“It’s been awful. Just fucking awful. I’ve had many conversations with people and they’re like “I don’t think the pandemic’s been that bad. I’ve been able to think about me and do my yoga and do my music and do my cooking and I’m like fuck you. Tens of thousands of people have died. Fuck you. I’ve absolutely hated it. I genuinely thought I would never see my mum again and that was awful. I’ve not been able to see my niece, like, see’s only a week and a half old but … my brother wasn’t even in the same fucking hospital when his baby went blue. It’s been fucking awful”
My friend has got a chronic lung condition and he’s gonna get a letter through the door soon saying it’s OK, you don’t have to shield anymore. He isn’t going to go out the house. If he gets it he will die. So he’s going to loose his job now because the government said he can work now, but he can’t work. They are just not able to test or trace where anything is so you are having these local flare ups like Leister is in lockdown again. Apparently Bradford is really bad and fucking nobody knows what’s going on because they never managed to get rid of the virus anyway and they can’t test for it, or trace for it in the way that would be useful because they’re fucking useless. So people like him will just never be able to leave the house. Or, when am I ever able to give my mum a hug? Children died, children died on their own, it’s awful. Then you’ve got fucking Dominic Cummings driving up to Durham. It’s just awful. People died alone, people couldn’t hold their dying children.
It’s been really tough with my mum being in a care home but even that’s loads better now. Since we’ve been able to see her she’s been loads better. We can’t ‘see’ her, see her, we can just see her through the glass but now that she knows we’re alive I think she’s … I rang her yesterday. So when you ring her you sing songs and sometimes she would join in and sometimes she doesn’t. But yesterday she was singing all the songs and then she made up a little song. She made up this little melody, so I finished singing a song and she just kept singing this little melody she had made up. Adorable.
I’m working on this type of local economic… it’s called Local Economic Development but it’s basically how local authorities shape their economies. It’s called Community Wealth Building, and the whole idea is retaining and creating wealth within the communities. So right now we have a model, for example, if a hospital got it’s laundry done by a local supplier instead of say, Serco. That wealth goes back into the local area, so that local people get employed to do that work and they then spend their money in the local shops and cafes.
This is a crisis of globalisation. This crisis basically means the end of Globalisation because it was able to travel so fast and because when trade ceased and when the borders closed, Britain in particular was in a real problem because we don’t have places that produce PPE or places that produce hand sanitiser and we had to mobilise our industries to try and create these things and we had mass shortages. This is why the supermarkets ran out of food. Instead of having spare stuff to sell it’s as and when you need it, and we’re gonna have to move away from that model. Basically we have to make our supply chains much smaller to be able to cope with things like this. People are making tonnes of money out of this it’s perverse. So people that already have money can make more money but people that have no money are just fucked.
In my opinion they should have had lockdown much earlier than they did. Not like you can go out one exercise a day or… like all of that shit that was completely un-policeable so everyone is just doing the fuck they wanted. Obviously we don’t have a fucking police force because they cut that to shit so they had no-one to police it anyway but .. got rid of the virus then we could have had a gradual easing of the Lockdown.. But because we didn’t really lockdown hard enough and we definitely didn’t lockdown early enough we’re in this kind of semi-lockdown, until when?
The entire world is in transition and transitions are very unnerving and we have no idea what the other side is gonna look like and it’s incredibly anxiety inducing then on top of that hundreds of thousands of people had died. And you read things like today the US has bought up all of this specific drug. It’s not a vaccine but it’s basically like right well so… Africa can just die. India can just die. Europe can just die. So the way that patents work is that you make money out of curing diseases, which also applies to pandemics. It’s just fucked. So you have to disengage a bit, I think.
“That’s what gets me through. The thought of that moment in time will pass. I got this tattoo early last year when I was going through all that stuff cause I kept having to remind myself. It’s in my daughters handwriting. I feel this about the pandemic too, you know, don’t worry. It will pass.”
We are getting back to ‘normal’ now. I live on my own. I’ve not been able to see my kids because the Mum is shielded, so they’ve not been able to too and fro. That’s the reason why I’m off sick cause it just got too much. We’d just got into a really good routine as well. Last year was really hard for me, we went through a battle in court, because she wasn’t allowing me to see the kids. Towards the end of last year, I was granted shared custody and it was built up gradually, and we had just got into a really good routine and then Corona came along. So yeah, I’ve found that the most difficult, not seeing my children.
I work in the council as a parenting practitioner, I love my job, I do really love it. That’s why I thought I needed time off a lot of it was on the phone and I just didn’t have the patience anymore with people who were struggling with their children at home 24/7, rightly so, but in my mind I was thinking at least you’ve got your kids, and it was really difficult. That’s when I said I need to step away for a bit, because my own stuff is coming in, and it shouldn’t. It’s mad. I think they’ll be teaching what is happening in the pandemic 20 years in schools.
It’s been hard. Really hard to the point where I had to switch the news off, I couldn’t watch anymore because it just felt like we were doomed. Things are never going to go back to normal. We are all going to die. You know, I remember thinking about that film Contagion and it was exactly like that. The other thing I found really difficult, really weird, is how all the adverts had become about the pandemics almost normalising it. Any products, it’s all home videos, whether it’s for shampoo or mortgage companies, it’s all ‘living in these uncertain times, we’re all here to help’ blah blah blah. It makes me feel uneasy it really does.
I used to make things, nothing big. In the dining room I used to have my tools out but once the children were allowed to come, I put them away. So I hadn’t done anything for ages and then someone said why don’t you get your tools out, and I was like I really can’t be bothered I know I should because, I was deep in depression, I really was. I knew logically it was the best thing to do to make myself busy and not just lay in bed, but finding the energy to do that was really hard and I just didn’t have any energy to do anything. Even turning the channel over was hard work. But, one day I just thought, right I’ll try a bit and then that was it. Not long ago I bought a massive mitre saw and you should see the dining room now, it’s got back to being a woodwork shop.
It’s been bonkers, everyone’s at different places with it. Some people, are really scared of going out of the house and catching it and then some people are just acting like it’s never happened, it’s just weird. Not everyone’s doing social distancing, not everyone’s doing no contact, and then some people are really, really strict because they are not even going out for walks or getting fresh air. SO yeah its been weird and interesting at the same time how we adapt, and you realise what’s important in life. Nothing out and doing things you save so much money and you kind of realise that, all that stuff you would have spent your money on you don’t actually need it, and at the end of the day what is important is human interaction. It’s just the simple things it really is, and another thing that I do is every now and again I will do a gratitude list, and write down the things that I’m grateful for, and that kind of makes you think it really is the small things, things like you know, I’ve got food, I’ve got a house I’ve got a car I’ve got family that’s all that matters.”
“I was freaking out because I couldn’t get any food, and it was like what the fuck, how am I going to do this!?”
“How are you doing it?”
“I stick my foot out of the window with a bucket on a string and wait for attractive ladies to come and give me food. But I’m still waiting for them man! I’m starving!
I joke. Dad dropped some stuff off and my mate Mark came with 4 big bags of stuff and I ate chicken boob for about 25 days. The government food package took about 3/4 weeks. I could have dropped dead in that time if people hadn’t have been there. It was pretty nuts. For a lot of understandable reasons people have been very critical of the governments response, but once this food thing was started it was incredible the way that they were getting through to people like us. I got a letter from the the doctors saying that I needed to shield. The way it effects Cerebral Palsy is that even when I get a cold, if I start coughing, my whole body shakes and I have to hold on to something to stop myself falling forward. My body kind of goes all over the place. I think they said that I was okay to calm me down because I was freaking out.
The next thing was, you need to stop yourself going mad, and work, like I say I’ve not worked since 1997. I would have gone super loopy without writing for theatre. That, and I have been making Grandmaster Pea videos. A character I had developed before, who claims he is the Tsar of the disabled, although he is self-appointed.
I kind of felt that there was something coming and I needed to be more safe than other people. I got this feeling and I just shut the door and that was it. That was 3 and something months ago. I would say that lockdown has been difficult. Just trying to keep yourself going. Once you’ve found a way of doing that, it’s okay. It was worse for me because I lost my Mum as well. She got ill last September and died just before Christmas and dealing with that has been tough. It wouldn’t really go away. I was really close to her and you know, she doesn’t leave me, but that doesn’t stop you missing somebody. It’s a weird acceptance but also hell.
My twin brother is in a residential home which has had people with Covid in so that’s been a concern, but I’ve been phoning and face timing him and he’s fine with being shut in because he is on a bed a lot of the time. It’s kind of normal for him. He has the staff and he has some connection. It is terrible, I’m not saying it’s great, but what I am saying is that in terms of my brother, he doesn’t come out of his room much, he watches TV so it’s been a different experience for him because we cannot visit.
They had the problem like a lot of people, where they couldn’t get PPE, and so thats the other thing about Grandmaster Pea as well, I gave some of the videos to a comedy night to help raise money for actors who needed food. That was good, I felt like I was doing things for other people, at a time when I felt like I couldn’t do anything or help. As a disabled person, you don’t actually get the opportunity to give back to people. This was a time when I could do that.
I also gave money to the NHS in Mums memory, because she was a midwife, and quite complicatedly she was a midwife, and we were born on the ward she ran. She had brought many babies into the world and saved them from the fate that me and Christopher were not saved from. She always blamed herself I think. We had conversations about it, I think she wanted to be working and giving birth at the same time. I think she felt guilty, which she shouldn’t have done, but I think that she did, bless her. Unfortunately the NHS let her down a number of times. So, that was difficult because everyone was clapping and I was angry and annoyed, but I still gave money to them.
When she died she wasn’t treated well, they made what was a very difficult situation worse. They said under no circumstances can you move this woman as she won’t be able to walk, and that’s what they did. It’s really difficult to process that kind of brutality. I mean this is a woman who gave years of her life caring for people. She learnt Arabic in the early 70s and felt that people should be understood. That was the incredible thing about her. What killed me, was she was that compassionate and helped people and that’s how the NHS sort of thanked her for it. So I have a really weird relationship with them. I mean when the thing with PPE happened I gave money to that immediately. A big chunk of money, not that I’m a millionaire but I felt it was important. The idea that people were risking their lives to save other people, it’s an amazing thing that people wanted to do that, and that they were brave enough to do it. The idea that they were not being given the support was just disgusting”