Day something or other: Dance!!

Oh my days. I did not realise that I have not danced for more than a year! We just had a staff zoom meeting, which was really positive. Because my love is fast asleep after his night shift, I have taken my meeting as quietly as possible in the living room, with headphones on. After the meeting, since it was so happy and productive, I found I was smiling. To keep that positive feeling while tackling the many tasks discussed, I thought I’d put a happy tune on to accompany my work.

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Day 13: Kindness

How lovely this one is. I thought I would have no trouble coming up with a range of acts of kindness but now that we are in proper lockdown again I’m suddenly limited. I can’t go and help out at voluntary events, I have so few people I interact with as I work from home. I have cooked some special meals for my lovely man – but is it kindness if it’s for someone you love?

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Meeting anxiety

10am. So that huge project I was working on last week is on the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

I woke up with the usual Monday meeting knot in my stomach. This is a different type of fear. Although maybe its all related. This one is the familiar meeting anxiety which, before I try to push away with work and distractions, I will dissect to see what it’s actually made of. There is the general social anxiety of a meeting full of people, but tangled up in it is the following:

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Day Seven: Connection

Yes, I’m even further behind now in my daily plan. After Friday’s adrenaline drenched adventures, I was wiped out all weekend. I forget that after my body has experienced an 8 or 9 level panic attack, there is a moment of incredible bliss where I slide right down to a 5, and I am massively grateful for steady breathing and not trembling, but it’s still not perfect. What follows is usually a couple of days of exhaustion and lethargy in level 5, in which I still can’t eat properly – which adds to the weakness – and I am mostly curled up on the sofa under two blankets. No motivation, no focus, and no fun to be around at all. The fortunate timing meant that I had a whole weekend to soak up my somnolence, and didn’t need to snap out of it until Monday morning. Clever timing there, little panic-maker, it’s almost as if you know my schedule! So, while I thought I’d have the energy and enthusiasm for a deep dive into the mysterious motivations of my inner child, I realised that’s a subject which requires a strength I haven’t quite got yet, and will be addressed in a few days when I reach day 13.

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3.09am

This week, instead of lying in bed listening and worrying and feeling outraged by the drunken noise of a pub kicking out at 2am, I have chosen to settle in for an hour on the sofa, to observe. There is an initial scuffle or two, mostly around a misunderstanding of who Milly was going out with, but nothing too violent, and then the crowd flows and ebbs around the market place, gravitating towards its various needs. Kebabs, taxis, each other. At 2.05 the loudest shouts are a variety of ‘fuck you then,’ or ‘fucking twat!’ but once the most disgruntled members have been encouraged away from the crowd, the noise becomes more friendly. Did you find your phone? How are you getting home? Have you got a rizla? I’ll wait here. Who’s phone is this then? Did you have a good night? It’s on 3% mate. Some kerfuffle and two police vehicles congregate by the bus stop, a Wiltshire Council man wearily pulls up his truck, empties the bin, replaces the liner and moves on to the next. Seagulls are gathering around the discarded kebab boxes. One girl has some very important but inaudable things to shout about her hair, and another runs across the road to leap into the arms of a boy. Among the sound of happy chatter and laughter are the intermittent clipping of heels and slamming of car doors. Couples form and wander around together, apart, together again. Groups of boys gather, hugging and laughing in their T-shirts and jeans, and girls with long pale legs and swishy hair walk around intently. A taxi is trying to pull away from a boy who runs alongside holding on to the door – I’ll give you fifty quid mate, I’ll give you a hundred quid! until he lets go and the taxi drives away to his friends laughter. Their names float on the air – Jessie, Freya, Ellie, Callum, and instead of drunken yobs, tonight I see my friends’ children. My niece and nephew, myself 20 years ago. These teenagers are excited about life, they are fearless, powerful and unswayed, oblivious to the concerns of a pandemic that have kept a lot of us locked up for months. Their need to connect is greater than their need for safety. Or warmth. They have looked forward to tonight, phoned each other, planned their outfits, assured their parents they’d stick together. They fizz with the energy and excitement about each other that I remember having, they are urgent and alive. Their need to connect is far stronger than my need to sleep right now, and I almost respect them for it.

‘I’d do anything to belong, to be strong, to say there’s nothing wrong’

It was 1999, I was 21, I was wearing some sort of embroidered hat, ripped jeans and muddy trainers as I stood in a crowd of several thousand people on a warm June night at Glastonbury. My brother and his friends had some other camp-fire based priorities so I was on my own for the headline act, Skunk Anansie. Being from a very religious family, I had been discouraged from listening to ‘satanic’ music, and my musical expression had mostly been singing along quietly to REM on my disc-man, or belting out the far more acceptable holy songs at Sunday Service.

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2.39 am

I suppose I should just accept it, enjoy it even. Set my alarm for 2am, make a cup of tea and settle down for the inevitable hour of drama after the pub kicks out. As the sun set over another warm July evening earlier, I looked at the people setting out for the evening and knew it would be a loud one.

The initial fear and apprehension as crowds gather, swaying and swearing, turns to fascination at the dynamics of a drunk crowd. A fight is taking place a little away from the crowd, people watch and laugh. The doorman moves towards them and one eventually walks off, shouting back his defensive ‘yeah fuck you!’ the whole time. Someone is carrying a woman on his shoulders. The others look on amused, as he walks off, and places her down on the pavement so they can walk together. Couples under the tree and more interested in each other and some dancing and giggling is taking place. I try to image their excitement, their euphoria to finally be out, their need to shout to each other, to the whole of Melksham, I’m alive! And their inability to consider the few dozen of us that would prefer to be alseep a few metres away from them.

By 2.30 most of the immediate crowd has gone, I watch them disperse, very slowly, and other little groups form further down the street. The daytime features of beautiful hanging baskets and flags of civic pride adorn the brightly lit street, punctuating the spaces where groups of people now stagger, shouting, laughing, swearing, screeching. It’s another 20 minutes until I can try to sleep again, with just the last few shrieks of ‘fuck you! You’re nasty!’ drifting up through the window.

Togetherathome

My partner has a friend from school who is a musician in Cornwall. Since March, and since he is a musician, Helm De Vegas has been doing live stream shows from his piano at home, three nights a week, and we have been tuning in at 7pm every time. His incredible skill on the piano, his fabulous singing voice and his quick-witted hilarious interaction with his online crowd have kept us coming back every time.

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May the Fourth connect you

I have been looking at his star wars memorabilia around the flat for a while, wondering if the occasion would present itself for the entire collection to be combined for a colour-coordinated composition. Of course May the Fourth was it. I allocated two hours for the project, but it took nearly all day and involved a few excited trips to the loft, much rummaging in the T-shirt drawers and a huge amount of dust. What was meant to be a fun art project turned into something quite stressful and caused the return of the headache. So that by 7.30pm, when I signed in for my much awaited zoom call with my choir, I was not feeling great.

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