Category Archives: Wellbeing
The third lockdown
Memories of five years ago popped up on Facebook. I was on holiday in Tenerife at the time. On previous days I’ve also been reminded of times at the theatre seeing shows or eating a lovely meal in a restaurant. All of which seem a world away in lockdown, while staying at home.
The view has been dusted with snow in a winter wonderland. Part of me thankful actually – that I don’t have to attempt to walk or drive anywhere on the icy, slippery ground! Having an open fire makes everything all the more cosy during the cold weather too. Toasted marshmallows, a bonus.
It may feel like Groundhog Day but the reasons why everyone needs to stay at home are just as stark, arguably even more so, with new variants of the virus able to spread more than when the Covid-19 was novel.
In my circle of friends, I’m hearing of more of loved ones who have died after contracting the virus. There are those who do recover too but, taking people I know personally as a straw sample, the virus seems incredibly prevalent. The number of deaths in the UK is nearing 100,000. Each person is so much more than a statistic, leaving behind heartbroken family and friends. My thoughts are with everyone affected.
Watching the series of reports by Clive Myrie on BBC News this week gave an eye-opening insight of what it’s like for the NHS workers on the frontline of the pandemic. It’s an emotional watch but important to report on the reality of what’s happening. Exemplary journalism, showing the hard work of these key workers.
There’s a lot of information to process daily. During tough times, like these, there’s general consensus that it’s sometimes good to switch off the news and take a break. Of course, for journalists, this is impossible. It’s good to see a new platform has started recently called Newsbreak, set up by Tom Hourigan. It urges journalists and people involved in the media industry to take a break from the news:
Over the past 10 months, I’ve become much better at this sort of self care. After work, I try to do something completely different. Watch a film or TV show to get lost in, I find sitcoms particularly good for this. Play a computer game or read a book, anything really. I’m not that skilled at cooking or baking (I wish I was!) but can understand why that’s become a popular lockdown pastime, because it’s great to focus on something completely different.
While working from home, I usually don’t have weekend shifts. I keep an eye on major developments but use this time to disconnect. Push notifications that pop up on phones and tablets can be distracting, so I switch my phone off and don’t look at social media. It means I’m relatively hard to get hold of for a day or two, but it feels liberating. Another tip is to take annual leave when you can. It doesn’t matter that we can’t go on holiday, a break from the intensity of what we’re going through is important.
I’m hoping it won’t be too long before I can get the vaccine. As someone with underlying health conditions, it’ll give me a bit more of my life back. I expect restrictions will continue to be around for a while yet but it’d be a step back closer to normality at least.
At work (from home), I’ve continued on the shift of late producer of Mike Zeller at Breakfast for BBC Radio Cumbria. A great mix of all the latest news and fun features of what’s happening around the county. One of the guests I set up for the programme recently was Dr Mark Toshner, who was involved in the clinical trials for the Oxford / AstraZeneca vaccine. He gave an extended interview on the programme, which was an informative and insightful listen. You can hear a snippet of it here:
I’m glad to say that my website has been successfully updated and can now be accessed through www.katybooth.com If you missed my review of last year that’s available here. I’ll continue to update this blog throughout 2021, perhaps not as regularly as I did last year when experiences of the pandemic were new. It’s a way to document these strange times at least. Cathartic to write about and, I hope, interesting for you to read too.
Take care and stay safe x
We’re more than halfway through England’s second lockdown now… or are we? Time will tell whether it gets extended or not. Here’s an update on how it’s been for me so far. Earlier in the year, I was self-isolating for shielding purposes. In lockdown 2.0 this hasn’t been compulsory so, while I’ve been staying at home as much as possible, I haven’t been keeping a weekly diary. Instead this blog post will be a whistle-stop tour.
I’ve been working from home for eight months. I joined BBC Radio Cumbria in August 2019, so I’ve actually now been home office based for the station longer than I was based in Carlisle. I’m still producing content for the breakfast programme, making audio packages and able to broadcast live reports.
When I eventually go back to the newsroom in person, it will feel quite a different place because there have been colleagues who have retired or left the BBC recently by taking voluntary redundancy. All will be greatly missed and I wish them the very best of luck in the future.
Outside of work, I’m pleased to say that I’ve been organised this year to have completed all my Christmas shopping well in advance. Although it is a stash of gifts that is getting perpetually added to, depending on the different things I spot! Even though non-essential shops are shut, for the time being, many have an online presence that you can support and buy items from.
There’s also the rise of Virtual Christmas Fairs. One of the biggest I’ve seen on Facebook has been set up by a woman from Kendal who is raising money for the NHS Morecambe Bay Trust charity. It has more than 270 online ‘stalls’ selling handmade products, via pages like Etsy for about 8,000 members on the page – and that number is rising.
More restaurants seem to be set up to provide take aways now. Recently, for example, I enjoyed a boxed afternoon tea which was put together to raise funds to provide elderly people in our village with a festive meal. I’m glad to have been able to support local businesses in this way, in what are extremely challenging times.
That’s not to say the kitchen has been empty. There may have been the trend of baking banana bread in the first lockdown but I feel that my culinary skills have gone up a gear, having baked a Christmas cake. I’m yet to discover how successful it is, because this will be ‘fed’ with brandy and iced in the lead up to the big day. With so much alcohol and fruit in there though, it hopefully shouldn’t taste too bad!
Working from Home
I was delighted to be invited to speak to journalism students at my former university, UCLan in Preston, about how I work from home for BBC Radio Cumbria. Also, how the broadcast industry has adapted to the changes we’ve seen this year, because of the coronavirus pandemic.
I’ve been working from a back room in my house for more than seven months due to underlying health conditions. In keeping with the topic of the talk, it was delivered via video call to the students who were watching in their own homes on Microsoft Teams. An enjoyable session with about 40 people watching, who asked excellent questions at the end. Some of the salient points of the discussion are included here.
As a key worker, it’s a privilege to continue to contribute to the radio station throughout the pandemic in an important role. There’s a wide range of things you can do in the broadcasting industry, while working from home. I mostly produce items for the breakfast programme but can also record and edit reports as well as broadcast live, using specialised apps and software.
Here’s political correspondent, Paul Rowley, doing exactly that on BBC Radio Cumbria. Even with disruptions, it turned out to be a memorable moment and Tweet!
Without a commute of over an hour each day, I have a lot more time. I’m able to read for pleasure a lot more than I used to. There’s also more time to spend with family and pets… Even if my cat does seem to know when I’m on an important phone call because that’s exactly when she’ll meow for Dreamies! For parents, arrangements can be flexible to allow for childcare and appointments.
Technology has increased our connectivity; people from across the organisation can connect in an instant with the likes of Zoom. That’s something I do weekly for a diversity and inclusion steering group that I’m part of. I’ve had training sessions, without the need to travel or meet face-to-face, and even taken part in a Pilates session during a lunch break.
One of the main aspects I miss is the social side of going to work. Those ‘water cooler moments’ where you get to know colleagues personally in the little chats in the kitchen or corridor. Bouncing ideas around with others and having a banter in the office is great… it’s not quite the same over email! Our weekly team Zoom call to catch up with each other is something I look forward to.
The amount of screen time has, understandably, increased. Usually face-to-face meetings provide a break from this, but not so on a video call. It can be tempting to avoid taking breaks and just plough through but it’s actually even more important to do so when working from home, to prevent eye strain. Try to move around, rather than stay completely sedentary, too.
It can be difficult to ‘switch off’ from work when there’s no commute to provide a mental break and a chance to assimilate all that’s happened. My tip is to try to have a separate workspace that you can leave at the end of the day. If you only have something like a dining table to work off don’t sit in the same place to eat as well. If you use a laptop, pack that away once you’ve finished using it.
When the computer is only in the next room it can be tempting to “just do a little bit more” work – something I have been guilty of on occasion! Set boundaries so that you will only work the same amount of hours as you would, if you were physically in the office.
Our ability to work from home will probably be with us, long after this pandemic. It would be a shame not to take the positives of what has been learnt to become more effective in future. Without the need for as much travelling, it gives us more productive time in the day – and it’s better for the environment too. Our homes are now the equivalent of district offices.
As broadcasters and journalists working in the media, being adaptable is what we do. It’s how the industry has developed into what it is today and we shouldn’t fight this. We’re currently in a period of great change at the moment anyway, but the possibilities of what can be achieved when we put our minds to it are still limitless.
A recent example of how working from home has become a ‘new normal’ was evident in how the latest episode of Strictly Come Dancing was broadcast. Showbiz reporter, Betty Redondo, Tweeted that it was actually directed by crew members from home. You wouldn’t have known any different while watching the show live on Saturday night either:
Finally, you can claim tax relief of £6.00 a week for job expenses, while working from home. More information is available HERE.
Coronavirus: Shielding paused
Guidance for people who have been shielding throughout lockdown changed at the beginning of August. In summary, this means that:
– You can go to work, but should carry on working from home wherever possible.
– You can go outside as much as you like but you should still try to keep your overall social interactions low.
– You should continue to wash your hands carefully and more frequently than usual and that you maintain thorough cleaning of frequently touched areas in your home and/or workspace.Source: UK Government.
If you’ve followed some of my posts this year, you’ll be aware that I have underlying health conditions and took the decision in March to self-isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. I’m classed as “vulnerable”, rather than “high-risk”, but have been following shielding advice as a precaution.
For almost five months, I’ve tried to make the best of the situation. As a key worker, I’ve also been able to work throughout lockdown producing content – and sometimes broadcasting – from a home office set up for BBC Radio Cumbria. I never take a day that I work in this, an ever shrinking, radio industry for granted. I’m grateful to be able to make a contribution to the station’s output during lockdown.
I always do my utmost to make sure that my quality of life is on a par to that of everyone else around me. Feeling ‘different’ has never really been an issue for me, until the pandemic hit. I was reluctant to work from home initially, because I didn’t want to be treated separately to most of my colleagues. In hindsight, the decision to work from home, that was made at the beginning of lockdown, was absolutely the right one for me.
This Tweet by fellow journalist Lucy Webster sums my thoughts up well and, judging by the amount of engagement the thread has had on Twitter, many others feel the same way too: (Blog post continues below.)
After a chat with my manager, not much will change for me going forward and I won’t be returning to my main base in Carlisle yet. I’ve adapted to working from home very well and have everything I need at my fingertips. More and more meetings are being held virtually, I used Microsoft Teams for the first time last week too, so I don’t feel like I’m missing out on much.
Although I would like to build my confidence up again, I don’t intend to venture out much either. Of course, I want to get back to life as close to normality as possible but I will do so at a time and rate of change that feels right for me.
We’re in the middle of the school holidays at the moment, so there are a lot of people enjoying Cumbria’s beautiful landscape. Some will be having staycations after cancelling foreign holidays this summer. Therefore, I will probably wait until it’s a bit quieter around the Lake District before I reacquaint myself with the local area.
In terms of further afield, the majority of my family and friends are included in the tighter lockdown restrictions that have been brought in for all of Greater Manchester and parts of East Lancashire. This means that any potential visits are now, sadly, postponed for the time being too. (Blog post continues below.)
There are two perspectives to the approach of shielding being paused, which I was able to garner for the breakfast programme. We spoke to a lady who had been shielding her 89-year-old mum and didn’t feel comfortable changing anything. On the other hand, there was another lady who celebrated her birthday during lockdown and was going to see her daughter for the first time since February – she was looking forward to getting out and about again.
Neither of those perspectives are right or wrong; these are personal judgements that we all have to make on a daily basis. The government has issued guidance on shielding, rather than rules that are enforceable. Everyone’s personal circumstances are different and we all must assess the level of risk that each individual situation poses, while coronavirus is still being transmitted in society and may well be for sometime.
A nice side note to end the post on though: Since working from home, my office faces a window looking out to the back garden. Usually, in pre-coronavirus times, I wouldn’t be at home on weekday mornings let alone facing the back of the house. It’s usual to see wild rabbits and an array of birds here in south Cumbria. However, this past week, I was lucky enough to catch a glimpse of a deer that had jumped over the wall in the daytime – it’s one of the advantages of living next to a wood. I’d been keeping my camera close in anticipation of a moment like this and I was able to capture it, as you can see in the snaps below.
A gentle reminder that a greater appreciation of the nature that surrounds us is at least one of the good things to come out of time spent in lockdown, for me personally, and hopefully many others too.
“Holding to nothing whatever” was the theme of this year’s Buddhafield festival. It’s usually based in the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, near Taunton in Somerset, with roots in the Triratna Buddhist Community.
I attended the gathering in person in 2015, which was also my first experience of camping and when the photographs in this blog post were taken. I’ve been on annual leave from work this past week so when I heard the festival was being held virtually this year, due to the coronavirus pandemic, it felt like a great opportunity to get involved once again.
The festival was held over five days, utilising technology with the likes of Zoom and Facebook live broadcasts. I’ve particularly enjoyed the talks, meditation sessions and musical performances. Personal highlights were sets from the band Hands of the Heron as well as soloist Susie Ro.
Although viewing over a screen, the sense of connectivity with others was still very much felt. The opening and closing ceremonies being memorable for this, with people joining in for the mantra. What struck me was that a sense of community is so much bigger than just our locality. A reflection that’s particularly pertinent during lockdown.
Some attendees commented that lockdown has felt like an enforced retreat for them. Another called it ‘the long pause’ – a lovely analogy that describes what quarantine has done for many of us, by offering time to re-evaluate our lives. For me, one of the positives is that it’s allowed a deeper connection to nature.
My first experience at Buddhafield, five years ago, has stuck with me because of the powerful spirituality that I felt. This was not lost by transferring online and I shall remember this year’s festival for the inspiration, innovation and compassion shown from everyone involved.
(All photographs taken at Buddhafield 2015.)
Life after lockdown
After 11 weeks of self-isolation due to the coronavirus, restrictions have been eased by the UK government sufficiently so that we can at least start to think about what life after lockdown could be like.
I’m classed as ‘vulnerable’ because of having underlying health conditions. It’s something I would never ordinarily describe myself as, but these are not ordinary times. I was never officially part of the shielding group but that’s basically what I ended up doing as a precaution. Working from home, getting shopping delivered, that kind of thing. Then, at the end of last month, the advice changed and people shielding were allowed outdoors.
Well, I haven’t been outside the perimeter of the house just yet but the easing of restrictions mean that I’m able to take small steps towards a ‘new normal’. Yesterday, my parents were able to visit us in the back garden, while maintaining the mandatory two metre social distance. It was a joyous occasion, as I hadn’t seen them in person for about three months. During that time we missed celebrating together Mother’s Day, Dad’s birthday and their 37th wedding anniversary.
We’re a tactile family, so not being able to hug each other is strange. You also have to go against instinct at points: when something drops on the floor and someone else goes to pick it up. Or when our cat comes close, it’s very hard to resist the temptation to pet her! Luckily, after some weather forecasts predicted wind and rain, the day turned out nice. We had to get our umbrellas out at points, but it was an opportunity to see the back garden in bloom. Even the birds getting food from the flutter butter holder weren’t put off by our presence.
At the beginning of the year, I wouldn’t have thought I’d be updating this blog as frequently as weekly, but I think documenting my period of self-isolation has been a good thing to do. It’s been cathartic to write about, as a way to try to make sense of an uncertain situation and hopefully it’s made for interesting reading too.
As we emerge from lockdown, I don’t anticipate I’ll update this page quite as frequently. My diary style tweets on Twitter curtailed after about 70 day because all the days were starting to blend into one large mass of time! I’ve always aimed for quality rather than quantity of posts. Also, focusing on other things will give me a chance to write about various topics, most of which are a commentary on the media industry, which have been a feature of my site for the past nine years and something I want to continue.
This period in time that we have been experiencing is probably something future students will learn about in their history lessons and something our generation will tell their grandchildren. Key workers will be remembered for keeping the country going at a challenging time. The tragedy of loved ones lost will also stay in our thoughts. At the time of writing, the global death toll of COVID-19 stands at about 393,000, according to statistics from the World Health Association. More than 40,500 of those deaths have been registered in the United Kingdom. To put the UK figure into context, that’s about twice the capacity of London’s O2 arena.
Of course, the virus hasn’t gone away; the reproduction rate or ‘R number’ isn’t as high as it was in the middle of lockdown, when the peak was at its highest but it could potentially rise again. We must continue to be careful; coronavirus can still infect people indiscriminately and the consequence of that could be fatal. Be mindful, stay safe and, if you’ve followed my story of self-isolation over these past 11 weeks, thanks for reading.
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.