Updated: Mar 25, 2021
So a year ago, furloughed and locked down, I took to walking out each day, often in our local parks and green spaces. Sometimes I'd take a football and kick it along in front of me as I wandered. Now down at Clarence Park and Fleetville Park they have solo basketball hoops, and if they were free I might stop and launch the football towards the hoop a few times - it felt good. I hadn't previously attempted this since the age of 15 when a few of us would occasionally meet in the school gym to mess around with a basketball (something we never actually did in our sports lessons which were mostly rugby, running or swimming - none of which I particularly enjoyed). I found these little moments quite meditative and reminiscent of teenage mornings watching The Harlem Globetrotters on the TV. It was probably May when I actually got myself a proper basketball - a classic Slazenger - a thing of genuine tactile beauty. Often the hoops are busy and I have to content myself with a little dribbling in the car park or revert to kicking that football, but when the hoop is free I'll take that opportunity to unleash my inner Meadowlark Lemon. I don't claim to be particularly good you understand - but it's my thing and I can whistle Sweet Georgia Brown.
My guess is that pretty much everyone (whether they know it or not) has found their own ways of coping in this last year - little sanity preserving habits. We have changed and discovered and contemplated and amidst all this there will be positives that we will continue and take forward.
It was towards the end of April 2020 that I wrote The New Normal. It was already a phrase that had entered in to everyday language though often with negative or troubled connotations. Performing the poem for various online events I discovered that it held resonance with others - so many wondering what this New Normal might look like. I wrote the poem with a genuine sense of optimism as I could see real possibility for positive change emerging from these strange groundhog days. As the roadmap moves on and folks start to catch a glimpse of the brave new world, the question of what will emerge has gathered more weight. The poem has appeared twice in this last month, in the sweet Renewal & Resilience exhibition organised by The Wayland Dragonfly Gallery and also in the pages of the wonderful Rebel Zine #1 - a collection of XR art, musing and poetry. That New Normal lies in our collective hands and is at present quite fluid and ever-changing.
I'm not sure 2021 has started too well if there are signs to be read. We have lost friends to covid whose voices and beauty have been cruelly deleted. I worry for friends and acquaintances that have found solace in the cult corners of the the dark web, espousing firmly held beliefs in conspiracy and the re-emergence of the New World Order - will they ever find their way back from those rabbit holes? Whilst there is positivity in the waves of protest we have seen demanding a fairer and more equitable planet over that last year, we have seen a worrying response from old guard politicians around the globe seeking to clampdown and remove that very right to protest. If it weren't so serious one could be inclined to giggle at the school ma'am dictates of criminalising any form or 'annoyance' or 'public disruption' caused by protest - I wonder what Emmeline Pankhurst, Martin Luther King or Nelson Mandela would have thought? The irony of course is that the only sensible response to such draconian legislation is to take to the streets with clear and justifiable intent to annoy!
Still I maintain a relative sense of optimism and hope that as a planet we can take the positives and move forward towards a world that might be at least be a little kinder and more sustainable than the one we left behind just over a year ago. Are you with me?
The New Normal can be found in The Sound of Revolution and if you need me I'll be down the park shooting some hoops!