Friday, 3 July 2020

I know You're Out There

I spent much of 2019 standing down at the deep end in the great swimming pool of life, with the water lapping just under my chin. I had hoped that 2020 would've seen me ease into a better place and gradually edge back towards the shallows - that didn't happen though. I was already struggling, even before world events took their many ominous turns and in recent weeks I've more than once found myself standing on tiptoes in even deeper waters, with my nose barely visible above the surface. But of course, in spite of my moans and groans, I know all too well that I'm one of the lucky ones - I have my health, an income and a roof over my head. There are a great many people who are not so fortunate. What I'm finding particularly distressing on a personal level is that the black cloud leaves me struggling to focus on anything requiring even a modicum of concentration -  listening to records, reading books, watching films or indeed fully engaging with the blogging community. Weeks and months have drifted by - so much time wasted.

The steady flow of streamed gigs over the past few months have provided welcome distractions, moments of comfort and genuine pleasure. Richard Thompson, Steve Wynn, Ed Kuepper, Alden Patterson & Dashwood, Rozi Plain, This is the Kit and Alasdair Roberts have all played online shows, most of them more than one. None of my musical heroes has been quite as busy as Robyn Hitchcock though. Robyn and his partner, singer-songwriter Emma Swift, are nudging towards their 30th Sweet Home Quarantine show since the pandemic crisis began. Together they've tackled nuggets from Hitchcock's vast back catalogue, fan requested rarities and a fascinating array of covers, including whole evenings devoted to the works of Bob Dylan, Syd Barrett, The Beatles and David Bowie. Friday at 8 is the absolute highlight of my week and at different points in every single show I sing along with gusto, I laugh out loud and I cry real tears - much as I would do at a Robyn Hitchcock gig in the real world. Each Sweet Home Quarantine concert lasts 45 minutes, costs around £4.50 and is not officially archived - if you miss it, it's gone, just like an actual live concert - you remember them don't you? I really can't recommend these shows highly enough. They're helping me to keep my head above water.


Here's one home recorded performance Robyn and Emma have shared with the wider world, a brilliantly re-written version of a 1986 song, originally issued on the 'Element of Light' album. No prizes for guessing who this scathing new interpretation takes aim at. (The link takes you to a non-embeddable video of the performance, recorded in their East Nashville kitchen).

Robyn Hitchcock & Emma Swift - The President


Rol said...

"the black cloud leaves me struggling to focus on anything requiring even a modicum of concentration"

I think that's the great malaise of these times, Swede. Stay strong, buddy.

Swiss Adam said...

Getting through this without any kind of wobble or black cloud would be very surprising Swede, it's been (and probably will continue to be) very testing in all kinds of ways and coming on top of your own personal situation it's no wonder you've struggled. Sit in there, keep the faith. We are all only a Tweet/comment/email away

drew said...

This has certainly been a trying time Swede and I am glad that you are just about coping which is what most of us who don't have second properties in Greece, Durham or Grace and Favour accommodation and privilege to fall back on can only hope to do in these uncertain times. Keep going man, and you can always reach out to the bloggers of course for some support.

I have not seen one of these lockdown gigs so far. As I have been cooped up in my cupboard I call an office, continuing to work without even site visits to look forward to for the past 15 weeks, once I'm finished I can't face sitting at the laptop any longer.

C said...

As has been said above, there's a lot of it about at the moment; obviously this is an awful year in so many ways but especially so when you're already struggling with other things on top. Somehow we just have to keep keeping on - and also just go with the flow of how we feel when we need to let it all out as well, which it seems you are doing. We're all here, and we care.

The Swede said...

I wrote this quickly, in an effort to explain my more and more regular periods of extended absence and almost instantly felt guilty for bleating on about my own issues when everyone is currently in a similar, or in many cases even more leaky, boat. Sometimes though, the pressure builds to such an extent that I have to throw open the flue and let some steam out. Thanks so much for checking in and leaving positive vibes. My best to everyone - here's to better days ahead.

Alyson said...

Bit late to the comment boxes but I concur with what everyone else has said and I'm sorry to hear of that black cloud. You are right in what you say, trying to concentrate on any hobby or project is tough as the mind plays tricks on us, flitting about, stopping us from relaxing enough to enjoy anything properly (bar these online concerts for you).

I've mentioned it before but if you find yourself with some annual leave I have a holiday house sitting mostly empty at the moment. I'm a long way off but a bit of a change of scene can sometimes work wonders.

John Medd said...

I can only echo what your other friends on here are saying; except to add that should you take Alyson up on her offer, then you must break your journey up in Nottingham. We'd love to see you again - I hope you know that.

The Swede said...

John, Alyson, only one thing would give me more pleasure than seeing you both individually - that's for all of us to meet up together (with C) as originally planned. I'm guessing we're realistically looking at 2021 now, but I really hope that we can make it happen.

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