There has never been a time like this, similar but not like this. On ‘snow days’ you know life will be disrupted for maybe a week and there will be a mad rush to stockpile milk and bread, but you know in a couple of days the snow will turn to slush and life will get back to normal pretty quickly. The week in-between Christmas and New Year has an odd feel to it. Every day you stay up later than the night before, then you get up even later the next morning. You eat all the time, the oddest combinations of chocolate and savoury, and you keep wondering what day it is. But you know come the bongs from Big Ben on New Years Eve that pretty soon it’ll be back to the same old same old routine.
One of the old TV shows I found this week
This time we just don’t know when life will be ‘normal’ again and we don’t know how to cope with the increasing levels of anxiety its all very natural for us to feel. Social distancing and staying indoors for days on end has been accepted quite quickly. So much so, I keep watching TV programmes and being shocked when you see people walking into a room and shaking hands or embracing.
This whole experience has given me an even greater admiration for my family members who really did go through the Second World War. I worry about my 3 children based in London but at least I can talk to them or video call them anytime of the day or night. Some are on the front line with the Health Service and we pray for their safety. I can only imagine the horror of having your family torn apart in wartime in an age where the only means of communication would have been the occasional postcard or letter.
It’s been the constant messages chats and funny videos that we shared that has helped keep me sane over the past week or so. At 8 o’clock on Thursday night we shared our experiences around the country of applauding the NHS. As I clapped in Swansea, so did they in their corners of London. Together, we could hear pots and pans being banged and church bells ringing in support of our amazing, never to be taken for granted, National Health Service. And we all shed a tear as we became part of something much bigger than our individual, self-isolating, social distancing worlds for a few moments.
If you remember, with the threat of a ‘lockdown’ in the air, last week I was advocating the need for us to organise ourselves with a structured day. I have found that actually it’s a bit more difficult than I thought it would be when the rest of the world is also so unstructured. I think my ‘structure’ depended upon others getting up for work and doing their weekly commitments.
The thing is, I had my structure, it was all mapped out for the next few months; I knew exactly what needed to be done.
The 14 date tour has been postponed
Tonight, I should be starting my Butterfly tour in the Wyeside Centre in Builth Wells, the start of a series of 14 shows to promote and sell my new CD ‘Butterfly’. The CDs are here as are copies of my biography but alas all concerts have been postponed.
In normal times these last few weeks would have been filled with frantic phone calls about technical requirements. All this as I tried to rehearse the songs and figure out how to get the video of the Czech Symphony Orchestra to stay in time with my playing the piano live every night. With the first date of the reorganised tour not scheduled for another 5 months its been hard to stick to that regime.
What about a new album project? I started by writing some new music but found that all the tunes sounded, well, sad.
So, I decided to sort out my websites. I’ve been meaning to do that for ages. I used to have a webmaster who did it all for me but when she stopped returning my calls and emails my websites started getting more and more out of date by the week.
With time on my hands and an internet connection that still worked, although it did feel a little slower than normal, I thought I’d have a go myself.
Outside Parchment Farm in the Delta.
The wonderful thing about the internet is that there are tutorials on just about everything, from how to make bread to how to build an online shop.
Standing at the Crossroads in Clarksdale where Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil to play the blues
Most of putting together a website is idiot proof. Underneath the hood somewhere is a mass of intricate computer coding but there are programmes designed for dummies to be able to grab a picture from here and download a video from there and before long your online presence doesn’t look too shabby.
Getting ready to film on the Porch of the Elvis Presley Birthplace
Of course, every so often I would hit a problem. Yesterday I was discussing with my domain hosting ‘help team’ whether I needed to update my PHP to 7.0 or 7.1 ,7.2 or 7.3??? At that point I was told the best thing to do was discuss it with my website designer. It was only when I admitted that 24 hours previously I had no idea I had a PHP; I still didn’t know what it did or stand for that the helpdesk suggested I try the newest version of PHP and …hope for the best!!!
One of the unexpected joys of this week has been trawling through the online TV archives. It is amazing what you can find. All it took was a search for Mal Pope or Maldwyn Pope or The Jacks to come up with literally tens of TV shows we have been involved in over the years which I had completely forgotten about. There are duets with Aled Jones on Songs of Praise…
The odd Eurovision Show with Terry Wogan…
Even some Welsh Language dodgy dancing when I released a club remix of ‘Bread of Heaven’ for the Rugby World Cup.
My old ‘The Mal Pope Show’ brought back terrific memories. Live performances and interviews with The Bee Gees, Cliff Richard, Mica Paris, Bonnie Tyler, Dave Edmunds and even George Melly.
But my sweetest find was a half hour documentary called ‘Heaven’s Sound’. The programme documents my journey through the Deep South carrying my guitar and a song I’d always hoped would get the southern Gospel treatment.
Along the way I met Muddy Waters’ first cousin, the preacher Rev. Willie Morganfield. I chatted to Rev. Samuel Billy Kyles, the civil rights leader who spent the last hours with Martin Luther King in the Lorraine Motel. I even had my own dream come true with a gospel choir version of one of my songs, ‘My God is Mighty’ that still gives me goose bumps.
Outside Sun Studios, Memphis with Director Clive Flowers
At the time we filmed the programme we couldn’t easily share it with my new found friends in places like Memphis and Tupelo. We both had video, but the American system NTSC differed from the European PAL so sending a video didn’t quite work.
Finally, this week I’ve sent a link to some people featured in the show and they were delighted to see themselves!!! Who knows maybe when the world gets back on its feet and the good ‘ole’ people of Tupelo like what they saw and remember my last visit, well, I might just get another invitation to return to Mississippi once again?