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The Quarantine Diaries


So I got up early as we had a planned Tinseltown gig at The Clock Tower. These are little pop-up gigs that the Arts Team host, running up to Christmas, and good fun to work on. Because of the heavy storm yesterday we were a little worried that we may have to cancel but decided to make a decision in the morning. Anyway, the weather wasn’t looking too bad this morning which was a relief. I had gone to bed pretty early the night before as yesterday I felt kind of exhausted and a bit achy all day. I had put this down to the fact that I’d been working out in the cold and wet running events two days running at the weekend and didn’t think much more of it.

So there I am drinking my ritualistic morning coffee and grapefruit juice and I realise that I’m still feeling exhausted and achy – weird. So, in that moment it just felt like I should probably take a lateral flow test just to be on the safe side. I genuinely expected it to be negative on account of being double jabbed and not really having been anywhere crowded in the last few days – oops! The second line wasn’t that bold but there was no denying it was there – positive!

There’s obviously never a good time to get Covid but to say the least, this was not ideal. Along with my work events, we had a Paris trip booked as a little anniversary treat this weekend which would have been our first trip outside the UK since before the plague hit – doh! On top of that I had a recording session with my Skull Puppets compadres booked for this evening which would have to be postponed and a Los Chicos Muertos gig over in Hertford with our old friends Los Ladrones de Amor next Thursday which would now not be possible. I set about messaging everyone to let them know that I was sadly now out of action.

Justine – having taken a test and got a negative – sprung in to action, setting up our daughter’s bedroom (unoccupied since she moved out earlier this year) as my isolation home for the next 10 days and within an hour I was here, watching the squirrel bob across our neighbour’s shed roof and wondering how many days it would take until cabin fever really sets in. There’s a screen here in the room which Emelia mostly used for gaming, but it does also have Youtube and Netflix so that’s definitely a bonus. Much of the day has been spent following the ‘party at No. 10 during Christmas lockdown 2020’ story which was followed unbelievably by a 6pm press conference in which Boris announced tighter covid regulations for Christmas 2021 – you couldn’t make this stuff up!

So what to do with my first evening in quarantine to inspire and entertain. Well it’s almost like God knew that I would need cheering up around now when he created Tiger King Season 2 – praise the lord! So three episodes down I am sitting here typing this first diary entry with a Lemsip & Jack Daniels – nice. Justine popped to the shop earlier to get some essential supplies – tomato soup, beans with veggie sausages, red wine… I might go for a small glass right about now…and so it begins.


It feels more like covid today. I didn’t set an alarm, and slept well, but woke up with a fierce sore throat and a fuzzy head-cold kind of thing. The sore throat has dissolved a bit throughout the morning, but the fuzzy head continues. It makes everything a bit of a struggle – just reading and responding to a work email is quite a challenge. Sky news is back on and I get the feeling Boris would quite welcome a 10 day quarantine right now what with the Christmas Party debacle, the new regulation announcements, the accusations around accepting illegal funds for doing up his flat and becoming a new dad…again! I’m hoping I can get more creative as the days pass – like Oscar Wilde in Reading Gaol – there must surely be a song or a poem to emerge from this. The weather outside is calmer than previous days and the pigeons seem happy, buzzing around the Birch. Although it’s not pleasant, I have a real sense that my symptoms are relatively light due to having the double jab – blessings must be counted in these moments.

I’m not really a bath guy and showers have been my choice for some decades, but this afternoon I sat and soaked in a hot Badedas bath and it did feel pretty good – especially as my muscles ache so much. I’m not fully sold but it was a nice moment to reconnect with the tub.

Some much-needed distraction was provided by the excellent Paste Magazine as I worked my way through their Top 50 Songs of 2021 list. Some great stuff on there but the highlight has to be discovering Emunclaw – a cool slacker grungy outfit from the States – will definitely be ordering a copy of their Jimbo Demos album!

It’s now 10.17pm and I have completed Tiger King Season Two with eight more evenings in lockdown to go – I’m gonna need a Plan B!


So Plan B ended up being Narcos – a cool crime docudrama based around the Pablo Escobar years – two episodes in and a good distraction.

Still feeling pretty rough – it’s like a real slow burning thing, but now more at the sore throat and cough stage so hoping that shows evolvement towards a day when I pass over the peak and start coming down the other side.

Although it’s obviously chilly outside, it’s a bright day with plenty of blue sky – would be a nice day to go for a walk with my camera somewhere – starting to miss the simplest of things.

Some great crows swooping around out there – reminds me of when a murder of crows followed the Jailbirds tour van (The Strummerville van) as we drove north from Switzerland back in to Germany – if I believed in that kind of thing then I think the crow would be my spirit creature. Have you noticed that sometimes on the weather forecast when they say ‘expect a patchy frost tomorrow’ it sounds like ‘expect Apache frost tomorrow’. If I’d been born Apache I would have been called Maudlin Crow! Hold the front page – two magpies – joy to come.

I must be losing the plot – I just listened to the Basil Brush Christmas Single all the way to the end. Whilst the artistic merits are questionable, he does manage to rhyme an impressive amount of ’79 era band in 3 minutes!

Pizza, more Narcos, but now I have Christmas Elmo to keep me company!


So today is our Anniversary – 24 years. We’ve had all sorts of anniversaries, in all sorts of places but this is the first one isolating from each other at home – strange days. It’s difficult not to be a little melancholy over the fact that we are not in Paris right now, but as Justine pointed out, it probably would have been worse to discover a positive test whilst away. Infections do seem to be quite rampant right now – 3 friends have also gone down this week (two who were at the same gig as me last Friday).

No drastic change – still just feeling rough and a but fluey. It’s a grey day out there (I have a song about that) but there’s some bluetits in town who are quite cheery.

We have spent so many happy adventures in Paris, it’s a part of our story. Last time we were there was a winter trip, and we had a great time scooting round the city in the snow. Walking past Notre Dame, I mentioned that it was probably the shortest que I’d seen for a roof top visit in many years (being as it was very cold and a bit windy). It’s one of those things that Justine had never got round to doing, and I hadn’t been up since I was quite young, so following a little arm twisting I persuaded her that we should seize the moment and go for it. Despite the cold it was a beautifully clear day, and we loved our wander round the ramparts with the gargoyles and the bells. Months later we would sit watching the TV in disbelief as that rooftop burned. I’m so glad in retrospect that I managed to persuade Justine to experience that ancient magical wonderland in that moment.

Justine has picked me up a selection of magazines and I feel up to reading a bit which is maybe a good sign. First delve into the newly launched Rolling Stone UK Edition – pretty good, maintaining a nice balance of perspectives on music, culture and politics – sweet.

One of the pluses of the last couple of years is the increase in live streamed gigs – doubly useful when you are not allowed to leave the house, So as I ate my tomato soup followed by strawberry yoghurt, I watched The Astronauts performing a fine set at the lovely Biddle Bros. I still find this kind of thing sort of amazing – like I’ve stepped into a scene from a ‘70’s sci-fi movie. It’s also weirdly voyeuristic – as the band are obviously unaware (in the moment) that you are watching them – we are now all Big Brother.


Today I woke up with Billy Bragg’s ‘Sexuality’ running round in my head. No idea where that came from, though I had been reading a post from him a few days ago about how he’d changed the words recently to make them trans-inclusive. I thought it was a bold and thoughtful action – it’s good sometimes to challenge our old selves and think about whether the world has turned beneath our long-held views and regular opinions. Above all to listen and absorb – to new and younger voices than our own – to empathise and support.

Two squirrels gingerly making their way along the fence towards the house – I wonder if I should put some nuts outside the window – The Squirrel Man of Alcatraz!

It’s sobering to acknowledge that we have become the ‘Mamas and Papas’ of Bowie’s Oh You Pretty Things and the Mothers and Fathers that Dylan sang of;

Come mothers and fathers

Throughout the land

And don't criticize

What you can't understand

Your sons and your daughters

Are beyond your command

Your old road is rapidly agin'

Please get out of the new one

If you can't lend your hand

For the times they are a-changin'

However, we have been there and have that advantage on our parent’s generation that we understand and appreciate more the importance of youthful rebellion and new challenging perspectives. This Third Age into which we step is unlike any previous one and for that we are fortunate. I don’t think there has ever been a time of such positive inter-generational discourse and rebellious action and I feel blessed for that.

There are occasional lines in songs that you just think ‘man I wish I’d written that’. Billy has produced a number of those over the years, but perhaps none more so than ‘I had an uncle who once played for Red Star Belgrade!’

I feel like maybe I’ve turned a slight corner today. Still pretty achy but perhaps a little less fuzzy headed and exhausted – more regular fluey – fingers crossed.

Things seem to be getting serious with the Omicron variant – Boris addressed the nation and the booster drive is on!


My symptoms are getting more regular now which I’m hoping is a good sign – more of a cough and a bit phlegmy. I was just chatting with a friend on-line and they now think they probably had covid for a couple of weeks but didn’t realise as the symptoms were so different. It’s probably something worth sharing as I suspect a lot of folks would think the same. I took a Lateral Flow Test almost as an afterthought as I really didn’t think my symptoms seemed like covid – and so put it down to having been working outside on events in the cold and wet. My early symptoms were just feeling wiped out – very achy and fuzzy headed and zero energy, so if you are suffering with those symptoms, do take a test!

It’s a grey Monday out there and even the birds and squirrels seem to be staying in – at least I have Christmas Elmo!

I’m watching videos online of friend’s gigs from the last few days and I have to admit I find them quite worrying. Whilst it’s always good to see folks enjoying a gig and having a dance, I’m seeing very little mask wearing and social distancing. I honestly don’t think folks are realising quite how rampant the spread of covid is right now. I think the latest count is that about 9 people I know (including me) are in quarantine and most of them are either musicians or gig-goers. Not good.

I don’t have much of an appetite today.


We have fellas in fixing a new stair carpet so a fair amount of hammering outside the door whilst two doors down we have builders installing new fencing – I quite like the bustle and noise. This morning I stepped out for a little stroll round the garden – deep breaths of fresh air – felt good! I still feel pretty fluey and my cough persists but maybe, just maybe I’ve turned a corner – I do hope so.

Mark (Astronaut) rang this evening, it was good to hear from him. He told me of another two musician friends who have gone down with the plague – seems like gigs are pretty dangerous places right now.


Woke up with Adam & The Ants ‘Kings of the Wild Frontier’ in my head – weird, but not a bad tune to start the day. Also had a nagging ache behind my right eye. Apart from that, the full-blown cold continues to develop – horrible cough and quite phlegmy. Although my quarantine is due to finish in a few days time, I’m starting to worry that I might still be quite unwell by the weekend. I’m supposed to be helping to run a gig on Saturday and then playing Sunday – fingers well and truly crossed.

Robin splashing around in the bird bath – cat completely uninterested. Three squirrels chasing each other around in the trees off to the rear of the garden. Considering it’s mid-December the overall view from the window is surprisingly green.

This afternoon Martyn (booker at Aces & Eights) messaged and we chatted about whether we should proceed with Sunday’s gig or not. It was a tough call to make, to allow omicron to take away our final gig of the year. Then the numbers started coming up on the news – highest since the start of the pandemic – and the forecast as it set to double every 2 days. News of yet more musician friends entering quarantine, and in the end there seemed little choice. However much I would have loved to get together with such a great line-up of acts for a celebratory blow out, to risk folks ending up sick and quarantined over Christmas wasn’t really an option, so with a heavy heart I cancelled. Truth be told I don’t really know if I’d have been 100% covid free in time. Hey Ho – such is life.


Sat outside the back door with the cat for about 10 minutes feeling almost normal – feels like I’m getting there. From what I can work out I basically need to check my temperature tomorrow and if that is normal then I should be OK to leave isolation. A cough and loss of taste/smell can apparently linger for some weeks, and that’s obviously a bit problematic as no-one wants to be coughed over by a recent covid-case, so I think that will limit my activities whatever the temperature situation is.

More folks I know heading into quarantine, anyone who succumbs now is gonna be quarantining over Christmas and that ain’t good. Tonight I should have been playing over in Hertford and I feel sad that we won’t be partying with our Los Ladrones compadres – hope it’s a swingin’ evening for those attending.

I honestly find it hard to get my head round the Putin-posturing-for-war-on-the-Ukraine-border situation – it’s seriously beyond me. How are we still in that kind of head space in 2021? I realise it’s a serious scenario but we all need to find leadership that can move us beyond playground bullying and petty power-mongering – it’s embarrassing.


So here we are – final day of quarantine, hopefully! I think I somewhat naively anticipated that Day 10 would also coincide with me feeling fine and ready to bounce out into the world, this has sadly proved incorrect. I’ll be taking my temperature later and if it’s normal today and then again tomorrow morning then I will feel reasonably secure that I am no longer infectious, but I’m still quite poorly, so won’t be leaping out into the world with anything other than slow and cautious steps.

I still have the persistent cough and cold symptoms, dosing up on Lemsip and very low on energy, which is obviously not unusual at this time of year. The major difference, I suppose, is that I am aware of how worrying it would be to others if I was to walk around the supermarket or sit in a coffee shop, coughing and sneezing with some regularity.

It’s another grey day and I think the temperature has dropped a notch or two. I’d love to be able to help out at the final Tinseltown gig of the season tomorrow, hosted by my old friend Bill from The Blue Angel Acoustic Café, but it’s sadly just too soon.

Quarantine is not the worst thing in the world and as with lockdowns and isolation, one falls into a routine of coping and remaining sane. It does though, interfere with who we are and what we do, subtly changing our identity for a period of time, and the more we are forced into that situation the more potential there is for mental health disturbance.

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