Saturday 18 April 2020

Day 27 of Covid Captivity - "I Can't Explain But I Wanna Try"

Purely my own feelings, thought processes and general opinion of things from my perspective and personal standpoint.

I felt that I wanted to write today, with no real rhyme or reason other than the fact that my brain is chock-a-block.
And as I started up a new post, I was listening to Fireside by Arctic Monkeys. 
The first lyric seems to sum up exactly why...
 "I can't explain but I wanna try"
And I can't explain anything scientifically or anything like that, obviously
But I can explain the things clogging up my mind at the minute, or at least, as Alex says, I can try.

It's day 27 of lockdown here in the UK due to the worldwide Covid-19 pandemic. 
Just read that again.
Because when I read it aloud, it felt utterly ridiculous. 
But it's not 28 Days Later, it's 'the new normal' as I keep hearing it referred to.
A potentially fatal disease has worked its way around the world and forced us all indoors for the foreseeable to restrict and eventually eliminate the risk of catching or spreading its catastrophe. 
Across the world, different restrictions are in place but all with that same ultimate goal.
For us in the UK, it's a 'lockdown'. Everyone is to stay home at all times unless shopping for food, collecting medical supplies, caring for vulnerable people or for the permitted one walk/run/cycle of the day if absolutely necessary for our physical and mental wellbeing.
For someone who is no stranger to anxiety, rarely goes out and interacts with people anyway... easy peasy, right? 

It's taking its toll on everyone and everyone's dealing with it in their own way. 
From those people who have Covid-19 and their families who are going through the most unimaginable things right now, to those caring for and treating those patients and those at highest risk, to the key-workers ensuring the smooth day-to-day running of the country during this time, to those spear-heading the decisions and management of our country's response, to those of us with just the one responsibility which is to stay at home and of course, everyone else in between.
We're all going through the mill in differing ways. We're all thinking about what's going on and how it's affecting people. And last night (and many nights, to be fair), I found myself laid in bed unable to sleep for all the different thoughts, feelings, questions whizzing around my head. Thoughts, feelings and questions that I would guarantee are echoed across the UK and indeed the world.
I'm no stranger to mood swings. In fact, sometimes even I'm surprised by how fast and intensively my mind can swing up and down the spectrum of emotions and feelings.
But that is amplified in the current climate and I know, again, I'm not alone in that.
Surfing through sadness and fear, bumping into anxiety and dread, fleeting through moments of pride and gratitude, trying to conceal a deep anger, not to mention the productivity AND boredom, the loneliness, optimism, cynicism and again, everything in between.
There's so many contradictions and confusions, that it's so hard for people to manage and navigate through, but the majority of people are doing their very best.

Well, mostly. Because of course, there are always morons.
Morons who seem to disregard the fact that:
- First and foremost, people are dying, being hospitalised, being made incredibly ill by this disease
- People are having to sacrifice their safety and that of their family by caring for and treating those people
-People are having to sacrifice their safety and that of their family by working in supermarkets, factories, emergency services, schools etc throughout this
- People are forgoing the right to see their family and friends, many of which rely heavily on that company and care
- People are missing or having to be flexible with huge life events; weddings, birthdays, births, holidays. And the one that really cuts deep, not being able to visit care homes or pay respect to loved ones who have sadly passed away in recent months.
So why on earth it should come across as plausible in even a moron's brain to go ahead and do trivial things like sunbathing in parks, letting kids roam streets, having parties and BBQs and goodness knows what other unfathomable crap people are trying to get away with, is beyond belief.

I also find myself torn between feelings with the whole debacle surrounding the NHS at present. Because Boris is right (something I've never said, nor will ever say again) when he says that they are the "beating heart of this country." They absolutely are. But they've been the beating heart of the country for years and years, not just in the middle of a worldwide pandemic. And whilst I have utmost sympathy for what he has been through himself with Covid in the last few weeks and would not wish for anyone to be in that position, let alone one that is in charge of the country. If that same sincerity and realisation he seemed to have in his post-hospital speech had materialised years back, when he and allies were plastering false promises across buses or voting down pay rises for those IN the NHS. I can't help but wonder, if we'd still be in the position we are in now where nurses and doctors are crying out for PPE, TV adverts are desperately encouraging people to start or resume a career in the NHS and field hospitals are being urgently assembled in a matter of days.

Only about a year or two ago, there were pictures all over the news of hospitals in despair, I think, during a bout of winter flu where there were shortages of beds and people lying in corridors. These people have been working miracles with the bare minimum for absolutely ages and that's not OK. We all know it and we've all seen it.
I have, like many, donated to appeals in recent days to help the NHS and their associated charities and branches of support because it's like a call to action and you want to step up however you can within your own personal remits. But at the same time, for me, it's tinged with such anger because it should not have to be that way. We're being told at daily briefings there's significant numbers of equipment and testing facilities being distributed but then being told that many places aren't receiving enough or any at all. Every other day, those numbers are upped and we still get the same messages at the other end. As though something's getting lost in transmission or there's a equipment related Bermuda Triangle somewhere along the way. It's baffling to the nth degree.

The uplifting side to this all is seeing how good, kind people pool resources and take matters into their own hands when those promises and targets fall flat. 3D printers printing their own PPE, embroiderers, machinists and seamstresses manufacturing scrubs, people forming community groups to get provisions to vulnerable people, artists and creatives helping keep people's kids occupied and give people small things to smile about. And the 99 year old war veteran, Captain Tom Moore who has quite frankly shown the government up in this last week. Because where their promises and targets seem to be smoke and mirrors, Captain Tom set his own goal, target and promise to the NHS and exceeded and multiplied it by more than 20,000, making over 22 million for their appeals. Something that makes me feel so warm, so proud and so grateful but also really bloody conflicted due to the frustration that it's even needed. Because he has more than done his duty for this country in so so many ways already. 

The nation-wide Clap For Carers response we all began over 3 weeks ago is a heart-warming, small but lovely gesture aimed to bring everyone together in gratitude and appreciation for the NHS and EVERYONE still working for us at the moment. But then you see images of busy streets and a packed out Westminster Bridge where people are choosing to go and do their applause. Which seemingly goes against everything we're all trying to achieve. Unless of course, the news that Westminster Bridge has a Covid repelling forcefield is amongst those things we're still yet to be told. And then you start to question, what's real? Is that footage even real? Is that advice solid? Should we listen to them, or them? Which news outlet is trustworthy? A constant tug of war in your mind to sieve out the fake from the real, the sensationalist to the genuine, the optimism, pessimism and the realism.
A battle of wanting to be on social media for the connectivity, the entertainment and distraction but not wanting to be on there because it fuels that tug of war further and further. It's the weirdest experience. Days of projects and productivity and positivity and then days of discontentment and hopelessness.

But there'll be an end and whenever that end comes, one can only hope that as a whole except for the morons, but who knows... they might surprise us, we are...
- More proud
- More grateful
- More co-operative
- More appreciative
- More confident
- More connected
- More respectful
- More creative
- More liberated
- More resourceful
than ever before. 

That we fight to get the NHS what it's been needing for years, that we give those who we lost to Covid-19, the most fitting and appropriate tribute and that we cherish everything that little bit more than before.

Monday 30 March 2020

Colouring Through the Covid-19 Chaos

Did anyone see 2020 panning out like this?!
We're all grounded. 
The world is doing strange things.
There's productivity and procrastination in equal amounts.
The year's biggest trend is toilet roll.
It's all just so bizarre.
But also very, very serious. 

Covid-19 has forced us all to stay home for the foreseeable to prevent its spread. 
And for the most part, people worldwide are adhering to this and finding new ways to live their lives.
It's sometimes scary and unlike anything we've ever known.
But it's also making us take stock of everything we rely on day to day and things we possibly take advantage of.
For most of us, it's finally getting that last wall painted or baking as a whole family for the first time.
It's making a world that goes too fast, just stop and re-assess.
But on a very serious level, it's making people incredibly ill, even proving fatal for some.
It's taking it's toll on our everyday heroes and making us realise that we have even more everyday heroes than we thought. 

Many of us just have the one job throughout this, stay inside.
And whilst that sounds rather grand on the face of it. It's not without its stresses.
Hence the emergence of online video chats, online learning, online activities and people trying to do whatever they can to make the experience easier for some.
And that is a huge positive to what's going on right now.

But people will still undoubtedly struggle throughout this. 
And everyone has their own way to deal with that and battle through the coming weeks.
For me and I think for many others, it's about keeping busy, keeping connected and taking each day as it comes.

So for my (very small and I appreciate this will seem trivial to some) part, I've created a couple of colouring sheets for anyone who is struggling to keep the kids occupied, anyone who feels anxious and needs a creative outlet to mute their thoughts and worries for a little while or anyone jumping on the bandwagon to put colourful, smile-inducing things in their window to bring a little happy to a dull time.
Simply right click and save to your computer to then print out. Or access PDF versions here. These are completely free of charge, all I ask is that you, stay inside first and foremost and secondly, check out my social media pages which I'll list below. I'd especially love to see any completed masterpieces and I may post more of these in the coming days.

Stay home, stay safe, stay brilliant. :)

Saturday 8 February 2020

Corrie 10K: Why It's More Than Just a Soap For Me

This week, Coronation Street, the long-running British TV soap, celebrated it's 10,000th episode which is a huge and astounding achievement for any TV show. This isn't particularly something I've blogged specifically about before, with the exception of my Corrie Tour Review back in 2014 but I am a HUGE Corrie fan and it's probably one of the first things anyone who knows me would say about me. 
Now, many people really don't get that. Many people respond to that fact with utterances of "why would you watch that miserable drivel?" and similar remarks, some of which are much less mild in tone.

But for me, there are an abundance of reasons why I don't consider that to be the case. For me, as a Northern girl in a gritty little town and a blunt and abrupt society, Coronation Street speaks to me on many levels. I come from a family who like most, would bend over backwards for each other but aren't particularly always so open and talkative with each other about day to day goings on. But the one thing that has always been a constant and common talking point for me and several of the women in my family have been these fictional little worlds provided by British soap opera that we'd all stop life for, for the sake of an hour or two and be totally engrossed. On many occasions, I'd say that these fictional worlds have helped make sense of real life and put real life into perspective. They've always been something I can converse about and relate to with my mother, my nan, my grandma, sisters even. For that reason, when I moved to university at the age of 19/20, I kept up that tradition. 7pm each night was soap time in our flat and it was something my uni tribe got on board with and started to know me for. It was that little bit of home in my new home for 2 hours each night.

Coronation Street, whilst quite obviously stretched for entertainment purposes is fundamentally somewhere that we all know. For me, it's completely reminiscent of the house and street my grandparents lived in for the entirety of my life and that I now live in with my grandma to this day. The terraced houses, the back yards, outhouses, all in such close proximity to each other. And whilst it may seem far-fetched that one little street and it's neighbouring little offshoots would have and need every amenity on it's very doorstep, way back before I was born, the very street I live on was exactly like that. In it's time, my very street and the adjacent few have housed pubs, shops, post-offices, chip-shops. gyms, cafes, butchers, garages, churches, schools, warehouses, factories, parks, community centres and so on. And from the tales I've heard from my grandparents over the years, back in the 60s-80s it sounded like a Coronation Street away from Coronation Street with it's very own stock characters and the incredibly similar setting. 

These little things have been what's always drawn me to Corrie and when I decided to use it as the focal point for my university dissertation in 2014, my love for it only strengthened. I read about it's creator, Tony Warren and how he'd spent years subconsciously observing and listening to his surroundings whilst growing up, in order to come up with this little world and its inhabitants. I read about how he admired and felt extreme gratitude towards an abundance of strong women in his life that had impacted him in one way or another. How he'd paid close attention to how men and women, Northern in particular interacted with each other and the ironies and humour that often came from these interactions. I suddenly had a sense of pride for a man, I obviously never knew but just to know that his little vision had become such a staple of the British TV guide. 

One thing that always struck me was the notoriety of the characters. They were and are household names, possibly more noticeable to British families than many Hollywood megastars. And as I read more about the show's beginnings, it became apparent that this was always Tony's aim. To create multi-faceted, well-known characters, particularly females. And just as the setting is somewhere that we all know, the characters are too. I've met people who completely and utterly echo Ena, Annie, Elsie, Bet, Rita, Hilda and the many more that have come after them. I still meet people now who remind me of those characters, some of which were penned 60 odd years ago. Even looking at the street now, I would say I know a Beth Tinker, a Gemma Winter, I know a Jenny Connor, I know a Steve McDonald, a David Platt. Not by name, obviously, but by personality, values, mannerisms.

Some have a passion and a following for a football team, a favourite band, a celebrity. And those things build into to people's identity. Corrie is that for me. And so, for me, the 10,000th episode was a complete treat. It wasn't the most spectacular episode in terms of storyline, special effects, production values, not by a stretch, but it had all of those core things that Corrie was built on. Rich characters, humour, nostalgia, community, poignancy and relatability. It had the stalwarts of the street, either directly featured or mentioned, it had little nods to the scenes and quotes that us super-fans could recite in our sleep. It had heart but it had adversity. It was sentimentally self-referential and celebrated itself without arrogance. 

For me, Corrie isn't "that miserable drivel". It's somewhere to escape to, that isn't actually all that far from home. It can be miserable but life can be miserable. But it's also humourous and ironic, just as life is. It's relatable and it makes sense of real life and pokes fun at real life in equal and manageable measure. 
Yes, it's a little absurd that people would have the deepest conversation of their life in the local café or pub and yes, people's kids seem to be around one minute and not the next and yes it's always weird trying to work out how about THAT many people are living in a 2 bed terraced house but those things aside, it's a national institution and I hope it's still around in another 10,000 episodes, whether I am or not. I am a watcher of the three big soaps and have the same admiration for all of them but for me, Corrie is queen. It came first, it paved the way and whilst the others have their moments in the spotlight and rightly so, it remains for me, the best.

Video via Coronation Street YouTube: