A big lockdown breakthrough this week when finally, an online gig came off. Lots of enquiries to date – to which I have always said ‘yes’ and without needing to check my diary!
But this enquiry firms up. The agent calls - ‘Dom, this gig’s on. Get your shit together.’
A twenty minutes slot (they requested half hour) on Microsoft Teams to a bunch of European data analysts in the world of banking and finance.
‘Great, I can do my new routine on data analysis.’
And yet oddly, I was excited at the prospect. Not least because I haven’t gigged since March and had zero income.
But also for the shear challenge of the thing.
So for the first time in Lockdown, I pulled on a crisp white shirt which even drew the fleeting eye-line of Mrs H.
Normally a gig with a small audience is more challenging. I would prefer to have 500 than 50 people before me. More difficult to create an atmosphere on which to lean and hopefully, to surf. In a small crowd, it doesn’t take many disinterested non-laughers to make their presence felt. So an online gig with a small audience – not to mention the majority having English as a second language is foreboding.
And yet, bring it on. Needs must and all that.
So, in my newly ironed shirt, I sat down (carefully) in my lounge as the virtual conference began and I watched my fellow speakers discussing things in English and yet I hardly understood a word. And with each word - my anxiety grew.
Usually before a gig, I like to pace. Look at the room and get a sense and a feel. Try to observe things that I can back-ref (ease-in laughs, I call them). But no such opportunities with a lockdown gig. Just talking heads before me and no context.
Nice though, not having to drive for hours to some conference centre. And nice to be wearing slippers for a gig, albeit odd slippers because my dog, Tessa has a fetish. As my slot approaches, old habits resurface. I run my links and key beats. I write a few notes and carefully order the wording of how I might begin. In any anecdote, there are natural beats for laughter and I like to lean heavily on pauses – both as a way to eke out laughter but also to account for a lack of decent material. But this is a brave option when my audience is muted.
With a Q n A to close – my 20 minutes slot quickly becomes 45 minutes by the time I hit END MEETING and the agent is immediately in touch - it’s been a triumph.
Which is when the euphoria hits me.
Sure, the income is welcome but it is the sense of achievement that is even more valuable and timely. Because self-esteem is invaluable and it occurs to me that it might be the hidden cost of lockdown.
And especially so for those who are furloughed and being paid by governments to stay at home and do little work and let’s face it, in some cases, nothing.
This gig demonstrates that there is a hidden cost to doing nothing. Because we forego the benefits of achieving something and that this might even be compounded by a sense of shame for getting something for nothing.
Much is made of Covid 19 and its impact on mental health. Lockdown highlights the cost to our mental well-being when we don’t have the purpose of work and the structure it provides. And I write as someone without the ruinous financial worries that plague some people.
On the radio this morning, a survey is announced that people who volunteer in their community live longer and happier lives – which I interpret as proving this very thing.
I am writing a new novel in lockdown. It might never be published; this will depend on what emerges and how good it is. But even if it never gets an ISBN, it has filled my diary, provided me with some hope and therefore is already worth it and my time. For those interested, the first ten chapters are on my Patreon site.
Being stretched is important – and believe me, how many times in my life have I wished that I could be stretched.
The gig was a success. And thank God, because my next one is not until October. But being stretched is most helpful in areas of our competence.
Imagine then the horror at the end of my presentation on Microsoft Teams – when the moderator thanks me and then throws the forum open to questions…
Always an anxious moment for a speaker. No questions being the equivalent to a thumbs down by the Roman Emperor.
But fortunately, there are lots of people with questions and the relief in the moderators voice is unmistakable. And for me, too.
Our first question for Dominic, is from Christian in Copenhagen…
(and I kid you not)
“What do you think banks should do when it comes data sharing and the issues of financial trust?”
Talk about a stretch too far.