Thoughts in semi lockdown

Right now I’m enjoying this lockdown as a kind of obligation free holiday from the norm, but there is no government plan for the self-employed – we’ve been shunted towards universal credit. Lots of people are popping up with online projects as a result. Resourceful people by definition, in a very different state of affairs…

I have a friend who is Italian and has wanted for a while to soften her accent. She has to do panels at film festivals etc and is fed up of being asked to repeat herself. I went online yesterday and tried to deliver a WhatsApp lesson to her on a new vowel sound, plosives and fricatives. The success was mixed. I couldn’t really hear her so it was hard to say helpful things. I couldn’t really see her so it was hard to monitor her tensions. She seemed happy after and offered to pay me, but I told her I wouldn’t take money as I needed to work out better tech, and improve my ability to work remotely like this. I ended up with an open invite to stay in an empty flat in Rome though. In a barter economy that’s a great trade so I’m pretty pleased. Once the world starts moving again I’ll be off to the Trevi fountain, and dancing on the Spanish steps.

But this online stuff is a shift for me. For many of us.

While teaching just as much as while working in a live room, I rely deeply on the instinctive part of me where I can read the room and respond to the immediate needs and bring everybody with me. It’s a big part of what I bring to a live experience, that “understanding of the audience,” plus oodles of charm.

Cookie cut “listen and repeat” type stuff belongs in the 1950s, and even though it might teach others, it won’t teach me. In the same way I struggle to act by numbers. Finding the “live” online will be tricky for me, but I’m good with tricky. It’s a question.

As ever outside today I got some funny looks for my gas mask. It’s pretty full on. It’s not quite the sewn up leather beak of the plague doctor, or the dark familiar glass eyes of the WW2 blitz mask. But I’m sporting my construction respirator in a high street shop, looking like Bane in Peter Jones, while the bemused clerk tells me they’ve been out of bread machines for days.

Marks and Spencers had loo rolls so I bought a pack and dropped it to my neighbor who is older and less willing to risk the shops than I am. I also bought a gammon to replace the one that went rancid. I’m calling the rancid one Nigel. I’m calling this one Boris. I’m hoping it’ll provide for me. It’s cooking as I write.

The mask is unnecessary, part of me says. But I’m still trying to bank on avoiding this disease, particularly at its peak as that’s when the hospitals will get flooded. I’m also aware that right now I’m a healthy free agent that can do things like get bogroll for the neighbors. If I had a scooter I’d be using it off the scale right now picking up and dropping off bits and bobs in a helmet and gloves as the world gets sicker.

It was a beautiful clear morning today though. The roads were comparatively empty. People are enjoying the honeymoon of not working before the cabin fever kicks in, and the self employed –  who are so woefully unprovisioned for – start to have to do something to not lose their homes. I’m very worried for my friends who have regular horrible rent payments to meet. This could be the end of a lot of potentially wonderful artists.

I would always have been on holiday this fortnight. It was the logical point after a huge snowball of work. I can look around without fear for now. But not for months. Not for months. Please.


Author: albarclay

This blog is a work of creative writing. Do not mistake it for truth. All opinions are mine and not that of my numerous employers.

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