“Gilly Oh golly, how I love my lolly,
Down to the very last lick,
But when you are through with it, what can you do with it,
All you have left is the stick.
When you come to the end of a lollipop,
To the end, to the end, of a lollipop,
When you come to the end of a lollipop,
Plop goes your heart!”
Max hit the right note.
So, we come to the end of this particular lollipop. I am not sure how many hearts will go ‘plop’ but I certainly think I have nothing much left to lick.
Indeed, as we come to the end of this particular iteration of the pandemic I feel that continuing to blog ‘My Corona’ would be a bit like chewing the end of the lolly stick. While it is clearly far too early to say we are anywhere near the end of the covid crisis, any more blogging about it and my proverbial mouth would taste just like it had chewed the end of a particularly stale stick. No, in Ravenscourt Park my favourite Egyptian geese have grown up and are ready to leave the roost, (if that’s what geese do) the tadpoles have seemingly disappeared from the nature reserve pond and when it is raining I can drink my coffee inside a café instead of sitting on a wet park bench. It’s time to move on.
And what a year!
Some 320,000 words in 160 plus blogs over 14 months (ten months in Chiswick Calendar) have described how I coped with each wave of Covid and the short periods between them. I have generally tried to put them in the context of my physical space: being confined in my flat during lock downs and contained within my West London locality at other times. However, I have, sometimes to The Calendar’s editor Bridget’s trepidation, wandered into the political, both in a local and a broader sense. How could I not? During the period I have been blogging the world has seen the OrangeShitGibbon prized from his populist throne in the White House, my second home of Nigeria suffer judicial slaughter during the EndsSARS protests and the murder of George Floyd (amongst others) by American police sparking world-wide protests by Black Lives Matter and others. Here in the UK that helped catalyse the Colston Statue incident and stir the establishment media into the gammon inspired culture wars. I even attended and wrote about Chiswick’s own BLM demonstration. Behind all this the backdrop has been a government, dubiously incompetent at best, deeply elitist and corrupt at worse, mismanaging the UK’s response to the pandemic. Even further, above and behind, the perpetually looming and visible signs of a planet near breaking point: wild fires from Australia to California via the Amazon and South Africa, Caribbean island destroying hurricanes, Texas freezing storms and platitude spouting politicians bigging up their environmentalist qualifications while signing off climate destroying policies and programmes. Yet, here, in my neighbourhood the thing that most gets the good burghers of Chiswick upset is not the pandemic, the corruption in high places nor the looming extinction event. No, what steams them up is that their rat run to their favourite Café has been blocked off and they can’t park in the way of cyclists anymore.
Thanks for the opportunity
So, at this point I have to express my gratitude to Bridget for gritting her teeth and occasionally letting me off the leash. After all, my argument is that much of my writing has been about the mental health aspects of this crisis and all of these topics have certainly impacted on my psychological well-being. After all, to quote Jiddu Krishnamurti: “It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society.”
Nevertheless, the vast majority of the words I have tapped out sitting in my Chiswick flat with the broad skies streaming in through the balcony windows have reflected the gratitude I have felt at being where I was during these dystopian times. To be sheltering in a leafy West London borough with parks and green spaces is such a privilege. Though separated from one son, I have been able to enjoy the company of the other and we have both benefitted from the sense of community that the pandemic has engendered along our corridor of apartments. To develop from ‘nodding’ neighbours to supportive friends has been exceptional. On my daily shopping and exercise stroll the smiles and be-masked conversations in the independent shops and take-away cafes have been like little jewels. If I have banged on about the importance of a proper local pub with a sense of community it is because I believe in the importance of proper local pubs with a sense of community. In the knowledge that these are disappearing under the steam hammer of the property companies, I cherish The Raven as one of the very few within walking distance. As we opened up to be able to go back in and sit at the ‘locals’ table is yet another privilege to be recognised.
So, my thanks go to Bridget and all The Chiswick Calendar crew for allowing me this platform and my gratitude to anyone who has the patience to have been a regular reader. I am a big fan of the website in any case for local news and the support given to local businesses and the community. I hope to pop up occasionally with the odd review of ‘Jazz at George IV’ but will be mostly focussing on my own creative writing. Who knows, I might one day get my own stuff reviewed at the Chiswick Book Festival!
One aspect of the blog that has remained constant whether I have been in rant or ‘count my blessings’ mode has been the closing music video. Early on there was usually a connection back to Chiswick or West London but as it became harder to keep finding those geographical links, they became more a reflection of the blog content itself. Funnily enough, I have had more mail and comments about the music from CC readers than anything else. A couple of regulars have sent suggestions, links and even recommended vinyl shops. By a long way, the issue that has had most comment on my website has been that of mental health. Anytime I wrote about how some people struggled or if I was open about any struggles of my own it seemed to strike a chord and someone would write to me of their personal battles. I do not believe we yet know the full extent of any crisis in the mental health of NHS and key workers, as well as the public at large.
In consideration of those in India
I thought quite a bit about my final music selection. I almost went for one of my all-time favourites, listened to in Hounslow High Street music shop booths, which would have pushed me towards Jimi Hendrix or Otis Redding. However, I have gone for something else. I have long been a fan of Indian music prodigy, the bassist Mohini Dey. Touring since she was just 11 years old, now in her twenties she is already a ‘maestro’ of the bass guitar. So, it was following her that took me into this 2014 clip of Berklee Music Academy honouring Indian musical genius A R Rahman. Born as A S Dileep Kumar in Madras in 1967, Rahman is probably the pre-eminent composer of Indian (particularly Tamil) film soundtracks music combining western, Hindustani, Carnatic and other styles. This video is of a version of one of his apparently better known tracks ‘Thee Thee’. I know very little about Indian film music but the breadth of this composition and the little matter of Mohini Dey’s unbelievable bass playing just blew me away. I believe she is still just 18 in this performance!
I also chose it in solidarity to the ordinary people of India suffering from the terrible wave of what has become known as ‘The Indian Variant’ and in the knowledge that Chiswick is in the borough of Hounslow with many people of Indian Sub-continent background who will be fearful for their loved ones back there.
Read more blogs by Keith
Read the previous one – My Corona – Mississippi Swamp Dogs
See more of Keith’s work on his website – outsiderinside.co.uk
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