Day Fifty-six: It’s a day of being reminded that my lockdown challenges are small fry compared to others. First a welcome phone call from a friendly O.T. who allowed me to ask as many questions as I liked about my R.A.
She proceeded to share a bunch of coping methods, ideas to ease stress on joints, adaptations with household activities, and then encouraged me to get my nurse to get my doctor to refer me to an O.T. And also to get some more support items from the hand clinic. Apparently there’s a bunch of stuff I could have access to.
So a good hour focused on me and then my weekly check-in with mom, and the news that my sister had another fit yesterday. It was a minute and a half long, so serious enough to be concerned, but on the scale of fits she has, one we would consider minor (Her record is 12 hours!) In normal circumstances her fits would be followed by a hospital admission for observation and usually, depending on severity, she’d be out the next morning and be fine again. It would also come with lots of closeness with mom and dad, cuddles and love and care. This one the most they could do was stand at the window and wave. That’s tough. That is very hard to comprehend, for her, for them, for me, for everyone concerned.
So whilst I was processing that information, my mom told me that my aunt also in lockdown, vulnerable category has lost most of her sight since start of the year. I tried imagining what it must be like to have the world suddenly become smaller, I know a bit about that one, seeing as my world stopped at the doorstep for the past two months, but simultaneously having that world grow darker, that would be unbearable. I might not have the best hands but I got my eyes, and I can still hear, I imagine she is glued to the radio all day to pass the time.
Now govt. if you text me early doors tomorrow telling me not take my bins out, I will NOT be best pleased. I’m not entirely sure if I’m suddenly receiving them all in a flurry, because you basically failed to send them out back in March or April, or whether they are a reminder that nowt has changed for me, whilst you use sections of the rest of the population as lab rats…?
I am glad I’m staying in at the moment. I’m glad I don’t have to face all these complex choices, following the confused instructions from Bojo yesterday and today: instructions bookended with weird jingoistic phrasing… what exactly is ‘Good old British common sense?‘ I am worried about going for my blood test on Thursday, it’s been a month since the last one, and I worry there will be people out there en masse, not socially distancing, not wearing masks, not making the outside feel safe.
Good luck everybody!
Day Fifty-five: On the day when Bojo announced the easing of restrictions in some circumstances, for certain people with an R in their name, who only eat jam on Thursdays… I spent most of the day doing art. Thank all that is right and proper in the world for Bluebeany Art Club… to sweep away the shame-over of a spirited Zoom party the night before.
The theme was #Music and a bit like my foley experiment for #Spooky back in April I thought I’d play around recording sounds on my dictaphone. I imagined I could create a drum sound from beating on the stove top; maybe a high hat from the pan lid; the little tub the wash capsules come in makes a passable snare, and, a la Tasha Killer Pussies, I could rev the hoover up and down.
I was all set to go lockdown percussion extraordinaire in the house of isolation. But the head said not on your nelly. I did the hoovering and cleaned up where I’d been sat last night. That was my penance for showing off. I considered removing last night’s post but thought it’s honest, it’s real you can’t get all the way to Day Fifty-four then start censoring yourself can you.
I’m not sure where it came from, but I started thinking about the posters I had as a teen covering the sloping walls of the attic room I called my bedroom. There was Tpau, Deacon Blue, Transvision Vamp, Luke Perry, Jason Priestley, Fuzzbox and Shampoo…
I knew it was going to be a magazine cover design then, and what better magazine than SMASH HITS. From there it was a short jump to doing a special edition, with a nod to what passes for living in 2020.
I had four hours of fun doing this one: four hours where I tried to emulate the house style and lay-out of my favourite pop magazine. Four hours creating a cover, that if I saw it on the newsagents shelf on a Saturday morning, I would have to buy it. Four hours of glorious escapism, where I wasn’t thinking about Covid-19; or my little sister in lockdown in the care home; my friends who I can’t hug and be close to, my parents and say “Thanks, I’m made of stronger stuff than I thought…”
“The best pop magazine on the planet!”
Day Fifty-four: I just broke my jar opener trying to get into the jar of Pork Knuckles that was in the food delivery bag from the council. What follows is a list of all the things I can’t do because of my stupid hands.
- I can’t open jars
- I can’t use a tin opener
- I can’t wash my hair with two hands
- I can’t squeeze shampoo bottles
- I can’t cut potatoes without using two hands
- I can’t hold the saucepan to strain potatoes
- I can’t push up on hands to get out the bath
- I can’t do new bedding without it taking half an hour
- I can’t carry a stack of two plates in one hand
- I can’t judge distances around cupboards and bang fingers and knuckles into cupboards
- I can’t dry myself easily with a towel
- I can’t sit a desk for long without massive knee pain
- I can’t control hand position and they frequently get stuck in bed.
- I can’t open washer door – without two hands
- I can’t undo the hoover to empty it.
- If I catch my hand unawares, trapped under a duvet or in a sleeve result is pain
- I can’t put shoes on without pain
- I can’t put bra on without pain
- I can’t do buttons up without a struggle
- I probably can’t hold a pool cue, or make a bridge hand
- I certainly can’t use my hands to support myself in dance
And sometimes, do you know, it hurts to get around the back with a tissue….
Day Fifty-three: I was never going to bother with bunting, all the V.E. hooplah leaves me cold. I did at some point during the morning see a few posts from pacifists, like myself, that reaffirmed to me that war is a bad thing. Glorifying thousands of needless deaths because some bunch of blokes 70 odd years ago didn’t have the gumption to settle their differences, without blowing each others countries up; no you can count me out.
Being adopted you can find yourself distanced from all that what my grandparents did in the war stuff. Regular readers will know my mom gave us the heave-ho before I was one, so I never knew if I had grandparents, if they were alive, or whether they fought in some bloody stupid war.
As for my adopted family, the closest I ever came to the subject was finding out my mum’s dad, the chap Roden bear is named after, worked on the railways during the war. Yes, he stayed in this country and he worked on the Great Western Railway. He had a book about the G.W.R. and on walks on the moors, or along the south-west shorelines, he would tell me little incidental things, like how to shunt engines in a yard, or the importance of wearing two pairs of socks when your boots are too big.
I’m not coldhearted, I show emotion just like anyone else, when the guest finds out their relative was at the front on Who Do You Think You Are? (perhaps more, seeing as I can’t ever experience that) I just feel we are terribly good in this country of wrapping everything up in a party, socially distanced or otherwise, and bunting. Really it just legitimises bad behaviour, stilted patriotic ideology, excessive drinking and in pre-covid years violent drunken outbursts. There are undoubtedly people cowering tonight as someone tanked up on booze and nationalism starts waving their fists about.
Maybe if I had a family where the war stories were part of the firmament, entwined with the family identity, a connected sense of heritage, bloodline even… but I don’t, so I have little time for these banner-waving occasions. My grandparents were good people, the Devon ones particularly. The one who lived in London was as mad as a hatter, and not in a good way. You’ve heard the phrase ‘wash your mouth out with soap’ haven’t you? I’ve experienced that at the hand of the London granny. We didn’t get on at all. But granny and grandpa Devon, were good people.
I developed a bit of a hobby for ornithology with my grandpa and we’d visit RSPB reserves both down south, and up here once they’d moved north. He also introduced me to the joys of local society talks. You pay a small fee and listen to somebody talk about orchids in Brazil, neolithic settlements or and this one always sticks out in the memory, the level of pollutants in the Humber. After the talk he would talk to one or two people, and always made a point of thanking the speaker and asking a question of them: a practice I have always tried to emulate. Then we’d have our cup of tea, a bourbon biscuit or a jam tart if we were lucky, say our goodbyes and leave.
He was a quiet man, I never once saw him lose his temper. He had a banana and a natural yoghurt every morning for breakfast, the yoghurt he made himself with a machine that sat on the deep windowsill of their thatched cottage. His garden was his pride and joy, and he would spend hours in the greenhouse grafting geraniums, clearing the raised stone fishpond, tending to the terraced lawn, and in the fruit cages among all the currants and berries. I’d never tasted a loganberry before, I’d never even heard of one, as for red and white currants, they were new too.
We stayed with granny and grandpa for a few months in between Sudan and Zimbabwe. I believe I even went to the village school for the best part of a term, before starting a new class in a new school, in a new country. I don’t know how mum managed it, but she always seemed to time our relocation across the globe, just as one school term ended, and the next began.
Why war when you can garden?
Day Fifty-two: After receiving the text today that my shielding is to be extended: feels more and more like an ‘indefinite’ science this, the idea of doing another Youtube writing tutorial seemed less appealing. Not to worry in lockdown you have plenty of time to do all these things don’t you, don’t you?
We find ourselves transported back to Sudan once more, living on the compound in the shoe box homes, with the dust and the heat, and the tall, steel-wire perimeter fence. The section of the road construction from the capital Khartoum, towards the Southern border with Kenya, is progressing slowly. It is an unusual day, my father is not at work, he is home and we are packing the Range Rover for a family day out. We are joining forces with some of the Norwegian families, and going to a place called Talanga Falls.
Talanga Falls is a watercourse over exposed rocks with a large pool at the base, the Upper Talanga starts at a height of 950m in the Imatong Mountains in the far southern reaches of Sudan and then empties into a lush forest. Talanga, also the name of a pretty golden moth, was popular with expats, and although we only went once, it stays with me quite clearly. The excitement of leaving the compound, to be joining a convoy, to travel across the bush on what were at times little more than dirt tracks, through open country and sometimes tea plantations. We stopped off at one such plantation, for the adults to cool off, and for the kids to have a run around, burn off some of that excess energy.
Being a kid who didn’t swim, the falls didn’t hold as much excitement for me than it did for the others. I can hear my mum now, ‘Never mind you can just paddle at the edge, get your feet wet, sit with your sister and if anyone asks, you can say you are looking after her.’
If the journey was dusty and dry, then what awaited us as we finally parked the vehicles was the exact opposite. Just like the mirages we’d learned about in school, a clearing surrounded by tall green trees, the water continuously falling into a deep pool. After day upon day of nothing but yellowy dust, this place took on a dreamlike quality. How could this sparkling jewel be here, when all around was desert, farmland, and bush country.
The soundtrack of that place in my memory is not the water cascading through rocks, but the sound of screams of excitement and shrieks of delight. A noisy place, a busy place, with lots of movement and daunting sights to the six year old me. To the left of the pool the falls themselves, more like fast moving water over an angled spillway than a traditional vertical drop.
The angle was perfect for sliding down, and the best means of doing this was on an inner tube, the larger the better. By balancing on the tube you were raised above the rocks and skimmed down to be tipped unceremoniously out into the safety of the pool at the bottom. Sometimes there’d be two or three to a tube, leaning across on their fronts. going head first down the rocks. Needless to say I did not go inner-tubing.
I suspect there were no nasties in the water, there might have been some fish and other wildlife, but these sorts of concerns didn’t seem to worry us so much back then. What the hell happened to us, what the hell happened to me? Today I can’t even see a bee without screaming the house down.
Although the bee thing does have roots. These roots lie in a very real incident that took place at Primrose Woods during a camp trip: another reason I don’t do canvas. A group of us were walking through a dense thicket of ferns, brushing them away as we passed each one. I was, as usual, lagging behind, not much of a leader back then. There I am the last in a line of five kids and I pass a particular fern, and all of a sudden I feel a strange sensation, then a feeling like burning, and I scream.
I scream louder than I’ve ever screamed before. I am covered head to toe in bees. The sound is everywhere I can hear it now, the movement in my hair on my face, my arms, my t-shirt, my shorts, my legs covered in bees. I have been, what is commonly known in the natural world as ‘swarmed’. And they are stinging me and I am still screaming. The other kids panic and daren’t come near me, meanwhile I am almost certain I’m going to pass out. I begin to run hell for leather towards the camp attendant’s office, at the centre of the woods, where I hope to God someone can help me. Did I explain I’m just thirteen at the time? Needless to say that experience traumatised me for life. Now I have a pathological fear of bees, wasps anything insect-like that buzzes: I’d be rubbish now back in Africa. The ordeal ended after being drenched in calamine, head to foot, for the stings all over my body and face. Bastard bees!
Eyes and ears back to Talanga. There was a death slide rigged up on the far side of the pool, also known as a fufi slide, which allowed the intrepid to hang on to a metal bar, and swing across the water before splash down at the near side.
All day I saw people having near misses, including when someone lost their grip from high up and dropped like a stone, arms and legs at an odd angle, crashing into the water below. On the ride home they were far more subdued, no teasing, or digging me in the ribs or pinching my legs, just quiet. So much so that we both fell asleep on the way back. It was close to dark when we got back. I was just awake enough to go say goodnight to my pet duck which I’d recently acquired: like a young Gerry Durrel. Oh yes we had various ‘pets’, the roadrunner is a pretty good story (yes they really do exist) I’ll save that one for another time. I’m walking over to the pool half sunk, in the sandy earth, to check on my duckling. In the grey light I listen out for little duckling sounds, nothing. I see a limp body floating on the water, my duckling has drowned while we’ve been out playing. It was later explained to me that the little ramp, he would waddle up to get out the water had slipped somehow, and he’d probably exhausted himself trying to climb up the sides: at some point he had just given up trying.
It’s a sad story, I still feel desperately sad for that little duckling.
Day Fifty-one: This post will be like a notice board signposting you to lots of fun stuff you can enjoy, follow, get involved with.
With my Women of Words hat on we hosted our first online WoW event since lockdown started. What is WoW? It’s a monthly spoken word event series that’s been running since 2015 in Hull, latterly at Kardomah 94 and now at Hull Central Library. It’s a good thing.
Not being able to host our events at the moment is a bad thing, so we did what thousands of other creative groups are doing and went online. We posted some lockdown videos and then invited people to post their own videos and poems. And it went well. Admittedly it took us a while to suss out how to switch visitor posts to main page but we know now, and that’s how you learn, by trial and error. We are very happy with what we and more importantly our audience shared. The videos can be viewed at any time on our Facebook page.
On Monday night unbeknownst to you, I was invited to contribute to a podcast hosted by Yada Yada Spoken Word, a new platform hosting events within Hull College hosted by installation artist Alice Godber, until the lockdown. They swiftly went online, joining forces with positive news site Hull Is This and began putting out podcasts every two weeks.
I jumped on number four where the organisers had invited writer/theatremaker Dave Windass to respond to the themes explored in the poetry, which elevated in a fun way, the experience of taking part.
Listen to Yada Yada spoken Word in Lockdown #4 Click Here
Also keeping me entertained is #TwentyDays by Amy Johnson Arts Trust, a daily diary digital project, telling the story of aviatrix Amy Johnson’s pioneering solo flight from England to Australia in 1930. There are daily podcasts, images archive documents, and lots more creating a rich multimedia experience to follow her journey, and join in celebrating her place in aviation history. Follow the story from the first podcast hosted on Hull Is This 5th May Twenty Days Click Here
Finally while I’m here there’s the daily choice between A or B in the Hull Maritime City Peoples Choice Exhibition on Twitter. Each morning you can choose which artefact, exhibit, you’d most like to see in the people’s exhibition, and the one with the most votes wins. There’s been some very strange objects of late, and also some very beautiful ones: you should go check it out. Daily Tweets Here
Art isn’t dead it has just gone home!
Day Fifty: I thought it would feel like a milestone day fifty but it just feels like another day in the house of isolation. I suspect I am becoming conditioned by the solitude broken by the online interaction via the screen, and the welcome doorstep visits.
Midday saw a most welcome doorstep visit, a lifelong friend with a welcome bag of essentials, bacon, pasta and pot noodles are essentials in my book, more importantly she had her phone with her. We had planned a few days earlier that she would video me for a video of birthday messages to her mum. Her mum is someone who has been in my life for many years.
In the pantheon of pains which this virus has inflicted not being able to see your friend on their birthday, not being able to give them a birthday hug, share a drink and reminisce about the good times, does not sit at the pinnacle, but it still hurts. This feeling of frustration and sadness from not being able to share special moments with friends and loved ones is being felt right across the globe in varying degrees.
I hope she enjoys the verse I wrote, which recalls a chance meeting in Pave bar in 2003, and the friendship that subsequently grew into a partnership. We set out with a simple mission, to find and tell stories from the community, and give a voice to the voiceless.
We had many incredible successes as the platform she launched from the kitchen table, made the local media outlets sit up and take notice. She pioneered user-generated- content, long before the advent of the blogo-sphere, online influencers and social media. Many people who are creating work today have benefitted from her dedication and her personal touch. She never failed to get back to someone, to make them feel a valued part of our online family.
She encouraged people like me to embark on writing, writing about the art and artists of the city; music of every genre, theatre and spoken word.
It would be no exaggeration to say that she helped to make me the person I am today.
Happy Birthday Cilla! XX