For Lorna, front row lady. I didn’t know you well, but I saw you at every jazz gig, which you attended without fail. You took photos every time and shared them with the wider music community and they used them with your permission. You wore gorgeous hats and clothes made from patterned fabrics of texture and colour. You had been an art teacher in London and retired to the seaside, with an interesting and cultured past. You lived alone without family and I didn’t know your age, but I sensed you had had a life of fun and creativity, travel and joy. More than that, I don’t know. What I do know is that the day before lockdown you told a friend you were worried about what the isolation of lockdown would do to your mental health. You told him that seeing live music kept you alive. You died the other day. It seems you were right. Dear Lorna, what has this done to us as a community? The kindest, sweetest, most creative and beautiful people are suffering. The musicians who have brought as so much joy as a community are alone and isolated, unable to see an end to this new paradigm. Wedding rules for couples getting married are nuts: Couples must wash their hands before and after exchanging rings. They must speak their vows quietly. No singing allowed. No wind instruments. You couldn’t make it up! It is absolutely ridiculous.
What is an ‘underlying health condition?’ Well, we know about the obvious ones. It seems to me that just being alive is. And loneliness. I am not lonely, as I have family, and I am an artist and it is part of my nature to seek a certain hermitage. But so were you, and even the most monastic of us need others. We need community and conviviality. I know I do. I am going to drink wine with friends tonight and make a toast to you dear Lorna, because hindsight is not always a wonderful thing, as it makes you sit up and say, hey, I didn’t think to check in with you Lorna. I didn’t wonder enough if you were okay. Of course I hoped you were, but now I feel I didn’t do enough. I have been checking in with friends who I know are struggling, but why didn’t I check in with you? Dear Lorna, I am so sorry. I hope you had company, and music to listen to, and painting and friendship. For some reason this makes me cry today. I hope you are flying high with the music angels today. I wish you love and I wish you peace and I wish you music.
My friend John Donaldson’s Unity – Nearer Awakening by Bheki Mseleku