Monthly Archives: May 2020
Coronavirus: Week 10 in self-isolation
I’d like to start this week’s reflection in tribute to our nephew George W. Dyson, who passed away in Canada at the age of 41. He was a lovely person, whose inspirational spirit transcended countries, was felt by all fortunate enough to know him and was taken too soon. I send my love to all his family and friends at this, the most difficult of times. The death wasn’t coronavirus related but the horrible reality of restrictions surrounding the virus is that we cannot attend a funeral at this time.
One of the things George loved, when he visited his family in England, was the garden at our home. We will plant a memorial tree in his honour. Since I’ve been staying at home more than usual I’ve been able to appreciate it too, becoming aware of the subtle changes over time. Normally, I wouldn’t be so attuned to when certain plants bloom but that’s one of the positives to come out of lockdown. Spring blossoms are now transforming, getting ready for the summer season.
You can see the changes to the flora in the front garden in comparison to an earlier photograph I took on the first day my precautionary self-isolation started. When asked to submit a photograph for one of BBC Radio Cumbria’s social media posts documenting life in lockdown I knew that snap was what I’d use. The reflection from the glass in the shot was a ‘happy accident’ but encapsulates my view of the world, carrying on outdoors, while I stay inside. You can see what it looks like in the video here… (Post continues below.)
At work I’m becoming a whizz with Zoom, an app I’d never used before. Seeing team members is a great way to stay connected with more than one person at a time. I’ve also taken part in BBC training over Zoom which allows me to now record interviews with contributors, while still working from home.
Meanwhile, the radio industry itself continues to change. It was announced earlier this week that stations which had been acquired by the Bauer group will be rebranded as Greatest Hits Radio, as reported by the industry news website Radio Today.
This includes many UKRD stations, a group where I worked on staff for nearly two years, as well as stations in the Wireless group like Wish, Wire and Tower FM that I freelanced at in Wigan. Going forward, there will be fewer job opportunities available for broadcasters and journalists. You can read my thoughts on the changing landscape of local radio in a blog post I wrote in March last year HERE.
It’s also the end of an era for travel news; today’s the last day BBC local radio is taking voiced bulletins from the traffic data company INRIX Media. From tomorrow, bulletins will instead be provided in-house, using scripts.
I had a great time in my four years as part of the weekend team at INRIX, working in the Altrincham office. My highlight was delivering travel bulletins for BBC Radio Manchester’s ‘80s programme because I got to chat to Clint Boon from the band Inspiral Carpets each week. Another was when I was going to a fancy dress party shortly after work, so spent the last bit of my shift dressed as a Blues Brother! BBC Radio Cumbria was also one of my regular stations, which is where I now work.
To broadcast travel news well takes skill which is quite niche – similar but essentially different to presenting or news reading. Travel broadcasters assimilate information from various sources to bring you what you hear on-air, without verbatim scripts and often with only a short amount of time between bulletins for various stations around the country. I know I’m a better broadcaster having worked at INRIX, alongside many talented colleagues. My thoughts are with those affected by the changes.
Back in December 2016, during a busy Christmas party season, I recorded myself delivering a travel bulletin on BBC Radio Manchester for a Facebook live video. If you want to see what it was like ‘behind the scenes’ in the travel news centre, here it is…
Coronavirus: Week nine in self-isolation
I’ve been out of the house for the first time! Was it for a lovely walk? A delicious take-away meal, perhaps? No, neither of those; I had to visit the emergency dentist. A literally painful reminder that the outside world, as well as the one inside my mouth, is continuing regardless of any precautionary quarantine for Covid-19.
Some context: In January I had a wisdom tooth taken out by the wonderful team at the Westmorland General Hospital in Kendal. When lockdown restrictions came into force, I was grateful to have had the procedure done before it got any more serious.
Flash forward to this week, and the partially erupted wisdom tooth on the opposite side didn’t feel right, followed by a headache and sore throat. Then, in the middle of Monday night, the pain started. Swelling also meant I wasn’t able fully open my jaw. I couldn’t eat solid food or talk properly, without looking like a ventriloquist.
I tried home remedies to ease the pain and swelling and was going to wait to see if it got better. No such luck until my neighbour rang about something completely different. She’s a dentist and, while on the phone, was able to diagnose me. She said I must call the emergency dentist. I was wishing I’d had both bottom wisdom teeth pulled out when I was in hospital, but I’d only recently had an x-ray which showed the tooth was fine. I’d also been for a dental check-up, just before this self-isolation started.
Dental surgeries aren’t yet open for business, understandably, but I was able to contact mine. My dentist prescribed some antibiotics and we met in the surgery car park to pick them up. A surreal socially-distanced situation. The pills were put on a tray, which was placed on the ground to pick up and we kept two metres apart.
I’m still working from home, which has been a godsend with these dental issues, to be honest. This week in May is the third anniversary of the Manchester Arena bombing. I edited an interview with a young woman from Cumbria who was there at the Ariana Grande concert.
Thoughts of the 22 people who were killed and those who were injured are never far from my mind. I’m proud of my Mancunian roots and went to school with Martyn Hett, who was one of the people who died. I wrote more about my thoughts in this blog post at the time. Three years on and the aftermath is that people are living with grief and some of the survivors with with physical or mental health conditions as as well. Even now, it’s hard to comprehend this act of terrorism.
Manchester is a truly fantastic city – it’s the spirit of the people that make it so. The Oasis song Don’t Look Back in Anger was cathartic for many after the attack and still is. I listened to the track again on 22 May and lit my bee candle in honour of the 22. They will never be forgotten and are always in our hearts. #WeAreManchester.
Coronavirus: Week eight in self-isolation
Lockdown restrictions have been eased slightly by the UK government this week. It’s not made much of a difference to my personal situation though; I’m still self-isolating as a precaution and working from home.
At this point, all the weeks are becoming quite similar. I’m trying to take it one day at a time. I find that easier to think of than how long I might be at home for. My own situation will probably need to last until the end of June, at the earliest. Longer than I initially expected.
The hardest thing to come to terms with is, when I do eventually finish my period of self-isolation, things won’t be like they used to. When I return to my usual work base in Carlisle, I won’t be able to hug colleagues who I haven’t seen for months. Instead, we’ll stay two metres apart. There’ll be leaves on the trees on the road leading up to our house, which I haven’t yet seen. People will be wearing PPE on public transport. The list goes on.
For some people, the prospect of not leaving the house for more than two months must seem daunting. The reality is that it’s just become a way of life for me now and I’m used to it. The key thing is to try not to dwell on the negatives. There are some positives to quarantine, like reading more books, re-discovering music (really listening, not just having it on in the background) and having time to reflect about ourselves. Life usually comes at a fast pace and, if anything, slowing down means we’re able to take stock.
Over the past week or so I was nominated on Facebook to post the covers of 10 albums which greatly influenced my taste in music. A challenge right up my street! I thought I’d elaborate a little about my choices. Here we go then, in no particular order:
I love the ‘chillout’ genre. To me, Zero 7’s first album epitomises everything I love about that style of music. Simple Things features the wonderful Sia Furler on many tracks. The very first radio interview I did was with Henry Binns and Sam Hardaker for Fuse FM, ahead of a great gig at Manchester Academy in 2009.
The track Eple was what first introduced me to the electronica genre of music. I feel this was when I was truly developing my own taste, rather than being influenced by my Mum’s Easy Listening or Dad’s Prog Rock. This is a brilliant album from the Norwegian band which has downtempo and house influences.
Wonderwall was the first single I bought. Back in the days when you had to physically go into a record store to do something like that. (It seems a world away from these current times of downloads and streaming! Sad to think the occasion of doing that is now lost, but the modern day way is more convenient and instant, I suppose.) Wonderwall is included in this album, along with many other iconic tracks. Listening to Oasis makes me think of my proud Mancunian roots.
Long before Coldplay were a band headlining stadiums, this was their first studio album. I remember being blown away when I first heard the track Yellow and followed the band since then. Their sound has developed, over the years, but there’s something still very special about this debut album.
I could have chosen any of Jamiroquai’s studio albums to be included in this list. A Funk Odyssey was what I heard that made me want to discover more about the band though. I loved their fusion of acid jazz with the pop genre. When I was with Fuse FM, I presented an overnight special feature the back catalogue of Jamiroquai’s music. Great memories.
The distinctive sound of French House music, which the Daft Punk duo are the masters of. There’s so many fantastic tracks on this album. Digital Love was the first I encountered by watching a music video channel. This album makes a good use of sampling from other songs. This is what has often encouraged me to seek out how the original pieces sound too. A ‘Discovery’ indeed. (I actually wrote about the sampling of George Duke in Daft Punk’s Digital Love in this blog, seven years ago this month. Time flies!)
I received M People’s final studio album on cassette for Christmas in 1997. It features the inimitable voice of Heather Small. There’s something so joyous about the band’s sound that I love and there’s a great cover of Roxy Music’s Avalon on this album. The band have another Manchester connection for me. I saw them perform live years later at the city’s arena, which is one of my most memorable gigs. We literally went down Angel Street to get there as well.
Another from the House / Dance genre. This album was recommended for me to listen to and I’ve been a fan ever since. It got me through a long coach journey to France as a teenager, listening on repeat! The individual tracks are all good but the album as a whole tells a story with music. I was lucky enough to see this performed live at Manchester Academy in 2010. Great to just lose yourself in while listening.
Well, what can I say about this masterpiece that won’t have already been said over the years? The full Tubular Bells remains one of the best pieces of music I’ve ever heard; there’s so much variety to it. It’s difficult to hear the beginning an not think of the film The Exorcist though, but there’s so much more to it than that. A truly epic listen. Play it loud!
I had to make a nod to my passion for musicals somewhere in this list and Grease was probably the catalyst for me. So many hits from the film but what’s great about the soundtrack album is that it also includes the Sha Na Na tracks from the school dance scenes. I had this album on cassette and have a feeling it may have worn out from being played so much!
It’s obvious, from looking at those choices, that 2001 must have been a pivotal year for shaping my musical tastes. Other years have great influence too, many dating back before I was born, and not just limited to this list. I don’t get it when people say music “wasn’t from their era”. The great thing about discovering music is you can listen to anything and develop an appreciation for it. In the Internet age, it’s easier to do than ever before.
Coronavirus: Week seven in self-isolation
“We’ll meet again”, Dame Vera Lynn’s war time classic song that’s been given a new sense of importance. People all over the UK and Europe commemorated the 75th anniversary of VE Day (Victory in Europe day) during lockdown, because of the coronavirus pandemic. I tried to mark the occasion as best I could, while staying at home. I even added to my baking repertoire with a batch of scones for an afternoon tea. How quintessentially British…
In my day job, I produced some items for BBC Radio Cumbria’s Bank Holiday programmes and news output this week. As ever, working from home, while sometimes challenging, is providing great structure to my days in self-isolation and offers a chance to immerse myself in the output.
Due to the wonders of technology, I was able to report live into the breakfast programme, for something we call an ‘illustrated two-way’ in radio. This is where the presenter asks the reporter questions about a news story and the answers are punctuated with audio clips. While these often sound like off the cuff chats, they actually require a great deal of research.
It was lovely to be back live on-air again, all from the comfort of my living room (while sitting as close to the router as possible) and connecting via a special app on my iPhone. The range of broadcast journalism work you can actually do while working from home is amazing. Something I’m very grateful for.
On a personal note, I was gutted to miss seeing my Dad on his birthday this week. It was a landmark one and, had circumstances been different, I expect my whole family would have been getting together for a celebration. Instead, it was subdued and I tried to make it as special as I could from afar. No delivery of a present can ever compensate for a hug though. The best way to think of it is that the celebrations are just being postponed, until life gets back to some sort of normality.
The weather’s been warm again this week and it’s been nice to spend time in the garden. I’ve planted some tomato plants in the greenhouse for the first time and they’re already springing into life. A reminder though, if you are spending time in gardens, there are ticks around. As a former ‘city girl’ I hadn’t much experience of this, until one latched onto my partner and I had to get it out. That saved a trip to the doctors, which would have been the first time either of us has been out of the house for more than 50 days.
Later today, (Sunday, 10 May) Prime Minister Boris Johnson is due to address the nation. There’s all kinds of speculation about what this might be, perhaps relaxing of certain restrictions? We’ll find out shortly. Whatever it is I’m still going to be sticking with my precautionary self-isolation as best I can. As someone with two “underlying health conditions”, I don’t want to take any chances.
For many people, the lockdown has been difficult, I’m well aware of that. There are many facets to each individual situation. For me, the prospect of contracting Covid-19 and what may happen because of that is just as scary now, seven weeks on, as it was on day one when my self-isolation started.