Radio Saved me During Lockdown

This is an article I wrote a while ago describing how the comfort of radio helped me through a lonely lockdown.

The pandemic has helped loneliness mutate into a pandemic of its own. Isolating has become a normalised part of our lives; especially with the aftermath of the dreaded ping looming around all of us. We have become used to not seeing those we care about. Many have grown used to the loneliness that isolation brings. But is there an opportunity to ease this loneliness? We are surrounded by negativity. It can be overwhelming. Yet, it is so important to cling to any form of positivity we can. Sometimes this positive influence is hiding in places we may not think to look. 

I remember Christmas last year. All of my friends had gone home to their families yet I was unable to. I remember waking to a silence that filled the room and stuck. There was no “good morning” no one asking “how did you sleep?”- just quietness. Within those weeks I understood loneliness in a completely different way. My friends and family were out of reach, all I had was myself and my own thoughts: thoughts that became more and more negative as the time passed and I spent more time on my own. I have always been quite fond of my own company. After all, I have known myself since I was a little baby, so my assumption was that it would be okay. Yet I have found that the unattainable nature of companionship in lockdown turns your own company into something a bit more ominous. I have realised there is only so much of my own company I can handle. Yet, I soon discovered voices in a place where before there was only my own. In fact, I found a whole group of people who would speak to me throughout the day, sharing stories and music. I had discovered just how much I needed the radio.

Keeping active was intensely helpful when I spent most of my days stuck inside. Keeping physically fit helped keep me going through lockdown. Personally, I prefer to run with someone. Running with someone keeps me distracted, it takes away my tiredness. However, my running partner had gone home to her family, therefore, I had to find companionship through other means. I needed ways to make my one allowed outdoor exercise last more than ten minutes. Radio is where I landed, and it was a very smooth landing. Presenters became like friends who spoke to me every day. On my runs Greg James from Radio One talked to me and gave me something to focus on: he provided music that boosted my energy. The radio helped me through an activity that reduced my lockdown blues. His morning shows helped bring a smile to my face when positivity had been so hard to find.
After my runs, I had a day within the confines of my house awaiting me. Yet this seemed far less gloomy when I excitedly awaited the Radio Six presenters Shaun Keaveny at one, then Steve Lamacq at four. I couldn’t go out on the weekends, but I had Craig Charles’ ‘Funk and Soul Show’ to look forward to. I felt like part of a community. To quote one of the many songs I have discovered on the radio, “We’re isolated, but we’re connected because we are one”- this has been the experience of the radio for me. It helped me discover connection and contact when on the surface it seemed impossible.

A Disturbed Coffee

Whilst in Cholula we experienced an overwhelming amount of kindness from the people, however, this was not always the case. This blog is highlighting a particularly nasty man.

Molly and I enter a newfound cafe. It sits outside the main market of Cholula. The entrance to the cafe is confined with a coffee machine immediately to the left and a compact kitchen to the right. As we walk through a beautiful garden emerges. The upper terrace is surrounded by potted plants and holds three to four tables. As we continue a lower area with a couple of white plastic tables can be seen on a small patch of grass. This is our favourite spot as it is directly in front is a large horse paddock. 

However, we see two people sitting over a meal. In our favourite place. Neither of them are talking to each other so we decide to continue to the lower garden anyway. It is calm – a perfect place to read and enjoy the sun, so we both begin to open our books when suddenly “JOVEN!!”, from a strong American accent is screamed. A male waiter runs over to the table, to which, in a language he cannot speak, he is told “this is the best fucking nachos I have had in damn my life, not like the shit in America, this is the real shit”…then a harsh gesticulation over the food takes place and he asks for “Muchos Queso”. Slightly shocked, we wait for the waiter to come back so we can order a coffee. I take a look at the man who has just made me and Molly jump out of our seats. He has a white-bearded face that is scorched from the sun. He is holding a cigarette and I can see his large belly inflate further as he takes a drag. He is wearing a brown leather jacket over a grey shirt which is dotted with the “queso” he has just ordered more of.

I decide not to be so nosy and I turn away and try to read my book. The waiter comes and we order our coffees. As I begin to read, another “JOVEN” is shouted. This time, to a young boy selling necklaces. Again… “JOVEN” then turning his head away, an act that would have implied keeping this next speech to himself, had it not been so loud, he says “OR NIÑA – OR WHATEVER THE FUCK YOU PEOPLE CALL YOURSELVES”. The young boy approaches and nervously holds a board of necklaces. “Do you have a Rosario.. A ROSARIO”? The young boy holds a look of confusion and shakes his head. “ROSARIOS, DO YOU HAVE… TIENE ROSARIOS”. The young boy looks increasingly confused and shakes his head again, to which he is waved off by the American – who I have decided to call Richard (or dick for short if you prefer). 

A conversation is now started between Richard and the lady sitting across from him. She is a short Mexican lady wearing a smart jacket. They have google translate between them on the table. After saying “English” Richard begins to speak. He speaks of America and some business opportunities here in Mexico whilst the lady stays silent. 

After a brief conversation (or monologue more accurately) Richard goes to look at the nearby horses. He lights another cigarette and begins to speak to the owner. He is then taken around to inspect the horses. As he is gone the woman (who I shall call Maria) begins to talk on the phone. In Spanish, she speaks of her situation, of the unhappiness she feels and how she just wants a life for her children. She says she wishes she could stay in Mexico and with her qualifications she could get lots of jobs in the city. She speaks of this for a while until Richard comes back. He announces, pointing to a large grey stallion,  “I want to buy that horse over there, it has tried to kill that man four times but I can tame it”. As he says this another element of this confusing scene sheds light. The owner of the horses, Stella in hand, is having a phone call, and as he talks he begins to scream at the top of his lungs to the recipient. He is waving his arms around and kicking a horse trailer (hopefully the killer horse is not inside). The only words I can make out are “PUTA MADRE”. Richard, however, notices none of this and continues to talk to maria. He begins to speak of wanting more land for their ranch. As he talks the translation changes his harsh, Texan accent, into polite, robotic Spanish. Maria chips in, says “Español”, then begins speaking quickly and passionately, until the translator’s robotic voice passively says in English “I do not understand why you keep calling it our house, it is yours, I just want somewhere for my kids to run around, to have the space I could not. Stop calling it ours, it is yours”. With a slight pause, Richard says “Okay, Bueno. Well, as I have been saying… ENGLISH… as I have been saying, we need to get that land from your associate. I want to buy an acre from him so I can have a horse”. Maria replies, saying “ he does not have an acre to give. He has told me he does not have that much”. Richard raises his voice and responds “Well he is LYING, he is a fucking retard and he is LYING. I want that acre from him”. A slightly comical translation translates the phrase “fucking retard” into “Un hombre muy mal”. “You know I am a lawyer right?” Maria responds. A long silence ensues. I am still holding my book which reveals the same page from when I arrived. 

Richard starts to eat what must be some of the coldest fucking nachos he has had in his damn life and I look to Molly. I have not been the only nosy one in this situation and we both pull an expression of extreme discomfort. I have just noticed that my coffee is yet to arrive so we (at least our overpolite selves) are unable to leave. We also feel a strange sense of obligation to stay for Maria, although, what we can actually do I am unsure of. 

My coffee finally arrives and in the ensuing silence I begin to read some of my book; this is quickly disturbed. Richard speaks again, slowly and clearly saying “ENGLISH, well, this may sound silly, but, what would you say to me using violence. Now, hear me out here. What if I just choke the mother fucker out until he signs the damn contract. Would that be okay?”. His tone is the calmest and most controlled it has been since we arrived. Google translate coldly translates the loaded sentence. 

There is no immediate response, however, I can assume that Maria has had an emotive response, as after a brief silence Richard says “Okay, Lo Siento, lo Siento mucho… It was just an idea”. 

Richard and Maria exchange no more words and leave the cafe. Molly and I are left in silence.

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