Day Seventy-eight: Monday… Monday. In this the first day when I was told I could go out a policy that flies in the face of scientific evidence, I readily ignored the govt. If today’s daily press conference was anything to go by, then my line about ministers locking down the story while unlocking the country and evading the questions, was sadly spot on.
As I have done throughout the pandemic I turned to creativity to put the madness out of sight and out of mind: and now it really is madness, a dangerous madness, borne of political hubris. I wrote a new poem for WoW on Wednesday, it’s a bit of a one note misery memoir, but it’s not about what you create its about writing and moving on, to coin a phrase.
What seems like aeons ago I spent two or more weeks pulling together an application for a small art-based commission. You will know because you will have read about it on here, that I wasn’t successful, my idea was too open-ended, not visual enough, too cerebral, call it what you will. One of the successful applicants was my friend and collaborator Anna Bean.
Watch what happens when Covid-19 enters Bluebeany’s House of Fun.
The film borrows imagery from Lynch and Kubrick among other influences, with Beany’s own blend of magic realism and faerie tale using masks and iconic costumes and disco. Eagle-eyed viewers will recognise the birds flying across the screen, as the birds from The Giantess by Leonora Carrington, also the appearance of the skull from the Voodou Priest in Tainted Love: the last live Sideshow Wonderland extravaganza before lockdown. The inclusion of these elements from past works, adds a duality of pathos and hope. Transformed into totems the bird and skull serve as a reminder that those days will return.
Anna Bean says: This project has been a true family collaboration. My son Louis Bean created original music for the discordant soundtrack and my partner features as the politician and the dancing Love Leopard. Read More
Inside the house we see a battle between creativity and Covid-19, the disparate characters infiltrate every space in the house, giving Covid-19 no chance to root itself. The film is a metaphor for the power of art to defeat all that seeks to destroy us, that reflects the way that we, and vast swathes of the world, have turned to creativity to respond to the pandemic.
The making of art, in all its forms, is a release, a temporary escape from the reality, it allows us to switch headspace, away from the barrage of headlines and death tolls, just have fun for a short while. This idea is further underlined with the inclusion of various artworks, that have come as a direct result of Bluebeany’s Art Club, the weekly two hour art-fun happy pill that many of us have been taking every Sunday since lockdown began.
Click Here for All Eight Absolutely Cultured Creative Micro Commissions
Day Seventy-seven: Sunday the day of rest, reflection and recuperation. Art club was on my mind the theme was Power. I immediately knew I wanted to do something that reflected the uprising spreading throughout the world. Surprisingly not against the mishandling of the pandemic as you might expect, but the killing of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minneapolis.
You might say that this is this generation’s Rodney King. In truth it is barely this year’s or even this month’s… hardly a week goes by without some racially motivated police attack on unarmed citizens, not just in America but in this country too. Perhaps not as overtly in the land of Roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, but it is there, underneath the surface. If those who hold power can mask the truth and lies, then they will do so whatever the cost, just to save face.
It is that which is the primary concern of our government right now. Bojo is far more concerned with saving his face, and his grip on power, than saving lives right now. Maybe it has been so throughout, we will never know. I can almost guarantee we will not have that second spike, never mind what the figures may say, or the cries of scientist’s falling on deaf ears, the story will be spun and spun again, shaped and misrepresented to support whatever measure the PM and his minions dream up.
Rest assured you will die safe in the knowledge that you adhered to govt. policy. From now on the ‘story’ will be embargoed and be locked down tighter than a nut, a ginger nut. In the coming weeks and months expect the govt. to be even more evasive about the truth: as cagey as a location manager on a Bond movie.
I enjoyed listening to Kate Fox on Pick of the Week and found it heartening, reassuring even, that we had, quite by chance, been tuning into the same programmes. I loved the vivid descriptions of flora and fauna, and joyous enthusiasm for the natural world, in the serialised Book of the Week, Diary of A Young Naturalist by Dara McAnulty.
I smiled when Kate chose champion beat-boxer Schlomo ‘mouth beating’ on the Today programme, and then smiled for a different reason as Rory Kinnear, read the eulogy to his sister Karina, who passed away due to Covid-19 in May. Ever since the outbreak began I have felt very uncomfortable with the inclusion ‘dying with underlying medical conditions’. The more it became used, the more it felt like an abdication of responsibility, introducing a sort of hierarchy, with deaths from Covid-19 without those pesky ‘underlying health conditions’ being leant more weight.
There was more death and a dose of wit with Natalie Haynes standing up for the classics cleverly reshaping the story of Eurydice and Orpheus. There would be no room for Virginia Woolf and A Room of One’s Own in Kate’s selection, can’t imagine her being all that keen on the privileged intellectualism of the Bloomsbury set.
So we come to Bluebeany’s Art Club I decorated a paper plate, remembering the satirical ceramics of Lubaina Himid, Turner Prize Winner 2017. I included a fist that can either be a symbol of oppression or fighting for freedom. The two quotes from Martin Luther King Jr. concerning ‘peace and justice’ and the ‘language of the unheard’ and one more at the bottom from Florida State Police Chief Walter Headley in ’67, which was parroted by Trump last week.
Later that night I revelled in the sight of the Prince of Darkness learning how to love again as he becomes transfixed by Mina’s virtue in Dracula by Northern Ballet. There were moments where horror tropes, shrouded the gothic romance but I happen to be fond of some good cloak acting.
The bonds of lockdown loosen and fall,
and lie in ruins like the resolve
of a maiden made to be concubine.
All is right in the world as
Day Seventy-six: Can’t help thinking this unlocking of lockdown is no longer based on scientific evidence but the govt just responding to the increased levels of mistrust and anger post Cummings.
With children going back to school, some sports reconvening albeit with certain restrictions, gatherings in gardens of six peoples… and the first sign of some movement for the shielded. From Monday I may leave the house and meet one person; one person a day, the same person each time or different people?
Only two weeks ago I was being told not to put my own rubbish out… this isn’t following the science, it might not even be following the money, just trying to change the downward trajectory of govt. popularity.
I can’t help but feel that the govt are unlocking as a distraction from the Cummings saga. I also think that a whole bunch of relaxation measures have come out in one go, and I’m suspicious about the speed in which the changes are being made. There’s little trust in the govt capability to manage the pandemic, and it feels like they are trying to sweeten the public up, by loosening lockdown in the hope we will like them again. That’s not how it works Bojo.
I will wait until I hear something from my local GP practice before I think about shifting. We know there will be localised outbreaks, because people are not socially distancing, flocking to tourist hotspots in their thousands, as an act of defiance, but endangering their own health and everyone else’s health. There are still thousands catching the virus and hundreds dying every day.
Day Seventy-five: A birthday never to forget for so many reasons, not least of which is that I locked myself out (Again!!!) during the best doorstep song and dance intervention.
A Little Respect by Erasure has never looked that good as it did when Jo and Tamar turned up yesterday afternoon, in fabulous outfits with gifts and cards and a camera crew: thank you Carlos and Sarah.
All the joy and excitement was momentarily tinged with trauma when behind me my door shut and for the second time in lockdown I was locked out. Thankfully I was able to enjoy the song, one of my favourites, such a good song, as you can see and then get the key from the property company with four minutes to spare, before they shut for the day!
I received some of the most fabulous gifts too, I am so very lucky so huge thank you and virtual hugs to all of you. Just look at that spread of cards and presents, such thoughtful gifts from people who really know me. From the booze to the Bowie earrings, the Joe Johnson shirt and Leon Welburn artwork, the gorgeous Lee Miller b&w postcard, the sweets and treats, I love them and you all.
In the evening there was another surprise intervention which I nearly answered sans trouser. It was hot yesterday and just sitting on the doorstep for an hour or two was stifling. I went back indoors and reconnected with the joy of wandering around half naked doing jobs in the house… then a phone call and a, ‘Come to the door’. Outside as you can see were more friends playing and singing happy birthday self distance stylee. some people I’d not seen or spoken to for three months. That really was a special surprise.
And then to top it all of the obligatory quiz which I won due to the presence of the How Much Do You Know About Michelle round, and some sympathetic point scoring in the poetry writing round.
Thank you all for giving me a super lockdown birthday, one I’ll never forget!
Day Seventy-three: Today (Thursday) was my friend Natalie’s birthday, I met her years ago when both our lives were in a state of flux. In fact it was an early Christmas pub lunch and an invite to a gig that night at the Polar Bear, that broke the ice. From that moment we were gig buddies and looked good on the dance floors in clubs across the city.
Then as I went to study journalism she chose to study animal behaviour and did her degree and eventually a Masters at Newcastle. I have to go and get my Masters at Hull, that was my plan before lockdown happened, I wonder though whether a years hiatus might be in order if tutor time and lectures will be affected by Covid regulations on campus. Something else I need to look into in June.
Today Nat is a keyworker contributing to vital infrastructure to keep the country switched on. We had a two hour zoom and caught up on life, homes, animals friends and parties. Our birthdays have always happened together and we’ve had a few attempts at joint birthday dos, including that epic one that began with good intentions and continued at great pace with wanton abandon. I woke up in a long black gown on my sofa with the boiler man clanking about two feet away. Tonight we had to settle for a shared drink on screen and a giggle around teatime. Proud of you Natalie: dirl gun dud!
She kindly took this picture of a walk she did the other weekend, it was a bit blowy that weekend, so thanks Nat. In the back ground you can see the iconic Tyne Bridge in Gateshead. We have allowed our contact to slip and I’m sorry about that, but life tends to get in the way. When there is so little of life happening there’s more time for reaching out, and saying, “Hey there how are you doing?”
Day Seventy-two: As surely as night follows day we are reaching the end of another week. On friday it’s my birthday, I’ll be doing the lockdown birthday quiz with some friends, I’m looking forward to it, although it will be tinged with sadness. I’ve promised myself not to drink too much, I don’t want another weekend where I can’t get off the sofa.
Today was pretty busy, I woke early, the sun streams through the velux window in my attic room, I wasn’t cold as normal, in fact I’ve taken to just having the two thin duvets along with the line of pillows for extra support. It’s been a good day, it feels important to remind myself that it has been a good day. I finally finished off the PIP form, and mentally prepared myself for the subsequent refusal and appeal to follow. Incredible how so many have to go to appeal, like they have to have so many refusals to satisfy some callous desire.
Between twelve and two I did an online chat about lockdown for a radio show on WHCR being researched by my artist friend Alice Godber from Yada Yada Spoken Word. I debuted the free write that formed Day sixty-eight’s blog post. I’ll get back to you when I have a date for when it goes to air.
In the evening I had a doorstep chat from Barbara she told me how the Austrian leader had been caught breaking one of their Covid regulations, by staying in a bar after 11pm, instead of going home. He was ordered to pay a fine by authorities which he did immediately and then made a public apology on air. Would that someone would take a leaf out of Austria’s book.
Back in week something or other I mentioned Barbara and I were working on something special, well that something is completed thanks to Barbara’s incredible work ethic and talent for learning new skills. She gave me some very exciting news about how and where it will be presented to the world: very exciting… more news to follow.
I cooked up a bolognese took a phone call, and greeted a second doorstep visitor, who presented me with a little something for friday… and something for Saturday’s breakfast. She knows me too well.
In the evening I caught up with BBC4’s dance programming and watched some excellent dance films: Ballet boyz performing Deluxe; a doco looking at changing attitudes to men in ballet, called Men at the Barre, and a series of dance film shorts exploring the personal and the universal, introduced by Carlos Acosta. A rich blend of dance culture and exploring life in so many facets and styles, and as I type this I wonder how it will feel going back into the first dance class after lockdown. How will socially distanced dance look? How much will my body have deteriorated during lockdown in terms of muscle strength, and muscle memory? I try not to think about it and religiously perform a pliè series, while the kettle boils.
At 9.20 tonight I flicked the channel to Colin Murray on Five Live, to hear from Cosmic Carol an astronomer from Hull, who was all ready to talk us through the SpaceX launch. Sadly for her and many people around the globe, the launch was scrubbed… at least until Saturday I think. I hope Cosmic Carol gets that second call, she deserves that much. Despite the lack of a launch she equipped herself admirably and did herself and Hull proud. Back in 2016 when this photo was taken Carol told me how she wanted to use her passion for astronomy and all things space and make it her career. In the intervening years she has covered rocket launch events, spoken at conferences, travelled to the Atacama Desert to some of the most important space observatories in the world, and now she’s the expert guest on Five Live. You did it Carol, you did it!
Reach for the stars!
Day Seventy-one: If we carry on like this we’ll hit a hundred in record time. Regular readers of the missives coming out of the house of isolation will have noticed a downturn, a flattening of the curve if you will, and a gradual decrease in energy and enthusiasm. Apart from the anomaly at the weekends, usually the result of Art Club or some other creative release: doing or viewing, the weeks tend to stretch out into nothingness.
Today for the first time in a longtime, I stayed in my dressing gown. I exercised my right to choose and chose not to take it off. That interests me, without the outside world new behaviours manifest themselves and take on greater significance. Like going up at half six every day to check that my bed is okay to fall into, at whatever time that might be.
I curse myself for not getting the bedside light fixed and promise myself, and in writing it here I will remember – to ask for some light bulbs, so I can at least have a light in the bedroom. The bulbs are always blowing in this house. In fact just as lockdown began the very first gesture of kindness I received, was from lovely Nick from Fonda bringing a ladder from his house, and replacing the bulb in my kitchen.
I want to get some blinds for the living room, I’ve seen some nice ones online, but I’m going to need someone with tools like drills and things ,to fit them, and I don’t know what the rules are on having someone in your home. It was okay for the wifi guys four weeks ago, but is it okay for someone else like a friend to come in and fix blinds up for me? My mum seemed to think it would be okay for me to go and post a letter, she has started visiting her friend Christine again who has Parkinsons. She told me today, it was my turn to phone her, that she visits and sits in the garden and all Christine’s neighbours curtains twitch.
I know you enjoy hearing updates about Lottie, she is apparently asking for more money so she can buy things online. The carers seem to think online shopping might amuse her, I suspect it will amuse her more than it will my parents, who will have to level up her allowance. I predict a run on the sparkly jumper aisle and tasteful tees, she’s partial to a baggy trouser, not a fan of hats, never has been.
I remember when she was very young a great game was throwing her sunhat out of the pram, and I would pick it up and plop it back on her head to shade the back of her neck, She would wait just long enough to make me think she’d tired of it, and then hurl it with rare accuracy into the mud, laughing like a drain. We would still go on long walks down the lanes when I was twelve/thirteen. I had a little radio that I’d hang of the handle of her chair, tuned to a pop music station. Maybe there’d be a handful of change for an ice cream, reward for getting out of mom’s hair for a few hours, or maybe we’d have a little snack packed to eat by the humpback bridge.
I spent a lot of time with her growing up, I was her protector and she mine, until I was ejected. I don’t blame them. I was in in trouble, needed help, they thought they were doing the right thing, turning me over to be a ward of the state again. I gotta stop doing this, living in the dim and grim distant past. I’ll find you another Africa tale soon… I know you all love them.
Kudos and hurrahs to the people who put Kinder Eggs and Pot noodles in food parcels. Having these little joys, that don’t take long to prepare are such a lift. And a word to all those people who have lost loved ones of the cat and dog variety in recent weeks, Julia, Cass, Ruth, Kate, Leon my heart goes out to you. Today’s picture is of Spikey who was my dog while I lived on Ella, and is now happy in Beverloid and still enjoying the sun on his back and bounding across the Westwood.