‘May you live in interesting times.’
‘May you live in interesting times’ is often said to be a Chinese curse. The British Ambassador to China wrote in 1936 that he was told the phrase not long before he left to take up his post in Shanghai, but no one has actually been able to find those exact words written down in Chinese literature. The closest they have found seems to be a saying,
“Better to be a dog in times of tranquillity than a human in times of chaos.”
Now I always thought I liked excitement and new interesting things. When I was in university I actually started deliberately having cheese sandwiches late at night so that my dreams would be more vivid. In later years I would be captivated by the latest technological achievements, wanting the next phone or the latest computer because I found them, well, interesting.
How times have changed. When it comes to technology, these days I’m a bit miffed when phone manufacturers insist you upgrade your firmware, or the computer manufacturers release a new operating system. I can see from their advertising that these changes make things quicker and faster, but can’t we just stop for a moment because I’ve only just adjusted to the last changes and at the moment everything is working just fine.
And it’s not just technology. These last 18 months or so I’ve really had quite enough of ‘interesting times’. I’m fed up of the interesting things like; can I get petrol for the car or will the supermarket shelves have everything I need this week. I really want to go back to boring.
It seems working to save Christmas gets earlier every year!!!
Around this time every year I used to worry about what I would get everyone for Christmas. This year I’m starting to worry if I’ll be able to get everyone anything for Christmas. As one newspaper cartoon said, the Prime Minister trying to save Christmas seems to get earlier and earlier every year.
I think its hard to understand the collective damage that has been done to us over the past couple of years. Apart from the loved ones we have lost I think it might be a very long time before we realise what we have lost. We took those ‘boring’ years of certainty for granted, not any more.
This really struck me this week. Many of my close friends don’t have ‘proper’ jobs. They write or record or produce various different kinds of media. At the beginning we felt we might be in a better position than many others who found themselves working from home for the first time in their careers. We joked that lockdown didn’t really bring many changes to our working lives as we never saw real people anyway. Maybe that was true for the first weeks of lockdown but now I’m starting to see the damage that isolation can bring.
Last week I had my second gig in over 2 years. It was a month or so since I had performed at the Grand Pavilion Porthcawl. Building up to that concert I felt more anxious about performing than I had for decades. I worried that my voice wouldn’t work, or my fingers wouldn’t find the right notes and then when I considered the added complications of video technology I really lost sleep.
It wasn’t just the fact that I was gigging for the first time in ages, it was also the first time I had really been out of my ‘bubble’ and in the company of strangers. Meeting new people in new situations has been a part of my professional life since I was a teenager. Suddenly I could feel myself get a little nervous about the prospect of being with people I didn’t know.
You would have thought that my second gig would be easier, but it wasn’t. I had the same anxiety in the build-up. Just driving to the Blackwood Miners Institute was one of the furthest journeys I had taken on my own in the car in years. Driving back along the M4 in the early hours of Saturday morning felt strange. In the past it had been something I did so regularly that I could count down the road signs and miles. Last week it seemed as if I was in some odd dream.
On Friday I something really good happened. I spoke to some friends and told them how I was feeling. It soon became apparent that I was not alone in feeling odd and struggling to adapt to the world opening up a little.
Both friends are highly motivated individuals. Both ran their own businesses, one a Digital Marketing company and the other a musical arranger who writes scores for TV and Film. Both had always worked from home and had always had to generate their own work. Lockdown should have been a dawdle and initially it was, but lately both had felt the same as me…a little lost.
It seems every home has now become a TV studio
I caught up with them online, with cameras and audio. We have all become experts now on sound, cameras and lights and sharing screens, so technically it went smoothly. It was only when I said that lately I had found it hard to really motivate myself that both of them said they had the same feelings.
One said he had found himself looking in the mirror at 10am wondering what he was going to do all day. He knew there was a whole world of digital opportunities out there but if he spent the day drinking coffee and binge watching Netflix would anyone know, would anyone care?
My other friend found that from week to week he shifted between periods of intense creativity to the following week wondering what’s the point, am I any good? I think just saying it out loud to someone else helped.
So, what am I trying to say? Well I suppose what I want to say is that if you are feeling this way you are not alone. As Enzo Maccarinelli’s dad. Mario, used to say,
‘We all take a punch. When you do, go down on one knee, put one arm on the ropes and take the count to 8, then you get back up.’
We have all taken heavy blows and we need to accept that it might take some time to get back to our feet, back to normal. I’m sure we will learn from these experiences and I hope the new adoption of technology stays with us. But I also long to go back to working with people face to face and not screen to screen.
More than anything else I long for boring; boring politicians, boring economics and boring newspaper headlines. In the words of my new Chinese ‘blessing’…
‘May you live in boring times’.
But is you still need a bit of excitement why not come to see me at the Ammanford Miners on 22nd October…