Tuesday, March 24, 2020

Lockdown.

Last night the Prime Minister announced the UK was going into lockdown.

This was not unexpected, and I must confess I thought it would occur on the weekend - maybe Sunday. Once announced, it really hit home exactly how serious the pandemic has become.

Two weeks ago I couldn't have imagined the world as it is now. We seem to be living in a science fiction movie. Last night there were paramedics down the road. They had on the full suits and masks, and looked like those people in films who visit the alien that has been captured. It was a little unsettling.

Two weeks ago I was travelling to my office daily, working face-to-face with the team, meeting with academics and other staff, and generally learning a new role. I've recently commenced as a Digital Education Developer. Little did I know the team and our duties were about to become pivotal to the University. I was just starting to feel comfortable in my job, and then we were suddenly told to focus on migrating all programmes online. We did it. The team I joined have been superb, training staff, running workshops, creating resources and solving all the problems we encountered on the way. Well done.

A week ago we were told to work from home. I set up a desk, replicating the one at work as much as possible. It took a day or so to get into the swing of things, to remain focussed and get used to the work environs. I looted my office, taking home an extra monitor and the chair - both of which helped immensely. We have our online communications, meetings and laughs, but it's not the same as being physically in the same office.

But it's what we must do. This is how the world is for the foreseeable future. One walk a day, not too close to others, most shops closed. We follow the rules, and we adapt.

Last night we had drinks with our neighbours. We have a low gate between our back yards, and we sat at our own tables, with our own drinks and snacks, and chatted and laughed across the fence, all about 15 feet apart.  We plan to do it again tomorrow night. This time, however, we must prepare quiz questions for the other side.

People have several times reminded me that Shakespeare wrote Macbeth (or was it King Lear?) during the plague. What they forget is that was his job anyway, and he would have written regardless of a pandemic or not.  Of course, with people having more time in the evenings, and some people not being able to work from home, it is indeed a time, an opportunity if you like, to let your creative side run free. Paint something, write something, read more, watch films you would never normally consider. Oh, and be good to each other, at an appropriate distance, of course. These are trying times.

And don't forget to wash your hands.

Stay calm and carry on.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Ben's Country Music Show.


I've recently had the privilege of getting to know Ben Atkinson, host of Ben's Country Music Show, author, digital education developer, and all-round good guy.

Ben loves his music - mostly Country and Americana, and those are two areas in which our tastes have some overlap. While I mostly lean towards Americana, country rock and alt-country (Ryan Adams, Wilco, Son Volt, Golden Smog, Gram Parsons, Jayhawks), I do like some country, bluegrass and country swing.

Ben's radio show is now in its 12th year, and is syndicated across a bunch of radio stations as well as online. I've started listening to it, and am really enjoying it. Great music, news and interviews. Seriously, what's not to like?

Do yourselves a favour, (and Australian music fans will get that reference), go and check out Ben's programme.

Monday, March 2, 2020

Raining on Parades.

Why do some people insist on raining on other people's parade?  If something gives you joy, then I'm happy for you.

There are, of course, writers, musicians and film-makers I don't like. Even somewhere I question their talent. And, of course, there is always a matter of subjective and personal taste. I know someone who, if they don't like a musical artist, loudly declares how the music is complete shit - even if the person who is playing that music is standing right there.

All that can do is bring you down.

I recently saw a FaceBook post from someone who declared how much they enjoyed dancing around their house to Mariah Carey. Her music lifted their spirits and made them feel free and happy. Personally, I'm not a fan, but I was pleased this person had found pleasure in music.

A few years ago I was away for a writers weekend. Someone took it upon themselves to look at the playlist on my iPad, and inform me in no uncertain terms exactly how terrible my taste in music is.  Why did they feel the need to do that?

I occasionally see someone posting about movies or books I love and again informing me just how terrible they are. Once there was even the comment that if you liked that film, you have no understanding of film or comedy. So that person is the universal determiner of quality?

A couple of years ago I shared a post about how Oasis were on the verge of reforming. Someone immediately commented, "Who cares?"  Well, I do. That's why I posted it.

Each of these instances brought me down, just a little.

And this happens a lot in FaceBook groups. People are very quick to comment how much they hate something, think it's rubbish, or name call over tastes. It seems like we all have a need to feel superior over our refined tastes.

I have a good friend who told me he doesn't have any guilty pleasures. If he likes something, he'll just play it, watch it, read it, and doesn't care who knows. And I think that's great.

Enjoy your art, no matter who produced it. Me, I'm going back to listen to my Bay City Roller albums.