(Dis) Connect.

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Many many more weeks of lockdown have passed by in a bit of a blur if I’m being honest. Health continues to grumble along keeping the days uneven and the feeling that progress and life have stalled a bit …… but I imagine everyone feels that at the moment from time to time (or maybe all of the time!?). It’s easier to get a grip and “buck up a bit” on some days more than others which is not to say that I’m stuck in a cycle of constantly being a misery chops …… more that I think that of late there have been a few more misery chops days than previously. The mind and body are seeking a bit of respite but currently there is none to be had …… so I’ll resume muddling along for now and grab ahold of the good days whenever they come along. The above picture is of Burghead beach in Moray and was taken by Donald E. Ross. I get lost in the ebb and flow of waves connecting, disconnecting and then reconnecting with the sand.

There have been lots of things to get stuck into though. Rehearsals and open sessions with Sonic Bothy have been happening with live captioning as I hear very little useful audio through online platforms. We’ve chanced upon an amazing captioner, who besides captioning words, talks, meetings and conversations vividly describes sounds and music in the rehearsals and sessions for me. Think madrigal and word painting and you’re just about there such is the depth of her descriptions! I had first worked with this particular captioner with Drake Music in the last while and a few weeks ago she had the “delightful” task of captioning my first ever webinar about words and music and ending with some Dada voice work stuff. Humour seems to creep into most things I do and she said she could hardly type through laughing so much. So that’s nice. And webinars …… ooh that was a challenge I hope never to repeat for at least a year and a half! A good challenge and way out of my comfort zone. I think it’s the being “out front” thing which I find most difficult which probably sounds a bit weird because I do perform from time to time but being on a stage I can do while public speaking is akin to sitting on really hairy prickly cucumbers …… on purpose!

Can you believe that it’s actually June …… where the flamingo did May go!? That’ll be that blurring of days and weeks thing. And does anyone else feel as though they have done not that much at all in the past 10 weeks!? As if the time passed blankly looking at the wall or something …… in that good timing of stuff that sometimes happens I’m nearing the end of a two week online workshop with Imaginate which looks at you and your practice and works gently through a series of tasks which have an unexpected way of actually making you think about things in a non-scary and fairly deep and meaningful way. It is gently bringing me back into the present and kick-started a mindfulness practice which had abandoned me so far during lockdown. I’m using the word gently a lot ……. can you gently face things? I hope so. That’s what I’m aiming for …….

Besides the really scary webinar task we also had a question to respond to at the Drake Music artist residency this last month which asked us to ponder on the themes of “connect and disconnect”. As I feel quite disconnected a lot of the time anyway owing to my own shortcomings in personality and a propensity to hide I wondered what it would be like to spend a couple of weeks engaging online as much as I could and so I turned up to every captioned webinar and talk on music and disability arts and Covid possible. Was it illuminating? A lot of them were awfully interesting to be fair so that was quite good! By the end of it I was talking a bit in them, trying to contribute but not feeling comfortable doing so. Did I network or find a voice? In reality it just confirmed what I knew before in that I’m rubbish at this sort of stuff and that doing more of it in a way I was uncomfortable with wasn’t going to make me any better at it. So I’ll probably go back to being quiet in these online gatherings but will try my utmost to be an active listener! It was really interesting to “be out there” a bit more though and I’ll certainly continue with that albeit in a quiet way.

I’ve had a nice commission for a new song come in and I’ll waffle on about that more in the next post. I’ve also applied for 2 things which may or may not come through but it seems important to keep trying at least a little bit. I did write a fair few lyrics in May although so far they haven’t come together with music yet in any pleasing way so this month I have a song without words. It’s about connecting and disconnecting and is called (funnily enough!?) …..  (Dis) Connect .

Moving off the sofa ….

A month of lockdown has come and gone and I’ve been in a kind of stasis doing bits and pieces of things here and there mainly because health has gotten rather grumbly the more I have stayed still. I think I do better when I’m gadding about all over the place on trains to be honest. Wonder if there’s something in that?

Anyway, part of the way through last week it seemed time to slowly move off the sofa and to try and find the desk. It’s not actually that far away from the sofa given that my bungalow is rather on the compact side. It’s at the other end of the living room. I wheeled towards it in trepidation and was confronted by a massive pile of odds and papers, mail, at least 3 bottles of Tippex, 2 laptops and just a whole lot of gubbins really. Definitely time for a wee bit of a sort out and while I’m at it a bit of a mental tidy too!

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During the past month while on the sofa Spring has sprung and the photo above shows the little Lost Thing Tree flourishing. We were given mini Christmas trees by the Royal Opera House production part way through the run of The Lost Thing in December. I kept mine in my hotel room in London for weeks, hopefully watering it and it has survived that plus the second half of a Highland winter and is looking decidedly perky!

I’ve returned to research at RCS and have managed to find a way back into academia and writing and thinking in that way but it has been so slow and like trying to get those cogwheels in the brain moving again through really thick treacle! The research department at RCS are doing really well in trying to keep the community connected and have been great at making sure I can be involved by using online platforms which have an auto-captioning feature or by booking an Electronic Note Taker/Captioner for meetings and talks. I actually feel more connected than when I could go in person, I think this is a shift in approach by them and by me and is heartening and encouraging.

The first month of a new artist residency with Drake Music in London has also passed. As with the work at RCS it has taken a little while to push through the patchy health and find ways to be productive in small actually possible ways. The residency and the organisation together with almost everyone and everything else has shifted to a different pace and to remote working. Thankfully even though I live somewhere quite small in the Scottish Highlands they do have excellent broadband and yes I know you probably think I’m making that up!!!!

It has been really really difficult to gain any sort of momentum lately, I have a feeling that many other folks may be feeling the same way? I wake up every morning and have sort of forgotten about the lockdown and how many lives are being lost and then something pings on in my brain and I remember …… then a small pit of anxious dread appears in the pit of my stomach. I keep reminding myself how fortunate I am and that my family & friends in Italy & Scotland are fine and that helps. I drink a glass of water, breathe deeply and get a grip.

During this first month of the residency we have been getting to know the organisation and our fellow artists. There are 3 of us and we each have very different approaches and artistic practices and it’s this and being given “creative challenges” to get us going that has made this more than a bit startling and a swift kick up the creative nethers. In a good way I hasten to add! We started off making new “hold music” for when folks phone into Drake Music and are put on hold, this was rather scuppered by everyone suddenly being away from the office and working at home. We’re looking at ways we might use the material we created later this week. What has transpired is a podcast and then a listening party which happened last week. Those are unlikely terms and not ones I had expected to encounter but a podcast was written in an intricate and unusual and difficult and triumphant way. I’ll include a link in the next “thrilling” blog installment in May when it goes live. Here’s a song from the podcast in the meantime – Never Lose Heart.

Other surprising things this month have been thinking about things that you dread and avoid in a different way because you meet and work with someone who just expresses these in different and less scary terms. When asked the question “How do you present yourself visually online?” it was one of those moments where I just wanted to hide in the cupboard although unfortunately the wheelchair won’t fit ……. so this is my homework from lovely Drake Music PR/Comms person, what could I do to find a way to build a new website that I feel comfortable with and can do so without posting my face and stuff everywhere ……. It’s going to happen on this here blog, the site will be expanded and developed because apparently you can add “pages” or something!