It is hard to believe that next week will be my 79th birthday.
What a year it has been. It began well with my first trip to Cuba, a month-long adventure which I thoroughly enjoyed. COVID-19 was only beginning to make headline news when I arrived back at Manchester airport at the end of January. Now in Autumn, we are all having to face the realities of a new ‘normal’ with restrictions on daily social interactions. Like other folk of my age, I have had to shield through self-isolation. I fear for those who lack the amenities I take for granted. Although I don’t live in a mansion with extensive gardens, neither do I share a small apartment in a high-rise block of flats.
My backyard has provided an oasis of peace and tranquility…especially during lockdown when birdsong was louder than traffic noise. With plentiful rainfall and bouts of near tropical sunshine…the fruit bushes and flowering plants have flourished. In addition, I have never had so many avian visitors…from common sparrows, dunnocks, robins, blackbirds and wood pidgeons to the slighlty rarer blue-tits, goldfinches, magpies and jackdaws; and countless butterflies…all have brightened up my days and brought untold gladness.
Indoors, I have the good fortune to own a fabulous Bluthner baby grand piano which is a joy to play. In an adjacent room there is a two manual Viscount Recitative organ…which, like the piano I play every day. Whilst less fabulous than the grand piano, it has served me well in my daily exploration through the entire organ works of Buxtehude and Bach. I am not far from reaching the final Book 20 of the Novello edition of Bach’s complete works for the organ.
Like so many, I have become adept at online communication on Zoom, Webex, Facebook Live, Twitter live feed and Microsoft Teams. On 1st August, ‘vulnerable’ people like me were allowed to go back to work! Who would have considered a year ago that we would be doing dance classes, drama workshops and creative writing sessions online. What a crazy world we inhabit.
The other avenue of escape is through reading. I have lost count of the number of books I have read since the crisis began…but my database currently records over 100 fiction and nonfiction titles of printed books read. I don’t bother with recording ebooks. The number is unimportant…what is crucial is having a ready supply of literature to stimulate my imagination and take me far away from the cares and concerns of everyday life.
I have tried to do my bit by getting informed through an online course run by the London School of Hygiene & Tropical medicine and by participating in a study, organised by Imperial College London, that compared the standard COVID swab test with more a new, rapid and less invasive saliva test. I am also taking part in the King’s College London COVID Symptom Study.
Last Saturday I got up early to oversee the long overdue maintenance on a local church pipe organ. I now have bookings until December to play for services on this magnificent instrument. Let’s hope no local outbreaks will prevent this happening.