A year in lockdown playing around with synthesizers

I wanted to write a few words now that we’ve had a year of living with this pandemic. In many ways I wish I’d kept a diary just like Eno did for a completely different reason but, unlike Eno, my thoughts over the last year have been a chaotic mess with me in the middle flip-flopping from one project to the next. After the brief euphoria of being able to paint my garden fence during my lunch break, the sad realisation slowly crept in – I was going to be looking at that fence for an awfully long time. Cue endless cups of tea and tying to figure out what was coming next.

I didn’t have to wait long.

It was early March and my wife became ill for four days with heavy ‘flu-like symptoms’. At that time we were still unsure where or even how she could get tested – and then I started to feel unwell. I remember sitting watching the TV with the kids and then feeling so tired it was a real effort just to stand up. Eventually, I went to bed, sweated a lot and listened to a 5th century Welsh folk tale all about dying and going to hell – which wasn’t ideal at the time. When I woke up, I felt a bit groggy but logged into work as usual. What then followed was about seven days of feeling increasingly ‘meh’ until I finally crashed and spent an entire Saturday in bed listening to all the Brian & Roger podcasts. I find that all a bit funny now but, back then, it was more than a little surreal.

When I recovered, I made a promise to myself that I would do everything I could to try and stay fit just in case I got ill again. This has resulted in an awful lot of running – in fact I’ve now clocked up about 1500 miles which makes me your stereotypical Forest Gump. But, do you know what the most difficult part of this has been? It’s seeing the scared faces of other people as you’re running because they’re afraid you might not give them a wide berth. Fortunately, I live in the countryside so I can put about a field between me and you – but I don’t go running now without one of those running-neck-warmer-thingies so I can use as an impromptu face mask. I think the immortal words ‘Strange Times’ are reverberating all around these leafy glades – I wonder what Kenneth Grahame would have made of it all?

Speaking of which, another thing that has changed over the year has been my desire to write a book – all of that has gone completely out of the window. Before the pandemic hit I was really motivated – I went to all the writer classes, read a lot of those ‘How To Be A Writer’ books, listened to a lot of ‘How To Write a Bestseller’ podcasts (actually, that one’s quite good) and generally bored a lot of people with the “well, it’s about this teenager in this medieval fantasy world who triggers a multiverse calamity when he starts meddling with magic and ends up in Hounslow in 1991″ spiel. But then, covid kicked off and I started to feel that anything outside of the core requirements (like working or being with the family) was pointless. Thinking about it now, it might just have been an excuse I told myself to escape the whole process. Either way, I gave up.

But it did get a little better. One day I was watching something on YouTube and really went down this rabbit hole about how to make music with Ableton. I’d dabbled with the software before but now it all looked a lot more easier and the computers didn’t crash. Fantastic. Now, I’m pulling what little hair I have out to try get a decent stereo mix and decide on the right kind of synthesiser – it’s like I’m trapped in an episode of Flight of the Conchords…


Still, it’s been a lot of fun. There’s nothing like trying to solve a problem that you alone have created and you alone can fix – partly because everyone else is bored with the incessant ’dist – dist – dist’ coming from your headphones and  – no – they don’t want to listen to another version of your track which you think ‘sounds a bit like INX.’ 

Anyway, this all brings me to my main point. There must be so many people out there right now creating great music, or learning to cook, or code or even sculpt pottery goddamn it – I just hope that we’ll all have the chance to share what we’ve learned. Maybe 2022 will become the ‘Year of the Amateur’ – where there’s going to be absolutely no dance shaming and if someone wants to read their poem about fish then let them go straight ahead and read that poem about fish.

I for one will see you at the front of the crowd, waiting patiently for you to echo your first words – albeit perfectly sealed in my floating bubble like a scene from The Prisoner.

Until then.

lost spaceman seeks final redemption.

Spaceman of Bohemia by Jaroslav Kalfař.

My daughter was recently listening to the brilliant Writer’s Routine podcast and mentioned a book written by Jaroslav Kalfař called ‘Spaceman of Bohemia.’ I was so intrigued by the storyline I bought the book immediately. A Czech astronaut heads into space to explore a mysterious dust cloud and ends up going mad (or does he?) after meeting a intergalactic philosopher spider with a serious addiction to Nutella -what’s not to love?

It should have a been a brilliant book, I wanted it to be brilliant – but, alas no. There’s a merger of Czech political history with a failed personal relationship and it’s all a bit of a tangle. It would, undoubtedly, make an excellent Netflix movie however, someone give Ben Whishaw and Andy Serkis a call. Oh, and Nigel Warburton would do a decent voice-over as the furry theoretician. Oscars here we come.

time to reboot.

A recent email from my hosting provider prompted me to consider taking this blog offline completely. After all, I’ve not written anything for a while so maybe I should chuck the whole thing in. Then I began to think about this last year with Covid, about how insanely busy it’s been both at work and at home trying to return to some sense of normality, about the book I stopped writing because I told myself it was all too self-indulgent in a time of crisis, about the ultramarathon I did because running seemed to be a whole lot easier than writing, then about the synth I bought because I needed an excuse to wear headphones in a house full of screaming kids – so I thought ‘you know, there might just be a few things I could write about here after all.’

So watch this space. Hopefully, it won’t be for another year.

And in the meantime, here’s Zylinderkoph