How much Iso birthday fun can two people have?
I arrived four weeks early: induced, tiny, underfed. My ‘origin story’, according to my parents: when the doctors heard my heartbeat weakening, they induced; once born, they used tissue-sized nappies. Details are thin on the ground, but I’m the eldest, so I imagine my parents were really stressed and probably didn’t have all the information themselves. From what I can gather, the placenta wasn’t working so well (when this happens growth slows to maintain essential organs: brain, heart, kidneys). The placenta transfers nutrients and oxygen from mum to bub. Our friend Sally, a midwife, explained it to me this way: ‘Placenta is like an oxygen tank, and if it stops working it’s very hard to survive.’ If doctors see a placenta malfunctioning it’s often better to deal with the challenges of prematurity (immature organs that might not work perfectly) than a fully defective placenta. Sally again: ‘You’d rather be in a leaky boat than underwater with a faulty tank’. Having said that, being premature, even today, holds risks, but here I am 47 years on. And since I’ve been old enough to wag school I’ve taken my birthday off. I try to enjoy exactly where I am, but that’s not always easy.
We lost mum the year I turned 40. My family crammed into a hospital room with crappy blue curtains and catchpenny furniture, and sat around my tiny disappearing mum. What I remember, though, is when she ate half a piece of my birthday cake, the only solid food she’d eaten in weeks, and smiled. She did that for us. I found it difficult to find light in my birthday afterwards, although recently Shona and I created a tradition of going to Minjerribah (Stradbroke Island) each year. So maybe losing and then finding that light on that beautiful island helped us to reconfigure 2020’s birthday — not that any of us have a choice. It wasn’t without its problems, but we had a good day.
We all know the pandemic sucks, and I’m sure you have similar touch-and-go birth stories, but if you add up our childhood accidents, the stupid chances we take in our teens and 20s, and the random-ness that can strike any time, stopping one day a year to look about, even now — maybe especially now — feels right.
Opening & Closing Credits by Unregistered Master Builder
Background music, ‘Touching Moments’ by Ketsa (Free Music Archive)
Background music, Markus J Buehler Viral Counterpoint of the Coronavirus Spike Protein (2019-nCoV)
Websites & Articles
Resurrection Myths by Marcus Westbury
Coronet Inside Out by Ben Okri (Shona played me this poem on my birthday)
Isolation Song Contest After being randomly assigned a country, each comedy act had one week to compose an entry. The contest has so far raised almost £30,000 for The Trussell Trust, Crisis and Refuge.
The City of London’s Wild Heart
How Rebel Botanists are Using Graffiti to Name Forgotten Flora
Country Diary: preening avocets attract attention
Twitter & Instagram: @LDNbylockdown
What’s it like to be twelve and in lockdown In this short bonus episode our niece Kayla has recorded her reflections on the ways Covid-19 has impacted on her and her friends. ************************** We love everything about our nieces and nephew: their creativity, their questions, the songs they sing, the art they make... Every time we video call Tom and Sadie, Tom needs proof that if it’s day there, then it’s night here, and visa versa. Sadie has impeccable comedic timing for someone so young (she really does). And Kayla, who’s almost a teenager, loves, among other things, reading, writing and drawing. The artwork for this episode is hers. She’s a winter baby, and I met her a few hours after she was born — wrapped in a blanket and beanie. It’s hard to reconcile today’s independent 12-year-old with the tiny human who could hardly open her eyes back in 2008. I was on my way to live in Timor-Leste with Shona (she’d already left Australia to take up her new job) and didn’t know when I’d be back, so it was important to be there for those first hours, days and weeks of Kayla’s life. I’m not sure if humans do the same thing as some birds, but there’s an imprinting thing that happens where the babies imprint on a ‘suitable moving stimulus’ (ideally a parent bird). On the off chance humans do that as well, I wanted to be there. So, whether she likes it or not, Kayla’s stuck with me. Tom’s a runner and a climber, and Sadie’s into anything and everything her older brother is — she does not like to be left out, and fair call, ...
In this series we discover what it takes to fall in love with a new city during a pandemic. ************************** When London shut down on March 24, 2020, I’d been here four weeks and my partner Shona, eight months. Our staggered arrivals were so she could take a job with a global human rights organisation and I could finish my work back in Australia. I arrived with a few contacts, a resume and a visa, so when London shut down my job prospects fell off a cliff. (Shona’s still working.) In 2008 I also swapped a stable job for the unknown, when we relocated to Timor-Leste so Shona could work with a local human rights organisation. Our three years there showed us what a post-Coronavirus London may look like: overwhelmed medical system; sporadically empty shelves; and the existential threat of illness (dengue, chikungunya, malaria, tuberculosis, hepatitis — not to mention unnamed ‘bugs’ that inflict combinations of diarrhoea, fever, nausea, vomiting, headache and fatigue). Fever was optional, but diarrhoea was a given. In the first week of shutdown we filled water bottles; re-stocked our first aid kit; bought dry goods that didn’t need refrigeration; and re-organised our fresh food options (the UK’s food systems are acutely fragile — see Episode 3). We also moved house — see Episode 2. We’re thankful we’re together (had my visa taken another week, we’d be on opposite sides of the world right now). ‘London by Lockdown…’ is about falling in love with a new city in strange times, remaining curious and open, enjoying everyday discoveries and making it work. Thanks Opening & Closing Credits by Unregistered Master Builder Touching Moments by Ketsa (Free Music ...
When a 1979 BBC documentary titled "Who is Poly Styrene?" introduces us to the punk singer’s work, we become utterly fascinated. With help from Poly’s daughter Celeste Bell, musician Rhoda Dakar and archival audio from Poly herself, this episode explores why her work looks, feels and sounds so relevant today. I know your antiseptic, your deodorant smells nice I’d like to get to know you, you’re deep frozen like the ice He’s a germ free adolescent, cleanliness is her obsession Cleans her teeth ten times a day Scrub away, scrub away, scrub away the S.R. Way — X-Ray Spex “Germ Free Adolescents”, 1978 Marianne Elliott, better known as Poly Styrene, formed the punk band X-Ray Spex as a twenty-year-old in 1977. (Polystyrene is an inexpensive, clear, hard and brittle synthetic aromatic hydrocarbon polymer that can be solid or foamed.) With songs like “Germ-Free Adolescents”, “Plastic Bag” and “Oh Bondage, Up Yours!” the music of X-Ray Spex brings together the many worlds of Marianne Elliott and Poly Styrene: the woman and the artist; the mother and the daughter; the punk and the hippie — all united by a willingness to laugh at and expose the limitations of the throwaway culture of the time (and of today). Arena’s gritty 1979 documentary flies to us straight out of the past, clear as day and with prophetic lucidity. Directed by Ted Clisby, it is gritty (there’s no better description), but it’s also personal and warm, with its aesthetic beautifully anchored in a storytelling past that also endures. Just like Poly Styrene’s lyrics, and precisely because it is a type of storytelling we don’t use so much anymore, the documentary and the music are out ...