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A positive week - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 11 April 2021

 

Another week and for me it’s mainly been a very creative and positive week. Last Wednesday, I joined a group called connect and create.  It was complete strangers and I wasn’t sure how I would feel but boy did I laugh and enjoy my time.  For the first time in 25 years, I acted and did a bit of improv.  The main group was put into break out rooms and we had to think of a fairy tale character and why they were in trouble.  I was Jack from Jack and the Beanstalk and I was in court for planting my beanstalk in my neighbour’s garden.  We delivered it to the main group.  It was a little scary but I really enjoyed it and feel perhaps I haven’t lost my acting talent (which had crossed my mind over the years).  Yesterday I had my last singing lesson.  I have improved over the last four weeks so much with such a very difficult song.  Abba is so very hard to sing.  I have done my best and that is what matters.  I don’t think people will be flocking to buy my records anytime soon but at least I hit the notes in the right order.  Eric Morecambe would be proud.

 

I also had a very positive Friday at work.  I sent my manager a report I had written and she was so impressed she sent it to her manager who in turn sent it to her manager who both emailed me to say well done.  I also believe it was sent to the head of operations.  I feel very proud and pleased with myself as I love what I do so its wonderful when it is recognised by others.

Finally, I want to mention the passing of HRH Prince Philip.  I wrote my condolences and my thoughts on the royal family here, but boy has it got the nation talking.  I really don’t agree that things are as polarised as people make out. I am not saying he is or isn’t racist.  I am saying people of his age grew up in a different world.  I do find it sad that racist comments he made decades ago and his eye for the ladies in the 40’s and 50’s have all been raised in his death.  I am sure we have all said and done things we have lived to regret.  You know I love Bowie.  When he passed, I didn’t want to hear criticism of him, even though I accept he wasn’t everyone’s taste in music.  It’s the same here.  The Queen has lost her life partner and I cannot imagine and will never experience how it feels to spend more than 70 years of your life with someone.  There is a time and place for denigration of the royals and I do not believe right now is it.  If you can’t find something nice to say, don’t say anything.

I feel so sad that there is so much hate about.  As Hazel Dean often says #TurnHateIntoLove. 

Have a good week.

A great start to the weekend Corona Virus diary

Sunday 28 March 2021

 

 

On Friday night I attended the second of La Voix’s zoom performances -Diva in lockdown.  I had already spoken to her last Wednesday on the phone talking about the difficulty of dying our hair red… and now I was with around eighty other people enjoying a personal performance.  Not a stream where you just passively sit and watch but a zoom where you can unmute and chat.  Where La Voix can see if you made an effort to dress up and put on make-up for her (yes and yes) and she can say hello to you personally.  It has truly brightened my weekend. I think shows like this are needed while theatres remain shut.  Interactive is everything.  She needs her audience (and the clapping and cheering) and we need a great entertainer to sing along with.

I am off work until Thursday to use up some of last year’s annual leave.  I intend to do some more of my hallway – remember the walls I stripped a few weeks ago?  I am now filling and hopefully painting.  However, later today (Saturday) I am having my vaccine – second dose.  I didn’t want to book it for today but I got a bit worried when the news kept saying there would be a shortage so I am having it nine weeks after my first rather than 12 weeks.  I am really hoping I do not have a reaction this time.  Last time I was poorly for three days and I do not want to lose my weekend and holiday to being ill.  I have not cancelled my singing lesson so I am being optimistic.

Oh, I forget to tell you about my singing lessons.  I started last Saturday.  I am helping out a student by volunteering.  I feel for her as I know my voice isn’t one people will pay to listen to.  I initially suggested Joss Stone - but she felt that was too easy for me and we moved on to Abba – My love My Life.  However, I have been practising all week and this is a very very hard song.  No one can sing Abba like Abba and I am thinking I have bitten off more than I can chew.  Anyway – it’s a great chance to improve whatever my singing ability so I am up for it.  Watch this space – who knows where I am going next!

Ouch.. well, that hurt!  I booked with a doctor for the jab so that I could check about the very severe symptoms I had last time.  He asked if I wanted the second dose.  I said it’s better than having Covid and he agreed.  Don’t feel very reassured that I won’t get symptoms and my arm hurts from the moment he gave it to me.  I am sure he bruised me. I do bruise easily.  I was pleased he was wearing gloves and although people were socially distanced… I felt there were far too many in the waiting room (maybe 15 or so).  My version of socially distanced and two metres is very different to everyone else’s.

While I was there, I asked about my youngest son getting the vaccine.  He has underlying health conditions and I personally felt he should be on the category 6 list.  We had already spoken to his GP about this so I asked the receptionist if she could chase it up.  What I was not expecting was a call at 5.15pm to say he could come along today as they had a spare dose.  We got in the car and was there in about 15 mins.  My son went in and got it. He came out telling me there was 70 spare vaccines.  I cannot understand why there are spares.  Are people not booking them?  Sadly, I believe you have to call people in the age group order.  It would be much easier if there was a list of those who wanted it and would go at the drop of a hat to get it if there were spares.  When I called the surgery about this last month, they told me there are never spares of Astra Zeneca as they can store them again.  I am not sure how true this is.  70 spare vaccines!  Anyway, my poor son has been suffering all the really bad symptoms that I suffered during my first vaccine.  He spent all of Sunday in bed, only getting up to dose up on more paracetamol.  The good news is that the second vaccine has not really affected me much.  I have a very sore arm and felt a bit lethargic but nothing like I felt from the first dose. Just because I have had two doses of vaccine does not mean I feel ready to join the world.  My mental health with have to be eased in gently to a world with people in it.  My world has become very small in this last year.

Wishing you all a great week.

I've Been Blitzed - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 14 March 2020

It’s no secret that I love late 70’s and early 80’s music.  Its no secret that I love David Bowie. So, my ideal Saturday night (whilst in lockdown) was perfect yesterday.  BBC2 started the night with The 80’s with Dominic Sandbrook, followed by Top of the pops: The story of 1980. But it didn’t stop there.  The much-anticipated programme, Blitzed was on Sky Arts at 9pm followed by David Bowie’s glass spider tour.  I know I have found my tribe when almost everyone on my Facebook is talking about it.

What a fantastic programme.  Rusty (the one and only) told his story of how he and Steve Strange started Blitz.  It was a club for the strange, the weird, those who had style and knew how to turn an old charity shop item into something unique.  Those who used make up as an art form.  It was great to hear Rusty tell it and hear details many would not know.  It also featured Boy George and Robert Elms who both told their stories.  Sadly, Steve Strange is no longer with us, but there was lots of footage of him speaking and a dedication at the end of the programme.  It did paint the 70’s as very bland and dull, and yes I do remember the piles of rubbish left in the street as I walked to school, but didn’t really understand why.  However, from 1979, for me the true start of the 80’s, were a time of vivid technicolour.  It felt like in The Wizard of Oz from when Dorothy goes from black and white into a new exciting and vibrant world of colour.  That’s exactly how it was for me.  I loved dressing up, looking different.  Have people in the street stare at you.  The worst insult you can call me is normal.  I knew I was different.  Finding Blitz and the local clubs that started up around the country such as Rum Runner in Birmingham and The Starting Gate in Milton Keynes, meant I was with my kind of people.  It’s the reason that for the last eight years I have travelled to Birmingham to attend Only After Dark, a club based on The Blitz.

However, and yes, I am going to say it, none of this would exist without Bowie.  Bowie was a huge influence.  For those who saw the Starman performance on Top Of The Pops, it changed lives.  Can you imagine going to a club with a group of people who love and listen to Bowie, and then one night, he just turns up at the door and not only is he uber cool, but he is looking for a couple of people for his next video?  Boy George said he was the only one not running after Bowie, quickly followed up by Robert Elms who said he had never seen Boy George move so quickly to get near Bowie.  I am sure Steve Strange loved being in the video and what an iconic video it is.  Ashes to Ashes was cutting edge when it came out. And it was good to see Kraftwerk acknowledged too.  Kraftwerk’s sound is so distinctive and even Bowie himself was impressed.  Just listen to Station to Station.

But let’s get back to Blitzed.  It wasn’t just about a look, although Steve wanted and encouraged people to dress up.  Steve even turned away Mick Jagger from the Rolling Stones.  It wasn’t about who you were – but what you embodied and the music.  Definitely about the music.  Gary Kemp told how they became the ‘house band’ at the Blitz.  I am of course, talking about Spandau Ballet.  The show also featured Marilyn who was beautiful and is still the envy of many men today (just look at that head of hair!).  Why they had La Roux on was puzzling.  She wasn’t born at the time and said her mum wasn’t into Bowie and they weren’t a Bowie family.  HOLD THE PHONE! WHAT?!!  Her contribution could easily have been edited out – it added nothing to the show.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think her voice is angelic and she has a fabulous style, but she didn’t add anything relevant.  This is a show about Blitzed. If they were trying to show how its influence is still present today – then they missed the mark with La Roux.    

Midge Ure said how great a drummer Rusty was.  But I know him as a DJ and I can say without any bias, that he is an outstanding DJ.  I get up and dance when he is playing.  Rusty has compiled a blitzed soundtrack which you can hear on Spotify or download it on Amazon.

Midge, Rusty and Steve formed Visage.  And you should know the rest.  My love of Blitz and its fashion and music have not faded to grey.

Don’t mention the M word - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 14 February 2021

As you all know, I had the vaccine a few weeks ago.  Since then, my reactions have almost disappeared.  I say almost as I still seem to have hot sweats especially at night. It is having an impact on my quality of sleep and driving everyone else in the house mad, as I turn the heating up and down according to my body thermostat.

I mentioned this to my sister yesterday.  She too, had the side effects and is also experiencing the night sweats since the vaccine was given.  She said to me that she knows a lot of people who have had the vaccine and had side effects and mentioned they are all women.  Both my sister and I have also not had a period since we took the vaccine.  So, although our data is not scientific, we started to come to a thesis that perhaps there is something in the vaccine that gives women side effects and could it also be that it brings on symptoms of menopause?  I have fought the attitude for years that just because of my age I was menopausal.  Its not acceptable to make assumptions.  I have had two close friends who are both younger than me go through it and I haven’t experienced any of the symptoms that they have.  My periods are like clockwork and I felt as energetic as I always did.

The M word is a difficult subject.  People assume you are old once you mention it.  I don’t feel old at all. I still feel about 38 years old.  I am genuinely surprised that people treat you differently the minute you reach 50.  I don’t suddenly feel I should be watching midsummer murders, go on river cruises and go to bed at 9pm.  Age is a protected characteristic so legally you should not be discriminating people about their age but worse, gender is also a protected characteristic so women of a certain age are doubly discriminated against.

I have noticed that since I turned 50, I have a new superpower.  I have become almost invisible to the opposite sex.  It has been building up throughout my 40’s but now its slapping me in the face.  I know I am not the only one.  A lot of women of my age are experiencing exactly this.  If you get a compliment it might have an addition such as ‘You look good…for your age’.  For your age?  Sod that.  Have you seen what I look like and what I wear at OAD?  Do you know I am from the post punk generation?  I am not ready to retire, I am not ready to sit in front of the TV in my slippers (although 2020 felt like a practice run for this).  I still have a lot of life left in me so do not write me off.  I am sassy and have attitude.  Do not get on my wrong side or you may get a response in my best Siouxsie Sioux or Debbie Harry attitude.  Remember who are you speaking to.  So please, pay me a compliment, I like to hear them, but don’t mention my age.  Tell me you think my mood is off but don’t blame the menopause.  And most of all, be kind.  Women get a raw deal with periods, pregnancy and menopause – that’s a lot of stress on their bodies.  A kind word could really make someone’s day.

Talking of what day it is, today Is Valentine’s day.  I cannot believe that a year ago my husband took me out for a lovely meal at a nice restaurant.  This year he is cooking and I am making him a home-made cake.  Its not really the same but we are both together, and both love each other.  It might be a paired down celebration but that’s okay.  Its who you are with that matters.  And for those of you that are single, remember love starts at home.  The most important person you can love is yourself.  So, give yourself some love.  Eat a favourite meal, watch a favourite film and drink your favourite drink.  Just celebrate life.

Happy Valentine’s day.

I'm back in Jasmine Storm mode! - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 7 February 2021

 

I want to thank you all for your kind wishes when I was unwell from the vaccine.  It was a horrible few days but I am now back to being in full ‘Jasmine Storm’ mode.  I have been asked by many people about how I feel about taking the second dose.  I am going to take it.  I think being as safe as possible from the virus is the best thing and even if I have another reaction, this time I will be ready for it and it only lasts a few days.  Hopefully I now already have antibodies so perhaps I won’t have a reaction at all.  I am concerned that so many people from BAME (Black and minority ethnic) communities are deciding not to have it.  There is evidence that they are more at risk (although I am not sure what studies there have been to see why this is the case).  Surely if you are more at risk you would want to have the vaccine to protect yourself?  I just don’t understand the resistance to it.

Yesterday I actually went out for a walk.  It was cold but a bright spring day and the sun was trying to shine.  I honestly cannot remember the last time I went out for a walk.  It could be last September.  My Fitbit must have been confused with all the activity and it certainly liked it.  I walked to my local park and took some photos.  There was almost a sense of normality.  Very few people about (it was about 10am on a Saturday morning).  I saw the sheep on the hill.  They seemed to be enjoying themselves.  On the way back I detoured to pass by Milton Keynes Theatre.  Oh, how I miss seeing shows.  It still has a Christmas tree up in the foyer and the sign on the door is apologising for closing the pantomime.  It truly breaks my heart.  I walked behind the theatre to the stage door, remembering the good times of meeting all the amazing actors and singers who have trod the boards of the stage here.

My friend, Rusty Egan is very concerned about the permanent closure of venues for clubs and gigs.  I completely understand his feelings.  There has also been a lot in the news this week about Brexit and how it impacts bands that tour Europe.  My thoughts are that clubs have been closing down for years at quite a steady pace.  This is partly because many young people choose to play and interact online.  It’s a completely different world to our 80’s club scene. Covid is a nail in the coffin of many small venues that may have been struggling before the virus impacted.  However, its not the end but a rebirth.  It’s a new beginning, just like post punk was after punk had died.  Youth will rise and make their mark again.  If clubs are on their agenda, it will happen, but I don’t believe this is the end of the road for clubs, gig venues or theatres, its just a bump in the journey of life.

Tonight, I am talking to a group of Bowie fans on Zoom.  It is not too late if you want to come along. Hope to see some of you later.

Our special guest speaker is Jasmine Storm, award nominated blogger with her intriguing talk ' Bowie - At the centre of it all'.  Jasmine has been featured in three books on Bowie and has received recognition from Tony Visconti, Woody Woodmansey and Glenn Gregory for her reviews on Holy Holy and continues to be an active member of the Bowie universe.  Our second special guest speaker is Steve Marsden an avid vinyl collector, who has built up a wealth of knowledge.  Steve's talk 'It’s Not The Side Effects Of The Cocaine….Or How David Bowie Became A Superstar And Was Nearly Swamped By It All' should not be missed.  Also in this bumper Zoom we have Tracy from Northern Ireland showing her Bowie Treasure and Linda our resident artist has more of her unique Bowie art to show exclusively to us.  Tickets £8 to get yours e-mail Kat at twentieth.century@yahoo.com and are on sale up until 6.30pm on 7.2.21.  We are a fun and welcoming group of Bowie fans, any questions then let Kat know.

Vaccine day - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 24 January 2021

 

When I woke up on Friday morning – I had no idea how it would end.

 

I logged onto my work email to find an email from my manager saying we are key workers and because of that I can book the vaccine.  I looked at the email and felt stressed immediately.  I had not really done any research on the vaccines as I didn’t expect to get one until the spring.

 

However, I clicked the link and read up on the Pfizer vaccine.  They only give it at the hospital.  Straight away I knew I didn’t want to do that.  My stepdad caught COVID-19 in the hospital.  I could feel my anxiety growing.  I continued to read and it said you need to know if you are allergic to any of the list of components.  It was all very medical and I honestly didn’t have a clue.  I am not a medical professional.  So, I called my GP to ask if he would know if I was allergic to any of the components in the vaccine.  I do suffer some mild allergies and I am very allergic to cats.  The receptionist said they were doing the Oxford one today and would I like to find out if I qualify.  She spoke to her manager and called me back.  ‘Yes, an appointment has been made for you at 16.58 today’.  I had an appointment.  I didn’t need to make a decision anymore.  I would be less stressed as its at my surgery and I know the procedure as I had the flu jab there last year.

 

Well, all day my anxiety grew.  I am scared of needles but I am more scared of COVID-19.  I felt nervous and couldn’t really concentrate.  I asked my husband who was off work if he minded driving me to the surgery.  We left at 4.30pm.  I had a mask, gloves, and a bag to throw them in once I had finished.  I got out the car at 16.54.  I cannot believe the amount of people there.  The car park was full.  The people were getting there early and just hanging about outside.  I started to get really annoyed and stressed.  No one really understands social distancing but me, I thought to myself.  There were two people at the doors one to take your temperature and ask questions and one to try to manage the people and the queue.  It was very disorganised as you can enter the surgery by two paths and no signs or clear way of where to queue.  I was then speaking to a third person to be ticked of a sheet before going to the receptionist to book in.  That is four people I have spoken to already.  I chose a chair as far away from every9one else that I could and stood – I didn’t want to sit (yes because of COVID-19).  And I waited for my name to be called.  

 

They called me about five past five.  I went into a room and they took my details.  There was a lady on the computer and a doctor.  Not a volunteer.  Not a nurse.  But a very patient, kind, and rather handsome doctor.  I could have been in an episode of Holby City.  I was so pleased a medical professional was going to give it.  He asked me a few questions about allergies.  I told him.  He asked if I had any questions.  I didn’t.  I just said ‘please forgive me for asking but can you clean your hands in front of me before you give it to me’, and he did with no questions asked.  I was close to tears at this point.  So much anxiety about what vaccine to have, getting to see more people today than I had seen in a year and having a doctor taking his time with me.  It was too much.  I am so grateful he was nice.  I left feeling I had done the right thing.  I do not have a date for the second dose.  They will get in touch with me about that.

 

Woke up at 2.41am. I was shivering all over.  No idea if it's the weather or a side effect.  I was shivering and shaking so much I couldn’t even write on Facebook.   It was like I was Tina Turner in the rock opera, Tommy.  I had never shaked like this before.  I took paracetamol and hot tea to try to warm me up.  Stayed up for three hours, watching nothing on tv.  Then I was burning up.  I felt my body was on fire and I was sweating so much.  I finally got to bed about 5am just to be woken at 9am with a dreadful headache and still feel like my body is on fire.

 

I have watched media about the vaccine and read up on the vaccines but nowhere did it say it would be this bad.  The leaflet they gave me does list these symptoms and I suppose that is reassuring.  I have never had a reaction to the flu jab so didn’t expect any reaction to this.  My sister and cousin have had the side effects so not sure if it means its something to do with our blood or we are just unlucky.  I chose the Oxford vaccine because I was hoping to avoid the side effects with the Pfizer.  But my mum also had terrible side effects and she had Pfizer.  So perhaps its something to do with blood types or genetics?  I don’t know.  I do know that I am writing this now on Sunday morning and I am still very poorly.  I have a temperature and a headache and general malaise.  I hope it passes soon.

 Hospitals give you Covid - Corona Virus Diary

Saturday 16 January 2021

It has been a difficult few weeks.  Last time we spoke, my stepdad was in hospital with a stroke. So, let me update you on what happened next…

He was released from hospital on Christmas eve.  But he wasn’t well and was taken back into hospital on boxing day.  During that 48 hours he was home, he gave covid to my mum. He had caught it in hospital.  He was negative on his admission test yet they sent him home with covid.   He was asymptomatic so had no symptoms.  Sadly, this is not true for my mum.  She started coughing on Christmas day and it steadily got worse.  She had a very high temperature and a persistent cough.  When she collapsed off the sofa onto the floor at 2am in the morning, my stepdad called an ambulance.  She was admitted to the hospital and tested positive for covid.

The ward wasn’t a ward but an old endoscopy unit that had had four beds added as the hospital was full to breaking point.  It had almost no windows except a tiny one very high up and that meant that my mum and her Doro couldn’t even send a text or call as there was no signal through the thick walls.  The staff were under pressure and didn’t thank you if you call to see how your mum is so, I sat and waited.  I felt so worried about her.  My mum has been ill with other underlying conditions for over 40 years.  I sent her a text daily, but heard nothing until I got a call from her after about five days.  I was so delighted to hear from her – but she sounded dreadful and although I tried to stay upbeat and positive for her – the truth was this call worried me more.  My poor mum was very, very poorly.  Another four days with no contact although I always called my stepdad for an update.  He had the same issues with getting any information and getting in touch with my mum.  Finally, last Sunday she came home from hospital.  I found out on Monday and she was still really poorly.  She sounded so bad I was surprised she was home.  But I was glad she was home as she also suffers poor mental health and I know she would recover better in her own home with her husband there.

I spoke to her again on Tuesday and Friday.  I didn’t want to call each day in case it felt like more pressure.  There is nothing worse than trying to rest and recover but the phone keeps ringing – even if people have good intentions.  So, I only spoke to her twice this week.  The first call she still sounded terrible, coughing and with such a rough tone to her voice.  However, by the second call on Friday, she sounded so much better.  Only coughing a little and her voice much better than it was. She said it is such an effort to do anything.  She said just getting out of bed is a huge effort.  She has no energy.  But I told her to take her time and slowly this will come back.  I have allowed myself to be more hopeful and feel for the first time she might be getting better. 

The figures this week in the UK are the worst ever.  Over a thousand people a day are dying.  And they say that worse is to come.  If you queued for your Christmas presents; if you mixed houses over Christmas; if you stand too close to people (and in a mask most people do – its supposed to be two metres not one!). then you may well be in trouble.  Remember the virus takes two weeks to show up.  Then you may have a week of being unwell.  Then you either feel better or worse.  If you get worse it may take a week before you feel so bad you need hospital care, and they will care for you but they are stretched.  More and more younger people are being admitted to hospital. It’s at least a month from your first cough before you might die.  Too late for regrets at that stage – you should be more careful.

And the 28 days count is pointless if you die on day 29 – you won’t be counted at all.  I think it’s more accurate to see how many people die in a ‘normal’ year and how many excess deaths we have had this year and in 2020.

This disease is killing people. If you don’t believe that you are the problem.  It’s a shame the virus doesn’t just target the non-believers.

Anyway, in other news, it has also been an expensive start to 2021.  My vacuum cleaner broke just before Christmas.   Hubby bought a temporary cheap one so I didn’t have to panic about tinsel but I love my kirby and wanted it fixed.  Luckily, I got it fixed. Yes, it cost me £132 but it is worth it.  Kirby is a quality product and I have had mine for 23 years.  The cheap one was designated to be the car hoover and now lives in the garage.

Also, my car is poorly.  Last Sunday the battery died.  It is true I haven’t been driving as much since I started to work from home but still, I always turn the engine over every week.  It was a surprise to hear that it died.  I called RAC and they came out and offered a new battery at the cost of £110.  He even said to me it would be cheaper to buy elsewhere but I couldn’t get my car anywhere else without it, so I paid it.  On Friday my car went into the garage as there is a problem with my fan so I cannot put on my heating or air-con.  The garage still has my car and I know its gonna cost a lot. 

Thanks 2021…you look a lot like 2020 to me.

Hope you all have a good week. Stay safe.

Happy New Year 2021 - Corona Virus Diary

Friday 1 January 2021

What can I say about 2020?  Not a lot if I want to stay positive.  It's a year we won't easily forget.  New language such as 'covidiots' and 'new-normal' and the overuse of ‘exceptional times’.  New ways of living, working from home instead of an office, wearing masks to go shopping, clapping on a Thursday, and for me, leaving my post three days before I open it. I found a new appreciation for my neglected garden. I am not a gardener and it shows. I would love someone to come and landscape it all for me – but instead I appreciated my old patio and grass and my lovely apple tree.

 

It was year of change, son no1 moved back home and left the hospitality industry.  He told me the other day his illness in April he believes was Covid, and was so severe he was ready to go to hospital as he couldn’t breathe.  He only just told me this as he knew if he told me at the time, how much I would worry.  I worried anyway… and remember back in April, tests were extremely scarce so we cannot say for sure he had Covid, but he believes he did.  So, I am grateful to all the powers that be that he is alive, well and back home for now.

 

Son no 2 passed his driving test in February this year.  I told him we would start looking for a car, but of course then Covid hit and that took a back seat.  In July, he was back at work in hospitality, but car-less so I had to pick him up and drop him off as a taxi felt too risky.  This meant some very late nights, especially during August and the eat out to help out scheme which caused no end of stress and hard work for those in hospitality.  We didn’t want to look at cars from individual sellers – not knowing their Covid status.  By the end of September, the taxiing was killing me on top of a full-time job.  We searched car dealers and he found a lovely Corsa. Son no 2 got his independence and I got a good night’s sleep.

 

My annual holiday was a shopping trip to St Albans.  Not as glamourous as Vegas and New York in 2018 or Prague and Brighton in 2019.  I could not understand how anyone could get on a plane.  There was no social distancing, the air is recycled and if someone eats or drinks next to you – they will be removing their masks.  No holiday is worth your life – and I didn’t want to risk catching the virus. Deep clean became a buzz word but I am not sure how extra clean that meant to your hotel. So staycation was the name of the game.

 

2020 was a year where I hardly wore make up after a lifetime of never leaving the house without it. Of course I wasn’t leaving the house. I resorted back to dying my own hair.  I miss hairdressers and I think we all found a respect for the industry that wasn’t there before.  2020 made me realise what I value the most. It  made me realise how much I miss my family and friends.  How I miss theatre and gigs.  How I miss eating out.  It was the small things that matter.  Not shopping but friendship.  Connecting with people.  And yes, thank goodness for Zoom.  I could still see my friends and chat.  I could Skype my 98-year-old grandad who I haven’t seen since March.  And I picked up the phone to many of you to see how you were doing.

 

I know many friends who have lost loved ones in 2020 and my heart goes out to them.  2020 has been rougher on some than on others.  If you are still breathing – be grateful for what you have, even if you have lost your job or are struggling to pay your bills right now.  Those that didn’t make it would swap lives in a heartbeat.  

 

I am generally an optimistic person and really hope that 2021 is better for us all.  But listen up 2021, I need you to know I feel like I have just come out of a damaging relationship with 2020.  I am wary.  I am wanting to trust you, 2021, but I am holding back from embracing you too much – just in case you are too much like 2020.  2021 – I ask you – please be kind and gentle.  2020 put us through a lot and I need to go slow and build up my confidence.  I still hope by summer 2021, the old normal will be back in some way – so, like any new relationship, I am hoping for the best.

 

 

I want to wish you all a Happy New Year.  I truly mean it and hope it is a happy and healthy one for you.

When Covid hits home - Corona Virus Diary

Tuesday 29 December 2020

So, my last blog was being grateful for Christmas and having my family home.  And I am grateful for that.  So much.  But I thought I would share how difficult the last couple of weeks have been.  One of the big tragedies affecting my family has been that my stepdad has had a stroke.

He was feeling unwell and thought it might be a TIA, which he has had before. But just a week before Christmas he asked my mum to call an ambulance.  He has to be very unwell to do that.  He couldn’t walk properly.  In hospital he had to wait for results of a Covid test before they would move him to a ward.  He was negative.  He was put on an assessment ward and then a stroke ward where he was told he had had a stroke.  He was monitored and given medication and then let home on Christmas eve.  My mum was so pleased he was coming home.  My mum has been very poorly herself for over 40 years and suffers both physical disabilities and mental health issues.  She doesn’t know how to top-up her pay as you go Doro mobile or even log into her email.  My stepdad did it all and my mum finds it hard to function without him.  She doesn’t even want to eat when he is not there.  My mum is now on her own in their flat in a retirement village run by Extra Care.  I call her daily now.  However sadly, my stepdad should not have been sent home and by Boxing day was back in hospital.  On the 27th he was moved to the stroke ward but then found out he had tested positive for Covid.  He is asymptomatic so has no obvious symptoms.

Since he came home on Christmas eve my mum has had a persistent cough and a temperature.  My sister ordered her a home testing kit but my mum cannot work out how to fold the box.  There is no one who can help her.  What can she do?  I cannot get her to do skype or zoom as she really is a technophobe.  I suggested the extra care staff in the village try to help her but she says she doesn’t think they will help.  All she cares about is her husband and has already made suicide comments to my sister. (this is not unusual for my mum who has attempted to take her life several times in the past).  She is anxious and very clearly struggling.

My sister and I think she does have Covid and that our stepdad brought the virus home from hospital the first time he was in hospital.  Why are hospitals sending people home when they still have Covid?  There are at least 10 people at the retirement village with Covid now…yet on Christmas day they allowed the restaurant to open for residents.  In tier 4.  They are not a care home so this was a reckless move.  But in the meantime, my mum is on her own and struggling with her mental health and possibly Covid.  We cannot visit or help her.  How many others are in this situation?  My stepdad is still in hospital and no idea when he will next be home.

Today my mum rang me.  Someone came to pick up the Covid test.  Can you believe that Extra Care asked if she could come down and drop it off?!  My mum should be isolating – not walking through the retirement village with possible Covid.  She told the staff this and the person came to pick up the test from her doorstep.  She sounds much worse today.  She said she had another temperature in the night and is still coughing so much her whole-body aches.  I am angry.  I am angry at the hospital for sending home people with Covid home to their vulnerable partners.  I am angry with Extra Care, who seem reckless in their decision making and not in control of the situation at all.  And I am extremely worried about my mum.  My Stepdad seems to be making good progress and is in the right place for his care – but who is caring for my mum?

Christmas 2020 - Corona Virus Diary

Boxing Day - 26 December 2020

A Christmas under tier 4 restrictions in the UK is practically the same rules as the last lockdown.  I am in the minority to say that I am delighted with this information.  I am sad for all the families who are not getting together on Christmas to see each other after a very difficult year for everyone – and especially those families who have lost family members and are trying to get through their Christmas without family memories haunting them.  But for me, personally, tier 4 is welcome news.  Both my boys have worked in hospitality for years.  This has meant that on Christmas day they have to feed all those who can’t be bothered to cook for themselves.  I don’t think people realise how much this impacts the families who work in hospitality…and for that I would add retail on Boxing day.  I remember a time when nowhere opened on either Christmas or Boxing day.  It was a proper break for everyone unless you worked in emergency services.  Hospitality and retail are not emergency services.  I believe people will survive if we don’t have to shop on Boxing day or have a meal cooked for you on Christmas day. And you know the CEO’s of all those restaurants and retail chains are not working on Christmas day – no. Its just those who are on minimum wage who suffer the most.

For many years now I have made my Christmas day dinner about 7.30pm in the evening after waiting all day for my boys to come home from work.  Last year my eldest didn’t even make it home for Christmas and Boxing day, as he managed a restaurant that was a 45 min drive away, and said he would be too tired to come after the hectic day’s work.  So, forgive me if, just for once, I am absolutely delighted about tier 4.  Had it been tier 3 I think things would be different as restaurants are open in that tier.  But for me, tier 4 is the best Christmas present of all. I made dinner for 2.30pm.  I forgot the pigs in blankets and we all laughed that I always forget to do something. We ate and laughed and pulled crackers together as a family.  We opened our presents (which wasn’t much this year as I gave money. I hate giving money but have not had the opportunity to get out and shop due to the virus so although they had a token present under the tree – money was the main gift).  We watched a film together, Disney’s live action Aladdin.  We even watched Blankety Blank and laughed hard at the stupid answers to the questions.  We ate too much.  We sang 80’s songs together and watched a countdown of 80’s songs questioning who voted for these in the order they came in (top 80 and no Madonna was a bit shocking).  We had a wonderful time as a family.  I took some photos and treasured these moments.  I hugged my family and cried a lot – so totally grateful for this Christmas.

So, I have had a wonderful Christmas and hope it doesn't sound like I am gloating.  I feel its deserved because of the limits hospitality puts on families of those working in the industry.  So, to you all, but especially, to all those in hospitality and retail, enjoy your Christmas.  Next year it will be back to the usual hectic rush.

Merry Christmas.

Level up – Tier 4 - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 20 December 2020

Well, here is a first. Within a few hours of my blog going up the government changed their plans. It is almost like they read my blog and realised I was right. I am very pleased to hear about Tier 4 and glad they changed it even if it was at the 11th hour. Although I use common sense, it's been evident to me from this year that others don't. This means no mixing with any family over Christmas indoors and only one person outdoors.

It was never a good idea that the government was allowing five days to mix families. Both Germany and Italy had shut it down. The rates are terrible and over 500 a day are dying. So even though tier 4 was announced only yesterday, I hope this action will be life-saving. If you live alone and are in a bubble, it is my understanding you can still meet your bubble... just not the old Christmas bubbles that was 3 families.

I had a good night last night. It was the final of strictly. I wanted Bill Bailey to win so used all my online votes on him – not because he was technically the best dancer, but because he is a 55-year-old man and in 2020, we needed this. I actually screamed when I heard he won, then promptly burst into tears. I am so delighted for him. Its like a real life ‘Love Actually’. Remember the scene when Billy Mack is being interviewed?

After the joy of strictly I watched Kinky Boots which is streaming for free this weekend. I saw it last year in Milton Keynes theatre and fell in love with it. The stage performance is so much better than the film. And please, if you can, give a donation to the theatre charities. You know I have. I sat there and cried. I cried at the audience who can stand, clap, cheer and interact with the cast. I cried for the cast. I cried for a performance with no social distancing. If we want our old normal back – and I do – we need to abide by the rules.

So, I ask you to have a safe Christmas. A Christmas where you will still be here in the New Year and not a statistic on a daily death count. These restrictions are temporary and hopefully by next summer we will all be hugging each other again…but until then, be safe.

Tier three - Corona Virus diary

Saturday 19 December 2020

I’ve not done a diary entry for a while. I was excited that Milton Keynes was going to host a panto.  I had written an article just last week at how covid safe they had made it.  Sadly, we are going into Tier three from tomorrow so that means no hospitality and no theatre will be open.  I have been very vocal about how much I love theatre and worry about its sustainability.  I am really gutted for all those who worked so hard to pull this panto together at such short notice and also sad for the audience who badly need some joy in their lives.

However, tier three in Milton Keynes, along with the rest of Buckinghamshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire and Berkshire, is the right decision.  I have just read a statement from Milton Keynes hospital who say they have just taken in a ward full of covid patients and are ‘very very busy’.  Milton Keynes rates are almost 400 per 100,000 and still rising which is huge for such a small geographic area.  We probably need more than tier three but with schools and shops that aren’t essential still open – I wonder how we will get the rates down again.  Of course, next week the government relax the rules for Christmas.  Just because they can’t police it and because they don’t want to be a grinch who cancelled Christmas.  Italy and Germany are much more sensible and have cancelled Christmas.  People keep breaking the rules – some not realising and some intentionally.  But the fact is over 500 people a day are dying from this virus in the UK and with relaxed rules and the normal flu issues in January – I think we will be watching those death rates rise to double what they are now.  Please can I ask you to think twice before you see your parents and grandparents or anyone with underlying health conditions this Christmas.  They won’t thank you when they cannot breathe.

Moving onto more positive news, last night I did my ‘70’s challenge in one of the Abba groups I belong to.  I picked 45 songs from the 70’s that I love and because its an Abba group – five Abba tracks.  I may post my choices in a separate blog later, but people loved my choices and I educated a few with songs they hadn’t heard before.  Its always nice to share my love of music especially if they are songs that sum up who I am.  If you know me you will know that there is a right mix of quirky stuff in there and of course the odd Bowie track. I was only allowed one but I was naughty and put in two! I’m such a rebel rebel.  

Talking of Bowie, I have had some wonderfully exciting news this week. I have won a competition.  I never win anything (I can count on one hand the amount of stuff I have won) so this was a fantastic surprise.  I have won a Bowie print from Omaha Perez who is a talented artist from California.  I am delighted and have the perfect space in my newly decorated hallway for it.  I might even do a vlog about it once I receive it.  I am truly delighted to win, especially as personally I have had a few awful weeks of health issues for members of my family.  I won’t go into details here but it’s been a tough couple of weeks. 

Everyone in my household is now off work for various reasons (tier three or annual leave) except for me. I am still working right up to 23 December but this year have 24th off so I can clean and cook. Hmmm... how comes I am the one to clean and cook still?

Anyway, wishing you all a fabulous Christmas if that is something you celebrate, and if not, wishing you a peaceful break.  Stay safe. 

Painting my troubles away - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 29 November 2020

I have discovered Bob Ross.  Thank you BBC four. I seem to be the only person who had never heard of him but I love him.  For those who don’t know – Bob is a painter who was famous in the 1980s.  He has a programme called The Joy Of Painting.  He paints happy little clouds.  He uses brushes I would use to paint walls and he makes amazing trees with them.  He just dabs bits here and there and suddenly there is a scene.  I love how he will think about the people who live in the barn or a robin in a tree and the pleasure he gets from just cleaning his brushes.  He really seems comfortable with what he is doing and that confidence is compelling to watch.  He has a lovely accent from Florida, USA, and it’s so relaxing.  It called The Joy Of Painting and it is a joy to watch him paint.  He is a calming influence in today’s world.  He signs off each show with the same phrase:  happy painting and god bless.  This is therapy.  This is meditation.  In 2020 this is needed.

He makes it look so easy but I am not a painter.  I have tried and tried but I am unable to replicate anything good.  Trust me on this.  I once drew my husband and he loved it even though it was dreadful.  My husband painted me when he first met me.  It’s a lovely painting and has hung in my hallway for 15 years until earlier this year when I took it down to redecorate.  My youngest son also paints and draws.  They are both very talented which makes me feel even more inadequate when I try.  My Grandad, who is now 98, still paints and has been painting for 30 years.  He often copies the masters including Monet and Van Gogh.  I have a copy of his waterlilies in my house.  When I speak to him, he often says to me ‘I am just finishing another masterpiece’.  I love his positivity.  I am beginning to think that painting isn’t about the finished article but the joy of the process.

Other things that have made me happy this week include watching Strictly.  I love Strictly as you all know, but in 2020, it seems more important than ever.  And I am loving Bill Bailey.  I have a story about when we met him that I may share at another time, but for now, let me say I think he is amazing.  Not only funny and genuine, but committed to putting all his efforts into learning the dances.  Oti is already a champion so I hope she breaks the rule and wins two years running.  This is not to say that the other contestants are not good.  The standard this year is exceptionally high.  I was very sad to see Katya and Nicola leave the competition because Katya tested positive for Covid.  I was looking forward to seeing more of them.  This week was the final of British Bake Off.  I felt so sorry for Laura.  Her custard slices didn’t set so she knew she wasn’t in the running for the winner.  Peter was practically perfect in every way – he is a male Mary Poppins, albeit a Scottish version!  A very deserved winner.  I don’t know about you, but I find that I tend to eat more cake when this show is on so its probably a good thing that its finished.  But it’s another ‘feel good’ show that has been needed in 2020.

I have purposely avoided watching anything negative.  I am watching happy shows.  This week I watched High Society which is the film I was named after Grace Kelly’s character.  It made me cry.  I watched a film on channel five called Christmas at the Plaza.  Again, it made me cry.  I feel very emotional right now.  I need my family and friends.  I need their love and hugs around me.  I cannot wait for 2021 and a new fresh start with a most positive outcome.

Have a positive week and make sure you do something that makes you feel good.

How is your mental health? - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 15 November 2020

How is your wellbeing?  It’s a fairly new word and I am not sure people understand the difference between wellbeing and mental health.  My understanding of wellbeing is about being pro-active.  It’s about looking after yourself and giving yourself a little bit of love.  It can be meditation, going for walks, a long soak in a bath, chatting with friends.  Anything that lifts your mood and feels good is about your wellbeing.  It can be physical and mental.  I am a very positive person and besides a heap of self-help books.  I am also a qualified life coach.  I think my well-being is as good as I can get it.

Mental health is a more tricky beast.  You can do all of the above to improve wellbeing and still struggle with mental health.  I have been lucky in my life.  I have not had many episodes of bad mental health but that isn’t to say I don’t understand mental health.  With a mum who is bi-polar and a sister with manic depression, I have seen how poor mental health has impacted on their lives and indirectly on mine as someone who loves them.

I think putting aside all the official categories of mental health, most people have struggled a bit this year with their mental health.  I can say for me, I am struggling.  I have not been so low since 2013, which was the worst year of my life.  I miss going out to eat.  I miss going to live music gigs and the people, atmosphere and how much it lifts me.  I miss theatre.  A chance to escape to another world.  I miss my friends who live all over the country and beyond.  Yes, we use zoom and call each other, but its not the same as laughing and hugging with no social distancing.

I have been thinking about my mental health recently and realised I categorise things and put them into boxes.  The 2013 box has been locked for a long time.  I am not going to expand on why it was the worst year of my life here, but suffice to say that in 2013 I had counselling for the first time ever.  2016 was also a difficult year and those of you who know me, know that with Bowie passing away and my youngest son seriously ill and hospitalised, it was not a good year.  However, it was still no 2013.  But 2020, Oh boy! - I feel 2020 is giving 2013 a run for its money.  Back in February I had opened the 2013 box to deal with it.  I was having more counselling but then Covid hit us and I went into survival mode.  The 2013 box got locked up again as I looked at ways to get through 2020.  I was saying to someone this week, I remember when I was risk assessed to work from home in early March (before the lockdown), I thought it would only be for a couple of weeks.  How wrong was I?  I never returned to the office other than to collect my personal belongings.  The office is closed permanently now.  As with many companies, it has been realised how much money organisations can save if staff work from home.  It has its pro and cons but I do miss the chat over a morning coffee with my colleagues before I start work.  

 I feel I have lost my liberty.  I felt so restricted.  Yes, it’s mainly my decision to rarely go out the house because I have a health issue with my lung which makes me feel more vulnerable to this killer plague.  I feel angry at those who don’t believe there is a virus and it’s just a conspiracy by the government; I feel angry at those not following the rules; and those who do not seem to understand social distancing and even more frustrated that some of those people are friends of mine.  I don’t understand if you meet friends for lunch how you can socially distance if you are sitting on the same table in the same restaurant.  That is not social distancing.  This is exactly why the virus is spreading.  We are ten days into the second lockdown and the R rate is still rising.  Even people who are following the rules are still not safe as the rules do not completely protect you.  It feels like the emperor’s new clothes and I am the only one who can see this for what it is.

These are all very negative feelings.  I want to be more positive but its honestly not that easy.  So, if you too, are struggling, you are not alone.  I still strive to be the most positive person I can be. But 2020 is a challenge.  I do plan to survive it.  To be alive for 2021 but what state my mental health is in, I am not sure.  It is recognised nationally there will be more mental health issues as we emerge from this nightmare year – but for now, stay safe and use your common sense to do so.  Keep looking after your well-being too – who knows - it might help with your mental health.

In remembrance of… Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 8 November 2020

It’s been a week since my birthday.  It already feels like months ago.  So much has happened in just one week. The UK I now officially in its second lockdown, supposedly for a month but we will find out at the beginning of December.

I decided to try really hard to be more positive this time.  Nothing changed for me work wise as I have been working from home since early March.  I recognise I am lucky to have a job and be able to do it from home but its been a strain.  I have been slightly jealous of those who get furloughed.  They get paid to stay home, to take up hobbies and spend time with their family while others like me and my husband who are both key workers, are feeling drained.  However, I just said I am trying to be more positive and that is what I am doing.  I joined a friends Facebook group which is exactly that.  Positivity during lockdown.  I can share that already I have baked some banana bread with chocolate chips and cherries.  It’s my best batch ever.  I have been approached by Italian TV for them to use one of my videos for a documentary.  I share as these are positive things that are happening to me.  And it looks like Biden has won the USA elections. I, along with millions of others hope this brings a more positive future for the USA.

Today is Remembrance Day.  I normally buy a poppy and this year is no different.  However, I bought one online yet I am still waiting for it to arrive – but I can show you the ones I have from previous years.  I think of the fallen and how terrifying it must be to lose your life in such a traumatic way.  Those brave people, both men and women, who gave their lives for our country.  It is a time for reflection.  A time to think about appreciating the gifts already in your life.  Appreciate life.  And I know it’s been bandied about a lot this year – but BE KIND is still and always will be relevant.  We need kindness more than ever.

I have quietly been supporting several charities this year.  I loved the #pinyourthanks idea which supports three charities.  I bought several pins to help the charity.  It’s a lovely idea and really fits the be kind idea to show your support to those who have made a difference in your life. As regular readers of my blog will know, I love theatre and miss it so much.  I watched Caroline Quentin on strictly last night dedicate her dance to those in the theatre industry.  Just watching her talk in an empty theatre before she danced had me in floods of tears.  I love theatre and want everyone who works in this industry to know we love you and we will gladly be back as soon as it is safe to do so once more.  You are talented and wonderful and make people feel such joy with your performances.  You are wanted.  You are needed.  Do not forget this.  I have supported the theatre industry by buying merchandise from ‘The Show must go on’ which supports four charities helping artists who need it during these uncertain times. 

While writing this piece, I stepped away from my keyboard and sat quietly for the 2 minutes silence.  I cried.  Not only for all the fallen.  I cried for those who are unable to attend a service to show their respect for their fallen family member or colleague.  I cried for those who died from Covid this year.  I cried for all those who have died indirectly from the impact of Covid.  I cried for all the sad things that have happened this year.  Let’s hope that this time next year we can really pay our respects to everyone passed.

I am trying to be positive – but frankly I am a bit of a mess. Forgive me and this ramble blog. Wishing you all a good week.

It’s my birthday and I'll shield if I want to - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 1 November 2020

So, when we first had the lockdown announced in March, I never really expected to still be in the same situation for my birthday.  Yes, today is my birthday.  I would normally be doing something fantastic.  Going to see a theatre show, going to a live music gig, travelling abroad.  However, there is nothing like that this year.  Yes, I could go out for a meal but I don’t want to risk it with the rate so high.  I cannot trust if social distance is being maintained in the kitchens and what the staff do when they are not working.  Its not like they are tested daily.  So, I do not want to ingest any food that they have touched.  This includes takeaways.  My poor husband will cook me a lovely meal at home instead.  I have both my son’s home so it will be a family celebration this year.  And that is good enough for me.

My 98-year-old grandad just called me to wish me a happy 46th birthday.  We agreed that after my significant birthday we would start to count backwards.  He has never forgotten this and always makes me smile.  He often says ‘when I get to your age’ which is funny as he is almost double my age.  My mum has been in hospital for the last two days.  She is at high risk of a heart attack or stroke so they are keeping her in to monitor her.  She still text me to wish me a happy birthday.  My dad rang me and told me a dreadful joke that was the sort that you see hay bales passing by.  He is normally the king of jokes – well corny ones.

I am sitting here, on my birthday, writing a blog and waiting for my family to wake up.  Not exactly what I have done before for a birthday. Facebook is filled with hundreds of lovely wishes from all my friends.  I feel blessed to know so many lovely people.  I had thought how to celebrate my birthday for a while and took the idea from my good friend Leena, who had some photos of her taken for her birthday.  I liked this idea.  You all know how much I love photos.  So, I had planned to have photos taken in my two new coats that my boys bought me.  However, the weather this weekend has not leant itself to this – its raining on and off and is extremely windy.  So that idea is on hold until there is a drier day.

To be honest, I feel a little melancholy.  I am an extrovert.  I love going out.  Seeing people.  Having a good time.  However positive I try to paint it – this isn’t the best birthday I have ever had.  So, let me tell you about the significant birthday I had a few years ago.  It was held in an exclusive club in Birmingham and friends from all over the country came to celebrate with me.  I had two of the best DJ’s in the world there – hubby DJ Symix and the founder of OAD club, David Wright.  I had hand picked every track to be played which was wonderful as I knew I could dance to them all.  I had a 70’s disco hour and a hi-nrg hour, with the rest being music from The Blitz and songs that were the sound track to my life.  I even had Hot Gossip’s I lost my heart to a starship trouper and did the dance I had choreographed when I was young to it.  Just for a laugh.  I had my wedding song played and danced with my husband.  I wore a dress featuring photos of me.  My two boys were there too.  It really was the best time.  I long for a time when I can hug people again.  My friends, I truly miss you all.

But chin up as they say.  I will do my best to eat cake (I have a red velvet cake. Not just any red velvet cake. An M&S red velvet cake) and I will enjoy being with my family – which is normally a rare occasion.

Love to you all.

An autumn photo taken on Friday - before the rain came

Gigging In My Living Room - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 25 October 2020

Last night I watched OMD in concert.  It was their live on the sofa 2 with the first half featuring a full orchestra and the second half giving us all the hits from a gig filmed last year.  We were supposed to see them at the Royal Albert Hall this year but that gig has been put back until 2022.  I don’t know what happened to me last night but I was up dancing in my living room like a wild woman.  My husband (who liked OMD even more than I do), sat there laughing at me but I have decided this is what we all should be doing.  Reasons are as follows:

  1. It got my step count up – working from home does mean I don’t seem to exercise as much

  2. It got my adrenalin going and made me laugh

  3. I felt good from dancing

  4. They played Messages and Electricity which two of my favourite OMD tracks

Last night in a normal world, I would have been in Birmingham seeing my friends and going to the Only After Dark (OAD) night club.  Oh, how I miss my friends and dancing to those wonderful tunes.  I often dance to Messages and Electricity at the club. Knowing that because of the virus I haven’t been to Birmingham since early March when we could feel it encroaching on us.  I miss dressing up.  I have a special OAD wardrobe of unique and quirky clothes that I love to wear.  Sitting in my living room doesn’t really motivate me to dress up and put make up on.  However, I did enjoy the OMD gig and may start to make my Saturdays a regular ‘gig’ night in.

I spent most of yesterday learning to code. I figure if they can teach it to kids in schools then why not me?  I learnt Python and most of it I understood quite easily.  No – I am not looking to change career but I do like learning new stuff and don’t want to start to fall behind with technology.  My dad confirmed that I would be good at it because he recognises, I am good with technology and very logical, but he also said my sister wouldn’t be good at it.  I daren’t tell her he said that!

This morning I skyped with my grandad.  He is 98 years old and lives alone independently. He has not been out the house since March except for the odd walk and cooks and cleans the house himself.  We normally talk on the phone every day but seeing him was wonderful.  We picked a good time so that he got to see both my children too so he says that has made his day today.  Sometimes it’s just the little things that count.

My Facebook memories are showing what I was doing this time last year.  I was shopping in Bicester Village for an amazing silver sequinned coat that I wore for Steve Norman at OAD last year.  The message with the photo was ‘I've realised I don’t buy 'normal' clothes.  I buy clothes that should be on a catwalk or stage.  Well they say dress for the job you want! ’.. Facebook memories also tells me that I was meeting my ‘Holby Sis’ Leena who flew all the way from Finland to see me (well me and some of her other friends). We had cocktails in Ziggy’s, Café Royal.  What a difference this year is.  Leena and I plan to Zoom next week so we can still have a catch up.  Thank goodness for Zoom and Skype – life would be so much more limited without them.

Stay safe, tell your loved ones that you love them and make time for yourself and your friends and family. That’s what counts at the end of the day.

Until next week..

Save the arts - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 11 October 2020

What a week.  I don’t even know where to begin. Trump, allegedly had Covid but was out of hospital in days and meeting people again which questions the fact that he had Covid at all, or if he did, was he still contagious and spreading it to his voters and staff?  Well I am not going dwell on that this week, as there are issues closer to home and close to my heart that I would like to discuss instead.

This week, Rishi Sunak has suggested that struggling musicians and others in the arts industry may need to retrain and find new jobs as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.  The chancellor’s stark comments came after recent research revealed that a third of musicians could leave the industry due to financial losses.  When asked if out-of-work musicians and creatives should seek alternative employment, Sunak said, ‘I can’t pretend that everyone can do exactly the same job that they were doing at the beginning of this crisis’.  This prompted an outcry from the arts sector including myself and my friends who work in the arts.  How dare he?  Does he realise how hard people in the arts work?  Is he jealous that he can’t sing?  Perhaps he is not a music or theatre fan but the statement was uncalled for and has angered many people.  My friend Andy is the Bard of Stony Stratford and he wrote a poem summing up perfectly how we are feeling.

 

On top of this, Cineworld closed its doors on every cinema here in the UK and in the USA until 2021, with hundreds of redundancies.  I don’t know about you but the enjoyable things in life are theatre, music gigs, films and the joy of doing those experiences with your friends and family.  Memorable times shared together.  We should be fighting to save the arts.  Talented people whose performances we enjoy watching should be able to be paid to perform for us.  I feel so blessed that as press, I have seen some phenomenal productions and exciting energetic live music performances.  I have frequented the cinema so much; it was the inspiration for starting my blog 11 years ago.  It’s all gone for now – but I truly believe it will return and we need it to return.  I cannot imagine a life lived without another live show or without another live music gig.  Even watching the final of Britain’s Got Talent to see the Les Mis performance, which is in my top five of all-time favourite musicals, made me cry.  Just like in Back To The Future, where they were trying to #SaveTheClocktower or the Heroes TV show where they said #SaveTheCheerleader #SaveTheWorld, we need to #SaveTheArts.

Saturday was world Mental Health Day and boy does this need recognising this year.  In the year of 2020, I imagine there are more people struggling with their mental health than in previous years.  Of course, life events can impact your mental health at any time, but this year, everything seems so much bigger.  I am struggling with so much change in just six months.  This week alone I have felt very stressed as son no 1 handed in his notice at work after almost 10 years working in hospitality for a well-known pub and restaurant chain.  He was loyal and committed and I believe they were lucky to have him.  He managed a fantastic little restaurant in a lovely village and worked tirelessly for them, so committed that family and friends took a back seat.  However, lockdown gave him time to think about his life and the fact he is still single, as hospitality is not an easy trade to form relationships in.  He was not well supported by his manager so he decided to come home to where his heart is – with his family and friends.  It is the start of a new chapter for him.  At work another colleague also handed in her notice.  Both my son and my colleague do not have another job to go but needed to make the change.  Let’s hope for both it is a positive change.  A new hope.

My weekend started early as work gave us half a day off to do something for yourself in mental health week.  I had planned to do a Yoga video, but that is still sitting here in its shrink-wrap so needless to say, that didn’t happen.  Instead I watched a film, sorted out a return on Amazon and cooked a pasta bake.  Its nice to have time to do the little things.  Yesterday I watched Labyrinth on TV just because it was on.  Yes, I have it on DVD and Netflix but as it was on, I couldn’t help myself.  I know it word for word.  It really did make an enjoyable Saturday afternoon and I finished off the evening with Pulp Fiction.  You can’t beat a bit of Tarrantino on a Saturday night.

Before I sign off from this week’s diary blog, I want to reach out to all those who may be struggling with their mental health.  Speak to someone.  Anyone. I am here if you need me.  Love to you all.

Staycation - Corona Virus diary

 Saturday 3 October 2020

Well sorry I have been quiet.  I have actually been busy with a lot of firsts.  I have been off work on annual leave but we didn’t go away as we usually would.  Firstly, I am not even going to entertain the idea of getting on a plane.  That’s one reason why the R rate is going up.  So that leaves staying home.  Is staying home a staycation or do you have to go away in your own country to make it a staycation?  I am not sure.  However, we didn’t go to any hotel either.  I don’t like the idea of sleeping in a bed and on a pillow that someone who may have had the virus was sleeping on it the day before.  Even changing the sheets wouldn’t save you from the virus so it’s a no from me so, we decided on days out and visiting family.  On Sunday I visited my mum.  She lives in a retirement village and until recently we have not been allowed in because of the virus but on this occasion, we were allowed into the community area if we wore masks.  We were the only ones wearing masks.  And there didn’t seem to be much social distancing from the other residents.  I can imagine the virus would easily spread in such a place and I do worry for my mum who still has an open wound from her operation last month.  We had a hot drink and then walked around the building outside which was much quieter.  This was the first time I had seen her since her operation.  She looked better than I expected.

Monday, I took son no 2 to have his haircut.  It was well overdue.  I had cut it twice during lockdown but he needed a proper barber and George and the Scissors always do an excellent job.  They were only letting in people with appointments in masks and sanitised your hands on the way in. there was no waiting area and you pay in your seat.  The hairdressers were wearing visors and all the rules were displayed clearing in the window. Monday also gave me time to talk to friends, it was lovely to Zoom with my friend Leena from Finland.  We can talk for hours – no idea where the time goes.  Tuesday, we went up to visit son no 1 and another first – we ate in his restaurant.  This was the first time since March I had eaten out. I haven’t even had a takeaway. It was lovely to have all four of us together again.  Son no 1 had been home the week before but as the rest of us had all been working, our time together was short.  When my family are all together, I feel complete.  I get a warm feeling inside.  I don’t get days like this very often as both my sons work in hospitality and even work on Christmas day so our days together are treasured.

On Wednesday, hubby had to go to Stevenage to take his computer to his computer guy – and another first – I came with and went shopping.  We went on to St Albans as one of my favourite clothes shops is there.  He knew how to tempt me back to the shops.  I haven’t been in a shop since March either so this was a big deal.  Small steps for most of you and many of you may wonder why it took me so long but I cannot risk it.  We only went in a few shops – maybe three in Stevenage and two in St Albans but it was good to be out and feeling a bit normal even in our masks.  I can categorically say that unless it was compulsory for masks to be worn in shops – I still would not have gone in them.

Annual leave week went very fast.  Thursday was our wedding anniversary.  In a parallel life we may have retaken our wedding vows this year – it was a special number of years together – but of course that didn’t happen.  Instead I made a nice meal for us.  During my week off I also painted another wall… the hallway is almost complete.  One more big wall up the stairs and two more walls as you walk in the door and it will be complete.  These are most difficult walls so I have left them til last.  However, during my week off I did manage to buy some fabulous crushed velvet lampshades and a statement mirror for the hallway – at last it is starting to come together.  I have been looking online for months but sometimes you just need to see it to visualise it.

I had more than a week off work as Monday and Tuesday this week I should have been gigging but of course all gigs have sensibly been postponed until 2021.  I decided not to buy tickets for Holy Holy as April 2021 seems to soon and I am not convinced the virus will be gone by then.

During my time off I was also trying to source a car for son no 2 who passed his test 10 months ago but we stopped looking due to the virus.  Twice we had been let down when we thought we had a car and they decided not to sell, but finally we managed to put a deposit down on a nice little Corsa which we picked up today.  Finally, he has a car.

I hope you all had a good week and keep your spirits up.  It is mental illness awareness week next week so do something good for your own wellbeing.  Meditate.  Dance.  Eat cake.  Spend time with family.  Just care for you.

Am I dreaming? - Corona Virus diary

Saturday 19 September 2020

For months now I have been having weird dreams.  I normally dream a lot and often about Bowie.  Recently they have got really strange.  I normally blame hubby for my dreams as he will often wake me up in the night on the days that we share a bed.  But a few nights ago night he was working so I have no one to blame for this one.

I think dreams are our way of relieving tension and stress.  And I am stressed.  I am so stressed about the covid situation and how many people don’t seem to take it seriously anymore.  I am stressed that work are discussing going back to face to face work when all I hear on the news is the R rate is above one and those with the virus and those dying are going up.  I don’t feel safe.  Could this be the reasons for my dreams?

I have dreamt twice that I am having an affair.  The first dream I woke up feeling very guilty and told hubby.  It wasn’t like my Bowie dreams where you know it’s a dream.  This was someone I know in real life. I feel guilty about something I haven’t done.  In the first dream he kissed me. I wrote about it on Facebook and refused to name him.  The dream a few days ago was the sequel.  In this dream I told him that he was the person in my first dream not knowing if he had seen my Facebook post.  Yes, he had and he was interested in making it happen.  Lucky, I woke up before anything did happen.  So why do I feel guilty when I have never been unfaithful?  Why do I feel bad?  How can I stop the dream going any further?

Some dreams make some sense.  I dreamt that I was at a Heaven 17 soundcheck.  I chatted to Martyn and he offered to sell me some rare photos which I bought but then after the gig forgot to pick up.  I think my brain is too full.  I had been talking about Holy Holy the night before this dream so it could be Glenn (who is the connection between the two bands) was the reason I dreamt about Heaven 17.  I also noticed there is never any social distancing in my dreams.  Its old normal.  I miss old normal so much.  I miss gigging.  I miss theatre.  I miss my friends and hugging people.  I yearn for the old normal.

Last night’s dream is one of pure madness.  It as more like a nightmare.  I woke up at 2am in a sweat and it took me ages to go back to sleep.  It was a gangster dream.  It was called cat on a hot tin roof although I have never seen that film.  If you fell of the roof you die and the roof is slanted and burning hot.  The gangsters wanted to kill you with death of a 1000 Stanley knife cuts. The house had huge Stanley knife blades the size of batons coming out of the walls and retracting again.  My friend and neighbour did a runner in the night as she was hiding from the gangsters but she text me and they found her.  Her house was all boarded up and empty.  I really don’t understand anything about this dream.  Its not like I watched Sopranos before going to bed last night.  I mean this is seriously f%$ked up.  I am beginning to worry about my mental health.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Tarantino contacted me for film rights to this dream.  It was that violent and scary.

However, hopefully I will be okay.  This week coming up I am on annual leave – not that we are going anywhere – not even a staycation.  But to have a real break from the stresses of work will be nice.  Plus, currently Son no 1 is home for a few days.  He hasn’t really been home this long since Christmas so it means the world to me to have him home.  I feel at peace.  I feel happy.  I feel complete.  My family being together is the greatest joy in the world.

Have a good week.

Staying Positive - CV diary

Saturday 5 September 2020

I always try really hard not to judge others and to see their point of view.  But I am having a real problem with those who say that corona virus is a hoax and no worse than flu.  Or those that think because they haven’t known someone personal to them who has had it – then it doesn’t really exist.  These people are very dangerous.  Their attitude is one that means they may not take any guidance or restrictions seriously and could therefore spread the virus themselves.  In the news this week there was a man in the USA who was ‘anti-masks’ and was seriously ill in hospital with the virus but still didn’t change his view on masks.

My initial feeling for this is anger.  It is very selfish to dismiss the virus.  Its even more dangerous to protest about masks in a huge crowd.  What’s wrong with people?  Why can’t they see the danger?  Or is it me?  Maybe I am too risk adverse.  The government has given mixed messages with safety.  Then opened up lockdown very quickly and throughout August on a Monday to Wednesday you would not have known anyone had heard there was a virus in any restaurant.  It was crazy.  People can meet up to six other people in a pub but cannot hug their grandparents.  And each devolved nation has its own rules which make it even more confusing.

Those who go on holiday abroad play Russian roulette with a possible quarantine when they return. Greece, Portugal and Czech Republic have all been risky places to travel in the last few weeks.  Its my view that if you chance it, you know there could be a risk of quarantine.  I have decided not to chance it.  This year we are not travelling abroad.  Our plans to travel to Japan next year have also been postponed indefinitely.  I cannot imagine how it is acceptable to travel on a plane with no social distancing in place.  The fact people are not wearing masks, wearing them on their chin or removing them to speak was clearing demonstrated when a TUI plane from Zante to Wales came back on Tuesday with at least 16 testing positive for the virus with more showing symptoms.  Why would you risk getting on a plane?  I love my holidays but would not risk my life for it.

Last week I wrote about missing the club in Birmingham that I have been going to for almost eight years.  If you didn’t see that piece you can read it here.  David who runs the club is clear that the club will not reopen until there is no social distancing in place.  Even though I had lots of feedback on how many others are missing it – it’s the right decision. David would rather we are all safe – and alcohol and hugs do not work well with the virus.  Plus, if you play a song everyone wants to dance to – how many can socially distance on a dance floor?  So I agree with David but I do miss it and everyone from there.

I have cancelled my Cineworld unlimited card which I have had for 11 years.  Although they offered a three-month freeze, I think they should have offered six months – especially considering my length of membership.  I was very disappointed and I think its short sighted for them to do this as many unlimited members may not return so Cineworld will lose a good income.

I am trying to be positive.  I have made banana bread for the last three weeks that has gone down really well with my family.  And son no 1 has been down a couple of times in the last few weeks to visit.  I have missed him so much.  So I am counting my blessings, however small.  Good mental health is vital in this testing times.  Look after yourself and your family. Call your friends.  Have a good chat.  Do what works for you.  I even wore make up this week.  It did make me feel more like ‘the old me’.  I miss that fun-loving girl!

Have a good week and stay safe.

How I got a holy grail - David Bowie's blue vinyl Let’s Dance on HMV's national album day 

 

Saturday 15 August 2020

I have previously blogged about record store day and my feelings that although I do support independent record shops, I do not support the way it is organised.  If you are not well enough to camp outside the record shop from very early in the morning you are very unlikely to get the items you want.  Of course, this in itself has become a black industry business in recent years.  People buy them in the shops and then put them on Evilbay for an extortionate mark up.  I would be happy to pay double the asking price for them, after all there were there early to get one. But let’s be honest, the mark up is way more than 100%.

You would think in a pandemic when there is a killer virus around, that maybe they would have left it a year, but oh no, record store day itself has been split into several days.  I know in theory this would suggest less people but in practice it will just mean the same people having to queue three times instead of one.

Today is the HMV equivalent of record store day which HMV have called National Album Day.  Apparently, people have queued since 7am.  Even though the records are not released until today, Evilbay had them for sale yesterday.  How does that happen?  How can someone sell a copy before its released?  Surely that is staff taking advantage so even if you queued from 7am, what are your chances of getting that David Bowie Let’s Dance on blue vinyl?

I have a wonderful friend who asks me for a list for record store day each year.  I am truly grateful to him for being such a kind and wonderful person and also for not being a Bowie fan.  Normally he wouldn’t buy Bowie for himself but on HMV day he quite fancied the blue vinyl Lets Dance.  This means I cannot ask him to get me one.  They are limited to one per person so my options were limited.  I have an HMV in Milton Keynes where I live, but all week I was so torn on what to do.  I have not been out the house to shop since before the lockdown.  I love Bowie but I also love life.  In the end I decided I couldn’t risk it.  No point in getting the vinyl if I catch the virus and die.  (I have an underlying health condition so yes it would be very risky for me to catch the virus).

Hubby was coming off of nights.  He got home at 8.20am.  I had asked him if he would mind going up the city to try to get me one.  I did not expect him to do this as he works 12-hour shifts and then another 1.5 hours to travel home.  It was a big ask but he agreed to try.  I was already a bit antsy as my friend who was queuing in another city was telling me he was there from 7.30am and there was already 5 people in front of him.  But around 8.30am my hubby set off to try.  I didn’t hear anything until he came home at 11am.  By then I was climbing the walls.  My friend in his city got his but said they were very sought after and only seven or eight in each store and limited to 1500 worldwide.  I started looking at Evilbay to see the prices – and thinking that might be my only option.

Hubby came home and said he managed to get me one.  He was so tired he was like a walking zombie. I felt rather guilty.  He said he had been 10th in the queue so I think I was very lucky, or lucky that people of Milton Keynes aren’t as big a Bowie fan as I am.  Lucky I have a wonderful hubby who did this for me.  The store didn’t open ‘til 10am.  He had to queue to get a number and fill in a sheet.  Then queue again for the vinyl and to pay.  It was very organised.  And to me he is super hubby.  He isn’t fussed about Bowie or coloured vinyl.  Although he would queue for a rare mix of something so maybe on some level he understands.  This is a big deal and I am sitting here writing this not quite believing that I own one.

But my point is that people shouldn’t have to jump through the hoops to do this.  The irony is that another exclusive HMV that came out today was the Absolute Beginners soundtrack on coloured vinyl.  This had been available to order online and not limited to one per customer.  Hubby said it was on the shelves and he could have picked one up for me.  I know not many people love Absolute Beginners the film but its my favourite film and, in my opinion, should be a cult film.  But that’s another blog for another day.  

 

Good luck to those of you who tried.  I hope you got what you wanted.

Losing patience. Corona Virus diary

Monday 10 August 2020

Is it the heat?  People do not seem to be kind and I just wondered if it was the heat that makes people snap at others.  It certainly has been unusually hot here in the UK. In the 30’s.  Normally we are happy with 18 degrees so I wonder if the lack of good air con makes people impatient.

A friend gave some money to a homeless lady so the person could get a hotel overnight. The homeless person had their phone stolen, so my friend put out an ask on Facebook to see if anyone had an old mobile sitting around, they didn’t use so that this homeless lady could call her kids.  The abuse my friend got back from asking is shocking.  You try to do a good deed and people are just nasty in return.  Whatever happened to Be Kind?

I think people are struggling more now than in lockdown.  People are not clear of the rules and even I find myself losing patience with those who do not follow what the guidance is.  It is two metres that people should distance.  Yes two; the one metre plus is only if you are in a place that cannot allow for this. (such as kitchen staff in a restaurant).  The science hasn’t changed.  You are still safer at two metres than at one metre.  People are still dying but you wouldn’t know it as its rarely on the news and there are not regular government updates on the TV.  The virus is still there.  You would think it wasn’t if you visit a restaurant on a Monday to Wednesday with the eat out to help out scheme.  You wouldn’t think it to look at the beaches.  And planes are allowed to fly fully loaded with no social distance in place.  The government message is mixed and confused.  No wonder people are frustrated.  We can eat out to help out but there is also talk about closing pubs when the schools reopen.  Someone please tell me the sense in that?  Why can people fly packed in like sardines but theatres remain closed?  There is no common sense in the thought process.  I am very worried as the virus isn’t on holiday.  And this autumn it will come back with a vengeance.  It will be much harder to do lockdown in the bad weather.  Why don’t we have a ‘world beating’ track and trace?  Why don’t the government seem in control over this?  New Zealand and Finland seem to be doing very well controlling it in their countries, so, there are success stories to follow.  We shouldn’t be following the USA example.

So yes, I am losing patience. Losing patience with the government who don’t seem able to give a clear message.  Losing patience with people who are completely flouting the rules.  I don’t even think people realise they are breaking the rules.  So, I count to ten and pray that the government gives clear guidance. I pray that people realise how important it is to stay safe and not hug and kiss their friends and family who they do not live with – even if they are in your bubble.  Have people forgotten to wash their hands properly?  Why aren’t people wearing masks properly (yes it should be over your mouth and nose and you do not remove it to speak!).  I really don’t understand those with COPD or Asthma who are exempt from wearing them but surely are more at risk of catching the virus so would be safer for them if they wore masks.  As I said – none of this makes sense to me.

Me?  Well I always wear a mask outside.  I have not eaten out or even had a takeaway as I cannot control who is cooking my food or if they practice social distancing.  I do not go out unless it is essential so I have not been shopping.  I have cancelled my eye test and my dentist check-up.  I just don’t think its worth the risk to my life.

Am I telling you to do the same?  You need to make up your own mind but whatever you are doing, just do it with some common sense and remember the risk is still there.                                            

         

If you could speak to someone who has had it, they would say its not worth the risk.  Please be safe and be kind.

Stress is a four-letter word - corona virus diary

Tuesday 28 July 2020

It started on Monday last week.  I got a call from my stepdad to say my mum was taken to hospital by emergency ambulance to have surgery.  Not planned but urgent surgery to save her life.  My mum has been ill for over 40 years and has probably had more than 40 operations, some are almost routine.  This wasn’t.  Her bowel was blocked and they opened her up, trying to avoid all the scar tissue, to operate on her bowel.  I was so worried she may not make it through the operation.  I was worried she was in ICU and how likely is it she is to catch the virus in hospital.  I was worried.  I am writing this a week later and she is still in hospital.  Still too poorly to talk on the phone and we are not able to visit because of the virus. She has now developed blood sepsis. I am not sure if the hospital is making her better or not. It seems her dressings were not being changed regularly. Just don’t get me started on this… I am just hoping and praying she makes a full recovery.

Tuesday didn’t get much better.  My TV packed up.  No Holby.  It didn’t even record on the sky player.  Hubby didn’t get home from work until gone 8.30pm so then he started fiddling with the wires and it turns out it was a loose wire.  By the time he had sorted it – Holby had finished and for some reason you have to wait 24 hours for it to be available on iPlayer.  In this world of instantaneous, 24 hours seems like a lifetime.  I know it seems like a little thing after my mum but my stress levels were building up.

As I have shared with you in a previous blog, I have been successful in getting a new position with the same company.  I was told I needed to write a resignation letter for my current job but I wasn’t happy to do this as I didn’t have confirmation in writing for the new position yet.  As it’s only an internal transfer I was surprised I was asked to do this.  I have transferred in other companies and never been asked to write anything.  I felt caught between my current and new team.  Diplomacy was the name of the game and I wrote a letter but without the word resignation in it – just explaining I was successful in gaining a position in another area. Phew. Hopefully I now have a start date and will receive confirmation of my new job soon.

On Thursday I was scrolling through my phone and saw a dress I liked on an advert.  I went to buy it and found I couldn’t find my bank cards.  Suddenly panic went through me.  Where are they?  Had they fallen out when I went for a walk last week?  Had I left them in son no 1’s house when I visited him?  I text him to ask.  He called me straight back and said he had checked but no they were not there.  The panic was intense now.  I knew I had to cancel them.  I had been going out with no money and no cards.  Lord only knows when the last time I had used them.  After all I don’t go out much and I don’t really use a handbag anymore. (I call this lockdown syndrome).  I didn’t want to google the bank phone number so I decided to try to log in online.  I am not good at internet banking and this is something I don’t do often. I knew I had my customer number even if I didn’t have my cards so I could prove who I was.  I went to get my customer number and card reader and lo and behold – my cards in their carry case were sitting in the envelope with my card reader.  How stupid did I feel?  Well actually not at all because I was overcome with relief.  So very pleased I found them.  I didn’t need to cancel them and they are now safely back in my handbag where they belong.

As if that wasn’t enough stress for one week, yesterday I popped out to take my son to work.  Its only five minutes down the road.  He works in a small village and I was on the main road of the village when a huge lorry came from the other side.  I moved over slightly to avoid him and my tyre hit the pretty cobblestoned kerb and blew.  Completely flat.  My car, like most modern cars do not have a spare tyre so I was stuck.  I had come out with nothing but my phone.  No handbag.  No money.  I kept calling home as my husband was at home but he wasn’t answering.  I called RAC and promptly burst into tears.  Its been a very stressful week and this was pushing me over my limit. Barbara was fabulous and calmed me down.  Initially she said it would be four hours.  I couldn’t imagine four hours without a toilet or a drink.  She then put me as a priority and said one hour.  When the RAC man came, I thanked him for rescuing me. He helped me get my car to a garage to buy a new tyre.  It was probably just over two hours all in, but the stress it caused had a huge effect.

I believe that I have had all the stress for one year in one week.  Please no more stress now. Enough already!   

I’m on holiday - ish! – Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 19 July 2020

 

My first week since lockdown on annual leave. To be honest, I need to recharge my batteries.  Normally we would be in Brighton, scouring the lanes for unique and unusual items.  Of course, this year I am not going anywhere.  Besides two socially distanced visits to my son and one visit to the opticians, I have not been out the house (not even for a walk) since mid-March.  So, for our holiday, we went for a walk.  We walked around Campbell park on a Monday morning with very few people around.  It felt good to be out.  I enjoyed breathing the fresh air although I still had my mask with me in case someone got too close.  However – disaster!  I had worn my very comfortable sandals but they left me with terrible blisters on my small toes.  My left foot’s baby toe had no skin left on it.  It was so bad I bandaged it for two days and took some paracetamol.  Thankfully as I write this it has started to heal.

I have had a week of practical tasks.  I have sorted out my cutlery drawer and also that kitchen drawer that you normally throw everything into.  I also defrosted both my freezers. I didn’t do any hallway painting but at least feel I have done a few things round the house.  I visited my mum in the garden of where she lives as we are still not allowed in the retirement village. I also went up to see son no 1.  He lives 30 miles away but now the pub/restaurant is open I visited him in his home (it was his day off and he is in our bubble as he lives alone).  Haven’t done that in a long time.  We sat in his front room with us on one sofa and he on the other.  I still haven’t hugged my son.  I miss that.  I am a hugger.  I hug everyone.  But I know I have to be careful and the virus is still out there so I am just being careful. It was wonderful to see him.  And I fulfilled my duty as his mum – I filled his fridge up! I also talked to my friend in Helsinki on Zoom.  Thank goodness for Zoom.  It’s wonderful to talk to people and see them as you chat.  Oh yes and I painted my toe nails. And that is about it for my week off work.

In two weeks’, time I am doing a talk (on Zoom) on Bowie and blogging.  The target audience is Bowie fans and anyone is welcome to buy a ticket and come and listen to me talk.  So this week I started working on my presentation and what I will talk about.  This has not been easy as my blogging isn’t only Bowie related.  If you read this site you know this already – but it is true that Bowie is a passion of mine.  He has very much infiltrated this website on every page so of course it makes sense for me to talk about his influence on my life.  I am very excited about this talk and I will post the link here next week if you would like to attend.

Are my batteries recharged?  Well I have had no beach and no shopping trips to enjoy but all in all its been a week to relax and connect with family and friends.

Wishing you all a wonderful week.

Is your job safe?  - Corona Virus Diary

12 July 2020

What a week it has been.  For those of you who don’t know, I have been under threat of redundancy since February – nothing to do with the pandemic although that hasn’t helped the situation.  Since February I have been on tenterhooks waiting for that letter to give me notice.  I knew the money would run out for my post at the end of May but still no letter arrived. I tried to stay positive because even under threat of redundancy, my situation isn’t as bad as others.  Especially those who have died from the virus, and those living with the after-effects of the virus that still impact their health.

The end of May came and went and no letter.  June came and went and again, no letter.  I was relieved I was still working but a little on edge too.  Just because it wasn’t here didn’t mean it wasn’t coming.  How can you plan when you don’t know what is around the corner?  So, I applied for an internal position in the same company and had an interview this week.  Even that was unusual.  I have never been interviewed over Zoom before.  So many more things to think about.  How is the lighting?  Can they hear me?  What happens if technology lets us down?  Which room is best for internet reception?  What background can they see and will I be judged on how tidy my bookshelf is?  Anyway, I was convinced I didn’t get it but the next day got a call to be offered the job.  Relief isn’t the word.  At least for now, I am safe.  Safer than I was at any rate.  I would have been very worried if I had to go back out on the open job market in this current climate.

Of course, the job market since the pandemic is the worst in my lifetime.  There are so many companies that cannot afford to keep people in their posts and yes, for some, furlough (a new word to many of us this year) was a reprieve, but putting off the inevitable.  I expect many more redundancies will show up on the government statistics as soon as we reach August and the furlough scheme changes.  I had not been furloughed myself as I am a key worker in my day job.  I did get a little fed up reading about everyone doing fun stuff while I was still working hard.  I think people forget that some of us have worked throughout the lockdown.

Companies are falling down at every turn.  Small ones but also big ones.  In Milton Keynes we had already lost Monsoon and House of Fraser before the pandemic.  Now we have lost Debenhams and Carluccio’s Restaurant.  We only have John Lewis left as the remaining department store and this week they announced they are closing stores including Watford and Birmingham.  Shops are in serious trouble.  These make headline news but don’t forget about what you can’t see.  Charities are especially badly hit.  Not only have they missed out on fundraising opportunities such as marathons, but they have also been hit from reduced donations as people are uncertain of their own future.  If a person is under threat of redundancy, they are not going to give money to charity as they don’t know if they can afford it.  Yet charities often do the unseen work that social workers no longer do due to their own funding cuts.  Charities help stop people reaching a crisis point.

Please if you can, give to charity, but do not give to charities not doing the work themselves (such as Comic Relief, Children In Need and NHS charities together) who are what is known as a second tier charity.  This makes it very hard for the charity doing the work to access the funds.  The funds become restricted rather than unrestricted as the charity has to apply to the second-tier charity for funds around a specific project.  If you give directly to the charity, your donation will really count.  You can see the work it is doing.  Finally, I would say give to a charity that is close to your heart.

If you are unable to give to a charity because of your financial situation, you can still make a huge difference.  You can share the charity’s social media posts.  Not the random ‘please cut and paste/ I bet no one posts this’ passive aggressive posts you see on Facebook which does nothing to raise awareness.  Please share the official charity page posts which will make a difference.  If you are not one for social media, how about volunteering?  I know a lot of roles have changed because of the virus right now, but there are still fantastic roles available, which bring so many benefits.  You can use your skill set to help others.  You can learn new skills.  You can make a difference to another person.  And doing something good for others feeds your soul.  We all need a bit of that right now.

Whatever your situation, I wish you a good week.  Stay safe.

A week of outrage - Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 28 June 2020

Everyone seems to be on one side or the other right now.  You are either outraged that people are partying on Bournemouth beach, going to a secret rave (is it the 90's again?) or celebrating Liverpool winning the league outside the stadium while you have been inside all this time observing the rules correctly, or you are one of the idiots who think its okay not to wear masks as it impacts on your human rights.

I guess you already know what camp I fall into.  Yes, I am very annoyed that so many people have no common sense.  How stupid are people?  Do they think the virus won’t come out to play in the sunshine?  Do they think because the government is easing the rules to open up the economy that the virus will obey the government and go away?  I am trying really hard to not be judgmental but people are truly idiotic if they believe this.  Its not just in the UK.  America seems to have a lot of the same problems.  They are almost asking for it.  Tempting the virus to punch them in the face. I will struggle to feel empathy for them if this happens – this is why I will never be a nurse.  Do they deserve it?  I will leave it to you to make up your mind.  The government has eased a lot of restrictions from 4 July.  This includes opening up bars and pubs as well as restaurants and hairdressers.  Surely if anyone had any sense, they would hold off on this until the idiots have calmed down.  Actually, Greene King have some common sense and are not opening until 6 July to avoid that weekend of madness that is sure to come.

This week I visited my mum.  It’s the first time I have seen her since the beginning of February.  Although we did Zoom once, its not quite the same.  I still had to explain that disposable gloves need to be disposed of and that what they think are two metres is not far enough (I think older people think 2 metres is 2 feet).  Despite social distancing and meeting in the fresh air it was good to see them.  My mum is recovering from an operation and I am just so glad she came through it without catching the virus.

I was delighted that Tim Arnold released his latest single this week. Even more delighted that I feature (in a very small way) in the video.  Thanks to Tim that is one off my bucket list. You can read more about it and hear the song here.  Saturday night marked a special day.  It would normally be the Bowienetters event in London this week.  I miss my fellow Bowie peoploids very much so it was held online with a few live performances and all monies raised going to the Terrance Higgins Trust.  Bowie himself used to support these events before he passed and sent messages of encouragement.  It felt just like the old Bnet days where we were all typing online to chat and typically the chat was so fast that I would miss half the conversation before I gave my response.  A few drinks may have been drunk too. but I couldn’t possibly comment.

I also painted another two walls of my hallway this week.  I only have four walls left now.  It’s a mammoth task but I am making good progress.  Although I didn’t feel like doing it – especially in this beautiful weather we have been having – I feel a sense of achievement since I did it.  I also sorted out my bookshelf and got rid of some books that I won’t read again.  I know it sounds strange but I got excited seeing some of my books again.  I have lots of self-help books.  I love a positive thought or two to inspire me.  Here is my inspirational quote for this week.

Life is too short to wait.  It started a debate on my Facebook which I gave another quote – one that totally belongs to me and not some guru.  You need to live today because no one knows what tomorrow may bring.

Wishing you all a great week living your best life that you can in the current circumstances… and please stay safe.

My Grandad  - Corona Virus diary

Friday 13 June 2020

 

With all the anger and hate that has come out recently from #blm plus the frustration of lockdown and the doom and gloom of the daily updates, I have decided to write a positive blog this week.  I want to talk about my grandad who is my inspiration.  He is 98 years young (his words) and he is the most positive person I have ever known.

As a child he threw me the best birthday parties. He was the entertainment.  He did a ventriloquist act with a dummy called Fred and the old Morecambe and Wise joke with the paper bag.  He could even take his finger off and replace it.  As a child this was truly magical.  All my friends loved him and I was so proud he was MY grandad and belonged to me.  Being the first grandchild, I suppose its fair to say my grandparents spoilt me.  They took me to antique fairs, the proms, lots of museums and the cinema.  My gran took me to see Star Wars and Close Encounters.  As a teenager, they took me (at my request) to King’s Road and Carnaby Street to buy my punk clothes.  They loved me and I loved them back.  It is true.  You reap what you sow.

As I grew up and had my own family, I still visited at every opportunity. I used to stay over with my first child but by the time I had my second, they were getting on in years so it was day trips instead.  I always admired their love for each other.  They always held hands and it was obvious to anyone who saw them that they were in love.  They were married for 70 years, but sadly my gran passed away in 2013 and left us all bereft.

My grandad, who had a double heart bypass 20 years ago, has the attitude of ‘every day is a lovely day’.  He misses my gran greatly and still speaks to her photo in his flat.  I can’t even imagine how it must be to lose someone after over 70 years together.  But my grandad, despite his overwhelming grief carried on.  He slowly built a new life for himself.  He went to U3A and jazz clubs.  He paints.  He cooks.  He made new friends and took coach trips to the seaside with them.  Since lockdown he has again, made a new life.  At 98 he cannot risk going out and catching the virus so he stays in.  I know he finds this hard as he has always been such a sociable person.  I take after him and understand this completely.  But he gets food delivered.  He still cooks and paints.  In fact he has sold some paintings to raise money for the NHS after being inspired by Captain Tom.  He sits on his balcony and has a glass of wine while listening to Frank Sinatra.  Yet again, he takes the positives and has made the best of our situation.  He really is an inspiration to me.  I am still very proud to say he is MY grandad.

 

And his positive attitude to life is how I want to be.  No matter what the situation.  No matter how grim it all feels right now.  Be like my grandad and find the small things that make you happy.

This blog is dedicated to both my grandad and my lovely gran. I love you both.

My Grandad and me in January 2020. 

Black lives matter - Corona Virus Diary

Friday 5 June 2020

Besides the corona virus there is only one story that has dominated the headlines this week.  The death of George Floyd in the USA.  I’m sorry, I meant to say the murder of George Floyd.  You cannot be anything other than shocked at seeing that video and it deeply saddens me that this has happened again.  I am pleased to hear that all the policemen involved in this incident have been arrested.  However, that doesn’t mean the fight for justice is over.  Black lives matter has been a hashtag all week.  On Tuesday many millions on social media made their profile black.  However, I really liked the tweet from Dan Whitehead who said: post a black square if you must but don’t use the #blacklivesmatter hashtag when you do so, because then that hashtag is flooded with emptiness when its most needed’.

Yes, black lives do matter.  I have not heard anyone on social media denying it but then perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough to hear it.  There have been protests not only in the USA, but here in the UK too.  I do think it’s important for the world to change and here is a great opportunity to do so.  However, I have two concerns with protests.  Firstly, they do not look very peaceful.  Many turn violent which takes away the message and the power.  But even more concerning is the complete disregard of social distancing.  Where have these people been the last few months?  That virus is still there and its still killing people.  I saw a video of people lying on the floor saying ‘I can’t breathe’.  I know it’s a tribute to George but I couldn’t help but think I hope this isn’t you saying this in two weeks’ time just before they put you on a ventilator.  People from BAME groups are more susceptible to the virus according to the statistic’s, so why on earth would you go to a crowded place and risk your lives in this way?  Your lives matter.  Your voices matter.  Please don’t throw them away in this manner.  

Although black lives matter is all about racism, I want to broaden this movement to say let’s fight all discrimination.  It’s not just the colour of your skin that is discriminated about.  People from LGBTQ+ have been murdered.  People with disabilities have been murdered.  Women have been discriminated against for generations and in some countries are still treated as a second-class citizen.  By widening the remit of the movement, we can put a stop to all hatred.  To all discrimination.  It all matters.  I am talking as someone who has known gay people who have been beaten.  I am talking as someone who has known disabled people spat on in the streets and told they shouldn’t have children.  I am talking as a woman who has been beaten.  I am saying enough is enough.  Let’s stand together and fight together.  But let’s fight a smart fight – socially distancing and getting our voices to the people with the power to change things for good.

Peace be with you all.

A roller coaster of emotions - Corona Virus diary

Sunday 31 May 2020

This week has been a roller-coaster of emotions.  Friday, I sat in the garden all day enjoying the sunshine.  But I sobbed my heart out when I watched a couple of songs from Hairspray to get ready for the shows must go on YouTube special this weekend.  It hit me for the first time in weeks how much I really miss theatre.  Real live theatre. Ironically what I miss the most is the interaction with the audience.  I miss them bowing at the end for us to be able to show our appreciation.  I miss the audience.  I miss people I can hug.  I miss people.  And I sobbed because I cannot see a time when we will be able to go back to our old lives.  I can’t imagine how gigs will be either.  Standing gigs aren’t going to be spaced out fairly – the audience push to the front to see the band.  How can this work in our ‘new normal’?  How stupid are the government to ease the restrictions?  To allow football back?  To allow people to meet in groups of six (In England) … and go into their back gardens and even have a barbecue?  You know that two weeks from now the death rate will rise again.  I have been fine staying in until now, but lifting these rules will kill people.  The virus isn’t tired.  The virus hasn’t gone away.  No wonder I feel so down.  We cannot see an end in sight to this.  So even if they are easing the rules, I am still staying home.  I hope you are too.

Friday, I had a technical problem with my TV.  It turned out that it was just a lose wire but I decided that Friday night I would watch Marc Almond live on my laptop instead.  He was doing a free gig to raise funds and awareness for recording venues that are struggling in these times.  He showed that Marc and his band could socially distance and still use the studio.  Please support this worthy cause.  Marc commentated at how fitting Bedsitter was for our current times.  He sang new songs such as Chaos and old songs such as Chips On My Shoulder.  He said he has to sing Tainted Love or he would never be forgiven.  When he asked ‘touch me with your tainted love’…many fans throughout the world watching, duly obliged including me.  As soon as Marc had finished, I switched over to watch Take That.  They were funny and the interactions were just as good as the songs.  My sister adores Take That and took me to see them in 2011 at Wembley.  I repaid the favour when The Band musical toured.  I know all their big hits even though I would say I was more a Robbie fan than a TT fan.  However, this was so enjoyable and I felt I had properly gigged on Friday night.

That meant Saturday night was for Hairspray.  I say night but actually I started to watch it about 4pm in the afternoon.  I couldn’t wait.  I sung very loudly and thoroughly enjoyed it.  I adore Hairspray.  It’s a sugar-sweet musical but had dark undertones.  It addresses subjects such as attitudes towards size (and I have put weight on since lockdown) and racism.  It couldn’t be more current with the sad passing of George Floyd who was murdered by police officers’ in the USA this week.  It’s a musical with substance and a simple good verses evil at its heart.  Here is my review of the last time I saw it in a theatre.

I also dyed my hair this weekend.  Yes, I had done my roots last week, but now I am finally back to red.  And I felt good about that.  So, when I was approached to do a clip for a new music video, guess what I was doing on Sunday morning?  I won’t say anymore at the moment but will let you know nearer the release of the track.

I have always kept a ‘positive thoughts’ journal so I always try to see the silver lining.  This weekend I am grateful for the beautiful sunshine.  Lockdown would be so much harder without being able to sit in your gardens.  I am grateful that my family are all well and that I have had some lovely conversations with friends over the lockdown period.  Life is good. Why?  Because we are still living it.

Have a good week and stay safe.

What do you do with your time? -  Corona Virus diary

Sunday 24 May 2020

What have I been doing?  Well I have spent a lot of time doing not very much. I have really got on board with the Facebook trend for gif’s – the ones that you have to stop moving in time to complete the picture.  I was surprised how many of my friends were also enjoying this so its not just me.  Has anyone tried the snail yet?  I like the new emojis that are looking like me.  It’s much more personalised and seems to have taken off on Facebook.  I have seen many of my friends do the 10 days to share your favourite book/film/albums with no explanation.  I don’t really understand why people don’t give an explanation.  Surely the whole point is to say why you love it and why its important to you?  And I love Twitter for interactive tv.  The current highlight of my week is watching the Sewing Bee while tweeting about it at the same time.

Yes, I have spent the last couple of weeks online a lot.  Facebook has seen what I have had to eat for breakfast (yes, I am one of those people who like to take photos of my food).  Facebook also reminded me what a fabulous time I had a year ago this weekend.  I had been to the world premiere of Freddie Burretti: The Man Who Sewed The World on the Thursday, Les Mis red carpet premiere at Milton Keynes Theatre on the Friday and then I was up to Birmingham for the weekend to attend Only After Dark, my favourite club in the country.  What a difference a year makes.  This weekend I have painted three more walls in my hallway, has some lovely telephone conversations with friends, and spent Saturday night in 1978 thanks to BBC2.  I have to say that Rat Trap is a piece of writing genius and one of my favourite Boomtown Rats tracks.  And Sunday, oh yes, I dyed my roots.  Can I just say how much I miss my hairdresser.  Why anyone would want to do home hairdressing is beyond my understanding.  I have a new found respect for hairdressers.

I had forgotten that this weekend is a bank holiday weekend.  I honestly did.  So that big pile of stuff I need to get onto eBay may get there this weekend…or not. I might just have an easy day before I start back another week that will seem remarkably similar to last week.    

Has your week been much different to mine?  What was your highlight?  Let’s look for the small things that bring us happiness – after all, we may never get back to how things were and that would be a good thing.  Let’s learn, grow and become better people in a better world.

Feeding the family - Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 3 May 2020

This week was my eldest son’s birthday.  He has been unwell during April and he thinks it may have been the Covid 19 virus.  He lives alone and is currently furloughed from his job.  Where he lives there is no shop in the village and he is unable to drive his car with a flat battery and flat tyre.  One of his employees had previously helped him by driving him to the nearest shop, but of course since he has been unwell this hasn’t happened and he was seriously low on food.  He has been too unwell to even try for a slot online and just couldn’t wait 3-4 weeks for delivery.  He would starve.

So today I took him a food parcel.  It was the first time I have left the house in over six weeks and I’ve not seen him for over two months.  I say parcel but I took him a serious amount of food. Not just bananas and grapes to boost his immune system but home-made dinners I had frozen for him.  And a hand sanitiser.  And yes, I took him up a birthday cake.  He didn’t even realise he had a cake until after we had left and got back home.  He text me to thank me.  It was lovely to see him, however briefly, and know that he really is recovered and not just telling me this to stop me worrying.  Of course, I didn’t hug him.  I didn’t get near him.  Forget two metres, we stayed much further apart.  We had a system of delivering the food so we didn’t get near each other.  

I think staying in has had an effect on me.  Today I dressed up, wore make-up for the first time in seven weeks and even put on some jewellery.  For those of you who don’t know, I don’t even go out for a walk each day.  So, this was a huge deal.  The weather was gloomy but that didn’t dampen my spirits although I had a tear in my eye as I left.

But now I feel assured that he has food to eat (every mum will understand this), and that on his birthday he saw his family even if it was not for long and from a distance.

I miss him greatly.  Hurry up and find a cure for this virus so I can see my family please!

A birthday in lockdown - Corona Virus Diary

 

Sunday 26 April 2020

Its been a week of comparing the difference between today and were we were a year ago. This week it was my husband’s birthday.  Of course, we knew we would be in lockdown but what a difference it was.  Instead of going to see Debbie Harry from Blondie on Friday at Birmingham Symphony Hall and partying with my darkling friends on Saturday as originally planned, we sat in our garden with my husband (who often DJs at Only After Dark club, which is based on The Blitz club of the early 80’s) playing an old OAD set.  It was a really good set and reminded me of all the fun times we have had in Birmingham over the last seven years.

I couldn’t get any flour so I couldn’t bake a cake.  Ironic really as normally I wouldn’t have the time to bake a cake.  Instead I made him a home-made rice pudding which I have only made three times in the last 15 years. It tasted better than it looks!

Interestingly he got cards from everyone, despite the lockdown which is extra impressive when you think that some people are not online.  However, for the first time in my life, I gave an ‘I owe you’ a birthday note rather than a present. Its so hard to find things that people want if they don’t sell it on Amazon.

I have seen people starting to fall apart this week.  People are struggling with the lockdown.  I have seen reports of friends saying they have seen people shout in the supermarket at people going the wrong way.  Others seem to ignore the rules completely.  I have seen people picnicking on the green outside my house (and for more than one hour).  I have seen people unravel on Facebook.  I have seen people feeling bored.  So bored they started to wear pillows.  Yes you heard that right! Is that really a thing?!  The novelty of this unusual situation has definitely worn off.  However please don’t forget the reasons why we are doing this.  Already 20,000 people have died from this virus in the UK.  That’s more than 20,000 families devastated.  20,000 people who haven’t been able to say goodbye or attend a funeral.  The emotional damage of this will be an unseen catastrophe for mental health in the coming months and years, but everything we are doing is to try to stop more people catching it and passing it on.  This week it got a little to close for comfort.

My older son, who lives 30 miles away, has been poorly this week.  He became ill last weekend but only told me he was unwell on Thursday because he said he knew I would worry.  He was right.  I couldn’t sleep on Thursday night and was worried sick about him all alone and with a horrid cough and tight chest.  How would I know if he ends up in hospital? How can someone be left alone when poorly?  As a mum, it’s almost instinctive to want to look after him and here was I, miles away and unable to do anything.  When he first went to Uni, I used to call or text daily and I only joined Twitter so I could check he was still alive without annoying him too much or being labelled an overprotective mother.  It hurt him to speak as he had a sore throat from all the coughing.  So, I didn’t want to keep calling but I spoke to him yesterday and he seems better than he was.  I hope that he is a lot better and not just saying that to try to stop me worrying.  All mothers know that we never stop worrying about our children even when they are grown adults.  It’s a job for life and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  But I am glad to say I do think he is on the mend.  Was it Covid 19?  Who knows?  Where did he get it if it was?  Hard to say as he lives alone.  But the truth is I am grateful my son is recovering from whatever it was he had.

Stay well and stay safe.

A final curtain call? - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 19 April 2020

I love theatre.  I love it more than almost anything else.  From being a young child, my dream was to be an actress. I took Lamda exams and went in for drama competitions.  It’s in my DNA.  I loved traditional pieces and one of my favourite pieces I ever performed was Bella from The Barrett’s Of Wimpole Street.  Of course, real life got in the way and I never became a famous actress.  However, my love for theatre has never diminished.

No matter what I do in life, I have always found myself drawn back to the theatre door, and for several years now I have been lucky enough to review theatre.  With my background I believe I give a unique viewpoint to my reviews.  I feel so lucky to see so many wonderful pieces of drama, musical theatre and even panto.

I never, even with my wild imagination (who at age 12 imagined Spielberg would discover me as I walked to school), that we would be living in a world with no theatres open.  No cinemas.  No festivals.  And how much we all would miss it.

Last weekend I watched Jesus Christ Superstar on Andrew Lloyd Webber’s You Tube Channel.  I sang very loudly…goodness only knows what my neighbours think.  Today I watched Basildon Towngate Theatre’s Dick Whittington Panto from last year.  It brought a tear to my eye.  I am desperate to see live shows.  Yes, I have DVDs of most musicals you can name and tonight Grease got an outing, but they are no substitute for a real-life performance.  Knowing that show is performed just for you on that night is special for the audience.  And knowing the audience are clapping for something they enjoyed is special for the performers.  It’s that relationship that I miss.  The interaction with people.  Chatting in the interval asking what people thought so far.  Going home after a wonderful night out that you remember for years afterwards.  Theatre is magical and has a huge place in my heart.  I am not the only one to miss it.  I know my press friends are missing it too.  I know performers are keen to get back to treading the boards. I know we need the arts in our life.

When the current situation fades from our memory, I hope that this is remembered.  How much we need the arts in our lives.  I hope schools realise how valued skills like acting are.  Even if you don’t do it for a living, trust me, knowing how to act has helped me through many interview situations.  Let’s value the arts and all involved in bringing joy and wonder into our lives.  

In the meantime, I raise a glass of fizzy to all my thespians out there… hope to see you all soon.

Is it okay to do nothing? - Corona Virus Diary

Monday 13 April 2020

In the last few weeks, you have seen all over the country, people baking, gardening, singing, learning new languages or picking up their old instruments and decorating.  I don’t know about you but all this new found enthusiasm is exhausting.  People want to show off their achievements and there is nothing wrong with that. But I do feel guilty if I then do nothing with my day.

I have been planning to decorate my hallway as part of my goals for 2020.  I decided this in January, before any lockdown was in place.  It is a huge project.  From the bottom of the stairs to the top is 14 walls. I figured I would start and do it a bit at a time.  Of course, now we are in lockdown I feel a huge pressure to ‘be productive with my time’ and get it done.  I am still working four days a week but instead of going to review theatre and gigs, I now have every weekend free.

Last weekend I had completed five walls up the stairs to the first floor.  This has taken months of sugar-soaping, filling in holes, and preparing the walls for paint.  I did feel a sense of achievement and yes, I did post photos of it online.  However, this weekend I have not done much at all.  The most painting I did was my toenails on Saturday night.  I have spent my weekend sitting in the garden, reading and eating chocolate Easter eggs.  Do I feel guilty?  Yes, I do. So much so, that just this morning I have sugar-soaped another three walls to get them ready to paint.  In all honesty that was exhausting and done out of guilt rather than enthusiasm.

Keeping up with social media isn’t the only thing I feel guilty about. I am notoriously bad at keeping fit but I do like to walk and dance.  However, my Fitbit doesn’t love me anymore as I am not achieving my step count at all since the lockdown.  It is true I am not going out of my house even to exercise so there is limited space to exercise in but its so bad that I halved my step count and I’m still not achieving that.  Do I feel guilty?  Absolutely.  I always said I never had time to exercise before but now that is no longer a reason as I am not driving to work but working from home so I have two more hours in my day to do stuff.  Have I sorted out my wardrobe or paperwork?  Nope. Even more guilt.  I actually feel more guilty about all this than I have ever done before.  However, sometimes it is good to do nothing.  How often do we just sit?  I am always rushing around to theatres, gigs and Birmingham to go to the best club in the country (OAD) as well as fitting in work and taking my son to guitar practice.  Now I am not doing any of that.  This weekend I sat in my garden, enjoying the sunshine and watching a small Robin on my apple tree.  I cannot remember the last time I did this.  It was not what I would have planned but it was very relaxing.  Maybe we need to learn to do nothing.  There is a lot to be said for meditation.  so, quieten your mind and enjoy the moment.  It is a rare moment of stillness in our busy lives and we should embrace it without guilt or pressure to do something.

Enjoy your day.

How are you doing? - Corona Virus Diary

Friday 10 April 2020

Do you find yourself missing going down the pub, hanging with your friends or going to the theatre or a gig that you were looking forward to for months?  Yes? Me too.

A month ago, things were different.  We are now living in a different world.  Gone is the world of the past and although it is fine to mourn for it, it is, at least for now, resigned to our memories.  This weekend is Easter weekend.  Normally a really important weekend for Christians and also for families to visit each other.  A usual bank holiday would pour with rain.  This weekend of course the weather is stunning.  But don’t be fooled and tempted to go out.  That evil virus is still out there and no matter how much you miss your old life, its not worth giving up your life for.

This week I have had emails telling me that my tickets for The Lion King are cancelled.  My tickets to see Debbie Harry (Blondie) are also cancelled.  I expect many more of my booked shows and gigs to be following suit.  I do miss my old life.  However, for my mental health I have decided to look at the things that make me happy instead.

Firstly, the whole country seems to have come together in one big community.  We clap every Thursday not just for the NHS staff but for all keyworkers on the frontline.  We enjoy the welcome relief of less politics and more ‘we are all in this together’ attitude towards leading the country through this crisis.  No matter what your politics we all wish Boris well.  Even me – and I’m no Tory.

I miss cake but I can’t seem to get any flour to bake any.  Suddenly we are a nation of bakers, a nation of singers, a nation of dancing in our living rooms while streaming.  There is free theatre to watch and pop singers such as Gary Barlow and Chris Martin are doing impromptu free performances.  We are connecting with each other and the arts have never been more important than they are now.  We are all doing our best, whatever that looks like.

I am grateful for the small things.  I get to spend more time with my youngest son Sadly, my older son lives 45 mins away, however he rings me much more often now and texts me almost daily.  I am grateful they were both furloughed rather than made redundant and so still have the hope of a job while being paid 80% of their wage.  I am proud of my key worker husband who is still having to go into work and he, in turn, is grateful to have a quieter commute to work so that he can get there quicker.

I have time to call my 98-year-old grandad daily.  Since 2013 when my gran passed away, my grandad has lived alone and due to his health, now cannot go out the house while the virus is about.  But in his words ‘he has made a life for himself’.  He paints.  He cooks.  He sits on his balcony drinking wine and listening to Sinatra.  He loves life and is grateful to be here.  I think we can all learn a lesson from him.  I am grateful to Waitrose who sent him a card and birthday cake for his 98th birthday last Sunday when none of us could visit him.  Well done Waitrose!

I am in regular touch with my mum who we do now shop for.  She finds it hard to ask for help but we insist. (Of course, when I say ‘we’ I mean my husband).  I am grateful I have food in my house – even if we can’t find pasta and flour in the shops.  I am grateful for the weather being warm and dry.  It means we can sit in our garden.  I am not a gardener and my garden is very basic, but right now it feels like an utopia to just sit there.  Because of my underlying health conditions, I have not been going out to shop or even to take my hour’s exercise.  So, my garden really is a paradise.

I am grateful that I got my fence fixed back in January when it blew down.  I am grateful I got my boiler fixed when it died in February.  Can you imagine not having these basics?  More than anything, I am grateful for good internet – I can keep in touch with my friends daily and see how they are doing.  I am also calling my friends on the phone and receiving just as many calls in return.

I had not yet booked a holiday for this year. We usually visit Brighton each year as well as have a holiday oversees.  Last year we were in Prague.  The year before we were in the USA (twice) and this year… my back garden looks like our destination of choice.

So, am I asking you how you are doing?  Can you find a small thing to be grateful for?  Is there food on your table, a roof over your head?  Yes, we may not be living the life we had a month ago, but for now, we are still breathing and let’s be grateful for that.

Happy Easter to you all. 

To make-up or not to make-up  - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 5 April 2020

Now is the time that I am secretly grateful to myself for having an obsession with make-up.  Because of this obsession I have more make-up and skin care products than I can use which means I will not be needing to buy some for a while.  I have always been a huge fan of make-up.  I have City & Guilds Certificate in cosmetic make-up and when I used to visit The Clothes Show, my first stop was always the make-up stalls.  I have certain brands I love but also happy to try out new ones.  I am a makeupaholic!

Saying that, with skin care, I normally buy a new bottle of moisturiser once my current one is empty.  However, when I went to Prague last year, I had time to kill at the airport, so with the great deals on offer, I stocked up. I bought my Clarins serum and also my favourite make-up eye shadow palate, Urban Decay Naked 3.  After Christmas I noticed that House of Fraser in Milton Keynes was closing and they still had the Christmas stocks of my Clarins moisturiser.  The Christmas deals mean I get two extra products with my usual moisturiser... so I bought another two.  I also bought another UD palate as it would be rude not to with 20% off.  Never when I bought these products, did I know I would need stock because I would be stuck at home for months on end.  The irony is that as I am not leaving the house, I am not wearing make-up as often as usual.  No one is seeing me other than those who live in my house and the occasional Zoom webinar for work.  Anyway, it’s good to let my skin breathe.  But I am not joking when I say I could go a year without leaving the house and still have enough make-up.  Probably five years.  Told you I am obsessed.

I am also very glad that I have toiletries gifts such as bath bombs and body creams.  These will be used in the coming weeks and it feels like I have won the lottery if there is also a soap in the set.  Hand cream I bought for my colleagues I will be using for myself as my hands are needing that extra layer of support from all the hand washing.

I usually get my hair done professionally but now that all the hairdressers are closed, I am currently coveting an old hair dye that sits quietly on top of my bathroom cabinet.  It belonged to my son who has gone off red and currently has purple hair.  I may just get desperate enough to use it.  And honestly that time is fast approaching as I was due a hair appointment next week which obviously now will not be taking place.

Life is changing in so many ways.  Lots of little things we take for granted we are now grateful for.  So today I give thanks that I love make-up, toiletries and skin care products.  Have a beautiful Sunday.

How to work from home - Corona Virus Diary

Wednesday 25 March 2020

The government has strongly told the country that if you can work from home you should. For many this may be their  first time working from home. I have been working from home for decades so I thought I would share my top tips with you.

My top tips

  1. Get dressed. Just because you are at home doesn’t mean your standards have to slip. Always get dressed as you will feel ‘ready’ for work

  2. Have a designated area to work from. When you are not ‘at work’ do not sit there or home and work will blend into each other.

  3. Time management is important. Only work during work  hours. Don’t be tempted to check emails over breakfast. Make sure when you finish work you turn off your phone and laptop.

  4. Take regular breaks. Don’t eat lunch at your computer. Stretch your legs. Take a ten minute break each hour from the screen. This can still be work such as reading papers in hard copy or writing with a pen rather than on the computer.

  5. Use Skype and phone to speak to other people. Working from home can be isolating so at least once a day speak to others.  Put the radio on if you don’t find it too distracting to help with isolation.

  6. Plan your day. Make a list of jobs and cross them off when you have completed them.

You will be surprised at how productive you can be when working from home. Although you may miss your work colleagues to chat to, they also were a distraction, so you can get so much more done from home and you may want to evidence your work to your line manager.

Being positive and constructive will really help your mental health with this lockdown – remember its not forever and you can get through this.

Stay Safe.

Panic buying  - Corona Virus Diary

Sunday 22 March 2020

I am tired of people being quite aggressive in accusing people of panic buying.  It’s everywhere on social media.  You don’t need to look far.  And although this may have been true two weeks ago, today most supermarkets have limited how many of each item you can buy.  The video of the crying nurse on BBC that has been shared numerus times does not help the situation.  I actually think it’s irresponsible of the BBC to keep showing it.  All it does is make more people feel there is nothing in the shops and feed the need to go shopping.  So, if you want people to stop panicking, please stop sharing it.  No one seems to be addressing the distribution issue.  Surely if staff are off work sick or self-isolating, the distribution will be disrupted.  What if the goods are manufactured and imported?  Are there issues with the country of origin?

I am also increasingly annoyed at the stupid and reckless behaviour of people.  Bondi beach in Australia, students on Spring break in the USA but also right here in the UK.  Beaches in UK yesterday had hundreds of thousands of people.  So much for social distancing.  Do people think they are invincible?  Do they think they will survive?  This is not a holiday.  This is the most serious situation you have been in probably in your lifetime unless you lived through a war.

Today is Mother’s Day.  Normally I wouldn’t see my children as they both work in hospitality. But today son no 1 will call me and son no 2 is home.  I find myself wishing they were both working and that we weren’t in this virus situation.  I am so proud of them both.  They are kind hearted and genuine people who work hard and think of others.  They are empathetic and compassionate and I am proud to know and love them.  I had originally planned to see my own mum today and take her out for lunch.  My mum has been ill for over 40 years so is very vulnerable and her retirement village is now on lockdown.  Luckily, I had already given her card and present so hopefully she won’t feel too sad to have to delay our meal.

So, the best Mother’s Day gift you can give is not to see your mother.  It might just save her life.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Stay Safe - Corona Virus Diary 

Saturday 21 March 2020

Stay Safe.  It’s a new saying but I have found myself saying it more and more over the last few weeks.  I don’t think people are taking it seriously enough.  I don’t understand why.  People are dying in their thousands yet others don’t seem to care.  Is it naivety or just stupid recklessness?  Yesterday, our Prime Minister, closed down all the pubs, restaurants’, gyms and theatres.  Well those that hadn’t already closed.  It’s a worrying time for many reasons. People are worried about their jobs, paying their bills, feeding themselves and making sure they have enough toilet rolls!  But what they should really be worried about is surviving.  Not catching this virus.  Not getting ill.  Not spreading it to others.

Despite the bars and restaurants’ closing, people don’t seem to understand social distancing in the food shops.  Sadly, there are huge amount of people and they queue (as we British are very good at) is far too close and lasts for too long.  I think the next step could be a proper lockdown and limit the amount of people doing food shopping.  We need to be firm here – or things in the UK could end up in a similar situation to Italy.  Borders need to close.  People need to stay indoors for three months.  Forget seven days.  Forget 14 days.  I think we need to be sure its not spreading so it needs to be three months.

Today I watched the film Yesterday that my husband bought me for Valentine’s Day. I had seen it before in the cinema but today I sobbed at this rom-com for a whole new reason.  No gigs.  No hugging.  No life as we knew it.  Oh, how I long for Yesterday.  Everyone will feel the effects of this for generations to come.  This is history in the making but not the type of history you want to be a part of.  It will touch each and every one of us.  Both my son’s work in the hospitality industry.  Neither know how safe their job is.  Neither knows what the future holds.  

So today I ask you all, my dear friends, please stay safe.  Stay indoors.  Because the devil is knocking at your door and you do not want to let him in.

Corona virus diary -Shopping

Friday 20 March 2020.

A week is a long time in the life of this virus.  A week ago, I was going shopping, eating out in a café, looking forward to the theatre trips I had planned and of course the seminal Travelogue and Reproduction gig by Heaven 17 who were doing the first two Human League albums in full.  Needless to say, that has all been cancelled.  I was risk assessed on Monday and told to work from home.  Some of you may not realise that I have a reduced lung capacity, so in normal life I may not be able to walk fast or climb stairs without getting breathless.  I also suffer bad chest infections when someone else only gets a cold.  So yes, this virus scares me.  It could kill me.  Even before this virus, I always had hand gel in my handbag and tried very hard to avoid people who were ill.  Last year I was off work for five weeks with a really bad chest infection.  Five weeks.  So, I do consider myself vulnerable.

I have been indoors all week, but today I decided to go shopping for some food. I chose Asda as they announced an hour for vulnerable people (not just over 70’s or NHS workers but people like me).  I donned my mask (which came from Hyper Japan last year as a fun thing) and put on disposable latex gloves to push the trolley.  I bet no one is cleaning those with anti-bacterial wipes!  I got there before 8am but it was already very busy.  Huge isles empty.  All items limited to three per customer (which is a great idea – unlike our local Sainsburys which said one item per customer).  No soap.  No pasta.  Almost out of sanitary protection and definitely no hand sanitiser.  But there were toilet rolls.  Cheap nasty toilet rolls for £2.00 but of course I bought a pack.  Toilet rolls are fast becoming the new currency in this dystopian world.

I felt so stressed doing this.  I don’t think I will be going shopping again for a long time.  It felt like Armageddon.  The very last shop before all hell breaks loose.  I don’t own a chest freezer but had a spare small freezer in my garage that I was saving for my son when he gets his own place.  Today I plugged it back in.

Today was a first. I cleaned every item of food before I put it away.  Every item. I am also cleaning my post from the postman.  Apparently, this virus can live on paper and cardboard for up to a day so I am not taking any risks.  You may think I am being a bit ‘over the top’ but I believe a month from now, you will wish you were doing what I am doing.

It is dangerous.  It is killing people.  Look at my favourite European destination, Italy.  Already 3.500 people dead from it and that number is still rising.  We need a lockdown and we need it now.  If only we had a government that takes decisive action that protects the people.  This is not a drill. Social distancing is a thing. Do it and do it now. It might just save lives!

Are we living in a horror film? 

 

It's like every horror film I have ever watched.  The beginning of 28 days later.  The beginning of The Stand.  Outbreak.  The shops are empty as people panic buy.  No hand gel.  No toilet rolls.  No pasta.  No paracetamol.  A deadly virus is amongst us.  We can’t see it.  We can’t protect against it.  It kills indiscriminatory and picks on the old and vulnerable.

I have always been fascinated by deadly diseases.  It started when I was 12 and flew to France with the school.  My first trip abroad.  The rabid dog poster has never left me.  I was terrified and it was genuine.  I have never petted a stray animal here in the UK or abroad just on the power of that poster.  I toyed with the idea of studying to be a microbiologist as a teenager but decided on Acting instead.  However, my fascination has always been there.  In the 80’s it was AIDS.  Again, the government terrified the public with a campaign telling us to ‘don’t die of ignorance’.  A few years ago, it was Ebola.

And now we have Corona Virus or Covid19.  Here in the UK there doesn’t seem to be an urgency by the government to take action.  It is almost as if they want people to get infected so that it causes a ‘herd immunity’ which they hope would protect those that are left.  Boris Johnson even said in his speech ‘some of your loved ones will die before their time’ as if that is acceptable for the greater good.  Well I don’t intend to be a statistic.  Ireland is closing pubs from today which means they will be closed on St Patrick’s Day.  Scotland have banned gatherings of over 500 people.  But here in England so far there are no bans.  And in Italy almost 2000 people have already died.  That is a scary statistic.  As I write, 35 have died in the UK.  We don’t know how many people have it or are infected.  It’s not a Zombie film where we can tell by looking at someone.  They aren’t even testing people to find out.  I am truly horrified by the lack of response from this government and think they need to start to protect its citizens.  Matt Hancock the health secretary doesn’t seem to have an urgent bone in his body.  His latest comment today on the Andrew Marr show says ‘in the next few weeks we will be asking the elderly to self-isolate and we may ban mass gatherings’.  May? Next few weeks?  Come on man, make a decision!

Many sporting events have already been cancelled and even Record Store Day has been put back until June. People are ready to self-isolate to protect themselves. My mum lives in a retirement village and from tomorrow they are on lockdown meaning no one can come or go who doesn’t live or work there. It makes sense to me, even if it means cancelling Mother’s Day. So why aren’t the government doing more?

I have many questions that no one seems to be answering.

  • Why didn’t they stop all travel internationally when they first heard about this in China?

  • Is it really just a transfer of a disease from a bat or is it secretly a man-made disease for germ warfare?

  • Why do they say hand gel needs to be 60% alcohol when no bottles tell us that – and why does a bacterial hand gel kill the virus?

  • Does washing our hands really work or is it a way to stop panic as the public then seems to be doing something to protect themselves.

  • Why is it so bad in Italy? Why have so many died? Will this happen in the UK?

There are those who think this is just a bad cold.  There are those who say more people die of normal flu.  These comments are not helpful and does not stop the panic in those who feel particularly vulnerable.  It is not just the elderly at risk.  Those with underlying health issues are also at risk.  Many have invisible health issues and are of working age.  Are they supposed to be staying home for four months and will work pay them?  There are no clear answers.

In these difficult times, I don’t have an answer. I am deeply saddened for my friends in Italy and other countries who are suffering.  I am sending love to all around the world and hope this will all be over soon. 

Corona Virus - Jasmine Storm update

Monday 16 March 2020.

I had already made a decision to stop attending gigs and theatre this weekend before the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, suggested yesterday in his speech that people avoid theatres, gigs, cinemas and pubs.  I was due to let you all know and was going to update my site, but as things are changing daily, I can now tell you that even if I hadn’t made that decision, it’s now been taken out of my hands.

Many theatres have already taken the decision to close to not put its clients at risk. I should have been seeing The Mousetrap last night and The Sound Of Music tonight. On Friday I was due to see Heaven 17 do a very rare performance of early Human League albums, Reproduction and Travelogue.  This too has been cancelled.

It is the right decision to close and cancel events and I respect all those involved in making those very difficult decisions.  However, the way the government have ‘strongly suggested’ they stay away is an economic nightmare.  The arts are very close to my heart and I fear that many theatres and musicians will end up bankrupt or make people redundant and will not recover from this.  All the government needs to do is order closures so that all these businesses can claim on their insurance.  Its not rocket science.  Remind me again how the government are qualified to govern?

I am also very concerned about the restaurant industry.  Both my sons work in hospitality.  My oldest son is manager of a lovely pub/restaurant in a small rural village.  My other son is a chef in a kitchen, but despite that he is zero rated so if he is sent home due to no customers, he isn’t paid.  Multiply that by all those in that industry and see how horrific life is going to be for people in this country.  Last night my son came home early as there were no customers to cook for.  The taxi driver said there will soon be no taxi’s as they feel they are at risk with people in their cars.

How about tourism?  No planes flying.  No people visiting our country.  Holidays cancelled.  I assume Madame Tussards, The Tower Of London and all the museums in London will also close.  This new term, ‘Social Distancing’ is fast becoming a buzz word, but it will impact the world as we know it.  Who knows what will be left after this disease has swept through us like a hurricane and see what damage it has done.  So, in these difficult times, I wish you and your loved ones are safe and healthy.  That we all get through this together and I will see you on the other side.

 

Love to you all, Jas.

A Jasmine Storm Production