Updated: May 31
No Man Is An Island – except where they are forced to be, right?
My small dream of a quiet cottage, by the sea, on an island (preferably of the west coast of Scotland), with a log fire, lots of books, a bottle of whisky or gin, and a comfy sofa with lots of cushions and a big blanket has been all that has kept me going so far throughout any madness, particularly COVID-19, but I now need to ramp it up.
Between schools closing-not closing; late updates on ‘Key Worker’ lists that include everyone and their dog really, because in our interconnected society, who isn’t key to keeping the cogs of capitalism going? having to take a moral stance on who can work from home and conversations with, therefore, angry and understandably strung out parents; my own teenagers being under what they call ‘house arrest’ (tough love is, after-all, tough…) and keeping a whole staff buoyant who are rightly freaking out about exposure to the most aggressive and deadly virus humanity has encountered in our modern times; I need to up my mental game to stay healthy. I won’t be on my own.
So I played a game in my head! Desert Island Discs (I am sure this needs a ‘c’ in a circle, but you know what I mean?), and my top 10 essentials for making yourself an island in your own home… herewith my essentials!
Those of you who know me know that I love music, and I am singing. All. Of. The. Time. I don’t care how badly I sing, I love it and there are some songs that just lift my heart and take me right out of the situation I am in, some even give me a sense of euphoria (without any illicit drug taking). Perhaps this is associative and subliminally I am thinking of the emotion I felt at the time I heard that tune, or what I was doing, who knows, but there is a reason for the saying ‘Where Words Fail, Music Speaks’ (good old Hans Christian Anderson, he obviously had a way with words!).
So, which tunes can I not live without? Here goes, for a wee list – although not a definitive one… and remember, you need to pick to match your mood… dancing around the house, mellow by a fire, having a cry, face timing your mates…. variety is key here!
Ben Howard – First 2 albums in their entirety (there isn’t one bad song!), any and all of his acoustic stuff. Check this out if you are not sure of him, your life will be revolutionised! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Men2J9uebI&list=RD6Men2J9uebI&start_radio=1
Kings of Leon – Entire library. Truly uplifting music!
Mumford and Sons - Entire library. No explanation needed!
Ed Sheeran – See above!!
Sam Garrett – Pretty much all of his music. Again, check this out – I challenge anyone not to love this! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y05BMSZ_HKI&list=RDY05BMSZ_HKI&start_radio=1
Catfish and the Bottlemen – All 3 albums. Genius!
Saint Raymond – All, If you haven't listened, then do!!!
Bob Marley – Anything!
Aloe Black – ‘You Make Me Smile’.
Callum Scott and Calvin Harris – Anything! You know it makes sense!
Finally, no decent Desert Island playlist would be complete without a bit of Eminem, George Ezra, 50 Cent, and Mary J Blige… Gaz Coombes, Gerry Cinnamon, Lewis Capaldi, Billie Eilish, James Bay and Nirvana…
"There is a reason for the saying ‘Where Words Fail, Music Speaks’"
Seriously. BOOKS! Get into reading!
I love reading anything, the classics you may not have read since school; from Jane Austen to the complete works of Shakespeare, the plays of Oscar Wilde to the poetry of Wordsworth. Let the worlds created by others envelope you in their beauty and escape into the words of others. Contemporary literature, biographies of amazing people like Michelle Obama, books on leadership and sport like ‘Legacy’. Read anything! You can access all Amazon books online now for free, too, so there is little excuse!
"Let the worlds created by others envelope you in their beauty and escape into the words of others"
3. Physical Activity & Exercise
Ok, so this may prove easy or may not. You may think, this is beyond me, you’d be wrong! My first port of call would be the (now daily) Joe Wicks workout that is streamed live each morning. The 7 minute workout app for your phone is SO EASY for all levels, that would be
my second stop. YouTube pilates … or just combine exercise with existential no.1 and just dance like mad around your house, you won’t have visitors so there will be nobody to laugh at you (or dance with you for that matter)!
You can also do lots of body weight exercises and as you get better, use cans of beans or bottles of water which will add weight. Best ones I think, although watch YouTube to make sure your form is right, would be squats (who doesn’t love these???), lunges, bicep curls, triceps extensions, plank (if I could put a ‘green face’ emoji in here, I would – I am not a fan, by any means!), and crunches… Finally, burpees are amongst my favourite exercises in the world and – deep joy - can be modified to suit all fitness levels.
There is nothing better than the little treats you love at a time like this. For me, feeding my body nutritious food, home-cooked, and trying new recipes is a family favourite. We do a version of ‘Come Dine With Me’ in my house, we cook and judge … it can be scathing (when I got 2 out of 10 for my courgettie) but also hilarious. My daughter made a fab banana and chocolate chip bread yesterday, and although it took me an hour to clean the kitchen, this was also part of the fun. Food and drink is essential to all aspects of our health and wellbeing, from releasing feel-good hormones to helping regulate healthy sleeping patterns. The right food and drink, at the right time is truly good for the soul, use this period we have to choose and develop the healthy habits you've neglected.
I am not accustomed to sitting around and watching TV. It is obvious to those who know me that my strategy in life for avoiding self-reflection about my inadequacies, social anxiety, and general weirdness is to keep myself as busy as possible, so sitting down for an hour or two is not really something I do. BUT, I am preparing myself with my all-time favourite movies to just embrace slobbing out (will combine with 4, and do after 3 so all should be well!)
If you need inspiration and to widen your movie repertoire, mine are (in no order at all):
The English Patient, Local Hero, Out of Africa, Peaky Blinders, Luther, Band of Brothers, Lord of the Rings, Pacific and Harry Potter box sets, Avatar, Star Wars box sets, Marvel!
6. Garden & Shed Tidy
I am planning on this to break the day up when I am working from home. We will all need to get outside for a little while and being productive will aid in a sense of satisfaction and productivity, as well as an essential dose of Vitamin D. I am going to tidy my sheds, paint them, and tidy my garden.
7. Tidy Wardrobes, Fridges & Cupboards
Don’t leave out your worst storage spaces!
This is a great opportunity to colour code your shelves and hanging spaces or simply sift out things that could go to a women’s refuge, a charity shop, a community organisation that clothe the vulnerable for nothing etc. wedding dresses can go to charities that make funeral attire for still born babies, bras can go to 3rd world charities that protect women from rape, you can play Ready Steady Cook’ with the random items you locate in your kitchen cupboards - it’s time to get inventive.
Light those special candles, do an online art class, colour in, do a jigsaw, sing. Learn to be! Essential no. 1 may help! connect with your emotions and be present with them, understand why they are there and interact appropriately with them, practicing self-care.
I am never without my phone or my camera – you can take close ups in the garden, or random sky shots, or daft selfies all day long. The funny thing about this is that it will help chronicle your time in lock down! One day, when this is over, it will be consigned to a dusty memory, like child birth, too painful to revisit and impossible for the mind to embrace. So the images will prove a funny way of recalling the days and weeks and combined with essential no.8 could make for a best seller and something that lives on in posterity – think a 2020 Samuel Pepys!
10. Notebook – for a diary!
There is something so satisfying about the feel of a nice pen and writing in a beautiful book. Obviously e-diaries will count, but imagine if you made a scrap book diary with your photos and thoughts of the next few weeks, your children and grandchildren and their children will read it in amazement that in our day and age, a mere bug caught us all out and brought our modern and fast paced world to its knees in just a few short weeks!
Your reflections on this, and the observations we have made on humanity, will entertain, baffle and disgust us all for years to come. From the fraudsters who are targeting the vulnerable families claiming free school meals, to the people clearing shelves of loo roll and milk, from the new Key Worker #moderndayheroes (such as lorry drivers, cleaners, education and NHS staff) and those long associated with hero status, our armed forces, our world has shifted and hopefully we will value different things in the aftermath. Now is the time to write the history of the future.
"Now is the time to write the history of the future"
It would be wonderful to think that the world will remember these dark days and who stepped up as key, but as we know, there are veterans from every military campaign who are left on the streets, armed forces, NHS and education staff who have had pay freezes, had their public image completely eroded in the last 40 years, and have had to fight for the respect they have deserved. So let’s see what happens when the dust has settled, but this is a time for us to rethink, and reframe our work and life practices, what we believe is important, and finally how we treat both one another and our planet.
Dr. Victoria Carr
Headteacher, British Army Reservist & TEDx Speaker
"This is a time for us to rethink, and reframe our work and life practices, what we believe is important, and finally how we treat both one another and our planet"