Just three weeks ago I was wondering how I was going to do everything.
I had a meeting arranged with someone who was going to help me finish my piece on Accessible Glastonbury. I realised people wanted information about the May Day events and was compiling a guide all about that. I was getting flyers printed in time for the Tourism Symposium, advertising Normal For Glastonbury to the visitors who would be coming flooding into Town from Easter onwards. I was keen to get out to the Avalon Marshes to see the last of the starling murmurations.
My diary was filling up with interviews with artists for the Heart of the Tribe gallery opening at the start of April. I was putting together the equipment list for my job as site manager at Glastonbury Festival’s Glasto Latino stage. I was scouring the web for bedding and furniture for a Glastonbury B&B that was due to open at the start of April. Di wanted me to come and interview her for her launch of 100 paintings of (mostly) Glastonbury folk (including me), which coincided with her birthday, again at the start of April. I was having a Skype with a guy from an organisation set up to mentor working-class writers. I also needed to chat to an artist I’d met who was offering to design some Normal For Glastonbury mugs for me. I was helping Kim with the new Town Map too, getting frustrated with the layout of the food and drink section.
I was keenly anticipating the longer days, having been a bit of a hermit over Winter. I was looking forward to the first of the outdoor gatherings, my friend’s birthday in Wookey Hole, the Beckery Village Day on Easter Sunday. Some of my favourite bands would be playing Breton dance music in North Wootton, just a couple of miles away and I needed to think about how I wanted to celebrate my birthday in May. Then, before I knew it, the Scythe Fair would be on (very popular with Glastonbury people) after which I’d move straight on to Glastonbury Festival for the build.
I started hearing about some virus, but it was a long way away, probably nothing to worry about. After all, there was always something that was going to wipe us all out and it hadn’t happened yet. I decided to stay positive, keep up with the news, but assume it would all blow over. I went to the Glastonbury Tourism Symposium on the 12th of March, it was poorly attended and everyone was talking about the virus. I began to suspect it would have a big impact on all our lives. Four days later I decided to practice social distancing, avoiding going out unless it was absolutely necessary, and taking sensible precautions when I did.
I’m feeling rather adrift at the moment.
Normally, writing Normal For Glastonbury gives me an excuse to wander into town every day, looking out for things to photograph, collecting anecdotes for all of you, chatting to mates about ideas for posts or talking about projects we’ve got on the go. Usually I go shopping on my bicycle, limited to what I can fit in my basket and rucksack. I did a bigger shop than normal in Aldi last week, taking the van, I wasn’t after much, just enough so I could minimize my trips to the shops and consequently my risk of contracting, or passing on, the virus. The mood was calm, subdued, quiet, few people were stopping to chat. The guy at the till commented it was a big shop for me and I felt the need to justify myself, I explained I was planning on social distancing for a couple of weeks or so, that fortunately as I was a writer this was possible for me, that perhaps I would even finish my novel. His cheery observation was that Shakespeare had written some of his best work in the plague years.
On March 15th I decided to start limiting my trips outside the house and garden. I spent the first few days in a sort of limbo, feeling a pressing need for immediate action, but no clear direction. I managed to resist the panic buying imperative, but I recognize that when our survival is at stake we feel the need to do something as familiar and reassuring as stocking the cupboards. Saying that, there are now 7 packets of Lavazza coffee in the cupboard and 9 bottles of my favourite red wine in the wine rack.
I went out a couple of times, popping quickly to the shop in the hope of finding some bread flour as I make my own and there had been none in Aldi. I bumped into a few friends, we chatted at a safe distance, they all seem to be in a state of shock. Others in town appeared to be in denial, congregating regardless, even gathering in groups, holding hands and hugging. Since the official ‘lockdown’ however the numbers of people gathering on the High Street have been dwindling daily and the police are often there now, persuading people not to congregate and sending home those with homes to go to.
There’s a new drunk in town who always talks to me like I’m his best mate. I’m not good with over familiarity at the best of times. At this worst of times I swerve around him, concentrating on reaching my bicycle before he can breathe on me. It’s taken me years to get into the Glastonbury hugging thing. I think I’ve cracked it, then someone will say “I won’t hug you, I know you don’t like it” and I’ll realize that my body language gives it away, even when I’m doing my best to be friendly and approachable. Social Distancing comes more easily to me than many in this town.
had a conversation with Amanda across the road, every time a car passed we had to raise our voices. Then Daygan came past, his arms stayed stiffly by his sides, perhaps in case they should forget and unthinkingly reach out for our customary hug. He had a ham radio in his pocket and told me he often went walking with it, chatting to people around the world. Sometimes closer to home – he’d been up Chalice hill one day and had ended up in conversation with someone on the estate on Bushy Combe, they waved to each other. It surprised me in these days of round the world digital communication on the internet that anyone bothers with Ham Radio, but as Daygan said, come the apocalypse his radio will still work.
I sometimes feel I suffer from a sort of hypersensitive tuning to the collective mood. I might think of myself as being removed from the mainstream, not that big a consumer, not bothered by social convention, yet a few days before Christmas I always get stressed that I have somehow forgotten something, that I’m inadequately prepared. The lockdown, especially since it became official on March 20th, quickly started to feel like an endless Boxing Day at a dull relative’s house, nothing to do, nowhere to go.
Stuff and Nonsense
I was waking every morning before 7am with a slight feeling of dread in my stomach. For the first few days I spent hours every day on the internet, reading all the information I could find on the virus (much of it conflicting and contradictory) and getting annoyed by Facebook.
I’ve discovered that many people who I get on perfectly well with in face to face life irritate the hell out of me online. Generally being of an ‘alternative’ inclination few of my online friends uncritically parrot tabloid headlines, instead some of them share conspiracy theories, shouting at me with block capitals telling me to WAKE UP! None of their sources bear close scrutiny, all of them seem to be addicted to spreading fear and panic, or just plain lunacy. One Glastonbury ‘lightworker’ posted a pro Trump post followed by this nonsense. ….
This virus is causing real life drama, grief and hardship in peoples lives. I truly hope that a positive outcomes of all of this might be a recognition of our addiction to drama and a desire to share our lived experience rather than the wildest and most paranoid of our fantasies. I don’t believe it is healthy on a personal or collective level.
I realised my mental health was really suffering and I have devised some strategies to cope:
- I’ve unfriended or turned off notifications from a lot of people on Facebook.
- I’m limiting my time on the internet generally, I’m having a quick look at the news just to check if there is anything I need to know, but I’m not letting myself get sucked in to reading endless articles.
- I got myself a Kindle eReader and I’m making myself read novels again. I used to read books on my tablet, but so often I would find myself browsing the web.
- I’m going for a walk or a cycle every day and really working on appreciating the countryside
- I’m getting as much sunshine and fresh air as possible
- I’m cleaning, tidying and cooking to make my home environment as pleasant as possible.
- I’m not letting myself imagine worst case scenarios, or listening to people who are proffering unhelpful information or advice.
- I’m working on less doing and more being.
- I’m counting my many blessings.
I’m sure you’ve got your own coping strategies, please feel free to share them in the comments.
What am I ‘for’?
I am trying to work, but I’m finding it very hard. I’ve realised that although I have diversified my work, so I’m not dependent on any one thing for money, everything I do is somehow related to bringing visitors to Glastonbury. I have put together a database of Glastonbury’s online businesses to try to support them staying in business. I know things will eventually return to a semblance of normal, that people will still want to come to the town, but the lack of a timescale for this lockdown and the duration of the virus is worrying, for all of us whose lives are invested in the Town..
Without being able to promote the town I feel somehow personally defunct, like a VHS video cassette or last year’s calendar. I don’t really know what I’m for anymore.
Sorry this post is rather self indulgent, but there’s nothing like a worldwide pandemic that requires me to to cut off face to face contact with friends, family and community to bring my awareness to my own responses and priorities! I would like to tell you about the wonderful community effort that is going on in the Town to keep everyone safe but I find I can’t really focus on anything just now. The virus itself feel abstract, an invisible threat, except that a good friend in the Town has come down with it, only just keeping out of hospital. She has written movingly about her experience of the illness on the Glastonbury Community Corona Virus Support Page on Facebook.
I am working on a follow up post about what Glastonbury is like during the lockdown, I hope to have that with you soon. I’m thinking perhaps I should collate some of my best writing for Normal For Glastonbury into an eBook, I do need to find an income to tide me over. Let me know if that’s something you’d be interested in, and what you would like me to do to keep everyone connected with Glastonbury’s magic, especially if it’s something you’d be prepared to pay for please!
Please stay well everybody, I hope to see you all very soon.
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