother by blood, but wasn’t adopted when we were. I have seen him no more than half a dozen times in my entire life, and each time for no more than a day or two and sometimes just a few hours. In fact I do believe one of these meet and greets, at a services/hotel was to see him and his new family.
So I am picturing what will happen at this meeting: who will order the sandwiches? Will I order a gin and tonic, adopting that strange veneer of respectability again, or will I have a pint of beer and try to relax. What will I wear to this auspicious coming together of our clan? You see, he has never met me, not the real me, we haven’t spoken for twenty-four years.
What do I do? Do I say yes, let the chips fall where they may? Do I retreat, do I have someone on speed dial in case it all gets too much: like date rescue or wingman app. What do I say to this person who is my blood, but no more than that? I feel like I’d have to write a round robin letter for myself, judiciously editing out all the grisly bits, talk myself up, like you are supposed to do at a reunion of your classmates.
Families are weird and complicated and come with so much weight. For the twenty-fourth time since this lockdown began I thank the Lord for my friends X
I’ve got your number, I’ll call you up some time…
(Two Left Feet, The Holloways: 2006)
Day Twenty-three: I wake earlier and earlier these days. It’s either the sun streaming through or it is feeling cold because the four duvets won’t stay put until morning. I know there’s some kind of doohickey that ties duvets together, so one doesn’t slide of the other isn’t there? These are the kind of things that occupy my mind for the first few seconds before I remember, it’s just another day in lockdown. [deliberate eighties pop reference]
After an inauspicious start the day turned out really good. Over the last few days I’ve been getting advice after all the announcements from Dishy Rishi about bailouts and benefits. Thank you good friend at the CAB for helping me sort out all the information surrounding Universal Credit, Self Employed Income Support, even something about rent top-up payments. It’s all a bit clearer but I agree with the academics and the analysts that when this is over, it will be those who were already in precarious situations, the new businesses, the low-waged and the so-called Jam people who will be hit hardest.
There’s been a flurry of the ‘when this is over’ talk this week. Everyone seems to want to know how the world will change when we come out the other side; what will be the legacy of the Covid-19 outbreak? What makes you think anything will change? you really believe that lessons will be learned? The only thing we can be sure of is that history repeats itself.
I’m supposed to be focusing on good things. One of the good things today was a socially-distanced belgian chocolate choux pastry cream bun, with my designated carer and some late afternoon sun from the safety of the doorstep.
If I’d had my teachers judging my grades on my attendance or coursework like the class of 2020, I’d lose out…
I did my mocks while living in a shed. It was a shed with a lock and a carpet and a telly powered by a car battery, on good days I chopped potatoes, fried them over a primus flame, shut the world out, schemed, dreamed of getting through the next day, without someone finding out I was washing in the bogs before class, I’d not changed my clothes since Monday, my science teacher had it in for me. I’d been in detention for three months for sending a death threat. I’d written out the same chapter on desalination so many times, I knew it back to front. I wasn’t scared anymore, I felt free like no one could see me. I skipped lessons like it was going out of fashion. What was the worst that could happen, I was doing my mocks while living in a shed.
Remember I said yesterday that there were no neighbours to call upon when I got locked out… I started writing this
Can you explain the whereabouts of the knife? It’s in the drawer right? Do you recognise the seriousness of this? You say your neighbours have been missing since Christmas? Let’s go over this again, exactly what did happen on the night in question?
It was just after Christmas when I first started noticing the flies… fat and black stupefied and lazy, sated on gore. Not one not two not three or four, more, much more than that the fat little insects, trapped in specimen cups, ejected without ceremony out the window. I don’t know when I first thought about it, about them. I can’t pinpoint the very moment I tried to join the dots, the truth hasn’t been buried yet.
Try to stay focused
Day Twenty-two: The morning began after the guy on the radio got me all riled up talking about how great it was to go walking up some hill, looking at the view an’ all. When he started on about running, how he’d just go stir crazy if he couldn’t go for a daily run, I was jus’ bout ready to launch that radio across my bedroom.
I paused. Decided that a bath was called for to calm me down. I got dressed, that’s important in these strange times, and made a few calls late morning. I spoke to a friend for a short while who hasn’t been feeling so good lately. They’ve had a fever but no dry cough, so we didn’t worry none too much that it was the virus. Seems they are on the mend now anyhow. A light lunch and a nap: I’m sleeping a lot more these days, particularly after food. Some days I just can’t keep my eyes open, that’d be the fatigue from the medicines I’m taking. Early afternoon sometime around two, I went to the door to collect a delivery. My nose and mouth covered with a brightly coloured scarf. I set my package down inside the doorway. The sun was bright and as I turned to talk to my friend, stood six feet away by the gate, a breeze blew through the hall and shut the door behind me with a click. I immediately felt sick, a shiver went right through me, no neighbours to let me in, I was stuck on the outside with no chance of rescue. My mind was racing, I stared down at my pink woollen socks… lock down exchanged for locked out. Thank the Lord for my quick- thinking friend who rang up the property agency and reported what I’d done. I needed a spare key, they said they had one, that might work. My friend swung into action and went straight there and back returning with key held aloft. When it turned in the lock and I was able to go back inside, I said a prayer to the all mighty for giving me back my four walls. The sign on the back of the door now reads…
IDIOT GIRL. WHERE ARE YOUR KEYS?