Unemployed, Self-Employed?

I was one of the many self-employed people that lost all their work at the start the Covid-19 crisis and Lockdown.

Nevertheless, I stayed busy, maintaining a strict distant-learning curriculum in foreign languages. I actually enjoy studying Russian grammar before breakfast, surprising as that may seem. Next comes German, and then, French.

During Lockdown, I recorded a selection of piano works under strict recital conditions from my flat with the aid of an Android and a microphone.

I attach the complete online recital link here:

Happy listening!

The Lockdown Confusion

After a couple of months of adjustment to Lockdown, I’m finding the partial lessening of rules harder to come to terms with.

I would almost prefer a strict lockdown or a comprehensive setup that lets people resume normal activities without constraint. The current situation is neither/nor. People make up their own rules as they see best under the circumstances, but unfortunately this ambiguity could invite (or contribute to) a fresh resurgence of the coronavirus, in my opinion anyway.

I also feel that technologies that enable people to retain a level of face to face contact, such as Zoom or Skype, have lost a degree of popularity somewhat more recently, despite them having much to offer. As friends have told me, they find Zoom tiring after a while.

I enjoyed meeting a friend at a distance in the local woods, but I would admit that many appear to have lost the sense of urgency over the virus. A walk is fine (so is a carefully planned picnic or a spot of sunbathing in green space), but people seem to have forgotten the need for clear distancing and respect for others. It’s really annoying.

Meanwhile, I somehow managed to injure my right knee when I visited the woods the other day, so am dealing with a second physical problem within a week.

I leave you with a video of a performance-based recording I did from my flat in north London during Lockdown. The piece in question is the Fifth Hungarian Dance by Brahms. Pianist Lawrence Estrey.

My First Couple Of Social Distancing Events

A week has passed, and during that time I’ve enjoyed several social occasions at a distance.

Certainly, I valued seeing those friends and took considerable care in maintaining the required distance.

So what do I think, given the varying opinions on Lockdown and on how to ease it (if to ease it at all)?

I place great emphasis on social interactions (including those that take place online or via telephone), but ultimately I’m concerned about shifting attitudes that have become noticeable in the last three or so weeks: we’re bored, we want to get back to normal, most people who get the virus suffer little more than flu-like symptoms, etc.

In fact, during the first socially distanced event last Friday, I encountered a group of about ten people close together in the local woods, all of whom seemed oblivious to government advice. I had to take a different path to avoid direct contact. I felt angry over what came across as sheer arrogance, but I kept quiet.

Lack of respect.

Let’s have picnics and spend quality time together in the sun, but we must not forget the thousands of agonising and lonely deaths that have occured as a result of Coronavirus. And we shouldn’t assume that the virus has gone away and won’t return.

No one really knows what will happen next.

I continue a busy schedule from home, practising the piano, learning languages, and writing for creative purposes.

The video below comes from my online Lockdown recital.

The Maple Leaf Rag by Scott Joplin.

Till next time.

Videos of Hungarian Piano Music Recorded During Lockdown

Nine weeks have passed since my last major social gathering – my birthday, exactly a week before Lockdown. Since then, I’ve discovered a new world of Zoom, Skype, and other apps that enable video calling.

Although I lost my job as a freelance musician (at least, for the time being), I’ve remained busy writing various poems and a short story, studying languages, and putting together an online piano recital recorded from my flat in London. Plus, plenty of exercise too.

Please find recital videos of the following attached:

Vittorio Monti – Czardas

Brahms – Hungarian Dance no 1

Lawrence Estrey (piano)

Happy listening, and stay safe!

So What Happens Next?

Gorgeous weather. Media headlines hinting at a relaxation of Lockdown rules.

Many believe that Covid-19 has turned a corner and that life will gradually return to normal, starting this coming week when Downing Street announces its news measures regarding Social Isolation and a lessening of the rules.

Not surprisingly, in London, a hint of optimism hangs in the air. Soon, some believe, we will be able to enjoy picnics again.

Good news or bad?

I think strategies that allow a small number of people to meet but maintain a clear distance for a short period (maybe no more than an hour) could work if people took the threat seriously and continued to view the virus as deadly and unpredictable.

Similarly, allowing people to leave their homes more than once in a day for exercise seems reasonable.

But what about the rest of it? Schools reopening? Cafés, pubs and restaurants resuming business, albeit in a different manner? Commuters travelling into London again?

Some people may see my opinion as negative or pessimistic, but I don’t think the UK has the coronovirus pandemic under control and the population must accept that these inconveniences may have to persist for much longer. Possibly a year or more.

But my greatest concern rests in the area of alcohol consumption and the effects alcohol can have on judgement. I, of course, love my red wine; I think some degree of alcohol consumption is good, both for mind and for body.

Nevertheless, I feel that if groups of friends start to meet without proper restrictions in place and if alcohol plays a central role in these social events, the friends may well drink too much, become emotional and nostalgic, and begin breaking the Social Distancing Rules by hugging, touching, dancing together, and generally getting carried away and disregarding the deadly nature of the virus.

Announcing an end to lockdown would result in lots of these social events and I believe that the surge in celebrations would ignite a sharp increase in coronovirus cases and deaths, bringing the overall situation to a crisis that surpasses the original.

Just a few of my thoughts.

Stay safe. Continue meeting friends online if you are able, and if you have a garden, perhaps you can arrange to chat with your neighbours at an acceptable distance, with a good quality glass of wine (or any other favourite treat) in hand.

Lockdown Continues

First, I should say that I agree with extending Lockdown, despite the anxieties and lack of face to face contact with friends. I think COVID-19 is unpredictable and not to be taken lightly.

Lockdown started on March 24, so we have spent thirty-nine days living in an uncertain state, never knowing what will happen next.

The early days passed in a surreal blur. Panic buying. Lack of eggs and toilet rolls. People ringing each other to check that they were okay.

A week later, I became depressed for a few days and wanted to stay in bed. I lost my appetite and felt dizzy and feverish. The depression lifted, along with the worrying symptoms, and I’m busier than ever, studying each day, exercising, and seeing friends online.

Naturally, I wonder about going back to work, but I don’t think it will happen soon. In the meantime, I’m working on an online piano recital, a sort of cross between live streaming and a playlist.

I’ve recorded the tracks from memory, directly from my flat in North London, and apart from Trimming beginnings and endings, I’ve made no editorial changes.

I own a digital piano, so I have had to adjust my technique, especially in regards to quick finger work. The recital will include Beethoven’s Moonlight Sonata, Monti’s Czardas, Hungarian Dances by Brahms and a couple of Scott Joplin rags.

Till next time.

Perfect Spring Weather, And Lockdown

A month has passed since lockdown and times are both worrying and strange.

This week, I heard that the owner of Toffs, a well known fish and chip shop in Muswell Hill, north London, died from coronavirus, aged 62. I found the news devastating, as he regarded me as a local author and musician, and he was respected and loved by many in this part of north London and beyond.

We have great weather now.

I remain busy with piano practise, foreign language studies and creative writing, and I socialise via online video calls.

Of course, I miss the freedom to explore rural London in this near-perfect weather, but the risks associated with catching the virus are not worth it. In closing, I enclose a collage I took about a decade ago.

Stay safe.

Life Under Lockdown

Just over three weeks have passed since the start of lockdown.

Panic hung in the air the weekend leading to the new measures. Self-employed people lost work. Cafes and pubs shut indefinitely. Places of worship stopped holding public services, live streaming instead where possible.

Queues filled supermarkets as shoppers searched in vain for eggs, toilet rolls and cleaning items. Tempers flared as people got too close. Warnings of drastic measures appeared on the internet.

What would happen next? Would the army step in? Enforced quarantine? No one knew.

And fears of getting the virus. I think most people have accepted that the effects of catching the virus can be unpredictable and the consequences deadly, regardless of age or existing medical conditions (or lack of). I would certainly adhere to an extended period of Social Distancing for these reasons alone.

I miss seeing friends in person, but I’ve adapted to life online and regularly “meet” friends via video calling. I go for a brisk walk each day. I study languages and practise the piano. And write, of course.

When will I go back to work as a self-employed freelance musician? Not in the foreseeable future, I suspect. Call me a pessimistic, but I think the coronavirus crisis will last much longer than people originally anticipated.

People adapt, and yet they don’t. Lockdown has pushed people to the limits. Mental Health practitioners have expressed concerns over rises in depression and anxiety. And charities dealing with domestic abuse have reported an increase, leaving individuals trapped.

Additionally, not everyone has access to the internet or money to buy food and pay bills. And some people don’t have any friends or family.

Just some of my thoughts.

Keep well and stay safe.