This was the first week of bad weather since the lockdown, which is pretty remarkable seeing as Brighton can be quite miserable in March and April. The sudden blustery conditions meant we couldn’t sit in the garden like we had been doing almost every day, but it also kind of made it easier to be stuck at home. To be honest, it probably would have been good to go for a walk on the rainy days because presumably fewer people would have been out (and umbrellas are pretty good tools for physical distancing). But it felt cozy indoors, so that’s mostly where we stayed.
We’ve been enjoying our Spanish ham for the past few weeks without incident (well, I don’t know what’s going on with our cholesterol, but externally we’ve been fine). But then Jeremy sliced his index finger open with the jamón knife last weekend. Because my motto is ABC (Always Be Catastrophizing), I immediately started to envision the worst trajectory for this mishap, i.e., that the cut wouldn’t stop bleeding and we’d have to go to the emergency room—the last place on earth you’d want to be right now. I searched the web for “how do you know when you need stitches”, wondered if we could superglue the cut shut, wondered if the NHS hotline would guide me through a bit of home surgery, and wondered if poor Jeremy was going to bleed all over our nice clean sheets that night. Jeremy, meanwhile, was wondering (much more reasonably) whether he would still be able to play mandolin. The answer to all of my panicked questions, of course, was “no”, and the answer to Jeremy’s was “yes”. The cut stopped bleeding, the sheets remained unblemished, and Jeremy was able to trim down a bandage so he could still play music (luckily the cut is on the pad of his finger and not the tip). Disaster averted—but it did prompt me to add a few more goodies to our home first-aid kit, just in case. And we’re a bit more cautious around the ham now.
We’ve taken to watching quite a bit of Irish-language television (with subtitles, though Jeremy understands a fair bit of Irish, and even I’ve got the odd word or two). We always enjoy TG4 (“tee-gee-cah-her”) when we’re in Ireland, and I love that you can stream it online over here as well. The little jingle that accompanies the ident is oddly soothing to me, not just because it’s a few mellow notes played on a wooden flute (I think?), but because I associate it with Christmas in Ireland, sitting on the couch in front of the fireplace with a Bailey’s in hand and a bowl of Pringles in front of me. Most of the shows we watch are about traditional Irish music, but we’ve branched out recently into some food programs and some shows about Irish dogs (service dogs, unique Irish dog breeds—the usual stuff). The great thing about TV in another language is that even when you’re watching something fairly frivolous, you feel like you’re working your brain. I’m certainly learning a lot of Irish dog terminology anyway.
Maybe it’s all the Irish television that has encouraged me to get serious about my fiddle playing. I can squawk out some tunes and just about keep up at our local session, but I’ve never taken the time to really work on my technique: intonation, bowing patterns, rhythm, just doing the drudgework of practicing deliberately and regularly. The violin is a difficult instrument and the world of Irish traditional music is vast and daunting, so improvement feels like an insurmountable task sometimes. When I think about where I am now and where I’d like to be, it overwhelms me. But I try to remind myself of how far I’ve come just in the past year, and that this is a lifelong project—so I may as well get started on it now.
Unfortunately, the event that really got me inspired on the fiddle last year—the Willie Clancy Summer School in Miltown Malbay—has just been canceled for this year. It was pretty inevitable that this was going to happen, but I felt heartbroken nonetheless when I saw the announcement on Wednesday. Jeremy had already reserved a room in a quiet(er?) B&B back in January, and I was excited about being able to take fiddle classes again for a solid week. Some of our fellow Brighton musicians were planning to go as well, so it was shaping up to be an exciting week of music on the west coast of Ireland. But no.
So I have to just keep playing on my own. The only hitch is that, as I have mentioned so many times before, we are surrounded by neighbors 24/7 these days, and I don’t want to be the bad neighbor getting on everyone’s nerves. Granted, everyone else gets on my nerves with their music, so maybe I shouldn’t be so worried about being considerate. And I play with a mute on the fiddle bridge, which at least mellows out the sound. And according to Jeremy, my fiddle isn’t very loud anyway, it just sounds loud to me because it’s right next to my ear (there’s something slightly Father Ted about that— “These are small, but the ones out there are far away” ). Nonetheless. Under normal circumstances, most of the folks around us would be out during the day and I could play without disturbing anyone. But knowing that people are likely to hear my squeaky, shaky musical scales and tedious bowing exercises makes me intensely uncomfortable, both because I feel self-conscious and because I feel guilty. Everyone else is just as trapped as I am, and I don’t want to contribute to people’s distress.
Trapped is certainly how I felt by the end of the week, when everything just suddenly became TOO MUCH. Too much being indoors, too much sameness, too much trying to figure out ways to cook cauliflower because every veg box includes cauliflower lately (and I am grateful for the cauliflower, I honestly am, but also…it’s a lot of cauliflower), too many things being canceled, too much watching the vision of normal life move further and further into the future. Sometimes it’s like being stuck on a plane on a really, really, really long flight: you feel hemmed in, and you’re bored and anxious at the same time, and the food doesn’t excite you, and you’ve already watched all the movies you wanted to see, and you can’t get comfortable, and there is absolutely nothing you can do about any of it. You can’t just decide to get off the plane in the middle of the journey. You are stuck there for the duration.
We are stuck here for the duration. It’s actually more like being stuck on a boat, I suppose. We have comfortable living space and we can “promenade” outside every once in a while, but mostly we have to batten down the hatches and wait for the storm to pass. And it’s a big old storm that isn’t going anywhere anytime soon.
Nor are we.