It’s Not Easy
With the snow falling here in London it was time to take stock and reflect on a difficult month in the middle of a challenging season.
I’m trying. Every day. But the words haven’t been flowing.
It isn’t writer’s block. I’m not short of ideas. I’m not scared of the words. I just, kind of, don’t care.
Last year was productive. I wrote 50 blogposts. That’s a lot for me. Enough to fill a book.
Then January messed with me. The grey English weather. The constant sound of ambulances. The ever-rising daily death tolls. And the looming anniversaries: a year since my last visit to a gallery, or cinema, or cafe. And a year since I went into isolation here in London.
I hear a lot of people talking as if we are getting close to the end of the pandemic. If anything, we’re getting close to the middle.
Here in the UK, people have been dying at the rate of a thousand a day for weeks now. The Super Bowl could become another super spreader event as people gathered in homes to watch the game in the US. And, while some countries are proceeding swiftly with vaccination programmes, many other countries haven’t started yet or don’t have adequate plans to vaccinate their people.
If we listen to the experts, the picture is pretty clear. We’ve still got a way to go. We haven’t started the end of this. We’re in Act 3 of a five-act play.
Lots of people have noticed odd effects of living though this pandemic. Weird dreams or trouble sleeping are some of them. For me, there was a very strange side effect: nostalgia.
The idea entered my head to buy a new guitar. When I moved to London, most of my studio gear went into storage. Including almost all my guitars. I kept my most versatile guitar with me. But it wasn’t right for the musical ideas I was having, and it’s been so long since I bought a guitar anyway. So I started looking online.
There’s a renaissance in the kind of guitars I grew up playing. Bright colour schemes, heavy customizations, even fake aging to make them look like they’ve been played onstage for 30 years. I fell into this pit of nostalgia, tempted by the familiarity of these instruments, and I almost bought one. It just felt comforting.
This looking backwards, though, isn’t me. It runs counter to my natural energy. The thing is back when I was young, playing those kinds of guitars, modifying and customizing them, I wasn’t looking backwards. I was looking forwards. Being future-oriented gave me creative energy back then and ever since.
But throughout this pandemic, it’s felt hard to see the future. Every day my devices remind me of cool things I did on this day in years past. But I’m struggling to create new memories. Nothing makes a photo I take this week feel different to one from last week or last month, or six months ago.
People talk about returning to normal soon. It just makes me angry. The old normal wasn’t that great. It was full of racism and division, misogyny and prejudice, economic injustice and a looming ecological disaster. Going back to that normal feels like a waste of everything we’ve gone through, the suffering and doubt, the questioning and rethinking.
To write this, I’ve retreated to the shed at the end of our small yard. It’s the place that became my wife’s work-from-home office. Now, on a Saturday night, I’m holed up here, listening to the rain on the tin roof as I write these words. I want to focus on the sound of each drop. Like grains of rice poured out on a kitchen counter. But there’s a noise in my head. Like static. And then another sound, a passing ambulance. As that fades into the distance the rain starts to soften into snow.