It was early in the year 2020 when the powers that be declared 'There shall be a lockdown' and a terrible darkness fell on the land. It didn't really happen like that did it? I confess I quite liked the idea. Instead of spending huge amounts of time trying to get gigs, I could actually spend time playing my guitar and writing new material. In fact, as I mentioned to Lesley at the time, I had actually been contemplating the idea of going on a songwriting retreat and now there was one being delivered to my door - all boxed and brand-new. I began to plan what I would do. I even ordered a new gizmo that would simplify the process of recording, which I duly installed. I then ordered some acoustic panels to improve the recording space and then something struck me. I wasn't actually doing anything, I was just getting ready instead – I began to panic.
In the media, I was seeing reports of people achieving incredible feats. Inspired by Shakespeare, who apparently wrote King Lear during the plague, people were churning out life stories, three volume bodice-rippers and self-help journals like they were going out of fashion. There was Tom Moore walking lap after lap. There was a man who built a 19ft yacht in his lounge. He did have to destroy the front of the house to get it out but nevertheless he'd done the tricky bit. Closer to home, one friend committed himself to writing one song a day for a month. Another couple were working their way through 100 songs in 100 days. Me? I bought a new gizmo and a few panels and that was it. I was distraught.
I had set up 'Talking Songs' as a weekly live event where I chatted to other song writers, which was going well with viewing figures climbing. More importantly though, I spoke to other musicians and they said they were finding the same – that procrastination was the most common form of activity. Excellent news. This was coupled with lots of quiddling – which I have discovered is an 18 century verb meaning 'to busy oneself with trivial tasks in order to avoid doing the big stuff'. God bless you Susie Dent, for that information. Now the Sun seemed to have come out. There were articles in the media describing people suffering from this 'pandemic guilt' and offering the simple advice to stop. So we all returned to the simple pleasures of excessive eating and drinking, unfettered by any desire or compunction to be creative, constructive or even useful. Of course, other things cropped up to fill the void of having nothing to worry about – like worrying symptoms which resulted in us doing a 4 1/2 hour round trip to end up at a Covid testing station where they had no record of our booking. Finally though we were given the all-clear and when Lesley asked me what else I had to do on that day, I said 'Nothing'. As I did, I felt a warm glow as the chilling hand of guilt lost its grip on my throat and the punishing weight of obligation was lifted from my shoulders. So that evening we enjoyed a healthy meal which was gluten and guilt free, while we chatted happily about what we might do given the limited number of options available, absolutely sure that our days would soon be filled with with much quiddling.
PS one thing I have been doing is writing most mornings before doing anything else. Since May I have written around 85,000 words clad in my dressing gown consuming quantities of high octane coffee which I suppose is some sort of achievement but somehow because it wasn’t what I'd intended to, it seems a bit of a quiddle.