Kylie Minogue had just started work on her 15th album when the first lockdown began.
She was speaking on Radio 4 about how she got hold of some recording equipment and completed ‘Infinite Disco’ in her kitchen. The album was, she explained, “a coping mechanism for me, and a kind of distraction.” She’d told the interviewer about “a moment during the first lockdown when I just had to confess to someone that I really was struggling a little bit.” What she said next especially resonated with me: “So much of the year has been about connection, or lack of it. To do something whose purpose is to reach people: that really gave me even more motivation to get that album done.” It seems that Lady Gaga has also during lockdown made a disco-themed album. It’s said to contain ‘16 tracks of dancefloor catharsis,’ although as Kylie said of her own creation, “At the moment it’s a kitchen disco so it requires a bit of imagination.”
That very honest interview with Kylie was followed by a ‘Thought for the Day’ from Vishvapani, a Triratna Buddhist, in which he said about the second lockdown that, “Many of us are feeling really tired of it all,” and that, “Short-term sacrifice has become a long-term slog.” He also mourned the loss of the Thursday evening clap and the disappearance of rainbows in windows. The clap, he told us, was not just about us applauding key-workers but also a chance for us to be in contact with one another and to create a shared sense of meaning through that ritual act.
How we need to do things in groups. I was horrified recently to hear that my choir is not due to resume until September 2021. The Tuesday evening rehearsals were a sacred point in my week, with the concerts being fixed markers in the year. Communal singing is beneficial on all kinds of levels but there’s something about simply being in a group that seems to be hard-wired into our DNA. Even if our membership of groups may not always be straightforward it can, at its best, give us new life and energy, and provide a shared sense of identity, purpose and meaning. It can also take me out of myself and into something bigger and greater. Last week I received guidance from my cycling club that we could still go out in 2s. Yet, hardly anyone signed up for this on the club App. I guess we just yearn to go out in a group and a pair isn’t quite the same as a group somehow! The removal of opportunities to do things communally (whilst in the same physical space) is, I believe, a particularly damaging consequence of the coronavirus.
The word connection has become a common one in the outreach of the Irish Chaplaincy this year. Our ‘Keeping Connected’ project involved supplying elderly Irish in London with pre-programmed Tablets with which they could access their favourite radio station in Ireland or a Mass or to have face-to-face conversation with one of the Seniors team. ‘Keeping Connected’ was also the name we chose for a new project to supply people in prison with writing paper, cards, nice pens and credit for stamps in order for them to keep in touch with their families at a time when there is no prison visiting. ‘Connected for Christmas’ will provide 200 Irish elders with some nice Christmas cards and a pack of stamps. And we’re delighted to be ‘connected’ through this project with Holy Family primary school in Ealing, who will help with distribution.
We so need as humans to feel connected with one another. And, as Kylie said in her interview, we also need, “A temporary antidote- a place of losing yourself, or finding yourself: the choice is yours.” I hope that, like Kylie, I can be honest with others if I’m finding the ‘long-term slog’ that Vishvapani speaks of hard to cope with. And I hope that, like Kylie, I’ll discover ever-new ways of reaching out to others creatively and imaginatively, and in so doing perhaps lift myself to another place.
I might just try and organise a kitchen disco as well to cheer myself up…
PS the St Brigid’s cross pictured was made by Gerry Molumby, part of his ‘lockdown creativity’ as he explained to me. I was delighted to receive it.