Keith Richards, writer and resident of Chiswick, documented the first Corona lock down, living on his own, in a weekly blog from 24 March to 7 July called Chiswick Confined – My Corona. Then he was free to roam at will and the blog mutated into Chiswick Unbound. Now it’s reverted to Chiswick Re-Confined, until 2 December, when he will be free to roam once more!

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.”

Maya Angelou

Image above: Ravenscourt Food Market

The Fog of Lock Down

This past week has been a struggle if I am honest.  In that, I am sure I am not alone.  Can I actually sense it or is it that I just interpret the external through my own lens?  Not so much dark as that kind of foggy that you need to take your glasses off and give them a polish.

I did have a couple of topics I was mulling over for this week’s Blog.  The pathetic whining and lack of reason I heard on the Online Chiswick Area Forum would normally be enough to kick start another rant.  Looking wider afield a BBC2 documentary on Saturday night about the Nigerian musician and activist Fela Kuti made me think of how so little has changed for many Africans since he joined his illustrious ancestors in 1997.  I was thinking of Nigeria with evidence becoming available of the army’s use of live rounds when shooting at EndSARS protests, of Uganda as Museveni brutally hangs on to the power he has had since 1986 (and the courage of another musician activist Bobi Wine in resisting despite multiple arrests and beatings) and the slide into civil war we see in Ethiopia. I even thought of doing a review of local Take Away food.  However, such is my current feeling of Lock Down Blues that inertia, commonly referred to ‘I can’t be arsed’, won over.

I do not think it is just me.  During the first Lock Down there was a constant chorus of Zoom chats with twenty people, online quizzes and virtual hang outs with friends and family but these seem to have dwindled.  ‘Zoomed Out’ now seems as much as a Covid cliché as ‘New Normal’ was first time round.  There was a strong community sense of ringing round to check on people but that energy seems to have dissipated and calls have largely been replaced by short “Hope you OK?” Whatsapp messages, answered with just a neutral emoji.   It seems also during visits to favourite cafes or local shops there is less enthusiasm and more ‘well, we’re just making end meet’ type of responses.  There is a government announcement due by the time you read this but I find no confidence that the government is in control. As we head towards Christmas I find a widespread concern that there will be more lock downs before a vaccine changes the dynamics of the pandemic.  Talking of vaccines the sight of the Chiswick lunatic fringe’s anti-vaxx and conspiracy theory stickers down the High Road would be a rant-worthy subject had I the emotional energy.

Images above: the empty Twickenham stadium; Take away Roast dinner from the Raven

Getting off my butt

Nevertheless, I urged myself, it is important to maintain a positive routine so I did manage to shower and stride out to the shops or around Ravenscourt Park.  Despite the weather all the open spaces seemed almost as busy as during the summer.  There were fewer beer type carry outs but this time the playgrounds are open and I noticed they were full, especially after school kicking out time.  I also have noticed a few regulars like the chap who brings his own desk chair to Turnham Green and enjoys some fresh air while he reads the paper.

I like the ‘coffee in a telephone kiosk’ near the church and a flat white and an empanada sitting on a nearby bench is my reward for getting off my backside.  In fact, it is those little rewards that keep me going out: like a Take Away coffee from the smiling ladies of Parle Pantry or a bacon Roll from Ali at the Ritz.  If you think my treats usually involve carbs, you are right but I am putting my mental health before my waistline at the moment.  That’s my excuse!

Fortunately the weather was decent over the weekend so I was able to get some exercise before settling down to watch the rugby.  May’s second try against Ireland was certainly on my list of cheery moments though watching an empty and atmosphere-absent Twickenham Stadium somewhat mutes the joy.  I have also enjoyed watching more of the Women’s Rugby too.  That has really come on over the last few years with strong technical skills and some searing pace on show.  This weekend England had World rugby player of the year Emily Scarratt on the bench – and needed her experience to kick the winning goal against France on Saturday.  Do give it a go if you haven’t already.

Talking of Saturday, I wandered into Ravenscourt Park before the rugby and it was heaving.  I had forgotten about the weekly Farmers’ Market and what a joy!  Needless to say, I treated my self to some amazing hot sauce that the stallholder told me was her Grenadian grandmother’s recipe using tamarind.  It would have been churlish not to select a little something to go with it from the March House Farm stand – as they are from Melton Mowbray it had to be a pork pie.  A quick dash back for kick off took me past The Raven to collect some beer.  Landlord Dave did not fancy the boys in green’s chances and so it proved.  Consequently, when I went back Sunday to collect my roast, he was pretty sanguine about it.  Then again, I am sure watching it alone in his empty pub it would have been hard to build up the usual passion.

So, as I struggled this week, I know I was not alone in my low feelings.  More than ever it is important to get out and make the most of those moments of human contact and give yourself small rewards for hanging on in there.  Stay safe.  Be kind.

A little cool, chill out music

For this week’s musical interlude, instead of talking about one of my old Vinyls: selecting a You Tube version and trying to find some obscure link back to Chiswick, here is some cool jazz.  I came to Jazz very late – I do have a couple of old Vinyls but they tend to be jazz-fusion, a more aggressive style.  I owe my recent conversion to my ‘brotha by anotha Mother’, Oti Bazunu and all the aficionados of Oti’s cellar in Lagos – miss y’all.

So, in late evenings of Lock Down TV watching George and I have taken to a little relaxing classical music or jazz on You Tube to wind down.  This selection is of Ahmad Jamal playing live in Paris in about 2011.  Born Frederick Russell Jones in 1930 – yes, he was over 80 when this was recorded – he converted to Islam in about 1950 and gave up his slave name for Ahmad Jamal.  The song he plays here, ‘Poinciana’, is based on an old Cuban folk song about the flowering tree that I believe must be related to the Christmas related Poinsettia as they both have red leaves.  Maybe you already know his music.  If you don’t, then add listening to Ahmad Jamal to your ‘cheer me up things to do during Lock Down’ list.  Enjoy.