Thinking back to early lockdown, one of the many things that struck me was that each day had the potential to be good.
It took time to fully adjust to that way of thinking but we had hope on our side as a family. We were all healthy and our extended family were safe and well.
Mum and Dad had been down in early March but as the situation was beginning to worsen they swiftly returned home to Shetland almost as soon as they had arrived.
Then the emails began flooding in. Cancelled. Cancelled. Cancelled…
If you work in the Arts, then hey, what’s new….in the blink of an eye, the 2020 calendar work and in some cases more….pulled from under our feet.
Those who were about to launch new albums, begin rehearsals for the tours that took months of planning, that venue you’d always dreamt of playing in and that incredible festival that had your name on the bill. Gone. Every bit of live work vanished in a matter of days. Yes, being self-employed can have its uncertainties but part of the charm is the element of control and choice and just like that, overnight, it was gone.
Whilst this was shocking, I knew that I was surrounded by friends, family and colleagues and we rallied round each other with positivity.
Almost immediately, promoters, festivals and agents set about pushing everything into 2021, throwing a life belt to all those bookings that were in place and taking us musicians with them as they worked tirelessly to do so.
This was quickly followed by folk across the land displaying appreciation for all things creative and seeking out online concerts, lessons, recordings and publications.
In those early days, our little family were cocooned together in our home and Winter was coming to an end. As I look through my photos it reminds me of the seasons and how they slowly changed. We braved chilly walks and my son began the many carefree days of cycling unaided which quickly became sprints down the steepest hills he could find.
As the weather began to improve we enjoyed our local cycle path everyday and that daily walk became a priority. The need to exercise, to be outside, became so important.
Prior to lockdown daily exercise wasn’t part of my routine. My routine was mostly rushing. Rushing to nursery, baby group, toddler group, a quick meet up with friends, work and home again, carefully ring-fencing time in the calendar for family with no interruptions.
In some ways it was the enforced stopping that I was most thankful for.
2020 had many lovely things in the calendar, time off in Shetland, lovely concerts, significant birthdays, new babies arriving, my son beginning Primary school and my daughter dusting off her newly inherited balance bike. To be home for what was the foreseeable future was a silver-lining.
Work wise, it was becoming apparent that I wouldn’t be earning for the remainder of the year and then some. I’ve been self-employed for 22 years and having the reins taken from me like this was unnerving to say the least.
As a paper diary person, choosing to embrace online ‘working’ wasn’t something I was terribly excited about. I was sceptical about how successful a Zoom lesson would be but I was happy to be proved wrong. Just like that the life-lines started appearing.
Ed Pearlman, the founder of the Boston Scottish Fiddle Club, invited me to host a workshop and perform a solo online concert – broadcasting live from my kitchen!
It was to be my first online teaching experience, I really enjoyed it and it has paved the way for a whole lockdown series of fiddle classes. And just like that, there was the connection. Not just a teacher passing on a tune but a collective of friendly faces ready with encouragement and company.
Being together in a space playing music is impossible to recreate and I miss the ease of it. I don’t miss the 50min round trip to get into Glasgow and fumble around with codes and keys to get into a building in the centre of town, passing the kids to Iain as I head off with my fiddle and a box of biscuits. But I do miss the people, and sitting playing our tunes together. I would always come home refreshed. A much needed bit of head space as a mum of two little ones.
Early on in lockdown Duncan Chisholm, fiddler and composer from the Highlands of Scotland began posting a daily tune video. The CovidCeilidh hashtag immediately took off and it inspired me and many others to join in. The daily CovidCeilidh reminded me that we’re in this together and the chance that a tune or two could enhance someone’s day was more than enough of a reason to get involved, little did I realise how much it would enhance my own experience of this new normal. Myself and my husband Iain, alongside some fabulous musicians joined Duncan to mark the 50th and 100th days of lockdown. Duncan’s efforts have provided so many laughs in this house, and I’ve found myself playing the fiddle at home more than ever.
Each morning, I open the backdoors and inspect all the flowers I’ve planted over the last three months, pulling weeds, moving plant pots, and sitting with a hot cup of tea wondering what this new day will bring. And as I enjoy the new blethers at the gate with neighbours that I’ve come to know better during this time, I’ll always laugh to myself when I remember the wee wifey shouting across the street: ‘could you no smile more?!’ as she remarked on a CovidCeilidh video. Of course, I smiled and said ‘thank you’.
This week I will celebrate the wedding of a dear friend and as I look forward to her special day it reminds me of my own wedding day and the memories. Iain and I celebrated 8 years of marriage during lockdown – I’ll never forget our minister telling us the most important thing of all was love.
With that thought I’ll sign off,
Take care and take care of those you love.
Photo above by Archie MacFarlane