I’m leaving October with the rain pouring down outside and the threat of a further significant tightening of the lockdown against the pandemic apparently imminent. One can always expect the rain in the UK at this time of year but who would have predicted, this time last year for example, that life would be so constrained. I certainly hadn’t imagined that retired life would be so narrow and boundaried. I expected to be travelling, exploring and experiencing variety whereas, now, life has shrunk to very modest activities.
Of course, the little island of life that I have retreated to is very comfortable relative to many. Despite all that one reads and hears on the radio, it is hard to put oneself in the shoes of a young intern now without an internship, a single mother without an income, or someone like my Mum cooped up in a care home without visitors. It’s a tough period in which to be holding a poor hand of life cards in the UK and the deaths of those in the Channel this week hint at how much worse things are in some other parts of the world.
A few days ago we took Youngest Son (YS) up to Heathrow. (He had been over from Belfast to drop off a car and do a video job in London which was ultimately, disappointingly cancelled due to a Covid-19 infection at his client.) On the way back Long-Suffering Wife (LSW) and I listened to a radio programme hosted by Arlo Parks, a young British singer/songwriter, on the demise of live music during the pandemic. As I listened, I realised that it is probably watching live music that I miss most in this constricted pandemic life.
One of the points made in the programme was that live concerts are more than just opportunities to hear live music that one likes or might like. These concerts are short periods when pretty much everyone in the room come together for a common experience and somehow that lifts the listening to the music to a broader, collective emotional high.
This experience can be near perfect or fall flat; that is not always because of the quality of the music. I have listed all the gigs I have been to since mid-2007 (368) and rated them as I went.
My ratings have, of course, been determined mostly by the quality of the performer – and that is not just the quality of the music but also whether the artist looked like they were enjoying playing, their engagement and the banter between songs, and the overall atmosphere they created. But there are other factors contributing to the overall enjoyment and, therefore, the rating. These include the quality of the venue and the audience.
On that last point, I’m old-age and traditional. I hate being in an audience where the crowd are more interested in shouting over the music at each other than listening and getting into the show. I wonder why people go to a gig if all they want to do is chat to each other – just go to a bar instead why don’t you? I’ve learnt which venues, in east London at least, are best for listening to the music and experiencing the togetherness that Arlo Parks and her colleagues on that radio programme talked about. It’s that, and the anonymity of being in the crowd where everyone is focused on the stage, that I miss.
I’m missing visiting London, visiting exhibitions and live football too. I’m regretful that I can’t travel – it looks like our planned trip to Wales next month is doomed. But when one of my biggest worries is whether I will be able to get another haircut this year, I should quit moaning and appreciate the things I can do.
So, in that spirit, here are a couple of pictures from recent, lovely woodland walks!