Ooookay people… I soooo want to be a positive voice in the wake of the COVID 19 pandemic which, for someone with a glass half full attitude to life and a big mouth shouldn’t be too much of a problem… so why am I struggling to find my voice?
It’s not as though I haven’t tried to find my place in our changed environment. At one point I imagined that I might become the silver surfers equivalent of Joe Wicks, he, of Youtube fame who inspired a generation of lockdown kids to get fit and healthy during it. Then of course reality set in and I was forced to return my order of scaffolding strength lycra and face facts.
Apart from the fact that these days ( an unwelcome development related to turning 60 years old) I could probably give Joe a run for his money in the facial hair stakes, there endeth any other areas of commonality. Joe is young, energetic, ambitious and passionate all admirable qualities no longer applicable to me in the same level of abundance. These days my armchair is usually flanked by a decent Chablis on one side and a box of soft-centred chocolates on the other (also for age-related reasons) and whilst lifting either of these does make minimal use of a bingo wing or two… exercise? Probably not.
Stand up Colonel Tom Moore an amazing man who at 100 years old walked around his garden on his walking frame and in doing so secured a colossal donation towards NHS charities. My admiration for his achievements know no bounds but also served to highlight a sense of unease at my own lack of motivation to do something.
I can say with some degree of confidence that I am an above-average cook so decided that this might be a more realistic area in which I could use my COVID hours to make a useful contribution to the culinary world. Convinced that I could make skinny people fat, after all, I was living proof, I set about devising exciting new recipe’s to showcase on Youtube. In the process of researching my competition, I discovered a whole array of food which time-lapse photography would have you believe was made in minutes and not the hours it would have taken. Then there were the dishes themselves which were either pink and foaming or performing other tricks worthy of inclusion in a circus. Reluctantly I pushed my Toad back into its hole and called time on yet another idea I was ill-equipped to compete with. After a couple more half baked attempts at finding ways to contribute I decided to look deeper into my apparent ‘need’ to do so and was shocked by the conclusions.
I suppose like many of us at the start of the pandemic and subsequent lockdown I adopted a kind of gung-ho attitude… but with a fully stocked kitchen and a plentiful supply of alcohol, the whole ‘staying at home’ to save lives message was not one I found massively inconvenient at first, though I fully accepted that I was much more fortunate than some.
Once the usual structure of my every day was dismantled a large part of my new routine involved scrolling through Facebook and listening to Sky news. I was staggered by the number of people who claimed a suddenly acquired depth of knowledge about the virus not commensurate with their full-time jobs at Amazon. Equally those anonymous posts from would be ‘whistleblowers’ inside the NHS reminded me more of a song whose lyrics include ‘All I want for Christmas is my two front teeth’.
I am not someone who regards themselves as ‘gullible’ and am more than capable of questioning hidden agenda’s. Was it even possible, therefore, that my behaviours during the early days of lockdown were as a direct result of media manipulation? Did the subliminal and not so covert messages I subjected myself to, succeed in evoking in me a sense that we needed to fight the battles of COVID 19 not this time in the trenches but at least on Youtube? The news featuring images of VE day celebrations showing socially distanced tea drinking from pretty China cups all helped to cultivate a Churchillian atmosphere. What wasn’t so readily recorded was the later appearance of copious bottles of panic bought alcohol which made our modest cul-de-sac look like a branch of Costco but of course no one considered themselves guilty of such selfish behaviour. The resultant effect was much neighbourly street smooching to the strains of Glen Miller’s ‘string of pearls’ and gave COVID one of the best nights out it had had by this point in the pandemic.
I am one of nature’s optimists. This disposition has been challenged more than once in my life but I remain grateful on a daily basis for my tendency towards this dependable state. It is with some shock, therefore, that whilst I was wearing out the fingerprint on my Facebook scrolling finger and, listening to Kay Burley at the same time, that I discovered that it was now highly likely had I had acquired mental health issues as a direct result of the lockdown.
Whilst I fully accept and sympathise with those for whom lockdown has exacerbated underlying and pre-existing conditions or indeed caused the onset of mental health issues, I did not consider it to be so in my case. The confinement inflicted on me courtesy of the virus has definitely pissed me off but has probably left me in need of the services of a hepatologist rather than a therapist.
To the best of my knowledge, I am not a racist. The death of George Floyd and the event which lead to it is not something any decent human being should condone regardless of race or background. I repeat I am not a racist, but my television tells me I could be wrong about that too in that I may be harbouring a form of unconscious bias. Thanks to my increased media consumption as a result of this pandemic I have been forced to re-think everything I thought I knew and could trust about myself.
Having done so I have concluded that perhaps I am more susceptible to a good rallying cry than I might previously have admitted and that my responses to those calls to arms can be quite loosely interpreted even if they are largely well-intended.
Youtube does have its uses but perhaps is waiting for me to find a spark of originality before welcoming me into its community. Actually, I do have an existing channel independent of gownsgroup.co.uk ( for grieving overwhelmed widows negotiating stuff) but thanks to my lack of technical nouse even I can’t find it.
I have today written a letter to those champions of mental health matters Prince Harry and Meghan Markle to wish them well with their mission to highlight the importance of this issue. I also wanted to assure them that as someone who has graduated through the school of hard knocks that I am still ‘surviving and thriving.’ A phrase I included to show Meghan in particular that I heard her pain. I did ask them to provide balance to their message by saying that it is also ok… to actually be ok… and NOT in a state of perpetual angst. I really hope that this young family privileged by wealth and opportunity are going to be ok too. Especially out there on that planned public speaking tour, rehashing all that emotional turmoil over and over again in exchange for money might be ok for your bank balance guys…but do take care of each other’s mental health, please. I do know that I am a flawed human being…but I will never accept labels that don’t apply to me no matter how much the media attempt to manipulate my ability to think for myself.
Got to head off now. time for my lesson. Nope, I haven’t taken up flying lessons in order to impress Youtube but MY pupil is flying nonetheless. I have been teaching my stepson who has special needs and is dyslexic to read during the lockdown. His progress is nothing short of amazing, and the joy of watching him pick up a book he can now access and understand… perversely has no words to describe it. What it does mean though is that he is acquiring the skills he needs to sort out the shit from the Shinola in a world which seems to require you more and more to align yourself with one particular viewpoint. As I looked at the smile beaming up at me from a book which at one time would have been nothing more than a source of frustration and fear I realised that I have been making my contribution without the wisdom to see what was right in front of me all along. Stay safe everyone…and above all stay true to yourselves.
Just prior to publication of this article I learned that Colonel Tom Moore has been knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in person in an outdoor investiture at Windsor Castle. My respect, admiration and gratitude of your positive contribution are yours, arise Sir Tom and thank you.