The Music.

Do you hear the people sing?
Singing a song of angry men?
It is the music of a people
Who will not be slaves again.’

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes’.

When we were little, our Grandmother, Posy, took us to see Les Misérables. We wore pretty skirts and hand made shirts, and ribbons in our hair. A trip to Melbourne always saw this type of wardrobe situation arise, and I adored every part of dressing up. On this occasion, I remember Edwina, the third sister of our four, being attacked by a goose in our Great Aunt Debo’s garden just before we set off to catch the train.

Poor little thing had grass stains on her tights for the rest of the day. I’d have been furious, but she took it all in her sweet little eight year old stride.

Music has always played a part of my daily life and I particularly love a sing along. I’ve never quite been one to grasp the words of songs, just the tune, and I often make the words up as I go, belting them out with complete conviction.

Recently, I found myself doing morning emails and note taking to the Les Misérables sound track, sung by the stars of the motion picture.

Oh, Eddie Redmayne when he sings ‘empty chairs and empty tables…’ so reminiscent of current day boulevard, Tangier. In our daily lockdown, I live for music more than ever and you might recall in a recent blog, I mentioned hymns and my love for them, as well as Leonard Cohen in the one just past.

Just when I thought I’d come to terms with the daily lock up, and short bursts of shopping when needed (it’s just a little pause in life, I’d remind myself), we had a new law introduced. Everyone had to wear a face mask in every public place across every corner of Morocco.

No mask, no shopping, and fines would be imposed.

Those daily nips to the shops, quick and with one of my thousand shopping baskets flung over my shoulder, became uncomfortable and rushed trips, with beads of sweat building behind my mask.

I truly feel and have the upmost respect for, anyone who has to wear a mask as part of their profession and on a daily basis. Not just during COVID19.

The introduction of mandatory mask wearing saw an increased level of stress on the streets. This ‘introduced species,’ so rarely used in this culture, or many to be honest, in every day life, was only another weird addition to our new normal.

Listening to the BBC one morning last week, as I do every morning of my life, I was intrigued to hear a virologist discussing the risks associated with the misuse of a mask. If they are cheap, they are useless, if a hand touches the mask and it’s contaminated, the hands are then infected and will need to be washed immediately before they touch another surface. If a family takes to wearing disposable masks and they throw them in the kitchen rubbish bin each night, the virus can breed like a little demon as they sleep. Who then handles that bin bag?

On morning walks to buy milk I began to see filthy ‘one wear’ masks hanging around the necks of people touching all sorts of things that were about to be purchased and taken into a mass of homes.

Is this the answer? I kept asking myself, and will continue to do so. I have no objection to people wearing a mask, but if we don’t know how to use them properly, are we really protecting ourselves and everyone around us?

Deciding on a cloth mask, one I can wear for the duration of my ‘every other day’ ten minute walk outside, to then be thrown straight into a boiling hot wash, I found myself in the doorway of a building just three minutes from home and collecting four of them, lovingly stitched by a local tailor who is, understandably, looking for a way to tread water for as long as this may last.

It may not be surgically approved, but with a shortage of them available (I tried seven pharmacies in as many minutes on the day the new law was announced) this is my best bet to fit in, be obedient and not contribute to more landfill in a world that is already boiling hot and now, at a standstill.

On the phone to a friend on Easter Sunday, we discussed all of this and what the future might look like. There is no answer to these questions and we both noted that we’d seen a slow down in humour as the situation becomes more real, and our streets, quieter and quieter.

This, of course, is the reality all around the world.

My flat was particularly silent during Easter and I’d stocked up in the lead up to the weekend, choosing not to go out and sweat behind my mask and feel furious as I struggled with the keys to my door. Rather, I wanted to be peaceful and (obviously) alone with baskets full of fruit and the fridge stocked with salad.

In the past, we made choices to live to suit our circumstance. For me, it is here and surrounded by noise when I want it, and calm when I crave it. I’ve lived alone for a while now, but I’ve never felt lonely in my aloneness.

During Easter this year, for the first time in a very long time, I did feel lonely. Just as a friend did on the telephone the last week, separated from her family due to a situation that arose well before Wuhan erupted. Her situation had always been manageable; she’d sought solace over a glass of wine or a walk in the park with friends. Now, these little ‘pick me up’ glimmers of hope were a thing of the past and but a dream for the future.

I’ve always been pretty optimistic and as I reminded my friend on the phone, the screen has never been so lit up nor have our phone lines. We are all still here, same uniform, different framework.

But it’s not the same as a huge hug, or a hymn belted out in the church on Easter Sunday morning, followed by a hunt for eggs with gaggles of excited children. This year, that all played out on instagram, or Zoom – and whilst the excitement was still there, the human interaction that is as important as icing sugar on a warm, straight from the oven chocolate cake, was missing.

How I craved an Easter egg (I don’t even really eat chocolate) or a hot cross bun. A long lunch with friends following a morning of hymns in the English church of Tangier, during a bumbling sermon that I would normally will to end so that I could take a walk in the beautiful church gardens, sheltered by annuals and full of gravestones littered with names of people who found solace in Tangier many years before me, was a fond memory, not a reality.

Rather than dwell in the sadness that is loneliness, I found comfort in music, and plenty of it. Hymns, contemporary music, full symphonies belting out classics, and new music. My daily writing project to Jane in Normandy stepped up a notch; and when my friend Gavin sent me a piece to ‘run my eyes over,’ it was truly touching and gave me insight to who he is as well. An insight I may never have had, had our lockdown not occured.

Yesterday one of my dear friends, Jono, sent me ‘A Time of Distance,’ by Alexander McCall Smith.

The unexpected always happens in the way the unexpected has always occurred, whilst we are doing something else. While we are thinking of altogether different things – matters that events then show to be every bit as unimportant. As our human concerns so often are; and then, with the unexpected upon us, we look at one another with a sort of surprise; how could things possibly turn out this way? When we are so competent, so pleased with the elaborate systems we’ve created – Networks and satellites, intelligent machines. Pills for every eventuality – except this one?

This poem goes on for miles and miles and if I were clever enough, I’d link it to this piece. I encourage you to find it and read it in full – it’s beautiful and relevant.

In the meantime, I shall do as I’ve always done – I will listen to music. A dog barks in the distance and my house pigeon croons above, just as she does every morning. The second verse of ‘The Song of Angry Men,’ the opening piece to this piece and one of my favourite songs from Les Misérables, play’s as I finish typing and speaking of relevance, it’s lyrics can be applied to our current situation:

‘When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes’.

Pictured: the normally busy Place de France, Tangier.

3 thoughts on “The Music.

  1. It’s interesting Pin, I enjoy my own company and often crave to be alone and chose to be alone…….but… I’m not alone because I’m in my own country, my own state, my own town and my own house.
    You have also had a choice but sometimes when you need reassurance about someone or something it’s nice to have that live touch on a shoulder or snug around your waist. Yes, I felt your pang of being alone but also feel your strength to fill the void ….

    I had a selection of 70’s and 80’s music playing whilst cooking and boy did I have an aerobic workout……only the reflection in the windows could see me.

    Nothing better than a bit of music …..

    Think of you often Pin…. love Poppy

  2. I’m in New Jersey, USA. We also have the new rule about face masks. I wear glasses and my glasses get fogged up over the mask, I can barely see what I am trying to buy and everyone sees everyone else as a threat. It’s BIZARRE. Food shopping used to be so much fun. Now, I dread it. I guess that’s the point, stay home.

    My Easter, however, was incredibly strange this year. Usually I travel to get away from my family and my town and I want nothing to do with eggs or baskets or cooking or any kind of holiday responsibility. I usually opt to be completely alone or with my two sons on Easter. Yet, this year, since we were all quarantined together, and my youngest son informed me he would be studying in the USA instead of Spain, where he’d been living, I was exalted and happy and overjoyed. Very unusual for me on Easter!

    I don’t tell you this as a comparison to your loneliness. I have felt quite alone and lonely during this lockdown at well. I simply tell you that there are surprises for you in this quarantine, that bring blessings in disguise.

    “Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”–Kahlil Gibran

    Hang in there. The world is with you on this.

  3. Oh Pinpot – it is such a strange an unnatural time for us humans. Never again will I take for granted the warmth of giving or receiving a hug and the value and solace in a bottle of wine with a friend! The silver lining of all this awfulness is that it has redirected our attention to all that is truly important. Thinking of you over there with even more restrained liberties and send loads and loads of love. Beautiful raw and honest post.. love your writing and done ever underestimate the joy it gives to so many. Love you xxx

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