Robin Ince had a bit in his stand-set recently about giving up reading newspapers and instead reading a book or looking at your favourite bit of art for a while. I’ve thought about this a lot, as the news has swept everyone up in its hysteria over the past year more so than ever before. After 10 minutes of looking on social media or watching BBC News 24 I find myself gasping for escapism like someone drowning would air. I’m not sure if it’s the relentlessness of it all, or the hatred of it all, or even just having to read 15 articles on one subject to try and get any real idea of what the story actually is. But all of it, is exhausting and every second of it makes me wonder if it’d just be better for my brain to switch it all off, which I’m certain it would. But there is the dilemma. If I switch it off, how will I know what to write for my podcast, or more importantly, with the speed it all moves, how on Earth will I know what’s going on if I miss an episode? I remember years ago trying to get into a soap opera because other people at school liked it, and after 3 episodes I missed one and immediately couldn’t understand what was happening anymore. So with worldly events, I’m tied in now. This is it. As it is, I understand maybe 3-4% of everything that’s happening, and just about manage to keep on top of things, so I have to keep watching it, or stop forever.
I think part of it is that I keep forgetting to check in with the real world. It’s very easy when you’re self employed as my days are spent largely at home alone, writing, trying to remember to do any sort of exercise, occasionally speaking to the person on the check out till at the Co-Op or whoever I have to make a phone call to that day. So I write, then check social media, read articles and all in all feel one hundred percent certain that everyone in the world is running around screaming like headless chickens, shouting abuse at each other as everything collapses around them like a film that would probably have The Rock in it. Then my wife comes home and tells me about things that happened at her work, or I gig, or, on rare occasion, socialise, and you are suddenly prodded awake to realise that actually, the world is still very much getting on with things. People aren’t walking clickbait shouting ‘I just caught the bus and you’ll never guess what happened next!’ or ‘I didn’t like this sandwich that I had on brief lunch break so everyone in that shop should apologise and we need a safe space from bakeries!’ It’s a very comforting realisation. For example, only 16m people in the UK are on Twitter. When you factor in that some people have several accounts, it’s probably less. Only some of those people are hateful and abusive. Out of a population of 64m in the country, that’s not too bad. Same goes for elections. Or surveys about which cats like what food. It’s only ever some cats that were asked and even then, knowing how cats work, they would’ve said anything to get free food.
It’s good to remember that while there is every need to tackle or highlight issues in the world that concern you and perhaps there’s a need, especially at points this year, to panic, it’s also nice to take a breath here and there. The past week I bought a few new albums* and have been playing both loudly, on repeat, while writing Christmas jokes for a children’s show starting this weekend. It’s like having some sort of remedy shot. Then when you go back to the mayhem of everything else you can do it from just a foot or so further away, not jump to conclusions, and not feel like you have to start building that bunker just yet. Though of course, building a bunker would be a lovely bit of manual work to take your mind off things eh? I might add that to the list.
I might take Christmas and January off from it all, try and write some stuff, try and have a few weeks just revelling in the reminder that a lot of human beings are ok. But of course, then who knows what episodes I’ll miss, what new characters or storylines may be introduced and then when will I find the time to do catch up? Though judging how things seem right now, by then I guess they might cancel the series and reboot it later on with a brand new cast. Oh god, there I go again. I think I’ll pop some music back on and go for a walk….
*A Tribe Called Quest’s amazing ‘We Got It From Here…’, Kathryn Williams ‘Resonator’ which is just blissful, The Lemon Twigs ‘Do Hollywood’ thanks to Fin Taylor and several Chilly Gonzales albums thanks to Bec Hill. All worth a listen.