• Alan Smith ACA

How long has it been since normal?

Updated: Oct 29

Its 6am Thursday 17:09:20 and percentages, probabilities and modelling are fucking with the stuff behind my eyes?

I awake, walk to the window and look out; recognising the weather of now so as to dress accordingly.


Naked, I walk to the bathroom to rid myself of night grime and prepare my body for some cladding. I shower followed by a solid rub down then throw the towel to one side, pull up my pants, drag t-shirt over my head and prepare to raise my trousers. With left leg lifted I punch into my left trouser leg with my descending foot and BOOMF! the foot and left leg is in. I repeat the action with the right foot and adjoined leg then with trousers applied I expose my lace tying handiwork to an approaching Norman… BOOFBAF! He’s on my laces, I fight him for the status of alfa lace controller and scrape a slim victory.

Norman and I then collect the dog essentials and set out on a walk with seasonal changes exposing themselves through a new range of colours, stretched shadows and air that feels colder regardless of the presence of the sun.

It’s now 6am 21:10:20. And the aforementioned scenario has been repeating daily since March 2020 with the last 6 weeks proving the hardest and darkest to date.


Every day starts with me saying good morning to no one, although today for a change I received a nice message from a friend asking me, 'how are you doing?' and empathetically saying, ‘it must get very lonely up there’. Throughout this time loneliness has been the greatest challenge, while I have always valued and sought out solitude as an essential part of life and made considerable efforts to create the right conditions to experience it, this is different. This covid-alone state is an imposition by an invisible that I apparently have to believe in and I MUST behave accordingly and at all times.


Serial instructions from the hospital tell me to continue shielding and take care not to expose myself to others who might pass covid on to me via this silent game of virus tag.

I’m sitting in our dining room. When we first moved into the schoolhouse 26 years ago we painted it deep deco red. The walls are now covered with artwork, they serve as reminders of times past when people would come here and made things - and made things happen. The familiarity of this room, this house of memories has moved from a normal familiarity to a new outlandishly normality that is not so familiar. Memories are now masked by emotions that strain to live once again. Covid has provided far too much time for searching for a purpose for this period and pushing me to realise that memory is as much to do with internal feelings as it is with tangible recall.


Perhaps this is not dissimilar to dealing with bereavement? It feels odd, but thinking deep and sometimes dark has become increasingly necessary through this obligatory covid solitude. Without covid it is highly unlikely that I would be in a mind-set to engage with the difficult subject of loneliness and have found a new way of remembering, what I've come know as ghost memories.

Loneliness: a distressing experience that occurs when a person’s social relationships are perceived by that person to be less in quantity, and especially in quality, than desired. The experience of loneliness is highly subjective; an individual can be alone without feeling lonely and can feel lonely even when with other people. Britannica

So why am I experiencing this feeling of loss, what is it that’s missing, could it have something to do with not being able to share things, places, time, journeys, human contact (no matter how brief) and spontaneous actions... remember them? All of my memories in the schoolhouse recall people in it and without them it’s hollow and so fucking quiet.

Sharing: is the joint use of a resource or space. It is also the process of dividing and distributing. In its narrow sense, it refers to joint or alternating use of inherently finite goods, such as a common pasture or a shared residence. Still more loosely, "sharing" can actually mean giving something as an outright gift: for example, to "share" one's food really means to give some of it as a gift. Sharing is a basic component of human interaction, and is responsible for strengthening social ties and ensuring a person’s well-being. Wikipedia


25:10:2020, Helen has returned from her road trip and is now in isolation in the west wing of the building, our separation fuels my feelings of ridiculousness and paranoia, but, medical advice tells me I have to be careful… but of what?


Paranoia: a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically worked into an organized system. It may be an aspect of chronic personality disorder, of drug abuse, or of a serious condition such as schizophrenia in which the person loses touch with reality.

Schizophrenia: a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behaviour, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.


There is a lot of talk about mental health at the moment which is as broad as its wide, so what is it? I believe it is the next pandemic and even more invisible than the virus.


Mental health: includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices.

Having spent the last sevenish months being mostly told what we can’t do or shouldn’t do and with information being mostly illogical, full of contradictions and forever changing it’s no wonder there are so many suffering with mental health problems, knowing what's real has become a challenge. It might be better to accept this ‘new normal’ and live it as we best see fit and fuck the rules (whatever they might be).


Normal: conforming to a type, standard, or regular pattern: characterized by that which is considered usual, typical, or routine normal working hours under normal circumstances. It was just a normal, average day. He had a normal childhood. Their reaction to the news was normal and expected.

So for normality to exist there has to be a regular pattern and purpose, not necessarily a pattern of our own making or one we control, but something we conform to, one that requires a routine and crucially meaning.

Routine: a customary or regular course of procedure. Commonplace tasks, chores, or duties as must be done regularly or at specified intervals; typical or everyday activity: the routine of an office. Regular, unvarying, habitual, unimaginative, or rote procedure.


I think I once had a routine but I’m unclear if it was of my making, or imposed on me? Whereas this covid routine has caught me hook line and sinker; I go to bed, dream, wake up, have a wee, have a cup of tea and a chocolate biscuit, get dressed, walk the dog, return home, make coffee, have a poo, eat breakfast then sit think and wonder… what's next, can I be arsed?

Motivation: a reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way. Escape can be a strong motivation for travel.


It feels much better when I’m busy with something, but getting started can be sticky. Norman my black dog gets me started every day, he needs me to take him out and yes I always feel so much better after doing so, he is also a good listener. This morning I was stood with a toasty fire behind me and with rain slamming into the windows in front of me, Norman was bouncing excited for his walk and I couldn’t wait to get out in it and feel the weather beating into me and reminding me that I'm alive. I reached for my waterproofs and wellies and opened the door just as the rain eased. Bastard! I internally cursed as I walked out into the nearly dry calm, can nothing be constant?


Constant: occurring continuously over a period of time, "the constant background noise of the city".


The constant coronavirus ramblings on the news, the constant coronavirus considerations that have to be made through every part of life, every action and the constant cravings for normality.


Its started raining again so I'm off out with Norm.



© 2018 Allenheads Contemporary Arts, Allenheads, Hexham, Northumberland NE47 9HR

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