“The lonesome hum from my desklamp is where I find my heaven” – Gigolo Aunts.
“Nothing’s gonna change my world” – Lennon/McCartney.
At lunchtime last Friday, spookily Friday 13th March 2020, I opened the door of my flat and came inside and into my bedroom. In a district of north Warszawa in Poland’s cool, calm capital. This bedroom has been my home for 10 months now. Before that, I rented rooms in Ochota and Praga Północna (Warszawa) and in Aniolki, Stare Miasto and Brzezno (Gdańsk). Before that (July 2016), I was a long term nomadic aimless backpacker with a green and white shirt and a Northern Ireland flag. That all changed. Now things have changed again.
“Going down to Lonesome Street” – Damon Albarn.
Getting back to last Friday, the 13th March 2020, I wasn’t sure at the time when I closed my door that day, but it would be the longest time for years and years that I would spent 98% of the next 7 day period inside the same 10 x 10 metre squared area. In fact, I couldn’t even remember the last time I stayed in one place for so long. It is not a prison, it is not quarantine, it is my personal self-isolation decision. I do not have Coronavirus, nor have I had it or shown any symptoms of it. I just don’t want to get it and pass it on. I just don’t want Poland to go the same way as Italy, Iran or China, if that is even possible. Prevention is the best cure.
“You come in on your own and you leave on your own” – Richard Ashcroft.
But the hard facts hit home: My parents are both in their 70s. I was worried about them for weeks, especially as my Mum travels a lot on boats and flights to and from Northern Ireland and England. But finally I was glad that neither are travelling at present. For me, the decision not to travel anymore and stay at home was easy. And staying at home is easy. One of the easiest decisions I ever made and one of the easiest things to do. It’s easy for me because I adapt very quickly to change and new situations. No doubt backpacking the world for years on end aided that. I find it easy to move into a new flat, a new city, a new country. It was a no brainer and a no painer.
“Under neon loneliness, motorcycle emptiness” – Manic Street Preachers.
Here are some things that have changed in the past seven days, my first seven days in “isolation”.
1.Writing A LOT more
Blog production, email writing, poetry and just general writing has increased, almost double I’d say, perhaps triple. All those unwritten and unfinished blog posts I started to complete and upload. On Sunday alone, I wrote FOUR brand new blog posts from scratch, at a canter. None of them were even sponsored posts or advertising, which is usually the reason for multiple rapid posting. This time, no. I have more time to write now, so naturally I do. I have also started to put ALL of my old poetry and songs onto my Jonny-Blair site which was originally my Business Backpacker website, but I now want to use for poetry and writing. I will continue to write more and more, the longer I am confined to these four walls. I love writing, it is for me the greatest non-sexual pleasure I have.
“In a room there’s no other faces, I sit alone here, let through the night” – Dodgy.
2.Eating A LOT less
Again, I eat less food, which is natural and obvious. I have been out shopping ONCE for a 20 minute period during the last 7 days, and apart from taking the rubbish to the bin outside, that is the ONLY time I have left my flat in 7 days. Because I am not as active and not moving all over the city of Warszawa, my body needs less food. I couldn’t handle a hat-trick of meals a day now, and I don’t need or crave it. Tea with toast, fruit, yoghurts, crisps, biscuits and one main meal a day is sufficient. I may even resort to a diet of tea and toast only at some point. It’s easy to survive on the bare minimums. Luxury food like power kebabs, swanky soup and pierogi doubles, and eat in pizzas are off the agenda. Peanut Butter or cheese on toast loyal? A cup of the Earl grey and an apricot yoghurt and I can write for hours.
3.Drinking ZERO alcohol
I am a drinker, I always love a drink, especially new beers, craft beers and pub style environments. I have always been a very sociable guy who loves being out and about in bars and pubs. However, the fact that they are shut makes the decision up for me, I don’t need to go any more. I had two beers in my fridge last Friday so I drank one on Friday night and the last one on Saturday night, knowing that I wouldn’t need or want any more beer or alcohol for a prolonged period. I won’t sit at home and drink alcohol on my own – I prefer to do it in bars and pubs. I prefer to drink with friends. This is a good time for me to retox and detox, something I have done often before but maybe this time will be the longest one…
2009 – 6 months with no alcohol due to being in love (with an exception if I was abroad which I did twice)
2010 – 3 months with no alcohol while working on farms in Tasmania
2015 – after a boil on my forehead and an unknown illness, I took 8 weeks off alcohol
2016 – depression and suicidal thoughts caused by a serial liar meant 6 weeks off alcohol
2018 – Alcohol free for 4 weeks in January
2019 – Alcohol free from 4th February – 4th March
2020 – Alcohol free from April 14th
“Work is the curse of the drinking classes” – Oscar Wilde.
Does my body feel better? YES YES YES 100%! There’s no need to drink alcohol now and I love that.
4.Visiting NO bars, pubs, cafes, clubs or restaurants
As there is nowhere really open nearby, this was also an easy decision to make. Perhaps it gives me time to finally write about all those favourite Wi-Fi cafes and bars that I love to do my writing in. My long awaited books, Backpacking Centurion and Seek Well were written in bars, cafes and buses etc. all over the world. Now that they are totally finished, maybe I can proof read them in more detail and get them released sometime. To be totally honest, those 4 books were finished in April 2015, with the extra edits in Poland really just hours here and there.
“I’m staying in, I can’t be bothered making conversation with friends that I don’t know” – Noel Gallagher.
5.Physically touching nobody else
I haven’t touched physically anyone for 9 days! That is without doubt the longest ever period in my life of not doing that. No hugs, kisses, handshakes not even a tap on the shoulder. I shook Rafal’s hand when getting off a bus near my flat on Wednesday 11th March 2020. I don’t need physical human contact any time soon.
“Every time we touch, I get this feeling and every time we kiss I swear I could fly” – Cascada.
6.Speaking to parents on Webcam EVERY day
I have never been good at keeping in touch with my parents, I know it, they know it. When I lived in Tasmania I probably even went a whole 4-6 weeks without chatting to them. I didn’t have a mobile phone or internet back then. However I always tried to post letters and send postcards. The years after I left Hong Kong, I was still bad at keeping touch. Now, we Skype everyday. Sometimes twice a day. That might be normal or inadequate for some people, but for me it is more than I did before. Backpacking through African countries with no Wi-Fi, shit receptions, grey screen loyal, refresh on repeat etc. made those days infuriating. So now at least we speak everyday. I will have to do that with my brothers and sisters more too.
“My family don’t seem so familiar” – Noel Gallagher.
7.Resting a lot more
Ever heard of sleep? I live fast, I usually survive and thrive on six hours sleep per day. As I once wrote in one of my poems, “I stay out late and get up early, I take it slow when I’m in a hurry”. I even woke up at 11 am one day this week. I kid you not.
“You can fight the sleep but not the dream” – Neil Finn.
“Sleep can’t hide the thoughts splitting through my mind” – Nicky Wire.
Showering for longer, washing hands more often, wearing less clothes with no need to over wash every clothes item now that my entire wardrobe is clean and it takes me a week to even fill a washing machine load. Overall my body feels very fresh, healthy and clean. Probably the lack of nights on the rip hasten this observation.
“Illusion never changed into something real” – Natalie Imbruglia.
9.Working Online – Teaching, Blogging, Writing, Editing
I am working more. It is amazing that I work harder at home. My working life has always been wide and varied. From my farming days, to the barwork (which I loved and miss) to my teaching. Becoming a professional travel blogger in 2013 changed my life, but possibly for the worse as it meant too much freedom, having no home, writing for endless companies and chasing money. I decided to give up teaching completely for a couple of years from 2014 to 2016. Yet in Poland, I have been able to balance a lifestyle since 2016 of teaching, writing, marketing and travelling. To be honest, in deep depression, my mixed and varied working life never suffered, and undoubtedly saved my life. I want to work every day.
“Dear Sir or Madam, will you read my book? It took me years to write, will you take a look?” – The Beatles.
Now that I am homebound, I STILL work every day. I got into online teaching now, via Skype, Google Hangouts, Webex and Whereby (all great apps) and have some clients based in Poland instead of face to face lessons. Okay, teaching is better face to face, but this is a pandemic. On the blogging and writing side, sponsored posts, writing and editing all continue at present and I am working a lot. I am more productive now.
10.Spending less money
The huge factor here is by not going out, I hardly spend any money. I truly can live on water, bread, tea and bananas. I love not having any luxury and trying to save some money. It’s so easy not to spend money now.
“We are not allowed to spend, as we are told that this is the end” – Nicky Wire.
This is only the end of week one in some kind of hibernation, but it has been easy. I could do this for years as long as it keeps my friends, family and myself safe. I’ve seen enough of planet earth for a lifetime. We can play Subbuteo on kitchen tables as a substitute for a Warrenpoint v. Glentoran match.
However, I still miss my family, going down the pub for a beer, meeting my mates in Poland, England or Northern Ireland to chat cow excrement in bars, watching live music, groundhopping and finding new Wi-Fi cafes. Those avenues are currently closed, and they will return sometime. Hold on tight. Ob la di, Ob la da.
“Ob la di, ob la da. Life goes on. Oh oh ho life goes on” – The Beatles.
Stay at home, stay safe, keep your loved ones happy and healthy. Together we can get through this, stronger on the other side.