The sleek converted barns had polished concrete floors, the bedrooms were purple and plush, from the window early lambs were finding their feet. The food was luscious, the ceiling was vaulted, candlelight flickered, and the wine was… interesting.
We were in a Sussex vineyard to celebrate getting through Covid so mildly. We’d taken the double red line in our stride. After a few days we were better. Done, dusted. We went off smiling to spend a night by the South coast, to raise a glass or two to the banished daemon.
The next day we went to a gallery by the sea in Eastbourne. Suddenly, on the seafront, I realised I couldn’t go a step further. I was totally wiped out. All my energy had drained away from me, like water down a plughole.
I’ve had Long Covid since then, getting steadily worse. I’ve reached my ‘baseline’. This is actually code for ‘Bloody hell, it can’t get any worse – can it?!’
I've been housebound for the last six months, exhausted and unable to engage brain. I haven’t had any exercise since March. A good day is making it to the end of the street, or holding a conversation without losing the plot, or the sense of feeling in my legs. That’s the first thing to go when I talk too much. The batteries run out quicker and take forever to recharge. Over a few days I start to improve, then I crash back down - an endless cycle of hope, frustration and… disappointment (euphemism #89).
Is it real? Can’t I simply man up and power through? Can’t we have dinner out anyway? What about the ticket I have for The Weather Station at Union Chapel, for Chris Thile at the Festival Hall, for the William Kentridge exhibition at the Royal Academy? You get the picture. I don’t.
I will get better. It helps to measure things, to stand outside myself and observe. I am at 15%, with some days peaking at 25%. Someone I know is at 50% after two years, someone else is at 70% now. For them, this is recovery. For me, it is hope.
The best help is the robin in the garden, the flowers and their petals, the way clouds move across a blue sky. Also the music project we are finishing. Living in the moment.
I’ve also been keeping a journal. A little about the external here and now. It’s more about my identity, purpose and meaning. Thoughts about the future – how I will live and what I will do. Today is Jewish New Year, and I’ve been taking a little moment to reflect, as I always do between now and Yom Kippur.
I was brought up - and still say I am - Jewish. My humour is Jewish, I love wordplay, silly puns, the Absurd (fate and the anarchy of life), music. Things my forebears prized, being transportable things when the Pogroms or the Nazis came knocking (or perhaps even the Egyptians). Leaving the sideboard behind.
I love Jewish songwriters like Paul Simon, Bob Dylan, Carole King and the Gershwins. I like Jewish food (wherefore art thou, oh chicken soup and kneidlach!). I have traditional Jewish values of family, music and learning. I prize creativity and the senses higher than possessions and money (though yes, I’m very privileged). I don’t believe in God, I don’t respect collective worship - though when I was young I loved to lead services in the synagogue. Especially at this time of year with all its high drama. Just as some Jews say they don’t keep Kosher, but ‘happen’ to have gone vegetarian, so I say I am not ‘practising’, but when backed into a corner I might say (a tad defensively, a soupçon pseudly) that I’m a pantheist.
I buy into the values of my upbringing but not the practice. Probably I’m simply an old school Wordsworthian Romantic.
Anyhow, enough rumination and self-justification. Leave it for the journal, Laz.
I do have a new album out on 11.11.22. It’s called Still. Because my life is stationary (still), because I’m continuing to (still) making music, because I am in silence (in the still of a dark night), because despite this wretched condition I am nevertheless (still) determined to make work. It might be art, it might be therapy – but I am sure it’s Larry Mindel music.
I’m proud of it. Proud that it’s actually been made – shaking my fist at fate, saying I exist, I am a sentient being. Proud of a collection of songs with thematic coherence. Proud that I know what I am doing - lyrically, melodically and harmonically - more than anyone would ever care about. Hey ho!
Proud also that other musicians – far better than me - have thought it worth their time and creativity to make this collection the best it can be. Alastair, PJ, Joao.... Particularly my collaborator Teo who has run with it, with unstinting commitment, beautiful ideas and a loving heart.
I think of Still as the next step on a path to find and then express what I feel. My path is usually overgrown (these days especially), but from time to time the dappled light comes through. I just want to be the best I can.
To walk again on a path where I can clear the brambles - and stride on.