Waving Not Drowning, or, I've Been Preparing For This My Whole Life

It’s here folks!

That moment that we’ve all discussed whilst watching TV shows about the apocalypse; whether zombie or otherwise. The question we all ask is: Who would you want on your side in the event of such and such disaster – and how well could you survive?

Well, I gotta say, me and my hubby have been preparing for this for years. No, we aren’t ‘End of the World’ nuts, or ‘Doomsday Preppers’. We’re artists.

Yes. I did say artists.

In the early 1980s, we were both students at a mediocre university studying Fine Art. Afterwards, we were two of the unemployed millions in the UK. For almost 4 years, we lived off £27 a week. We went shopping once a fortnight – because that’s when one received dole money. We played a single game of pool at the local pool-hall, for 20p. Then we went back to our little flat, and worked.

UK in the 1980s under a Tory government was full of class warfare, hate, violence, unemployment, closures, cutbacks, protests and riots.

When I say worked, of course I mean painted, created, drew etc. We also (to the amusement and puzzlement of friends), had separate bedrooms. He worked in his; the larger one, whilst I worked in the living room. We came together for evening meals, TV ,occasional walks and of course, a bit of fun!

On March 2nd, 2019, I wrote a post called The Loneliness of the Long Distance Writer In light of the current situation; COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic, in this post, I’m sort of returning to that theme – being alone. Not lonely.

After university, whilst my then boyfriend, now husband, were on the dole, we lived a rather meagre existence. Our rare annual holiday consisted of heaving metal-framed rucksacks with tent around the soggy hills of Wales or Scotland (Note: this is now called ‘Wild Camping’, which involved finding somewhere, in the middle of nowhere, to pitch the tent before it went dark, and balancing a trangier with pan of dried noodles set to cook in water that wouldn’t boil quickly because the air around was blowy and cold, and sleeping with your clothes on, as opposed to staying in a fucking wooden construction on a campsite with hundreds of others and drinking Pinot Grigio. That’s called Glamping). We once found 12p down the back of the sofa with which we bought a bag of chips between us from a mobile Fish and Chip van. On one occasion, he went off for a few days with a male friend, camping in October. I had no money, so lived off Marmite drinks for about 6 days, wrapped up in bed against the cold – we couldn’t afford heating – drawing and watching our tiny black and white telly.

Over the years, neither of us have had well paid jobs. Freelance artist is not a secure way to live. Community artist even less so. The 80s was shit, for us at least. The 90s slightly less so. We did live an almost hand to mouth existence. We paid our bills on time, thus ensuring we had little left for luxuries, you know, things like – nice shampoo instead of washing-up-liquid or soap, food that wasn’t ‘My Mums’ brand, meat!

Then as time moved on, I got a ‘real job’, as a tutor on the YTS/ET (Youth Training Scheme/Enterprise Allowance) scheme that the government introduced. Hubby also got a job. We had money, proper money for the first time! We got married. But I lost my job 2 years later due to cutbacks, and the eventual demise of the training schemes.

Since then we have changed jobs a couple of times. Moved home. Had a child. We made a conscious decision to have only one, as that was all we knew we could afford. We rent from a housing association because we can’t get on the property ladder, even on our joint wages.

This is not a hard luck story.

This is a story about a couple of 50-somethings who were made ready for this event. Our age identifies us as Generation X. There’s been a lot on social media from Gen-X recently. About how ours is the survivor generation, the isolated ones, the latchkey kids who everyone, even government forgot. So a double positive whammy for me and hubby – Gen-X artists, who enjoy our own company, who are NEVER lonely, because we have our imaginations to get us through this – what more could one want!?

Lock n Load

My workplace has now closed for an indeterminate length of time. For me, it’s a kind of bliss – I get to write and read books, and maybe do some drawing. I can plan my next D&D campaign, create maps! It’s marvellous. My colleagues who are neither self-motivated nor creative, are already flooding WhatsApp with inane trivia minute by minute. Two days we have been off work! Two days, and they’re already loopy. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t WANT the virus to spread, I don’t WANT anyone falling ill, I don’t LIKE this situation we’re in, all I’m saying is, I’m with the right person, and we’re ready to roll.

Gimme two weeks, two months, hell, I reckon I could handle two years!

So to the creatives out there – writers, artists, sculptors, musicians, dancers, poets, painters, crafters, et al, I say, this is our time. This is the time for introspection, for personal creativity and development. This is when being isolated, or locked down does not mean disaster. It is a chance to show why art; all the arts, are so important.

Because very soon, the rest of the population will begin to realise how vital art is.

When they haven’t been able to visit a cinema, library, concert hall, theatre, museum, gallery, for weeks, they’ll be gagging for it when this is all over!

So get busy now!

Above from left: Paul Costello (courtesy @costelloguitar), The Poet (courtesy Holy Spirit System), Louise Bourgeois (courtesy East Oregonian)


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Alexandra

Writer of fiction, sci-fi, horror and more. Painter of magic realism. Grower of cabbages and currants.

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