MY YEAR: RICHARD DAWSON | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Words: Richard Dawson

When Covid first landed here, despite being nervous and sad I really thrived. Lockdown elicited in me a sense of novelty and adventure. I’d been expecting to have my busiest year of gigs yet before this wide abyss of days opened up, swallowing all plans. Instead, over March and April I finished the lyrics and recorded the singing parts for a record I’ve been working on with one of my favourite bands, Circle, the ‘best band in all genres’, much sooner than I’d expected to. I read a lot. Me and my partner Sally formed a band called Bulbils and we made fifty (shonky) albums.

I found my anxiety-levels started to creep up around May’s end, as the hitherto roaring river of pandemonic info evaporated to a thick fog, reaching really high levels by mid-summer. I guess I should be more worried if I felt perfectly fine? An unfolding global catastrophe is at least a clear and identifiable reason to feel bad. I’ve found keeping that in mind can be a useful strategy in staving off anxiety. But that’s all it is – a strategy. The truth is I’ve felt far worse than this in much better times.

I have come to see my anxiety as a sort of swirling dark green cloud that floats around the ceiling of whatever room I’m in, watching me, waiting, then attaches itself to an event, thought or feeling. It’s the raw worry that comes first before latching on to my bodybrain, causing me to fret about something I felt fine about just the day before. Anxiety skewers rationality, not quite killing it, but pinning it against the wall. Rationality watches on helpless as the bodybrain under the influence of horrible green anxiety proceeds to torture itself, neglect itself, chuck precious hours to the dustbin in tens and even hundreds.

Things have settled down a bit. I still look at the news every day, but no longer for hours at a time – now just the briefest of morning glances over a horizon of Special K. I’m trying to focus on the good, simple things. It feels less of a taboo now than at ‘the beginning’ to say it out loud: There’s plenty to enjoy about life under lockdown; The sound of few cars and the cleaner air it arrives on; Returning squirrels to Nunsmoor Park; A bittersweet absence of hugs, so close yet so far; The sheer lifeforce of music; Wandering golfer-free golf courses listening to true crime podcasts; Yellowhammers (according to the bird-identification app) by the hedgeful; Knowing no-one will sit next to you on the train, spoiling your rare journey; Satellite-spotting; Heard-but-not-seen salmonsplash at Hagg Bank; Having to really smile with your eyes so that people may easier imagine what’s beneath the mask; Horsebreath in the nearby dark; False football crowd-noise and the total revelation of competetive sport’s searing emptiness by a mere remote’s flick to the channel which features only ‘natural stadium sounds’; Parsnip soup under a trembing potlid; A new high score in Tetris; Autumn’s disrobing of the trees to burnish walkways with soggy fire; Regular phonecalls with dear friends; Seaton Sluice jellytide; Seaton Delaval ice-cream; Neolithic cups and rings close to falling water where time-travel is possible; An unhealthy obsession with the Great British Bake-Off (still fuming about Lottie); A bounty of Zoom quizzes; Good booze; Rutting deer at Raby Castle; Clumsy elbowbumps; YouTube videos of surly older cats accepting the attentions of a new kitten after having initially rejected them (set to stirring strings); The joy of practice; Biscuits and cakes; Love; Quiet; The generosity inherent in people.


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