These last couple of months have exposed some significant and worrying cracks in a crucial relationship for my working and personal life. Following weeks of fraught interactions and sullen tensions, it’s time to face the truth. Technology and I are having serious difficulties.
This might come as a shock to some of you, but it will not be a bombshell for those who know me well. I am that person who tries everything (drawing from an admittedly limited range of techniques) to make a device work (turn it off, turn it on again) and then fails. Enter someone else, ANYONE else (usually one of my children, or endlessly patient school IT colleagues), and with the simplest of key-strokes, the problem disappears. It’s maddening. I can actually feel my blood pressure rising as the aforementioned device sniggers at me, behaving impeccably for any other user apart from me. Anyway, in this vein, my computer and I have always endured a strained relationship which recently has tipped over the edge into pure hatred from both sides. I think it’s clear, there are challenging times for both of us ahead which may lead eventually to a conscious uncoupling.
I never cease to be in awe of people who have well rounded and fully functioning relationships with computers and the dizzying array of electronic devices doing the rounds. My brother has a PhD in something computer-y* that I’ve never properly understood and can’t keep asking him to explain. He’s always been able to relate to computers in a way that I just can’t, they genuinely don’t like me. It appears that, once again, I’m late to the technological table as I have recently discovered that an enterprising (fruit-bat crazy?) American found a permanent technology solution almost seven years ago for people (like me) who keep losing their headphones. Have them implanted into your skull. Of course.
Given all this, it the perfect time to discover an amazing new online initiative from Recovery College Online. This website curated by the Tees, Esk and Wear Vally NHS Foundation Trust provides “a range of online educational courses and resources to people with experience of mental illness, from service users to their family, friends and staff”. They have recently added a new Music for Wellbeing area which is extraordinary. Talking about the website on the radio this week, one of the creators said it could be particularly helpful during these challenging times as:
“The playlists are created to calm you down, enliven you, or offer self-care and self-management of your mood and feelings. There are also videos with music offer support for breathing and exercise.”
Obviously, given my computer and I are barely on speaking terms, it initially ignored my commands, requests and pleas when I visited the site and refused to even open the playlists. Instead it treated me to the ever-turning swirly-thing, known in this house as “the circle of doom”. Luckily for all involved my daughter arrived, spoke nice and calmly to the recalcitrant devil-box of diodes and it happily acquiesced. The effect of the playlist was pretty impressive and (along with hammock time and puzzle therapy) I highly recommend it for improving one’s mood! There are also playlists to energise and enliven you as well as some hugely informative breathing to music videos.
In other exciting online news, and in addition to the launch of YMH’s fabulous new website (thank you to all for your comments and feedback, please keep them coming), it was announced this week that a York School is creating all the music content for the online learning site Oak Academy. The site is well worth exploring if you have secondary age young people in your home who are missing being at school. Huntington School Music department staff (who unlike me clearly have computers that they’re friendly with), have done an amazing job and their lessons are superb, really intuitive, high quality, fun and easy to follow.
Away from the evil computer, the days are lengthening and the weather tentatively improves. Restrictions are eased**, sort of, and lockdown life feels both easier and harder to bear. As a fellow music teacher, a self-confessed hermit and therefore “loving Lockdown Life”, said to me recently “I bet you’re crawling the walls by now”.
She’s right. I miss my classes, my amazing colleagues, the ‘in-betweenness’ and of course all the extra-curricular activity that is the heart and soul of any music department. I am also missing the fundamental human contact that helps define us and, despite what some in the wider world might think, I am (along with every teacher I’m lucky enough to know) desperately missing being able to do my job in any real sense of that word. It’s the reason why we did another ‘street corner concert’ a couple of weeks ago, as a way of staying musically connected with the community. It wasn’t a perfect performance by any stretch of the imagination, but it was uplifting, cohesive and brought a smile to many a face. I don't care what you say, you can’t get that from a computer, especially a psychotic one that hates you.
|Bill Watterson 1993|
*’Natural Computation’. What even is that? Answers on a postcard.
** While remaining two metres alert at all times!