#TheSession : Pressing Pause on the Cassette Tape of Life

With an ugodly, screeching squelch, the great cassette tape of our lives has been put on pause. Our carefully crafted music mix - planned to the last detail with mood-enhancing uplifting soaring melodies counterpointed with more personal gentle ballads - is being held up artificially by a big unseen, dirty, warty finger.

But it is important to remember: it is the PAUSE button which is being pressed, not STOP, or even REWIND.

I haven't blogged or written anything at all during the lockdown. Not because I haven't had anything to say (as those poor sods that still follow me on Twitter know) but mostly because I don't feel that what I have to say merits recording in the annals, even if it is on some second-rate blog, a blog bolted onto the side of BeerTwitter to make the whole thing look untidy.

But I've had 5 beers tonight so....

My circumstances are this: I'm OK. Just OK. I'm not happy, or sad; I'm not fearful, or buoyant. I'm OK. Surviving would be an overly crass term to use considering the impact this disease has had on other folk.

I have a shop over the road which is keeping me supplied with milk, bread, mint Club bars and bottles of cheap pop. I have a canal which I can utelise for my once-a-day state-sponsored walk where I can (just about) dodge middle-aged folk in lycra.

I am a key worker, apparently. I make sure trains are staffed for one of the big Train Operating Companies.  For the first week or so of lockdown I had to continue my 2 hour commute to and from the office which was fun on a reduced rail service. I had to sit in a gilded turd of a building with 1970s-standard air conditioning surrounded by over 50 possible viral vectors. That was until our company managed to rustle up enough laptops from behind the sofa so that a good proportion of us could work from home.

Since then I've been woken up by the cat, rising groggily at about 9am, only occasionally going so far as to dress myself, before bashing enough numbers into a glorified spreadsheet to keep the trade unions happy and then wishing Beer O'Clock would get earlier.

During the first couple of weeks, my alcohol consumption skyrocketed faster than Elon Musk's ego. From having one beer a night in week 1 of The Event, rising to three or four. And not middling sessionable stuff either. We're talking impies, barrel aged, barleywines.... Fortunately it's settled down this past fortnight or so, although as mentioned earlier I am currently on my fifth tonight. Probably why I have the dutch courage to jot this down while I still can.

I suffer with horrendous mood swings - I am cyclothymic, which means I suffer from a mild form of manic depression. I have intense periods of optimistic productivity and equally intense periods of pessimistic doubt. A project, a goal, a wonderful idea can become nought in the dust of a catastrophic moodswing.

Which is why my current, relatively comfortable ambivalence, and general sense of coping, scares me. Like everyone I miss the pub, I miss socialising, I miss normality - but I also know those days will return. This too will pass. We have not bid farewell, merely au revoir.

We are the lucky ones. Our lives continue. Others lives - literal, physical - haven't. As many people have died as can fit into the Cardiff City soccer stadium, at least. Businesses will fail, pubs will close, lives will change - through no fault of the business owners' own. Whatever mass binge this country will go on post-CV will never compensate for this.

Drinking at home is not like drinking at the pub. Emma Inch's perfect blog about the last time she was in a pub summed up everything we were all thinking. And yes it's been great to support breweries and bottle shops during this time by ordering online, and the delivery folk have been great. But I really really really want to see, hear, smell and taste a pint poured from a cask pump sooner rather than later.

But I look at it this way. Whatever sadness and nostalgia and longing we feel for times past, if we flip those into anticipation, and hope, and readiness for the time in the future when this will be but another chapter in our history books, we can at the very least balance or mitigate our negative feelings into something more manageable, bearable and even pleasurable.

That feeling you feel when you're about an hour away from your first pint of the weekend? Take that and multiply it by a billion. That's what you could, and perhaps should, be holding on to right now.

But the cold hard truth is those days are a little away yet. Not as far away as they seem, but they are still on the horizon. Between there and us is a Narnia-like expanse of trees and plains which are still to be navigated. We may be stuck in the wardrobe, but there is always the light of the lamppost to hold on to.

Without wishing to end on too harsh of a note, I have this to say to the naysayers, the whingers, the complainers, the know-alls, the entitled middle-class wankers missing their champagne and caviar parties paid for by corporate wankers : This year has been unfairly robbed from our lives -- but we have had lives unfairly robbed from us this year too. You may be looking forward to walking out onto sunlit uplands. Some folk are having to look forward to walking out to graveyards.

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