In this episode we reflect on a confusing couple of weeks and try to make sense of events that almost don't make any sense at all.
During February and March we were house hunting. My memories of those confused weeks are thin — I’d just arrived from the other side of the world, and as much as I search for a linear and coherent story, none exists. I remember having to shake off claustrophobic thoughts before going into potential homes for house interviews; the intricate combinations of smell and light and sound; and the time before physical distancing. Our precautions came with caveats and weight: we didn’t shake hands, we used hand sanitiser, we Zoomed if we could. I flinched at every cough. As potential housemates, we discussed move-in dates, rent and bills, all without hashing out what ‘our house’ might look like if we, strangers, were plunged into indefinite 24/7 lockdown, except that’s one thing we needed to discuss. We all spoke as if coronavirus was happening to characters in other people’s dreams. But Shona and I had a hard move-out date, the lockdown’s bottlenecks had created myriad uncertainties, and the weeks were slipping away, so we increased our budget; began looking further afield, despite loving Leytonstone; and, somewhat reluctantly, decided no housemates. We also sent a ‘hail Mary’ email to Shona’s colleagues (when all bets are off …). A friend of a friend had a flat in south London. Four days later, moving day, March 24, Day 1 of lockdown: the removalists arrived three hours late, then we took an uneasy Tube trip across town to a part of London we’d never visited, holding an unsigned contract with landlords we’d never met, to move into a flat we’d never seen.
Opening & Closing Credits by Unregistered Master Builder
Touching Moments by Ketsa (Free Music Archive)
Markus J Buehler Viral Counterpoint of the Coronavirus Spike Protein (2019-nCoV)
Twitter & Instagram: @LDNbylockdown
A fete in a cemetery, a tiny underground mail train, and a museum in a shopping centre. Come and celebrate everything that’s NOT the British Museum. ************************** Nunhead Cemetery Open Day Bug hunts, whittling workshops, crypt tours, a petting zoo, ice cream — a ‘typical’ open day. It’s spring and there’s still a chill to the air, but after months of lockdown we’re enjoying being outside. Before arriving if you’d asked me who’d be at the open day I’d have said three history buffs and a dog — but the place is bustling with hundreds of people: market stalls, a community choir, a ‘murder of goths’ (about 30, I’d say). The cemetery is being re-wilded, and as the forest reclaims the place, the wildlife has returned — mostly birds and squirrels, but on one walk we took here in the depths of the winter lockdown, on an overcast day with snow all around, we saw foxes darting between the gravestones and trees. Today, though, there are too many people for foxes. We finish at a pop-up cafe near the Scottish Martyrs monument, with tea and scones and jam. My nan used to make scones like that. The five Martyrs campaigned for parliamentary reform, and for their troubles were transported to Australia in 1794. Mail Rail (Postal Museum) Tunnels running east–west under London carrying narrow gauge driverless trains and delivering millions of letters a day. What more could you want? Royal Mail began as the personal mail service of one of the English kings. Some time later, if you could afford it, you could send letters where the recipient paid for them ...
It’s almost the end of 2020. As a special gift for getting through a hard year, in this bonus episode we share one of our all time favourite pieces of radio, and a holiday classic: ‘Xmas in Merimbula’ by Kayla (then aged 8). ************************** Some 30 years ago, aged 17, I first heard The Pogues’ ‘Fairytale of New York’ and fell in love with the city, the band and the song — and all the complexities and contradictions within. Unlike so many other Xmas songs, there’s nothing sentimental here: “It was Christmas eve, babe; in the drunk tank. An old man said to me, ‘Won’t see another one’. And then he sang a song: ‘The Rare Old Mountain Dew’. I turned my face away and dreamed about you.” It’s not a song of solace, but a cautionary tale. There but for the grace… As the years have passed, ‘Fairytale…’ has migrated in from the margins. Nowadays it’s played in supermarkets, and since 2005 it returns annually to the top 20 charts — MacColl’s beautiful voice (she grew up in Croydon, South London, not far from here) perfectly counters McGowan’s character’s dirty murky syntax. And when listeners turn from McGowan’s scowl to MacColl’s songfulness for comfort, they fall victim to a beautifully rendered ambush: “They’ve got cars big as bars, they’ve got rivers of gold, but the wind goes right through you it’s no place for the old.” Who are these people? I get preoccupied with a song’s words. In retrospect, I always have. I listen to songs as a writer, zeroing in on utterances, while Shona draws meaning from the music, listening as a musician. She plays guitar, ukulele, piano, and sings. I ...
In this episode we talk about what it's like to be in work, to be out of work, and what it’s like looking for work in a pandemic. ************************** I’m a workaholic. In 2015 I forgot how to swallow. Every time I ate, it felt like a bit of food lodged in my throat. It was intermittent at first; then it would happen a couple if times during a meal; then it was every time I swallowed, and no matter how much water I drank or how many times I cleared my throat, it felt like the food would get stuck. It didn’t matter how much I chewed, either. It felt like everything was squeezing shut. I started cooking soft foods, taking tiny mouthfuls, chewing a lot, and drinking water to push it down. I was scared I’d never eat properly again. At the time I was working at the University of Queensland, and had three freelance gigs. I was also writing a grief memoir (about my mother’s death from cancer in 2013) for a Masterclass Program. I was working (paid & unpaid) seven days. I knew this was unsustainable, but I’d juggled creative and paid work before. And Shona and I devised an exit plan, and so many other writers and artists do this. But the words I was putting down in my memoir were heavy. (I didn’t know how heavy.) I was diagnosed with a hole in my heart and hypertension. In the middle of all this, two people I knew passed away, four days apart. I remember the inflection in ------’s voice on the phone when she told me ------- was gone. We’d been housemates for some years. Now, that’s ...