Covid and us

Covid and us

So, here I sit, safe and comfortable in my home office in a small NSW coastal village, the nearest known Covid being a few cases hundreds of miles away. But I scan the local and overseas press - NY Times, NPR, BBC, RTÉ - and see horrendous, unthinkable numbers of infections and deaths reported. And then I think of the 1000 odd flutes I’ve made and sent largely overseas, and wonder about their owners in all of this. These are people I may never have met other than via email, but they are still real to me. And then I think of all those I’ve met and played with on my several overseas tours - at festivals, organised events, sessions, in collections, in museums - in England, Scotland, Ireland, France, the US and Canada and again I wonder and worry, how are they getting on? How would I ever know?

Do we have any idea how we - ITM players, folkies, singers, dancers, makers, researchers, etc - are faring in all this? I feel very far away. Perhaps some of you are in a better position to know? Even a few patchy reports would be better than where I am now, knowing nothing.

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Well at least it’s good to hear that YOU are OK. I’m in rural isolation in a small village in the Lunigiana, so it’s masks, closed shops, and pizzas only by appointment. And hardly anything happening, so no change there.
PS Still playing that Clinton in your database, but no longer in Sydney.

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I’m in Co. Mayo, but live rurally on a small holding, so feel very lucky to have outdoor space to freely move around on throughout all this. It’s not like I’d be traipsing into town or traveling around on the regular at the best of times as I’m kept quite busy on the farm, but it’s when you’re told you can’t do something that you miss it more (like back in the day when we had "Holy Hour", you could guarantee that if I fancied a pint during the day it would be at 2:01, just as the pubs had locked their doors for an hour!) At the rate the vaccine roll out is going here it could be 2 years before the likes of me gets one, so who knows when a return to sessions, summer schools etc. will happen. In the meantime I’m still playing a lot of music, learning tunes, have done a few online workshops.

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"pizzas only by appointment"

Well, this may soon be the case "here in Scotland" too. They are threatening to restrict "take away" establishments and make them delivery only. 🙁

The latest lockdown hasn’t affected me too much as everything I enjoyed doing was already banned anyway. The restaurants, pubs, swimming pools etc were already closed and, of course, it’s been 10 months since I’ve been to a session or live concert. During Summer, I was able to have a tune outside but it’s too cold now and the Police would likely move us on anyway.

Fortunately, I’ve never had COVID as far as I know but I was quite ill for the last few weeks with an ear infection (Pseudomonas, apparently). I suspect the bug was already in my system for several months and I was having sinus and other issues for a long time and I think it just all came to a head. It also caused Bell’s Palsy on the left side of my face.
Anyway, after three different antibiotics, a course of steroids, and several ear drops, I seem to be on the mend. Unfortunately….. and, at last something relevant to the forum…. I am still deaf in my left ear. The doctors think my hearing may come back in time. I certainly hope so but I’m determined to keep on playing.

One thing we should all remember, however, is that people continue to suffer from many other illnesses, issues, etc other than Covid and in many cases these can be much worse than a mild attack of the latter.

My thoughts are with all who are suffering with Covid19 or anything else. Let’s hope things will get better for all of us in 2021.

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When the current lock-down in England started I caught myself thinking "Well at least Zoom sessions and workshops can carry on as normal". Normal !!!!

Most people I play tunes with and other folkies I know have been keeping in touch online, doing OK and looking forward to meeting up outside when the spring comes. But one session I know will be missing someone due to Covid when they start again.

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Hi Terry. Thank you so much for this post. As it turns out, the first trad instrument I ever owned was one of your keyless flutes. I got addicted and the rest is history.

What I always loved about trad was the feeling of connectedness to countless others (all around the world and throughout history). Without sessions, festivals, and everything else, it is easy to feel disconnected from it all. And yet, we’re still here. Playing tunes (or not) in our own homes. I heard an interview on RTE with Paddy Moloney the other day and he said he has barely played at home during the pandemic. Apparently if you collaborate with world class musicians on major stages around the world, just playing alone doesn’t cut it (despite trad and piping being such a ‘solo’ tradition).

Anyways, I’m playing loads along to CDs like I used to when I was first learning, and I’m doing the occasional Zoom session (I resisted at first, but we’re on a total full lockdown here in Cork). It is personally strange for me; I moved from the US to Ireland primarily for the music and fabulous cultural life. Never in a thousand years did I think I would live here and NOT play music with others (in pubs or anywhere). Even when I was 9 months pregnant, I made it in to play a few tunes. Even sleep deprived with a new-born I made it to a couple afternoon sessions, but this!?! What is this?
I’ve also wondered about what musicians are doing on lockdown. I even had notions of gathering some stories and putting them in a book, blog or something for safekeeping. I (for one) would love to hear what other musicians have been up to at home. I miss the chat and stories that happen in sessions.

Anyhow, hospitals are overfull here in Cork, so we’re staying home and trying to give the professionals a chance. As I approach 40, I started to drift from the pub scene, but there is nothing more I would like to do now than be in an obnoxiously loud, sweaty, crowded, trad session! Mind yourself Terry, and thanks for the flute.

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Here just outside Washington DC there are no sessions that I know of, and honestly I would not go if there were—I’m a good enough flute player by now but the flute and covid! not a good combination. I have an old fiddle I sometimes pick up and while I like the flute much more the fiddle is a much less contagious piece of business.

I’m skeptical we will be back to normal before November—the vaccine rollout seems to have been a disorganized mess. I don’t like the restrictions but don’t feel my fundamental freedom has been infringed or any of that business. My primary focus is on seeing my daughter into adulthood.

I focus on ITM as a meditative solo practice. Learn some new tunes, try to play with the right feeling of "lift;" try to find the logic of the tune’s narrative and find my own voice in it.

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Here in Salt Lake City, which has always been pretty much an ITM wasteland, things are pretty dismal. We’re about as infected as anywhere in the world. When the weather was good a few of us could/would still play outside. A couple of us, me, the host, and one other guy, met almost weekly with the understanding that we would be very responsible towards the others. Last month one of us got it and dropped out for 3 weeks. Last week the host got it and canceled the activity immediately. So far I’m good. Still my biggest worry is that ITM will need a complete re-boot. New players and new venues and that will take a lot of work And though I’m willing, I am a bit long in the tooth to start over. My advice to everybody is stay safe and well. Stay connected as much as you can. And stay hopeful, and please don’t be one of the Covidiots who doesn’t want to be vaccinated. Remember too that even if you had a vaccine you can still be a vector and carry it to someone else. We’re gonna be in this for a long time yet.

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I haven’t been to a session since 10th March last year. I learned some new tunes in the first lockdown. I’m lacking motivation now, but I can’t see tunes with other people for many months yet in England. I’m group 8 out of 10 for the covid vaccination so at least 25 million people in front of me.

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My go-to session before all this, at the Irish American Association of Northwest New Jersey, has been shut down since early last year. As far as I know, four members have passed since then, but none from Covid-19.

The initial vaccine rollout is going poorly in the US: a short time ago, at a point when 20 million should have been vaccinated, only 5 million had, for example.

I’m way back on the vaccine list, like most people. I doubt I would survive Covid-19 if I got it. I quit smoking 15 years ago, but I’m 64, and by the way, I also breathed dense, asbestos-laden smoke for hours trying try get out after the first World Trade Center bombing.

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We do a weekly zoom session and today we were optimistically discussing some of the new tunes we will play together again in future. Most of us are not as young as we were before all this started, rely on public transport, and are reluctant to meet live and in person until things are much better.

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We’re all staying in around here, so the only sessions are on Zoom. Some of us who have little bands were playing socially distanced outdoors, but lately it’s been too cold, and the new virus has people on edge, so we stay home. Vaccines offer hopes, but slow in coming. The up side to this is that I’ve got more practice time, so I can work on all those darlin’ reels in addition to the band sets. Barry Morse, I haven’t been to the IAANNJ session in donkey’s years, but I’m still hoping to. Drink up, we’ll have another one, and keep practicing!

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I’m sitting in the middle of the highest contagion region (Arizona) in the USA and possibly on the planet. At least 30% of the local populace refuses to wear a mask. It’s discouraging but I wear my mask and hope that it’s sufficient. Unlike some of the more adept learners here on the session engaging in the NTAD (new tune a day) I seem to be doing something more akin to FATAD (forget a tune a day). By the time sessions become available in person again, I fear I’ll be inches deep in rust.

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Wow, thank you so much all for your accounts of how things are in your neck of the woods. I raised the post with some trepidation - (do we really want to talk about this?) - but now I’m so glad I did. A picture emerges of appropriate caution in the presence of serious danger, sadness but not anger, concern for how things are going and for how long it’s going to take to return to something near normal, if that’s even possible. Some actual cases noted among folkies, but not carnage as we are seeing in some places and industries. And I’m seeing that desire that jcawley described: "What I always loved about trad was the feeling of connectedness to countless others (all around the world and throughout history). Amen to that.

The space remains open if you have not yet contributed your story.

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Two other family members in our house have tested positive, so we are all self-isolating and going round the house wearing masks. Right now I have horrible cold/flu symptoms and have taken 3 tests - surprisingly all negative. It would seem anomalous if I weren’t infected, but here’s hoping. For the first time in my life I am hoping to have a cold. We live in strange times.

Apparently the incidence of colds etc has gone down during the various lockdowns, as there’s reduced opportunity for those viruses to spread. Another reason why it would seem strange I’m negative.

I don’t have a McGee flute (but an Ormiston) but Terry’s concern is very much appreciated.

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I am grateful to be in one of the relatively safe areas, living in Vermont. Our infection rates have been the lowest in the country for a long time. That being said, there are still a few new cases every day but our hospitals are OK, not overwhelmed. I’m a retired music teacher but still work part time as the staff pianist for the local high school’s music department. The losses in the arts for our students, particularly our seniors, is heartbreaking. We are mostly in zoom mode but the limitations of that platform are beyond annoying.

It is good to hear how others are doing and I send out hope and best wishes for all in the ITM world as we make our way through these strange times.

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I’m part of the team delivering the vaccine programme in two counties in England and it’s been the craziest time I’ve ever seen in the NHS, but staff and patients have been great. The vaccine programme changes constantly with new policy/evidence, but is very much underway with our clinics running smoothly (I’m actually floorwalking one right now). We’re using the Pfizer one still which has strict requirements on how long it can be defrosted for before it’s no longer viable so I was actually vaccinated myself one evening with an extra dose we had available and, if anything, it was less noticeable than a flu jab to me, no pain etc etc.

Sessions have stopped around here since spring last year, but I join two zoom ones each week which are friendly and fun, but there are very noticeable regulars who just did not want to play via zoom and hence I’ve had next to no contact with in almost a year which is sad and worrying.
I’m unusual as work is unbelievably busy, but for everyone else I speak to people do seem very bored of lockdown and the sameness of every day.
I think raging against the nothingness is very important at the moment and challenging yourself to engage with zoom, phonecalls etc however dull they seem, as this is a marathon and it would be easy to slip into idleness I think and lose the spark we all had pre-pandemic.

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I want to thank one and all, especially belayatron for the hope your messages bring. I am hold up in a US state with a Governor that does not believe in helping folks stay safe and who is working hard at making the vaccine role out a mess. But I trudge on with mask, socially distanced or staying mostly at home, not learning a tune a day but trying hard to just do some kind of regulate learning. Thanks!

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I’m in Southern California, specifically San Diego, where COVID-19 case rates have been exploding since November. My wife and I have stopped going into any grocery stores, now doing all our food shopping using online orders and curbside pickup. I’ve been hosting an open session on Zoom every Tuesday night since May, as well as teaching some online Zoom lessons. We were having a very socially distanced session outdoors once a week in a large open gazebo in a local park starting back in August, but have put them on hold indefinitely because of the latest public health order. Since I was laid-off from my software development job of ten years in November, I’ve started early retirement, something I’d been contemplating doing for a couple of years, anyway. Loving sleeping in most days and having all kinds of time to practice music. I’m spending most of my free time these days practicing, taking hikes with my wife, doom scrolling news on the insurrection, and most recently working on bass/chord tune transcriptions to help B/C box players bootstrap themselves into playing the bass side.

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We moved to Nevada Co from the Bay Area in May, during lock down. We were in motion with this change when it all happened. I’m playing my flute daily, loving it, piano too. Doing some zoom classes and sessions. My ear is greatly improved, partly from hearing aids, and I’m anxious to meet and play with musicians here. Part of my vision with this move is to host house concerts, now thinking outside. This property is ideal for acoustic concerts, and camping. So we work on the land, planting seeds for future times. Waiting for the vaccine.

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Hello from PEI, Terry! (Strangely enough, my father and Terry knew each other long before I got my lovely McGee flute… Long story for another time.)

I have to say, I feel utterly fortunate to live in an isolated rural area on an island which has been able to effectively close its borders, apart than very regulated necessary travel. Because of this, we’ve been able to carry on life without too many changes; yes I’ve been working from home full-time and then part time at home and then full-time at home again… All depending on the presence or absence of Covid cases in our province. We had a complete lockdown from March until early summer, but since then it has eased quite a bit. We are able to have a limited session, five players at a time by invitation, and we switch in an out when we see someone else there who wants to play. Nothing like our usual 20 people, but it has been a lifeline for me!

Apart from playing flute, I have been building a house—an absolutely crazy proposition during Covid times—but we finally managed to move in December 18, about three months later than we had expected, and just barely ahead of going stark raving mad living in a tiny, insulated, barely heated cottage and waiting each night for the pipes to freeze!

Nonetheless, we count ourselves extremely lucky, as none of our family or friends have contracted Covid, although it has certainly touched all of our lives economically and in other strange ways.

Music has been a godsend for both my husband and myself during this whole time. All I can say is keep playing, and I wish everyone of you a wonderful 2021, full of calm, hope, and health!! Hugs to all, Nancy

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Our sessions persisted outdoors and distanced (but with much smaller turnout) as long as weather permitted, but they’ve ended due to the cold weather. My closest music friends and I will be eligible for the vaccine within a few weeks. I hope the music recovers - and that our favorite pub isn’t bankrupt by then.

Hark! remarked on the flute and COVID. I saw one study that claimed that playing the flute produced no more aerosols than breathing. That’s in contrast to brass instruments, clarinets, oboes etc. It seems reasonable to me, because I imagine the generation of aerosols is mostly by vibrating structures wet with saliva: vocal chords, lips in a brass mouthpiece, etc. When I play flute or whistle, my throat is open just as in breathing. The only vibration is the air column.

Really, I’d bet that most Irish Trad instruments are pretty COVID safe. In a session, it would be the talking and perhaps singing that would convey risk.

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I retired from public performance in 2006/2007, so my remaining musical outlet was as a musician for Mass. With the Churches basically shut down, I’ve not played (other than for my own enjoyment) since March of 2019 (though our priest does use one of my instrumental CD’s for virtual Masses.
Where we’ll end up with this virus is an unknown still, and probably will be for the foreseeable future. It’ll depend a lot upon the success of the vaccine. Since it’s new, we probably won’t know that answer for a while.

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Our session was suspended when everything closed in March, but resumed in July, though only a handful of people attended. I dropped out again in November. We are all at high risk & as a retired healthcare worker, it felt hypocritical to ignore the common sense advice of the medical experts.
I am trying to put my house, garden & affairs in order & prepare for the day when it is safe to meet again. This is such a difficult time for all of us, but put in perspective, it hasn’t even been a full year that we have been coping with it. My Mother has lived through the Great Depression & WW II, both of which caused more significant hardship, for a much longer time. We are very fortunate that we have some light at the end of the tunnel with multiple apparently highly effective vaccines available in such a short time.
I hope that you are all able to remain healthy & financially secure through all of this turmoil.

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I played one session in JUNE in central Oregon. And one session here in Anchorage in early September. Though I do have a weekly on-line session that helps me keep positive and sane.

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I have not played music or played in a session in months. I will return to sessioning with others when the pandemic is better under control and the risk of transmission of Covid-19 is significantly reduced.
Stay safe & stay informed, everyone.

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Loved your post. Here in Argentina we had to stop doing sessions in march. We tried instagram streaming (one at a time) during 2020 but it’s been no fun. And I do feel the same as many of you mentioned. Forgetting a tune a day, hardly playing at home and hoping this nightmare to end soon.

I wonder if one can join the zoom sessions you all talk about even living far away. Just to listen to and playing in mute, I think. I saw one or two discussions about that, but if anyone knows online sessions going on and likes to share, it would be much appreciated.

Stay safe!

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You’re most welcome to join the open Zoom session I host every Tuesday from 6:00-8:00 PM Pacific time.

Info at:

http://michaeleskin.com/zoom

I’mhappy to extend that same invitation to anyone else who might be interested!

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Again, thank you all for your responses, making it real for us what it is like to be where you are. I won’t try to summarise or respond to all, that’s just too big an undertaking. But a quick shout out to Nancy Clement. Great to hear you are safely holed up on Prince Edward Island. I remember sailing past it on my way to the Boxwood flute festival, back in 2002. If you’re passing by Greengables, make sure to give my regards to Anne….

Now, just to give you all something to look forward to, a couple of days back I took a call from an old session friend. He and his wife, both fiddle players, were coming down to our nearest town, Batemans Bay, to play some tunes with our local box player, and would I like to join them? Would I? That was today, and I’m just back.

We were all a bit stiff at first, not having played that much recently. We started off on the older stuff, tunes we would have played together back in the seventies. But pretty soon we were pulling more recent stuff out of short-term memory. Names were the victims - we could play the tunes but not always pin titles on them. And, as we relaxed into it, whole brackets would re-establish themselves, and we would nod to each-other, after a few times through the current tune, that we knew what came next. And we were mostly right, and in agreement. Herd consciousness?

So there is light at the end of the tunnel. I know that in many places, it’s very dark at the moment, and may yet get darker as the full consequences of taking the eye off the ball over Christmas become evident. But vaccines are starting to roll out, and will hopefully start to blunt the impact of the virus. If so, we can hope for a transition back in the direction of more normal times. But, in the meantime, we must all remain resolutely cautious, consistent with the local risks. Our job is to survive this, and keep our tradition strong.

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I’ll repeat the thanks to everyone for sharing your stories. I’m feeling relatively lucky here in rural WI that I have places to get outside. Cases were off the charts in mine and adjacent counties back in November but we’re finally on a downward trajectory with only a handful of cases a day in our county (yes, still utterly ridiculous but at least not overwhelming our small hospital and exhausted healthcare providers). I’ve been playing tunes with my usual musical pal, first outside and now as part of each other’s pods, being very honest with each other about what we’ve been up to. Not that there are many risks to take, too many people out and about refusing to wear masks means that it’s the bimonthly grocery shop for veg and milk and lots of snowy hikes with the occasional human contact (masked and socially distanced) at work caring for my endangered aquatic critters.
I’m finding that I get into tunes on a rotation. Recording my radio show means that I listen to tunes and pick up a couple that I check out, either to learn or refresh, which leads to several other tunes on an album. I play them hard, daily then go back to knitting my sock or finishing the giant pile of books I’m accumulating to get me through a WI winter and repeat. I love knowing that we’re still sharing this tradition all the same.

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Stopped playing in March when we went into Lockdown 1.0. Played a bit in July, then went off it for a few months. Started playing again in Lockdown 2.0. Once Lockdown 3.0 started, lost all psych. Haven’t found it again.

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Actually doing more than I might have been doing, musically speaking, in varying degrees of lockdown, than I was doing before it, thanks to Zoom mainly and a few Skype sessions. Before, logistics like distance, travel time, weather and dizzy days might put me off going to live sessions, whereas now I only have to change from one room to another. Sure, it’s not the same as a live session, but there’s still plenty of good craic, fun and laughter, and lots of nice tunes played. As someone else mentioned however, it is a concern that at least half the people from one club I’m involved with have not opted to join us, despite regular emails to tell them when sessions are on, and sending out simple guides to using Zoom: and other clubs have not done anything at all other than send an occasional newsletter. Some friends who live nearer the city centre did run some outdoor sessions on better days earlier in the year, but I was not going to risk 2 buses to get there or hefty car parking charges.
We’ve tried our best to keep to the rules and now hope to get our first dose of vaccine before too long (being “of a certain age”) but I still don’t foresee live sessions starting again for a good while yet.

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Well, minijackpot and Dr SilverSpear, I can see there may be need for us to form roving packs of Musical Motivators, post vaccine rollout. We have the technology….

Michael Eskin will write special software that identifies the location of those not yet getting with the Tune-a-Day Recovery Program, triangulating worldwide from servers in downtown Malua Bay, Prince Edward Island and the Lunigiana….

Belayatron will ensure our immunisations are all up-to-date, while Chuck Cochrane will take advantage of his church connections to ensure we are all well covered from that angle. We’ll scrape the rust off callison and lubricate his/her joints with the best cork grease available. And give ross faison that reboot he worries might be needed. Now where did I put that defibrillator? Ah, there it is, good. I’ll wind that up to "fast reels"….

Money is of course no object, as the Guiness Brewery can see the clear benefits of getting bums back on seats in Irish pubs worldwide. And our program will fit right in with the incoming US President’s Irish leanings, so I don’t expect any resistance from Washington, eh Hark!?

I’m aware I haven’t got to everybody yet, I’m keeping some up my sleeve for the second phase if needed. In the meantime, read about it in jcawley’s forthcoming book…..

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Well, I have taken action. After a zoom call with session friends I’m taking the advice that planning for ten minutes a day being better than an hour now and then. Add a freebie year calendar to colour in every day I meet the target and I have my own ‘sticker chart’ to monitor/motivate.

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Update:
Well, it turns out I do have COVID. My cold/flu-like symptoms did in fact get worse, I did more tests and I deffo did get it. I’m now on Day 8 after the onset of symptoms. I am starting to improve a bit now, slowly. They say days 6-7 are the turning points - you can either start to recover or go further downhill. So I think I was one of the lucky ones - touch wood! 2 more days to go and I should be out of self-isolation. A walk up to the park will probably knacker me out though!
The reason I’m reporting this is not to appear heroic or anything. Having COVID isn’t heroic or cool. It’s a sordid, debilitating, tiring, painful and - Very Worrying - waste of time. I haven’t touched any musical instrument in all that time. Just haven’t had the energy. The only good bit about it is that I may now have the antibodies to fight off a future attack (although given the rate at which it is mutating into new strains, even that may not be possible…) - but I am as sure as hell going to get vaccinated anyway.
Anyway, the reason I telling you all this is, if you contract COVID, try not to panic. Do everything as your health service advises. Rest loads, sleep loads, don’t dare go to work, don’t drink alcohol or smoke, drink plenty of fluids, sleep on your front or your side, do breathing excercises and, most of all, just let it run its course. Keep an eye on your oxygen levels using a pulse oximeter. Do all that and you may be spared.
Follow this lady’s advice
https://www.facebook.com/philip.crickard/videos/10224147275370165

Best of luck to everyone.

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I appreciate your first hand report, Winston. I think you are one who is well informed about what you’re facing and the importance of listening & sticking to the best health advice. Best to you!

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Re: Covid and us (Tunes from the Fringe?)

Trish, I think live sessions will happen this year. At the very least it will be a human induced transition between the current pandemic and the next newest norm/global event. Still I’m living one day at a time & setting my goals to sharing tunes whenever they return. I don’t know what to make of people, but I’m in.
I might try lurking in on a zoom session but I doubt it. Not to say it’s a bad approach. Rather I consider it brilliant & a necessary step for sessions to take on. Power to the online players!

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All the best to you and your family Danny.

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Aye, not being a maniac is the key, lad.