I started writing this a couple of weeks ago, but thought I’d better wait until I actually had survived before publishing it. These are the things/people/influences that have helped me get through what’s definitely been the toughest year of my life so far, not necessarily for what I’ve had to go through (as I’ve said before, I’m very lucky to still have an income and so on), but because of what it may mean for the future.
If you’re on this list, I can’t thank you enough. Words are insufficient to express my gratitude, but I’m going to try anyway.
I could pretty much stop there, really. In any year music is incredibly important to me. This year? There have been a few times where I really thought I was going to flip. And I’ve realised exactly what I want to do when (if?) the pandemic ends.
Sources of music that have been essential:
- Deezer – my streaming service, which trundles away in the background suggesting new tracks to me and is always there to play a soundtrack to my other activities.
- A couple of podcast radio programmes that I enjoy cross-pollinating with recommendations that I think the other show’s DJs will enjoy (they usually do).
- The In Memory of John Peel Show, with Zaph Mann, who’s brought me some belting tracks from his soup caves.
- UPRadio, normally hosted by the lovely Sir Real and Grindi, but this year largely falling on Sir Real’s shoulders.
- D.A.V.E. the drummer and his wife Justine and their weekly live techno sessions on Sundays. Silly costumes, rather disturbing visuals (especially if you like badgers) and always worth dancing to.
- Bandcamp – their Bandcamp Fridays, where they waive their fee so all the money goes directly to the artists, have been hugely popular. Of course I keep missing these particular days, but I’ve bought a lot more music through Bandcamp this year than ever before.
- About a million recommendations from friends, to the point where I’m starting to panic a bit about ever being able to listen to them all.
- 65daysofstatic, because never has their mixture of noise and melody seemed so appropriate – though ironically it was in 2019 that they produced A Year of Wreckage.
- IDLES. I don’t even know where to start with these guys. They’ve been popping up in my consciousness for about 18 months now, but it wasn’t until about a year back that they really landed in my brain. And now… to paraphrase, “All is IDLES”. Angry, sweet, political, authentic, danceable, meaningful music. And their fans are without a doubt the maddest, most caring, loveliest people on the planet.
I didn’t really play any new games in 2020, primarily because
a) I’ve still not finished Witcher 3 (and I doubt I ever will, it’s so gorgeous), and in any case
b) No Man’s Sky is still getting amazing new updates – I even joined in a multiplayer event this year, which was moderately scary but would totally have been worth it if I’d ended up in the same instance as all my NMS mates, one of whom posted such great dialogue from
c) Red Dead Redemption 2 that I bought it, even though a) and b) above keep me more than busy enough during the odd moment I get to play games when I’m not playing
d) 7 Days to Die. I started playing this zombie game with a friend late in 2019 and it terrified me to begin with, but in fact it’s helped me get less scared of the dark in real life, because chased by a ravening horde of zombies/very cross pumas when you’ve lost your only light source and you’re out of ammo makes “Oh, it’s dark and I’ve got to pop out with a torch and fetch something from the car” a piece of cake. There are also a couple of guys (Capp00 and Glock9) doing really fun gameplay videos of the game (this is, I think, the only game where I’m nearly as happy watching someone play as actually playing it).
- The Group Translation Chats video chat group founded by Nikki Graham two years ago now (two years! How is that even possible?) has gone from strength to strength and become more regular during the pandemic. I’ve been so busy recently that I haven’t been able to attend the chats, but it’s still been an invaluable way of keeping in touch with other people and simply feeling like I exist.
- Some of the same people are also in an accountability group, primarily to help us complete a copywriting course we all bought… ahem…years ago and which we still haven’t finished – or in some cases started, before this!
- Associations such as the ITI have provided fantastic opportunities for networking and CPD with regular Zoom events.
I find exercise, and particularly walking or cycling outdoors, to be very helpful to my mental health. So when I was in strict lockdown in France and we weren’t allowed more than 1 km from home on our single hour’s daily exercise, I struggled. (Fortunately we don’t have a bakery very nearby, and of course someone has to go and fetch the bread every day, so me and my bike did a lot of bread shopping.)
But even on days when that didn’t happen, I knew I could get a workout so tough that I’d be flooded with feel-good endorphins – yet so much fun that I’d keep coming back over and over again.
Because at the start of the lockdown, my favourite fitness gurus Keris and Matt from Fitter Food began doing live workout sessions. These took place quite early in the morning (fortunately they’re in the UK so I got an extra hour’s sleep!), allowing me to get my workout done even before I was completely awake.
It’s now… I don’t know how many months later, and they’re still doing live workouts almost every day!
I’ve always loved these guys for their blend of total scientific knowledge, enthusiasm, tough (but always regressable) workouts, disarming honesty and sheer joy in what they do. (They also have a lovely dog.) But in 2020 they’ve surpassed themselves to the extent that there are simply no superlatives that will do them justice. And because you get back what you put in, they’ve ended up with a fantastic community of supportive people too.
If you’ve just gone back into lockdown and you’re feeling unfit (or even if you just need a good helping of joy in your life), they’re currently running a 21 day challenge that I guarantee will help you feel better (it’s got me up three days in a row at 7 am, and we all know how unlikely that is).