Corona Class, Lesson #8


Insanity is doing something over and over again and expecting different results, Mark Twain was referring to addiction, which, is definitely worth a post given that lockdown has seen a spike in drug use

But I am not referring to a cheeky glass of Zinfandel of an evening but another addiction of mine: cycling. I love it, however, I had a reality check a couple of weeks ago when I fell off my bike and broke my wrist. But, when it heals, I will get back on my bike out of love but also, currently, out of necessity.

As the governement is warning people to avoid public transport they now have to reassess how people travel. For me, cycling is a no brainer: it’s fast, fun and free but for others cycling is a plan C after the car and bus. I see cars as moving death machines and don’t really understand their appeal so a £2 billion package to encourage cyclists in cities and decrease reliance on cars is a welcome chink of light.

However when I went to A&E for an X- Ray, the nurse said they had treated a lot more cycling related injuries, so with this in mind, I have compiled a list of cycling Do’s and Dont’s that I have picked up along the way but which, admittedly I don’t always follow.


  1. Wear a helmet. Enough said. Although my reluctance to get helmet hair, puts me off. But I need to ask myself, what would I rather have, brain damage or weird hair?
  2. Watch out for drains and metrolink tracks or you will get your tyre caught in them and fall sideways
  3. Invest in bike lights but make sure you take them off when locking up in public or there is no guarantee that they will be there when you get back
  4. Invest in a good Krptonite U- lock they are immune from bolt cutters
  5. Make eye contact with drivers, to make sure they have seen you


  1. Listen to headphones. On the road you need all your senses
  2. Stand on your pedals to speed up, use your gears
  3. Ride on the pavement, one of my pet hates, is trying to avoid getting knocked over by a cyclist who doesn’t know their place
  4. Jump red lights, drivers hate you for it
  5. Trust Audi drivers. People who regularly speed in fast cars generally have little regard for other road users

Obviously with cycling the risk of injury is an understandable concern but don’t let that put you off, cycling is great and you don’t have to tolerate standing underneath someone’s armpit, getting a waft of last night’s garlic breath and of course, risking exposure to Coronavirus on public transport.

Just like lots of areas of life cycling requires confidence to keep your balance and moving forward so have fun, but follow the Covid 19 mantra and stay safe!

Corona Class, Lesson #6

Whole Time You

I have travelled and lived in three continents and I am very proud of having the guts to go and look back on my times away from the UK with fondness. But, it was hard work: hot, stressful and at times, traumatic, travel is not always the fairy tale dream it’s perceived to be. Still, like any experience it has its high and lows, darkness and light.

I lived in Vietnam, teaching English, I loved living there but didn’t like teaching (my sole source of income) and after a year, I started to miss the UK and Europe in general. The majority of the friends I made were moving on too. But, I couldn’t hack the idea of going ‘home’ because I knew I’d have to pick up where I left off and there wasn’t much to pick up. I had few friends, no job and nowhere to live so I took the only sensible option: apply for another teaching job, in Spain.

Once I arrived in Spain it became obvious, after a month, that I wasn’t entirely committed to the idea of working in Spain and wasn’t enjoying teaching but stuck it out doggedly and comforted myself with sunshine and vermouth, a worthy distraction from my emotions but one which has no longevity and lacks self- awareness.

Fast forward to now and I am back in the UK self- isolating in a terraced house in Old Trafford, Manchester. But I am still me, whether I’m stuck at home during a pandemic or bombing about on a scooter in Vietnam. Despite some of the challenges I faced in Vietnam I felt refreshed and more appreciative of life when I got home and that’s the hoped for outcome with most travel experiences but, it took the situation to end, before I felt those feelings. Equally, now, people are hoping for a change in perspective and shift in values after Coronavirus even though the day to day existence in lockdown is, at best, tough.

House arrest has hit people hard, but no matter where you are geographically you are still you, emotionally and spiritually. It reminds me of a poem called ‘You’ by Dennis O’ Driscoll, ‘The earth has squeezed you in, found you space; any loss of face you feel is solely yours- you with the same all old daily moods, debts, intuitions, food fads, pet hates, Achilles heels.’ You cannot run away from yourself but you can learn how to manage yourself.

Equally being holed up at home, going on Netflix odysseys and drinking your weight in wine will distract you from reality but once the TV is off, at some point, you have to face how you feel there is literally no running away from it. Before this lockdown, I approached my problems by making innocuous to- do lists and doing something, anything, as a strategy to avoid how I felt, which can be just as unhealthy as wallowing in self- pity and watching TV to cope.

Before I even stepped foot on a plane I became obsessed with the book The Art of Travel by Alain De Botton which, says, ‘We are inundated with advice on where to travel to; we hear little of why we should go and how we could be more fulfilled doing so.’ The urge to escape is strong with anyone wishing to travel but if that’s your sole reason for going, you’re in for a rude awakening.

For most people your way of seeing while away from home, in new surroundings, is wide eyed and receptive, you’re ready to be educated and surprised from one moment to the next. But why can’t we apply this attitude to our ‘ordinary’ life? This idea is touched upon by the French philosopher Xavier de Maistre who applies the principles of wonder to his home life by not leaving his bedroom for a year and treating the experience like he was travelling in the big, wide world.  He published a book about this experience originally titled, Journey round my Bedroom.

He resolved to treat his surroundings as though he’d never seen them before and to consider everything as of potential interest. He followed his philosophy with a second book Nocturnal Expedition round my bedroom where he looks outside his window, collecting a few insights and wondering ‘What would it cost those who are out for a walk or crowding out of the theatre to look up for a moment and admire the gleaming constellations above their head?’ Maybe they were too busy talking about the play or on the 18th Century version of a parking meter?

Obviously time is an important component in this, as most people don’t have the time to soak in each and every moment and while I believe practicing mindfulness can help you appreciate life and improve mental health most people have pressing responsibilities which stare them in the face and prevent them from looking around. I have more time than most and whenever I am in a mindful, disposition the tendency to see the world the world as a fascinating place is strong.

I am by no means a Zen master but sitting with my emotions through meditation has helped calm my monkey mind. However I still carry around the same beliefs, memories and insecurities the only variable is how I manage them. Yes, distraction from reality can be a welcome respite from reality but it’s worth enjoying the things that you are ‘used’ to in order to not rely on distractions so much.

Obviously the situation we’re in requires a certain amount of stoicism and joyful feelings are in short supply and I am not saying that the bedroom is the place to be. I love being out and about; even stepping out into town can feel like an adventure if you approach it in the right way. But I am used to living a certain way and have learnt that I am reticent to take on new experiences for fear of them being crap. I lazily think that I know it won’t be fun so saying yes to things I’ve never done before is, in itself, exciting and enhances reality.

If joyful feelings have existed once, they can again and in order to deal with mundanity we can focus, slow down and access our sense of wonder to enjoy the things we once overlooked. Paying attention to detail is a wise use of time and time is a commodity most people have more of right now.  We can save up moments of joy or insight, cherish them and cash in those joy chips for when we need them most.

Corona Class, Lesson #5


Pandemic Patriarchy

In these funny old times of an unseen virus which, can be asymptomatic but be passed on to others we have to access our sense of collective responsibility in order to keep in control of its spread, but the one crucial piece of Coronavirus advice, to stay two metres away from anyone while outside, is easier said, than done especially when passing someone in the supermarket aisle or when sharing the pavement.

Pavement protocol has long been a preoccupation of mine long before the Coronavirus as I have been playing a game called ‘Patriarchy Chicken‘. Picture the scene: due to road works the pavement has been reduced to single file with a bit of room for manoeuvre on the road. I see a man walking towards me on the only available bit of pavement, it’s 50/50 who will move first but once eye contact has been made, it becomes apparent it won’t be me. I’m playing Patriarchy Chicken and I want to win. ‘So what?’ you say ‘It has got nothing to do with gender, that guy was probably in his own world.’ He probably was, most men are usually clueless not malicious. But women of the UK: try it. I promise, it’s a thing and the more you play it, the more you realise it is.

Ultimately we are all people and right now, all people have the capacity to be annoying, such as, couples who take up the whole path by holding hands and refuse to let go as though their relationship depends on it. But noticeably the demographic of people who think the two metre rule doesn’t apply to them seem to be young men. Out of the general population they’re one of the groups who are least likely to be adversely affected by Coronavirus and maybe that makes them feel immune, but again, being considerate is something we all have to do. In normal times the highest risk when playing Patriarchy Chicken was creating confusion, consternation and occasionally anger from men who are used to doing things their way.

The game now has higher stakes, it’s not just about making a point it’s about ‘staying safe’ a mantra we hear daily. Obviously staying safe comes first so I give way, walk into the road if necessary and grumpily tut. Patriarchy Chicken doesn’t seem worth playing because the point for me, was proven a long time ago, being aware and changing behaviour is the most important thing and it’s no longer about point scoring, it’s about staying safe, because if we’re all staying safe, we’re all winning.


Corona Class, Lesson # 4


I am isolating solo. My housemates are isolating with their boyfriends and I have the house to myself. Yes, I have shelter and enough food and my basic needs are being met but loneliness and sadness are still a natural consequence of my situation. Yes, I can remind myself  that others are worse off and yes I am lucky but it provides litle relief, it comforts me for a few moments but that’s all.

I use the app Presently it has been a useful app for me even in pre pandemic times . It helps maintain my awareness of the bigger picture and gets me out of my head. But the other day I found it hard to summon up one thing to be grateful for, it was a down day and on the down days food takes on more importance. My heart was set on a comforting meal of sausage and mash but I was lacking one vital ingredient: sausages. I went foraging in the freezer, found some old, icey veggie sausages and felt like I’d won a Zoom quiz.


Despite not being able to record any big declarations about who I’d met or what I’d done, being grateful for something, no matter how mundane, is better than being grateful for nothing at all.

In these times, it matters less about what you’re doing but more about how you’re doing it.  We can’t rush around doing eight things at once. We can’t go to the pub and moan about how we feel. We can’t go to town and lose ourselves in the crowd. So, I sigh, close my eyes and recall the old classic: ‘….grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, courage to change the things I can, and wisdom to know the difference’.

Knowing that you are enough and the veggie sausages are enough will have to do. There is no poignant lesson to be learnt. No philosophical insight, just the comforting taste of sausage and mash.

Corona Class, Lesson #3

Focusing on What Matters

Never at any time in recent history has there been, such stringent controls on what people can and can’t do with their life. Private has now very much become a public concern.

But now I think it’s the values that we’ve shown in our private lives such as cooperation and understanding that need to be shown in public life too. Humane values can dictate policies and if that means shaking that magic money tree on to the heads of the people who need it then, so be it.

Because this crisis affects EVERYBODY in the world, we are going through a shared experience, granted, it’s a truly harrowing experience but it’s an experience none the less and if this encourages positive values then there is a silver lining.

Covid- 19 has shown that it’s within the power of governments to pause a system which throws people to the lions financially and destroys lives. It’s a system which prioritises profit over people and the effects capitalism can have on individual lives is often overlooked. But now when we’re faced with a problem that can affect everyone from the Prime Minister to his postman that governments choose to sit up and take notice.

Couldn’t this have been done before? Do we really have to experience a pandemic before we access out humanity? Blustering over details rather than focusing on them is how we are used to living but that doesn’t mean it’s how it has to be.

During lockdown I have been reading The Power of Now by Eckhart Toll and in it he says, Approaching death and death itself, the dissolution of the physical form, is always a great opportunity for spiritual realisation. This opportunity is tragically missed most of the time, since we live in a culture that is almost totally ignorant of death, as it’s almost ignorant of anything that truly matters.’

There is nothing like the threat of death to focus on what truly matters. Yes, it may be a clique but it’s proving to be true, never have the softer values such as empathy and kindness been so important in a world where they’re so often overlooked.

Corona Class, Lesson #2

A Matter of Taste

food choices 2

Food, without it you’d die. That’s not in question. When Covid 19 showed its creepy consequence and it became apparent everyone in the UK was expected to self- isolate naturally peoples first thought turned to survival, in other words: food (then toilet roll).

The cues outside supermarkets were long and I took part in panic buying food in a distracted and hurried manner as though the supermarket would self- destruct in thirty seconds: tins of chickpeas, tomatoes and coconut milk along with the obligatory treats of wine and chocolate were bought. I got my products home and unpacked safe in the knowledge that I wouldn’t have to leave my house for another week and pleased that I’d had the foresight to buy Chocolate Hob Nobs. Because let’s face it: self- isolation is more bearable with biscuits.

Sweet treats, while not necessarily nutritious are there to punctuate a drab day they always have been for me, with or without a pandemic. I know I’m a comfort eater, I have been for a while however, going out and keeping busy has maintained a healthy distance between me and the allure of buttery toast even if the habit still remains. With the option of leaving the house now gone, access to biscuits has become even more important. Despite being an emotional eater I am genuinely fascinated and interested by food too. I do see it as a genuine pleasure. Just like most people.

However, I am now in the new position of wondering how to fill the hole that the pleasure of food has left. This question has become a little more pertinent as I have contracted a mild symptom of Covid 19: Anosima which is the complete departure of my sense of taste and smell. When you live a life devoid of taste in the corona lock down a massive source of pleasure, taste, is keenly missed. The fulsome flavour of wine is not available and the secondary pleasure of being drunk seems no longer worth it without the piquancy of flavour that the first delicious sip of wine provides. Coffee while giving you a caffeinated kick is just an empty high without the rich aroma to accompany it. Yes, we need food for survival and that is its primary purpose. But for me, now especially, in these profoundly joyless times, I would relish the temporary excitement of flavour on my tongue.

Yes, it is probably an addiction and in normal times I know I use food to cope with my emotions. But having no sense of taste during self- isolation just feels very, unlucky. I know I eat when I’m bored, I know I eat when I’m sad and isolation creates those two feelings in abundance. As long as I don’t let my feelings win I think my sense of taste will have to wait and I will have to view food as fuel rather than fun so that my frustration dissipates.

But despite the frustration, having no sense of taste has forced me to accept my relationship with food. It has shown my weakness for junk food for what it really is: a short, sharp shock of sugar and salt that quickly dissipates and leaves me feeling unnourished and empty. Like most addictions, it’s fun at the time but ultimately does nothing for you. This from someone who doesn’t feel much guilt about having a packet of Frazzles or a Kit Kat holds particular insight. It’s so easy when you don’t feel great about yourself to reach for something that you know is crap. I miss taste, I do and hope that it will come back but I will have new found respect for its pleasures and depths when or if it does, that go beyond the fun of Frazzles.

This is an article that first appeared in Now Then:


And then Medium:


Kid of Comedy

You’re funny as fuck my big sister tells me. That is glowing endorsement especially from someone who seems to find most of the things I do annoying. But aren’t a lot of funny people annoying? Aren’t funny people chasing the laughs because of a gaping hole in their self- esteem? Or are these just the cliques attached to comedians?

Professional comedians need to be, resilient enough to take the risk of not being liked by audiences, tough enough to take on that drunk heckler, sensitive enough to to cultivate  ideas, organised enough to write a routine and brave enough to perform under pressure. That is a lot of competing needs to juggle and the risk that they’ll drop one or all of their comedy balls (so to speak) in front of an audience.

While I enjoy being funny and making people laugh does that mean I am cut out for stand up? I have never tried it, so I have signed up for ‘Beat the Frog’, an open Mic night at Manchester’s famous comedy club, Frog and Bucket. I was signed up for May but then Corona hit and all joyful, scary, thrilling activity is suspended. The scariest thing that has happened to me so far is an old lady came within three feet of me and a man in a car sneezed with his window open as I walked past.

Next up is finding your comedy ‘style’ well I’d say my humour is very dry, sarcastic you might say, bordering on rude. Of course, another bit of received wisdom about comedy is that sarcasm is the lowest form of humour and while I tend to believe that; I do think something genuinely funny can grow from the seeds of sarcasm.

Also, what is the writing process? I love writing but generally about tangible things like, music where the challenge of cataloguing my thoughts about a thing doesn’t feel hard. But writing for performance that HAS to be funny? Committing words to paper which will then be recreated on stage and open for scrutiny? That certainly raises the stakes. The lingering doubt of: is this actually funny seems to linger around my laptop disrupting my flow. Whether my reviews are liked is entirely subjective but it seems far more achievable.

That is why a second opinion from someone who knows, someone who has stood at the coal face of comedy and brought their humour to an audience would be really beneficial. I fancy myself as funny in fact, I know I am. But being funny in the comfort of my corona pit is one thing, being a funny stand- up is another.