Difficult Times, Mental Health

I wouldn’t normally post about Mental Health issues, but I’ve found the last few months difficult.

Uncertainty. Worry. Fear. Financial insecurity.

I can handle the uncertainty (and even the loss of employment), but not the way Parliament has dealt with the Coronavirus crisis. Nor the selfishness (and hypocrisy) I see in society in regards to Social Distancing, along with lack of respect or care for those Shielding or in other difficult circumstances.

I feel the British public could choose to Self Distance and carry on as normal. It just requires a bit of consideration, particularly in stepping back and allowing a person to pass with enough space in between. Instead, most days I come across a shopper with no mask on, staring around the store with a challenging and defiant look on their face. It’s really annoying and unsettling. Often, the shopper will disregard all Social Distancing advice.

Anyway, I think a Second Wave will occur and that tougher times are inevitable.

To stay sane during this period, I have put together an Interview-style video in which I discuss my piano training and recitals, along with my later interest in creative writing.

Happy listening.

Coronavirus, And Silent Society

silence falls trembling with uncertainty
empty streets trapped in the past
as fear sweeps the world
gaining speed and strength
a new wave of the virus, perhaps?
no one knows

we can fix this—or so we thought
we don’t need Social Distancing
too drastic, too boring
we’re invincible

people took to the streets, angry and confident
but many succumbed and died
society couldn’t cope
the system broke down
along with the world’s resources

now houses lies abandoned
except for memories
and corpses and broken skeletons
and ghosts, unseeing and uncaring

© Lawrence Estrey 2020


Still Semi-Shielding, Coronavirus

Apologies for not posting for a while.

I’ve found the adjustment from Lockdown to the New Normal difficult, especially as I don’t know if I have a job to go back to. I’ve stayed busy at home, though, working on various piano recordings.

And foreign language studies, of course.

I venture out sometimes. Here is a photo of me chilling in a mask:

The New Normal, And Do We Even Want It?

In less than twelve hours, pubs in England will be able to serve drinks, albeit under strict conditions. Likewise, many small businesses will reopen and life will return to normal after several months of Lockdown.

People will still adhere to some level of Social Distancing and we, the public, will take tentative steps in rebuilding the ruined economy. A new normal will begin.

So why do I have grave reservations, to the point where I would almost welcome the inconveniences of Lockdown?

I think Lockdown resulted in a degree of unity, at least in the initial stages. The whole country (most of the world in fact) shared a common and unseen enemy, one that reminded humans how helpless we are (or could become in the future).

Lockdown encouraged people to check on their more vulnerable neighbours and ignited a degree of interest in religion beyond walls (ie. prayer and contemplation outside of ritual or dogma).

Obviously, we must resume normality and rebuild the economy. However, I wonder whether in fact the easing of Lockdown has prompted less concern about the vulnerable or disadvantaged in society and allowed greater levels of selfishness. Take the scenes in Bournemouth, for example, where crowds showed a total disrespect for the locals and behaved in ways that could help spread the virus. Similar scenes occurred in other parts of the country.

I suppose there are no straightforward answers. But if people wish to avoid a resurgence of the coronavirus, they will have to wake up to the dangers and stop behaving irresponsibly and selfishly.

Just a few of my thoughts.

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.

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.

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.

Life In Lockdown, and Was I Really There?

A week ago I met a friend in Sweden. We walked down a street together and I saw Sweden for the first time. Our meeting lasted about twelve minutes and it was great to see him again.

I’ve met other friends too. I’ve visited Moscow and Berlin recently. And Prague.

Last Sunday, a group of us got together for a couple of hours. Half chatted and caught up on news. The other half went into a separate room to play games. I should add that we adhered to current advice on Social-Distancing and none of us broke any laws. And yes, some of us drunk wine.

The meetings, of course, took place online. I didn’t visit Sweden or Russian or Germany. Or did I?

What constitutes visiting a place, taking modern technology into account? Surely, if I enter an online door to a famous concert hall in New York or Paris and watch a performer give a recital, I have actually been there and experienced the atmosphere. And yet, I haven’t, as I’ve watched the performance from my flat in North London.

I had never made a video call before the coronavirus and lockdown. Deep down, I always knew that virtual reality was not reality, but an imitation, and I had strong reservations about the psychological effects of getting drawn into something that appeared real but wasn’t.

I still believe that a meeting in person far surpasses an online meeting. Yet, I could not imagine life without video meetups. I rely on them now and wonder why I didn’t make more of an effort to take advantage of all that technology has to offer us.

I still enjoy life away from technology. I practise the piano most days. I like reading books and am currently reading Educated by Tara Westover, a harrowing true story by a courageous young woman, an American, who ends up studying at Cambridge despite having never received any schooling. She is a real heroine. I have another seventy or so pages to go and can’t wait to see how the author resolves her past issues, many of which are painful and traumatic.

I’m still Socially Isolating but going for brisk walks and keeping busy with my language studies.

Till next time.