Tag Archives: lockdown

Lockdown mk III : Son of Covid

You have to wait till something really excites you, really turns you on. It’s like the bar is set higher somehow… or there’s so many layers for the thing to break through; that could be a poem or a must- read book, a film, a picture of a painting, a zoom show whatever…

That happened today. But before I share what I just wanted to describe how this kind of thing happened in the real world. And how it was one of the best things about living and working in Hull and being a patron of the New Adelphi Club. To mention each and every one would be nigh on impossible, but on that list would certainly be hearing Richard Rufus (better known as Men Diamler) for the first time, or Matt Edible, Mariee Sioux, Signe Tollefsen, Hurray for the Riff Raff on my birthday night, or RM Hubbert during Adelphi 30 Each one a moment to savour, each one just that little bit more special for having that magical element to transform.

ADELPHI 30: Celebrating 30 Years Of Hull’s New Adelphi Club. from codhead on Vimeo.

I’m talking about those halcyon nights of perfect stripped-back acoustic sounds. Special nights where Paul Jackson would rearrange the tables (maybe the hardworking Adelphi staff would actually do the lifting) and put candles out. Nights spent wrapped in Adelphi goodness that linger long after the last note has faded and the player has left the stage. Nights where the queue for the merch table snakes across the small club, with audiences having been moved so completely, sometime a first time visitor to the Adephi or maybe a debut performance, from that moment each are forever changed. It was the same when first I saw Jeffrey Lewis ( who I’ve written about before) and Seth and Dufus, and all those glorious Catskills Mountain cats.

There’s a beautiful thing that happens when you find one of these jewels in the music scene, you suddenly find that you can still be surprised, and become just that little bit less cynical, less world weary and tap into the innocence of being a first timer once more. I love that. So who is it who has moved me to write today? Maybe someone you know very well, someone you’ve been hiding from me… and at present I know but one side of his work… Lost, now Found The Bare Bones Mix. It was the following lyric that sealed it for me, after first falling for the voice, and then the sound of his guitar playing…

While you shield and do not yield…’ lyrics from ‘Leopard’ by Gary Stewart out this Friday! Artwork by Ruth Valera

I’d not have found it, if it hadn’t been for a recommendation by my good friend Jill Lingard. It was the artwork that prompted me to drop her a message, and she pointed me to the artist Ruth Valera… then happened to say the song was good too. And so I went to have a listen, and now, I have spent the entire afternoon listening on repeat. I can’t get enough.

If I were in charge of the Adelphi I’d book him in a heartbeat. He would be perfect for that intimate candlelit magic that the best of the Adelphi musicians conjour. And so Gary Stewart, until we can have gigs again, until we can be transformed and enriched by live music again, I’ll make do with this beautiful set of songs recorded in Leeds during Lockdown 2020. I’ve done nowt but shield for so many days and months now alone with my thoughts not healthy not all the time, and today I needed to know I could still have my outer shell pierced, and for something beautiful to seep in. Go and seek him out like I did and tell me that he’s not created something wonderful. https://garystewart.bandcamp.com/album/lost-now-found-the-bare-bones-mixes

Had a few quiet days reflecting on the family. We lost Uncle George on Saturday. I suppose it was expected he was eighty-five and had been very frail for a number of years, but it still comes as a shock.

spent a few hours making a beach-themed collage

It is the idea that the family is getting smaller. When I was young, naturally we lost grandparents on all sides of the family. No one lasts forever but two generations, it somehow feels distant no less sad at the time, but distant. With Uncle George that’s my father’s generation, it’s his family, his brother in law. My Auntie Nan has been looking after George, caring for him pushing him in a manual wheelchair here there and everywhere for the past few years: she’s made of strong stuff.

And in some ways it comes as a relief, trying to keep him safe from the pandemic and the frustrations of being in lockdown, watching him slowly, ever so slowly deteriorate, must have taken a heavy toll physically and emotionally. Still it is sad and a reminder if ever we needed one of our own mortality. George died in hospital from complications arising from a chest infection, it was not Covid. That comes as something of a relief, he didn’t have that nightmare end that so many have faced, not to mention the added trauma for the loved ones left behind.

We won’t get to the funeral, it will take place down south I’ll send a card and a letter offering my condolences to Nan and the family. I remember in my younger days a trip down south that went awry somehow and both Nan and George came to my rescue plucking me from a strange house on the outskirts of the capital. They drove me away and immediately took me for coffee and a bun. There’s a lot to be said for the power of coffee and a bun to ground you once more in the real world, to feel safer. They took me to Victoria Station and put me on a coach home, paying for my fare. I’ll always be eternally grateful that they were there for me that day, without them I’d have been in a real mess, with no means of getting home.

Rest in Peace Uncle George. . .

I closed yesterday by mentioning the drab clothes I’ve worn the past week. It got me to thinking about another time when a piece of drab clothing suddenly took on momentous importance to me. I think you’ll be surprised. Let me take you back to my early teens – not yet going to the pub but beginning to sneak out at night and also to frequently ‘leave home’.

This particular time was mid afternoon I’d had a row, I can’t remember what about, it might have been something to do with the gardening I recall having the strimmer chucked at me once… for committing some heinous crime in the eyes of my father. Maybe it was then. I was off, anger and tears in my eyes unable to control my emotions. I sped down the road without really knowing where I was going… I was just running away again. Didn’t you just hate those years when you couldn’t do angry properly and although you were so mad you found yourself crying instead? I longed to be able to do angry properly without giving myself away, and leaking tears all over my cheeks.

I’ve run away a good few times, a dozen or more, sometimes for a few hours to cool off, get my head in check, sometimes a few days to teach them a lesson. Trouble was they never seemed all that concerned when I disappeared. The old, ‘We weren’t worried, we knew you’d be back when you were hungry,’ line trotted out upon my return, or ‘Look what the cat dragged in in the night,’ after I suddenly reappeared sheepishly. Towards the end before the final time, they’d start locking all the doors and windows so I couldn’t get back in… I’d devise clever systems with hangers and spare keys and the like. I spent many hours trying to lift window handles with twisted wires in the dead of night.

Of course it was wrong, and I can quite see why once I started disappearing for longer and longer, they didn’t want me just coming back any time I felt like it. ‘You either live here by our rules or, you find somewhere else to live… we won’t keep going through this over and over again,’ my father. ‘You are driving this family apart, you have to decide if you want to be part of this family or not… it hurts us very much, but if you can’t live with us then you can go,’ that’s my mother’s ultimatum. Sounds simple doesn’t it, but no, oh no it could not be further from simple if it tried.

On this particular weekend, we’ll call it strimmer weekend for sake of argument, I ran, walked and ran some more when I thought I saw a car that looked like my dads (it hadn’t been). I found myself around four or five in the evening stumbling around a waste ground. Parts of the ground underfoot were strange colours pale blues and pinks, there were bits of corrugated iron, old pipes, dirty plastic sheets, large blue tubs lying on their side, congealed substances pouring out of many. I surmised this was all left over from the old chemical works… It was almost certainly chemicals in the barrels, and the lumping great pieces of concrete dotted around on the site, were bits of the fallen structure, which had been reduced to rubble, but not yet cleared away. I remember making a shelter form some industrial tubing, bits of plastic sheeting, fertiliser bags on the floor. I lay there for what seemed like an age… I had once again run away with nothing: no food, no coat, no plan and no clue. I found a jumper just laying on the ground, a dark green/blue woollen thing, fraying at the cuffs and neck with encrusted paint stains which rubbed like hard pellets against my skin. I vehemently remember thinking, this is who I am now, this how I live.

Of course it wasn’t. I lasted no more than six hours that time. I was trying to sneak back in by midnight. I may have even been caught and told to get to bed. ‘We’ll discuss this in the morning…’ Father again most likely.

I kept that jumper. I kept it for a few months: a mildewed, paint-stained, torn and tattered garment that connected me, and was itself connected, to that other life. I remember mum asking, ‘What is this disgusting thing living in your room?’ when she found it hidden at the bottom of the wardrobe. ‘Get rid of it this instant.’ I considered trying to explain that it was important to me, but realised quickly with such an explanation would come the admittance of all those mixed up feelings about not wanting to be here. I soon found that after she had discovered the filthy jumper, it lost all its totemic power, and I chucked it in the wheelie bin with the rest of the rubbish.

It had only been but a few hours but it felt like a lifetime. Up there on that waste ground a few miles from home, out of sight of the town I was isolated, it felt dangerous which triggered feelings of elation, somehow. I was completely alone, at that moment no one in the world knew where I was and there-in lay a kind of power: a strange sense of control.

I chose the name Son of Covid because it echoes the self-styled ‘Son of Sam’ the notorious killer David Berkowitz who terrorised New York City in the late seventies. That in turn reminded me of the Spike Lee movie Summer of Sam starring John Leguizamo whom I have always had a bit of a thing for. Incidentally I saw one of those profile documentaries of Spike Lee a few days ago on Sky Arts. It was a potted history of Spike’s most memorable or genre-defying films and it puzzled me that the commentators were all white film experts, made up of middle-aged men and one woman. Clips of the films were followed by some point of analysis or appreciation as is the form in these things. At one point they showed a famous clip from the film Do the Right Thing where Buggin’ Out – played by Giancarlo Esposito – asks of Danny Aiello’s cafe owner character ‘Why are there no brothers on the wall Sal?’ I’ll just leave that there and let it sink in.

Back to John Leguizamo, in ’95 he was cast as Chi-Chi Rodriguez in Too Wong Foo and thanks for everything Julie Newmar. A touchstone film for me growing up, about three drag queens on a road trip across the states, the trio breakdown near a backwater town with closed minds and traditional values. Decades later the one scene that sticks out to me is where Vida Boheme played by Patrick Swayze, discovers that their host, who has kindly taken the three of them in to her home, is experiencing domestic abuse. He stands up for her forcefully kicking the abusive husband out. Being rescued by Swayze, even if he was in a frock, clearly held some appeal for me. The film was rounded upon by some critics as being timid and predictable and had been overshadowed by the cult drag film The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, which was another touchstone movie for me. I was a teen in the mid nineties, exploring my identity and sexuality, experimenting and being picked up by men in clubs. It was a time when Section 28 had just about eradicated all mention of anything but binary relationships and identities – including whoever I was. Those moments where you glimpse something else. Something other. Something freeing and fabulous, you hold on to dearly.

Today if you want to see and read about drag and alternate lives lived and loves, there are thousands of images and words, television shows on the subject and a million signposts, to show you where to find them. Christ there are some drag queens, that actually go into schools and say hey kids, it’s okay it’s just a character, it’s just clothes, make believe and a bit of magic, now sit down let me read you a story. Even wholesome family musicals around drag and the universal struggle to find your identity.

And the world has to be a better place for it…

I sit reading this back, having not worn anything more exciting than black joggers all week, a jumper to be hastily pulled on over whatever pyjamas I’m wearing, when the gasman or electrician arrives. I’m missing being fabulous I’m missing that sparkle in my life, the escapism and freedom of transformation becoming a different character on stage. I miss the camaraderie of the cast and all the people who pull together to make a show happen. And most of all I think I am missing the audiences.

I haven’t felt much like writing this week. It would have just been me moaning about the lack of hot water and being unable to bathe comfortably. That seemed rather self-regarding considering the trials and tribulations being faced by so many just outside my front door. Mention of the door tells you that I am shielding again, the infection rates are far higher than last time, or appear to be and the news of the new variant, which I have dubbed Son of Covid, means that it really wouldn’t be prudent to do anything but. I can share with you that I do have a working shower now, and have washed myself and my hair quite thoroughly so as to provoke a better humour.

I am startled by the way I have so easily slipped back into the shielding routine. I wake each morning, that is vital, allowing yourself to sleep-in, so quickly upsets the circadian rhythms. With my propensity for insomnia and broken sleep, I am acutely aware of making that simple effort to rise and see as much daylight as afforded by the winter season. I take my breakfast cereal – I have wheat biscuits at present – a yoghurt for my digestion and a strong coffee. I make a point to take my first meal sat at the kitchen table. I may put the radio on, listen to cheery pop music, or the world service to stay abreast of global new stories. I have gone off the local radio station, I find myself increasingly at odds with the views and comments of both the listeners and the presenters. Their binary outlook on all manner of issues are discomfiting, and likely to infect my thinking and darken my mood: moods can sit so stubbornly.

There has been some good news of late. I am pleased to be able to say that my sister has had her first vaccination and also my octogenarian aunt was due hers this week. My mother was very cross with her because she didn’t enquire as to which one of the vaccines she was going to get. I spoke with her, my aunt, at the beginning of the week to thank her for the card and a small cheque, that I will put in the bank and draw on when I can leave the house again. I’d like to use it to treat myself. Despite the concerns of using public transport coupled with the government restrictions, I find myself daydreaming about a train ride to the coast. Last year I was so very fortunate to be invited by friends to the beach on two occasions during the better weather, I do so hope we can do the same again this year.

I drank rather too much at Christmas. Forgetting the consequences, having rarely touched a drop the preceding year, I found myself suffering rather, for a number of days after. So much so that I somehow managed to convince myself I had been struck down by the disease. I took the necessary steps to find out, contacting the NHS, describing my symptoms, and booking a test. The symptoms were all centred around taste, or my lack of it. I suspect all the alcohol had eradicated my taste buds, in that way it often does the morning or indeed day after. Not to prevaricate – unlike me as you well know by now readers – I did the home test and the result came back firmly negative. So it was I began the year with a hangover, that lingered a few days which I immediately thought was covid.

How very 2020 of me.

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Lockdown Mk II: a blog

Yesterday mum announced that this year there would be no Christmas. I immediately responded that it wouldn’t be Christmas without Lottie. I knew instinctively it was the right thing to say, showing that that I not only agreed with the idea, but that I supported her in it.

Christmas has always centred around Lottie for as long as long as I can remember. I recall some of my first family Christmases, where I’d go and get Lottie up and out of bed on Christmas morning, and carry her into my parent’s room: woe be tide anyone making so much of a squeak before 7am mind.

There we would sit and dive into stockings – usually one of daddy’s thick green woollen work socks – as we delighted at what a wondrous assortment of gifts ‘Santa had brought us’, trying to keep the magic alive for little Lot. Lottie, who had developed a surprising amount of friends and well-wishers in her first few years on this earth, would have a small fabric bag, with her name stitched on it, filled with gifts and goodies too numerous to fit under the tree.

What might we have had in those stockings? Chocolate coins for sure, a small book or cassette tape – I remember the Pet Shop Boys ‘Introspective’ was a best present ever, all neatly wrapped and labelled. The obligatory orange in the foot of the sock along with some other novelty gifts, a pack of felt tips or later a geometry set. Another year I distinctly remember finding the must-have gift of that year, a Tamagotchi. This was state of the art stuff in the late nineties, the blocky dino creature that hatched on a tiny screen on a matchbox-sized toy, and rewarded you by growing and changing its pixelated shape, but only if you fed it and watered it and played with it. If you neglected it, and failed to ‘care’ for your pet, it turned up its heels, and the LED window showed a mound of earth with a cross in it. (…to be continued I’m just icing biscuits)

I’ve said before that it is a small miracle that they have managed to keep Lottie’s home virus free. Visiting has been restricted to garden visits when it is dry, and window visits when wet and too cold for fragile bodies to be out in the cold. My parents have taken priority with the visits, I have accompanied them on a couple of occasions. No-one from the outside has been in the home, not even to the reception area at the front. The staff and care teams have been extremely vigilant, and we are eternally grateful to them.

We may not be able to hold our Lottie, give her a hug and a kiss but we can rest a little easier knowing that, despite the terribly unfair isolation from the wider world, she is safe. Whether she will get one of the early vaccines, being as she is a vulnerable person in a care home, is anyone’s guess at the moment. Whatever happens we know that the staff will continue to do everything and more to keep the virus out, while somehow endeavouring to give the residents some kind of Christmas.

The decision whether to go ahead and do Christmas, will doubtless be played out within many households this year: but what do you do if the guest of honour is not there? The video-call, or over the phone in our case, is a poor substitution to being there to help her unwrap the presents, that you have agonised over, in the weeks and months leading up to the big day.

While many people will be on the move during the December window, taking advantage of the relaxation of restrictions, revelling perhaps in the chance for a few special days with loved ones not seen in person for months, please spare a thought for those families who have no chance of receiving anything more this year than a cursory look at their loved one, through a window pane. Christmas 2020 where respite for either party would feel like the biggest miracle of all.

Boris Rant: So considerate of the tory front bench to say that I am not handling lockdown mk2 and would like to reward me by allowing me the chance to kill my parents in a few weeks.

‘Christmas is coming the Rona’s coming back, please put a penny in the NHS cap, if you haven’t got a penny, a ha’penny will do, if you haven’t got a ha’penny then… who cares? Your govt is telling you to deliberately add to the death toll.

I didn’t see respite windows being made for people marking Diwali or Eid or any other religious festival… but oh no Christmas is fuckin’ sacrosanct. Boris wants to play Santa, and can’t abide the thought that his legacy as PM might read Covid-crook with piss poor oversight, incompetent, adulterer and Scrooge.

It’s about time he dragged his big boy pants on and made some leadership decisions instead of trying to be popular. ‘It’s time to be jolly careful,’ Are you for real? Welcome 2021 in with lockdown mk3 around the third week of January. As for going back into tiers, with all the movement next week with students returning home, and then a mass exodus again as people travel here, there and everywhere driving home for Christmas… the tiers will be as effective as a chocolate fireguard.

Do you remember when you were all stockpiling pasta and bog rolls when they announced just 67, yes 67 new covid cases? And what about when some hopeful yet misguided health bod said 20,000 deaths would be a good number?

If the vaccines are our way out of this – the world’s way out of this – then surely it would be best not to do anything, that is likely to kill more people than needed to die, before they’ve had chance of getting the jab?

Here’s a solution UK. Sod that just give me that turkey sandwich at my nan’s. Wait if you do this your nan might not be here at Easter… Do you know how much I’ve missed not seeing my family… Erm okay it’s been tough for many people but you might be responsible for killing them if you bring the infection in? Family means everything to me. I give up. Go kill your family… and do yourself while you are at it.

This goes down as possibly the worst decision of 2020… never mind bodging the spreadsheets; fudging the figures; contracts for contacts, ring of shite around care homes; missing the circuit breaker window. No this one really is criminal.

And today’s figure a mere 608 more deaths.

Old Imposters: Now before I get letters I am aware that there have been hundreds of thousands of people who have had to work through this pandemic; people turning their homes into offices, juggling childcare, homeschooling and for some who have worked triply hard at their regular jobs for example teachers and staff looking after and educating children of key-workers. There are many groups who have worked harder than ever they have this year and you all deserve to be applauded, awarded acknowledged and appreciated; and fairly paid, and not discriminated against, demonised or victimised. All that is true so hopefully that goes someway to me checking my privilege at the door but…

Since the last post it feels like the world has shifted once more, by how much is down to individual perception and the passing of time. we’ve had a Democrat win: lawsuits pending. A vaccine found: license pending, you should know by now there is always a caveat. Given all these notions of change in the air today why was my first thought, ‘Have I wasted all this time out?’

So I made a stream of conscious list: written a dozen or more poems, made a couple of short films, baked birthday cakes, spring cleaned a few times, made and remade the bed, learned some new dance phrases, cried, laughed hugged people virtually and metaphorically, got drunk more than once, got to grips with video conferencing, contributed to podcasts and radio shows, a few things in print, contributed to campaigns and crowd funds, wrote 50,000+ words on this site, window and garden visits with my sister, read new titles, bought harem pants and novelty socks online, worried about friends and family and strangers, watched a zillion press conferences, watched the news avoided the news, all the while avoiding knowingly contracting the virus. So why the sudden dose of imposter syndrome; and imposter of what and whom?

If my first thought upon hearing the news that we may have real hope of getting out of this in the next twelve months was to wag an accusatory finger at myself and demand what have I done, maybe, just maybe I wasn’t the only one?

I am now off to do the other thing I did in 2020 and that is to raise a smile, spread some joy, in another’s life; just by way of me being there.

Finished another book: finishing anything in 2020 ought be celebrated, albeit in a covid safe, government permissible way. I wonder whether writing about anyone else’s work in 2020 is wise, covid spectacles can’t help but colour your appreciation of everything, consciously or not. the book Imperfect Women by Araminta Hall was a pre-release copy offered up late summer by an author pal at a rare IRL boozy book swap lunch. I’d not read any of her previous titles and pretended not to see the Richard and Judy claim on the cover. After reading – I read it in two sittings over two weekends – I began writing which became this blog post: a coda to the 13 week Self Iso series.

Three protagonists each one distinct from the other just, characters with slightly worn tropes of a globe-trotting charity head, trying to discover who and what is most important to her; an academic who wastes potential by falling for professor with disastrous consequences, and a rich floozy struggling with motherhood and monogamy, about to do a permanent disappearing act.

As I read more about these three women now in their forties, each one tracing their lives back and forth revealing why, where and who they are in the present, I asked am I supposed to identify with one or all of them? I didn’t. Was the lack of identification nothing to do with the nature of the story and whether it was compelling – it is essentially a whodunnit and I’d pinned it down to two suspects fairly early in, and I was dead right – but more to do with a lack of relationship smarts and experience, in my own life? How could I possibly appreciate a story that every so often throws up a nugget about the differences between the two sexes, how each are motivated and or socialised to respond to each other, when the closest I come to complicated relationship stuff, is hours of listening – willingly I might add – to my friends’ joys and grievances with their assorted couplings and uncoupling.

I never thought about or planned to reach this age and still be single, I quite like the idea of a significant other, and it is true not every encounter has been a full-blown disaster. It’s the baggage that puts people off. I’m essentially a good person at heart and flip my radiating positivity switch as much as possible during the last few years. Once you sift through the trans tourists it becomes like a hunt in the proverbial haystack, finding someone who likes you for you. I am blessed, so very blessed, that I have a handful of really good friends, people who don’t have ulterior motives, a gorgeous group who don’t feel the need to bring me out at social occasions like an exotic zoo animal. Honestly some people do this blatantly, you must then decide if you want to be another exhibit in their coterie.

The denouement left me feeling cheated, no heart-racing final showdown devoured greedily with furious page-turning. But who am I to criticise and maybe I’m not reading it right, maybe the weight of the covid glasses have skewed my view?

I had planned this year to do a Masters myself, very glad to have deferred for another year – online lectures would have been soul destroying and at odds with my hope of having something akin to a student experience. I have just begun an online poetry writing course, I joined late after dance class finished the week before lockdown mk II was announced.

And here it is another blog post and the start of a new series as each of us bear witness to the second coming of coronavirus, knowing all the while that it never really went away.

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Self Isolation Week Thirteen

Day Ninety: I came across this post late last night just as I was preparing for bed.

TinB 6Music

I met Rick Ingham, the man behind TinB, at the spoken word night The Confessional at Adelphi. Since lockdown I haven’t been keeping tabs on his work but it appears the influencers at BBC 6 Music have been, and are right behind Someone Just Pressed Pause by Hull musicians The Broken Orchestra featuring TinB. So I invite you to listen to the track now (with headphones or speakers if you have them) and enjoy the way the music builds throughout. Note the repeated phrases that get right to the heart of how we all felt, and how we feel now teetering on the edge of lockdown. Despite being recorded end of March, long before we knew the full scale and horror of what was to unfold, the words perfectly reflect the world so many of us haven’t seen for months.

Someone just pressed pause…

Day Eighty-nine: Okay so I’ve just finished watching Almost Famous, the movie about the young journalist on tour with a rock n roll band, crossing the states in ’73. Naturally that’s my cue to write about my love affair with Hull’s live music scene.

It was in 2004 I think that I first saw Blue Sand at the Adelphi. I’d been with ThisisUll for a few months, and they encouraged me to check out local music and write about it for the website.

I loved them the minute I heard them, a four piece outfit from With. (most bands are a four piece) playing guitar and bass driven indie tracks tinged with anthemic melancholia. I’ve still got the car window sticker their manager gave me, I never had the car to put it in. I have their first EP Changed Names and Slaves, and all the demos that followed, I’ve even got a recording on cassette of them debuting a new song during a local radio interview. They played The Cavern Club in Liverpool one Saturday night and I had a place on the bus from Hull with all the other Blue Sand fans: what a thrill that was.

There were lots of other bands too like the Dirty Dreamers with their own brand of sleazy rock n roll, I followed them to London and the Cavern. I had the picture I took of the guitarist below in 2005, printed onto a t-shirt that was the level of my fangirlness. (togs… would you describe that as an early version of a filter?)  There was the Johnsons (who I spectacularly failed to manage for six months – I knew nothing about managing bands) who opened the first UK Tsunami Benefit Gig just a few weeks after the Boxing Day disaster, and their mates Park n Ride who upset the local Lib Dems, with their oh so similar branding that kept appearing on lamp posts all over HU5. I famously got left behind at The Cavern Club once, when I got distracted at the end of the gig, trying to interview the owner and the two coaches left without me. Thankfully he saw I was in a bit of a state and very kindly put me up for the night.

The life of a would be music journo, exposed me to so many different types of music, indie, rock, punk, electronica, glitchtronica, shoegaze, techno, Emo, dream pop and every crossover genre you can think of. And also so many names and faces who at the time meant the world and more, but have slowly faded from memory. I used to joke it’s okay for you, you only have to remember my name, I’ve got the guitarist, the lead singer, the bassist, the drummer, the keyboard player, the song titles, the gig dates, maybe the manager’s name, the name of the artist who did the cover artwork… let alone all the fans.

I wasn’t a good critic, I was a fan. I loved the music. I believed in the dream, the bands were like one big musical family to me. You would find me in the venue down the front, dancing and singing their words back to them, at the top of my voice. Every week you could see someone play: every day if you had the will power. Monday night was Adelphi Musicians night, Tuesday was the Sesh, Wednesday maybe Ringside, Thursday Sweet n Sour @ Welly, Friday Music Man, Saturday yo-yo @ Welly, Sunday if you were still alive, Sunday Sesh on Bev Road. For a short while I had a Wednesday night at Silhouette called Indecent but it never took off, a few good gigs though Black Wire, Alpha Nine, Turismo I’m pretty sure Blue Sand played one night. And not forgetting ThisisUll Live year long gig series last friday of the month at Adelphi in 07/08 something like that.

I got lost in it all for a while, I failed not to take it too seriously, like Penny Lane guards against in the film. I lost sight of what it was I fell in love with right at the beginning of the rock n roll ride.

I had many favourites Kill Surf City changed my life – that’s how it felt at the time – but my absolute favourite was Ernest: and I’d have them on my Desert Island playlist for certain. They were a Hedon group with a flair for theatrics and damn fine funky sounds, as the buzz around them grew they developed both a smoke and bubble machine for their stage shows which, were getting more and more epic by the day. They were the criminally underrated stadium funk rock band, that never quite got their recognition and reward.

There were so many bands that I thought with a a bit of luck, the right bit of luck and a fair wind behind them perhaps could have contributed to creating a city sound to rival that of Manchester or Liverpool at the time. So many great bands, I just have to dip into the box of demos upstairs, to remind myself I was there. I guess with lockdown there’ll be lots of people doing the same thing, spending time with all those treasured mementos from years gone by. No gigs for the foreseeable, it’s a hard pill to swallow, for the bands, the fans and the venues.

It’s only rock n roll… and I Love it!      

Day Eighty-eight: A writer friend asked me, ‘How do you feel abut JK Rowling’s comments/essay Michelle?’  I responded that I liked her books, the ones about the Boy Wizard anyway. I’ve never felt inclined to read any of her others. I don’t think I would like her company. As someone with such a high media profile she shows a distinct lack of awareness… but perhaps she’s made her money and then some, for the rest of her life so she no longer lives in the real world. I find it all rather exhausting, the dog whistle comments and articles deliberately baiting diametrically opposed communities to drive online traffic. Focussing energy on one person’s vendetta, rather than addressing discrimination and prejudice, violence and misinformation seems pointless to me. It’s like worrying about statues or television shows, when people are dying every day. It is deliberately missing the point and allowing yourself to be led by the mob.

I also think she does this every so often, in order to appear current, no such thing as bad publicity. As a writer does she owe something to her readers? I don’t know, as an author you have the right to offend, to challenge readers… There are some who would challenge the state of womanhood for women who do not have children of their own. Without feeling I have to defend myself, and now defending myself, you know my story. I didn’t choose this, I don’t think anyone does. This is how I identify, it’s who I am… but I am fully aware that as a constructed female, my body doesn’t work in accordance to biological females… and here, as soon as you start using words like female and biological you run into trouble. Its exhausting isn’t it. My point is that there are far more important things to get worked up about, if one had to respond to every bilious comment, then life would be extremely tiresome don’t you think?

In other news I took a walk today, a circle or two around the park and an ice cream in the rain: we had to stand outside the shop because the little kiosk wasn’t open. I enjoyed crossing the new footbridge over the ponds, and I look forward to seeing the park in all its new splendour with the new conservatory and flower beds. That is of course, if the nitwits don’t spoil it before we’ve even had a chance to visit. To the people stealing the plants out the ground, you really need to have a long hard look at yourself. Every time you see that bloom in your own garden, I hope the guilt eats you up.

I was joined on my walk by this beautiful boy called Reggie… I have decided I will bubble up with him as I said to a friend the other day ‘Doggie hugs are best..’ I am moved to add the following to my list of lockdown lines. These are overheard comments or ones of my own seized upon and filed away. ‘..deceiving a collie cross bubbling up with a whippet for the weekend.’

Regular readers will have noted there was a post missing. Wednesday night I spent the evening until the wee small hours devising a new piece for performance… be patient, you will find out all about it by following the blog (stepping out of the airlock on this one that’s for sure)

Enter your bubble like you mean it this weekend

 

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Self Isolation Week Twelve

Day Eighty-five: It has happened, after many suns have risen and fallen into the sea (thats a visual gag thank you Monty Python) I am ready to share with you the news that… Today I am officially the favourite niece.

I just happened to ring my auntie up this afternoon on the actual day she celebrated her birthday. I would love to say I knew it was today all along, but that would be a lie. I was convinced it was in March for some reason, but no June eight same date every year for eighty years…

lallyOh yes I’m allowed to say that. She told me a story about Grandma Harding, who I never knew, but how she had gone with her into town on her birthday (which town, London I expect) and watched her exclaiming to everybody she met, ‘I’m eighty you know!’ So my auntie has been doing exactly the same today.

I was lucky because early on in the conversation she mentioned receiving lots of cards that morning, and me being quick as the brown fox said , That’s why I rang to wish you happy birthday.’ What is important is that I spoke to her and she felt special.

We then talked about lockdown how she finds the carrots going brown quickly these days. They’ve changed her medicine… actually they’ve given up on her eye medicine for the foreseeable (for see able) so she can see a bit better. It was the eye drops that were causing all the pain and the loss of sight, some kind of over reaction to them. As you know getting through to a hospital is very difficult right now so it took some time to get the change made. Anyway she was going to go and sit in a friends garden, and have a cuppa wrapped up in her coat and blanket. Certainly not the birthday she’d hoped for, but it’s something, better than sitting in her house with her eyes screwed tight, because she cannot bear the pain of opening them.

It was really good to talk to her, she told me how she had prodded our Lottie with a stick on friday – out of sight of the care staff mind – prodding people with sticks is largely frowned upon unless the prodded has been involved in some kind of electric shock. In the event of that happening you are compelled to pick up a stick or broom handle if you prefer and prod the living wotsits out of them. I’m pretty sure in Lottie’s case it was just a gentle tickle so contact was made, which is quite touching I think you’ll agree. Here’s your new normal. And to add just a bit more heartbreak mom and dad are faced with the awful dilemma of visiting and upsetting her – she had another mini-fit after they left last friday – or not visiting and all parties left feeling bereft. Just another awful but real scenario that carers and the cared for are facing during Covid season.

19942641_10154473469441213_468149146332646629_oI’m not sure whether I could make that decision. So we started on a cheery celebratory note, you might say ebullient, and then ended in total anguish. such is the ying and yang of Covid 19.  I’ll stick around for now. You might need me.

Love you all and Happy Birthday Lally.

Day Eighty-four: ‘I don’t want to go,’ the tenth Doctor said and in doing so, broke the hearts of millions of fans across the globe. I’ve not gone yet, and anyway I will still be writing. [Oh if you insist…]

I don't want to go

Swoon some… melt a bit… meltdown!

Trying to explain it today to Barbara, when she kindly brought round a slice of her homemade, most delicious, elderflower syrup sponge cake, with toasted almonds topping – as good as it sounds – I no longer, get the sense we are all in it together. I don’t mean the political classes, I’ve never felt any solidarity from them, I mean the rest of the country. More of this tomorrow. I’m still trying to formulate my ideas.

Today was the eleventh and final Bluebeany Art Club, fittingly the theme was Party.

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Discover more of Beany’s world here: BLUEBEANY.COM

Party. It was during self care Saturday, that I came across the egg box – for that is indeed what it is –  and as I opened and shut it I remembered a story I’d read about an artist, a sort of model-maker who housed their work in suitcases. The suitcases had figures in them and were ornately decorated inside with fabric scraps and mementos, creating portable 3D portraiture: I think they may have even played music. (Anyone recognise the story? I’m sure it was a novel)

So there I am stood in the kitchen holding the egg box and I think, okay what’s going to go inside? I found the picture of the dancer in an old magazine and immediately knew it would be a nightclub. From there it was just a case of finding interesting colours and patterns, and cutting them out to resemble fixtures and fittings.  The highland cow is the same one I rescued from the scrap tray, during Paper Cinema’s production of Macbeth last year, at Hull Minster for Heads Up: he is proudly standing on top of the speakers.  Naturally there is a flamingo and a swan serving behind the bar, and the two punters – it usually picks up around ten – are both wearing face coverings.

I will be keeping all of my pieces from Bluebeany Art Club. the models, the film, the drawings and designs… in the forlorn hope that we get to display them in the real world: I don’t believe photograph, quite convey their individual lockdown charm. Yes, I really like them,  and yes I’m praising my own work… in seventeen years I’ve never reviewed myself. I will do a separate post with a slideshow of all the pieces, to keep them in one place together, and maybe a group shot too.  But now it is time to party…. Cheers Anna!

Monday Night @ CooVid Club

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Day Eighty-three: I cheered up today, I cleared up and cleaned up and made a chilli, read my book, looked out the window, saw it was windy, made a nest indoors and it was good.

I had an idea while washing up and scribbled a few ideas down, I don’t know if its a good idea but I think I can get behind it for a while. You know when you ht upon something because you keep going back to it and adding shape and form, moving parts around until it fits neatly into the shape, you’ve made inside your head.

I avoided the news again today, apart from the News Quiz, which doesn’t really count. I feel this blog series is coming to a natural end… leave them wanting more hey. Don’t hold out for the ill-advised bargain bin posts, as we try to stretch this stuff out before your very eyes. It is probably best if you start looking away now, this ain’t gonna get any better… are you still there. Here’s some images from the cutting room floor.

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Day Eighty-two: Anyone else feel like we are in limbo now, not quite in lockdown not quite out?

The majority of people are going about their everyday with some level of normalcy, some seeing friends and family, others going to work or school or preparing for something. I’m looking back at the last twelve weeks wondering whether I could have done more, should have done more. What more could I have done?

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17th Century allegorical painting: artist unknown

Sure I’ve got a lovely gallery of artwork to show for my troubles and a few thousand words of this… and a few sidelines where I’m still waiting for inspiration to strike. I did a poetry podcast with Yada Yada, I’ve contributed to two WoW online events and also the Writing in Crisis podcast too. I may have even managed to switch one of my biologicals for a substitute drug in tablet form. I’ve felt tired this week.

My tinnitus came back like a roaring sea yesterday so I double dropped my sleepers to knock myself out. I suspect that’s why today I’ve felt groggy, noncommittal, uninterested. If I go on the new drug I still have to be careful about infections. I’ll still have to do regular blood tests and all that, but at least I won’t have to feel at a loss, when I have to ask someone stick me. It might not weird them out, but it does me, the mind is both friend and foe.

In other news I’m annoyed with myself, despite measuring at least three times, I’ve gotten my width and drop mixed up, on my new blinds order. I’ve sent a message but it might be too late I got an email saying they’d gone into production. I’m going to end up with blinds too short for a very wide window that doesn’t exist. I’m cross I couldn’t get that right, it’s simple stuff and somehow I’ve screwed it up. It’s not the be all and end all, but you’d think I could measure a window right?

I could probably do with tidying up tomorrow making the place feel more loved, its amazing how surfaces just get filled with stuff. Okay plan of action, clear the services hoover through – I don’t know why I’m telling you it’s not like you can come in and admire it – wash up yet again, maybe do a candlelit unicorn bubble bath tomorrow night, find some inner peace.

You have to make the effort, when people say ‘take care’ they mean you have to make the effort to take care of yourself, because nobody is going to do it for you. Being on your own, sans relationship, can be masked by filling your life with lots of exciting things, a charade of a busy fulfilled existence. Regular updates online so that everyone says, ‘I see you’ve been busy with lots of stuff.’ Without all that stuff of smoke and mirrors, the mask slips and you might believe you are barely living. I said it on the phone the other day, so much of who I am is bound up in what I do… when I stop doing I cease to exist. I suspect it’s the meds talking or the mind being foe rather than friend.

Nosce te ipsum   

Day Eighty-one: Chickpeas are not the headline act, they might be tolerated lurking inside a curry masquerading as mince, but they are not main cast material. 

I intensely disliked pork and apricot as a child, this was strange fodder indeed for a six year old just out of a kid’s home. Mealtimes were often where battle lines were drawn, I ‘d be tied to the dining chair and told I’d have to eat it or it would be served me again for breakfast, dinner and supper until I had eaten every bit of it. This wasn’t just an idle threat. They did this my parents. I remember clearly being faced with cold leftover lunch, when everyone else was enjoying supper.

Now of course pork and apricot is delicious, rich creamy sauce with mushrooms and succulent pieces of piggy meat… ‘Get in my face,’ as my mate Cherrelle would say. I did not like fish either and this was somehow accepted without challenge, not liking fish was a recognised thing: Mum wasn’t massively keen on fish and maybe she knew that she could hardly force me to eat it if she would avoid it herself.

It wasn’t until being in a place in Hull that served fish and only fish every friday, that I grew to like it. Now I’m very partial to a nice bit of crispy battered cod or haddock. I haven’t had chippy for tea for months, Cave Street was my go to, but I can’t get used to the whole fish and chips in a cardboard box thing; I think it dries out quicker. I long for Bob Carvers in town by the old post office, hot chips with onion vinegar and a can of dandelion and burdock or Dr. Pepper: so good. I remember when I used to review music I’d slip in a food analogy now and then when I was hungry, describing guitar licks as like the perfect dippy egg or some such thing.

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In Zim I had cause to try lots of strange things, impala consommé, very tasty and my first introduction to a clear broth. At camp at Pony Club there was someone who had lychees as pack up. I’d never seen them before but I remember being intrigued by the hard little cases and trying the eyeball-like white fruit inside. You used to be able to get lychee ice cream in Herons years ago, but I think they discontinued it.

Lots of interesting fruits in Zim, things like guava and grenadilla, paw paw, passion fruit and my favourite to this day mango. I got into real trouble for throwing a paw paw that was ripening on the table, at an annoying sibling in Sudan. They managed to dodge the oncoming missile and it split open exploding against the wall. I got chapter and verse, rightly so, on not wasting food for that. We had a paw paw tree by the gate in Zim and bananas in the back garden, we’d regularly have water melon for breakfast or packed in the cool box for a refreshment on the road.

You had to be careful near the bananas because of the spiders, at certain times of the year the garden and some of the paths at the back of the estate, would be off limits because of the sheer density of spider webs. Some species would sling giant webs six eight feet across, but the large ones with the big webs were usually harmless. The one you had to watch for was the brown button spider, that one would really spoil your breakfast, in a rush me to Parirenyatwa General now now, sort of way:  ‘parirenyatwa’ Shona word for with suffering.

The hospital is named after Dr Tichafa Samuel Parirenyatwa, the first black doctor in Rhodesia. He rose to Vice President in the opposition party ZAPU but in 1962 aged thirty-four he was assassinated, beaten to death by political rivals. I was rushed to Parirenyatwa General, in the back of a pick up, after I was thrown from a horse, when I was nine or ten. I remember being given a ginger sweet to suck on, it tasted horrible but I was too much in shock to say anything. I was fine no broken bones, but I was black and blue for a bit.

What I was going to mention was another sweet treat that might surprise you. For 50 cents you could buy a six foot sugar cane from a chap stood at the side of the road. You would eat it all day, biting the outer casing and stripping it with your teeth, to reveal the soft, pulpy slightly yellowish goodness inside.

The idea was to bite a chunk, chew it and suck it, till it was just woody strands in your mouth then spit it out on the ground: it wouldn’t be there long, it would be snapped up by a rodent or swooped upon by birds for nesting material. I

t was the kind of thing you’d share with friends, breaking uneven sized pieces of the cane, making sure you had a few feet left for yourself. It was frowned upon at home of course, buying food off strangers probably wasn’t safe. He was hardly a stranger I saw him every day in the same spot, as I walked to school.

School song: zuva ndenderedzwa guru, riri mudenga denga

(the sun is a large circle in the sky) 

 

 

Day Eighty: Like so much of this lockdown experience highs follow lows, follow highs, follow lows.

The morning began at half eight with a call from the surgery informing that they should not have done my injection yesterday, and that they will be cancelling the four appts booked for the next month. They gave me a number to ring, which turned about to be the wrong number, that number gave me a number to ring which was also the wrong number. They in turn gave me the number for an answering machine… who will get back to me by next monday: just one day before my next injection is due.

To compound the problem when I enquired about my next delivery of the injections, the delivery company said that I didn’t have a prescription with them anymore. Once again I am left chasing the same two depts over the same issue we had two months ago.

I managed to rise above it, push the panic feeling to the pit of my stomach and move on to whatever the rest of the day had in store. Women of Words did their second online event the theme was ‘Taking it personally’ and Cass, Lynda, Lou and I recorded four very different responses and shared them online with our audience, who we are missing very dearly. And from the comments and reactions we know they are all missing our monthly meet up at the library.

Click Link for more: https://www.facebook.com/pg/womenofwordshull/videos/

In a multimedia filled post, I can finally reveal the special something I worked on with Dr. Barbara Grabher and Dr. Janine Hatter from the University of Hull. Thanks to Critical Fish for hosting and featuring the podcast on their site.

‘Dr. Barbara Grabher engaged in conversation with Hull-based artist Michelle Dee and literature scholar Dr Janine Hatter to learn how the practice of writing links with the experience of crisis.’

Click Link: https://thecriticalfish.co.uk/writing-in-crisis/

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After all, tomorrow is another day

Day Seventy-nine: For the past few days I’ve been having a little panic about getting my weekly injection. It was due Saturday but because my designated carer fell ill, and it wasn’t fair to fall on my back up, I had to try and get it done at the surgery. Continue reading

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Self Isolation Week Ten

Day Seventy: I suppose I ought to address the big talking point of the day, before it passes by and gets replaced by the next pin for the media to try and knock down. Continue reading

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Inmates

Young actors take lockdown to the extreme as Inmates the new online drama from Park Street Performing Arts Centre premieres Thursday April 30 at 7.30pm.     Continue reading

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