How are we all feeling? My guess is that for many this pathway back to normality may be feeling just a little bumpy and not altogether predictable.
I thought it might be worth sharing, in case anyone was thinking they might be alone in this quandry. Part of me is genuinly pleased at the prospect of seeing old friends and musical cohorts, eating, drinking and performing in opened establishments and actually traveling beyond the county line. We have dipped our toes in the water over the last week or so and it did feel good but still there is a certain sense or trepidation and unease - like going for a paddle in Loch Ness.
Our first post lockdown social engagement was attending the opening of the wonderful Collective Art gallery in it's new permanent home on Holywell Hill here in St Albans. It was honestly lovely to be checking out new art and chatting with folks over a glass of wine but I'll also admit to having felt just a little nervous beforehand at the idea of engaging and comunicating with humans from beyond my bubble - how does that work again? Of course it was fine but those nervous pangs were real. On the way home we decided to stop for a drink in a pub garden. Being a wednesday and uncommonly cold for the season we thought there would be no problem finding a spot but we underestimated the resilience and alcoholic enthusiasm of the great British public somewhat and found no room at the inn on our first attempt. On our second try we managed to catch a table that was about to become available and after a short wait found ourselves seated on a bitterly cold April evening drinking some admirably fine wine in the garden of The Great Northern. Envy at those who had planned ahead and bagged one of the three fire-pit tables set in instantly and it was a further hour before we were able to leap on to one of those!
Last week I headed to The Mermaid for an evening of meeting up with friends planning a live music event at the venue as part of St Albans SustFest, in aid of Greenpeace. Again of course all was fine and it was an enjoyable soiree - especially after the first pint of Stowford Press - but those nagging nerves set me at unease for much of the day prior.
These feelings are of course to some extent just a case of being out of practice, like returning to the pool or a bicycle after a lengthy absence, but I think there's more to it than that. It's the isolation, a certain sense of abandonment and let-down from areas of government and employers. It's the constant death tolls and news reports and rugs being pulled. It's the realisation that the new normal our world leaders are aspiring to looks scarily similar to that old normal which really wasn't all that great. It's watching folks dive head first in to pools of politicised misinformation and conspiracy. It's the erosion of trust in government policy and action (they all speak eloquently of their Green New Deals yet consistently fail to act). It's the infuriating lack of support for arts and sports when our communal mental health is at it's lowest. If you have battled in the past with panic attacks and depression there's no wonder that one would feel exposed and at risk right now and I'm guessing there are a fair few that are starting to experience that state for the first time.
Solace - Glass Wings; A Reflective Instalation, St Albans Cathedral
At the risk of depressing you even further I honestly think that the level of optimism we are being sold is somewhat premature. The results of the great vaccination vs new variants equation are far from clear and in fact there are some quite worrying early results in. While we are all looking on in horror at India and Brazil, no-one seems to have noticed this alarming news out of Chile. In short, it may be a little early to be discarding masks, hugging strangers and taking a laissez faire attitude to hand hygene.
I do hold a hope though (honestly!) in the healing nature of colaborative creativity and in the global grounswell of protest and activism demanding a braver, safer and more equitable new world. Just let me ease back in to this at my own pace and let others do the same!
Blossom in Clarence Park
I'll leave you for now with a new poem which perhaps speaks a little to that hope;
It’s fine really
I know from whence it came
Like a scar from a skateboard tumble
That weird BCG mark on your arm
A chipped tooth
From a moment of over-exuberance
With a wayward microphone
The burn hole in your Ramones Tee
The wine stain on the sofa
The laughter lines and licence points
The dent in your rear bumper
Your secret file at MI5
The fact that you are still alive
Despite the drunken tightrope walk
On the railway bridge at midnight
The tears you never talked about
On a misty winter common
Driving back from Watford General
They’re gone but not forgotten
The fish graves in the garden
Where you spent your childhood days
The graffiti at the service station
The blood stains on the stage
The empty bottle on the lawn
The bruising on your wrist
Those walks amongst the gravestones
And the meetings that you missed
Your allergy to hospitals
Your penchant for the blues
Your loyalty to crazy friends
With questionable views
These things have explanation
There’s reason and there’s rhyme
And though I rarely speak of them
They speak to me sometimes
It’s fine really
I know from whence it came
I’ll share with you before I leave
Perhaps another day
Do please feel free to comment and let me know how you are coping.
Take care, stay safe, stay creative!