Reading back over the last two blog posts is rather surreal. The sense of uncertainty in March, as lock-down commenced, feels as if it belongs to another life. This week pubs opened and last night Manouche Etcetera met in the flesh for the first time since our Tap Social gig. We’ve had fun in the meantime producing some recordings, which you can listen to here, but there’s nothing to compare with the joy of playing live. School term finished last week and we had the leavers in for socially-distanced drinks to celebrate. It was lovely to see them and some of the staff, and of course it felt nothing like three months since we were bidding each farewell in the dining hall.

I count myself very fortunate to be a teacher, with the long summer holiday to enjoy the easing of the lock-down, though more than a small part of me will miss our strange existence when we go back in September. Not having to get five children ready for leaving the house by 8am has been blissful; indeed, simply seeing more of my children has been a real blessing.  I’ve also been for some really satisfying long runs, notching up about 8-10km a day through the lovely countryside to the West of Oxford. Challenging myself to take a new route every time means I have discovered dozens of footpaths and have a decent mental map to fall back on. I lost count of the deer I saw as dusk fell, or the glorious sunsets during what must have been the loveliest spring I remember. This culminated in a 48km run from Oxford to Lechlade along the Thames Path. I’d count this among the most difficult things I’ve done in my life to date, and the last 10km were pretty hellish with leg cramps. But I got there, and was greeted with a picnic and cold beer. I’ve also enjoyed the less frantic pace of life; most notably during the last couple of weeks when I’d normally have been rushing around on adrenalin to make sure plays, concerts and end-of-term festivities all happened. Missing out on these would have been tragic, but since they didn’t happen for anyone it felt like a postponement rather than a sad loss. All of which might make me sound very callous; many people I know have had much harder lockdowns, not least with the arts industry caving in. So I count myself very fortunate.

On the other hand, I wholeheartedly won’t miss zoom, teams and the rest. It’s been frustrating, feeling tied to a screen for most of the day (avoiding this is precisely why I became a teacher!). The radio play was a great success, in the end, but five hours of recording sessions each week, plus script-editing and listening to various versions of each episode took its toll! The series is still available here if you didn’t get a chance to listen.

It’s odd how quickly you adjust to not seeing people. As a social animal, I thought this would be the toughest part. But life has certainly not been lonely or boring and we’ve had some fun play-readings with friends to keep things interesting. The summer will be interesting and difficult for many, but for me, at least, this has been a good reminder of what’s important in life. Not reading the newspapers helps, of course…



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