By Lizi Perry, scarf-wearing Co -Artistic Director of The Roaring Girls.
On Saturday I cried in the middle of a Lidl car park.
Guys, it’s been a long month.
Five weeks ago, we were on a train on our way to London, discussing whether we should be performing our show at Vault Festival, given the rising numbers of Covid-19 cases, but knowing that we couldn’t afford to cancel. Whilst we were on our way down, Johnson gave the announcement that people should stop non-essential contact, and avoid the theatre.
That evening Vault Festival cancelled all shows, we became part of the “lost week”, and we spent a solitary night in our lovely AirBnB – complete with ironic artwork:
"The show must go on."
The next morning, we travelled back to Hull. Since then all of our tour dates have been cancelled or postponed due to the current lockdown. And just like that this culmination of years of work and anxiety, this time for our company to step up and prove ourselves, this moment of momentum and excitement… it all just spluttered to a stop.
As did most of the country.
And it all feels like a strange moment of stillness.
Today is my Grandpa’s funeral.
And it's heartbreaking not to be there.
It’s a strange time for us all, and I know that I am not the only person grieving, or the only person feeling the distance between themselves and their family at this time. But I can’t help but feel so very far away.
After cancelling our tour, cancelling a trip home, losing freelance work, losing my job (the one I had to fill in gaps in freelance work…), and the death of my grandfather, the fact that my car wouldn’t start was just more than I could cope with. So, I sat in my car, in the Lidl car park, waiting to be recovered, and I had a little cry.
And I couldn’t decide whether the fact that the recovery technician was able to instantly start my car after I’d waited an hour was a relief, or an additional frustration…!
My instinct, in such a moment of distress, was to call my mum – to have someone to cry to. And it got me thinking about home, and where home is. As Dorothy said, there’s no place like it.
I grew up near Cambridge, in a village in Essex called Steeple Bumpstead (it’s not as quaint as it sounds). In what I believe to be the correct way of judging the size of a settlement, it is a two-church-two-pub village.
For so much of my life, this was home – a place I still hold with great affection, and could draw you a map of blindfolded. My world expanded as I went to school in Saffron Walden and sixth from in Cambridge – the streets there still feel so familiar and comforting, even though they’ve changed since I last was there. But I’ve lost touch with a lot of old friends – and while still in contact with a few people in the area, I haven’t visited in a while. Because I love these places, and they’re etched on my heart, but they’re not home anymore.
My parents moved to Cornwall a few years ago, and my grandparents followed them soon after. Cornwall has always been a place of significance for my family – both my parents were born there, it is where my father’s parents were married and where they are buried, and we often returned there on family trips – spending a rainy February half-term break in a cottage, or an equally rainy summer on a camp site. So when my parents decided to move there I was delighted, and the 390 mile trip from Hull was worth it for summer visits that felt like vacations, and walks on the beach on Boxing Day.
It’s a long journey, but I quite enjoy driving down the motorway with Christmas music blaring, or even napping on an overnight megabus and arriving in time for breakfast.
Sometimes it’s a shame to not be able to pop over and see family, and sometimes it’s a blessing as they can be avoided…! Right now, at a time when I wish I could run home and envelope my mum in huge hug, it feels an age away.
When I visit I say I’m “going home”, but I’ve never lived there. It’s still sort of strange to see such familiar furniture in an unfamiliar place. But it’s filled with the smell of my mum’s cooking, and the sounds of my dad’s whistling, and it feels comfortable. I wish I was there right now, but it’s not home.
When I came to Hull for university I had no idea I’d return and live here so long. I didn’t know it would become the place I call home. I love Hull. I love the parks and the pubs. I love the art that’s hidden round the city – statues and grafitti and little areas adopted by communities. I love seeing the Humber Bridge from a train window and knowing you’re nearly there. I love chip spice. I love saying words like “mafting”.
I don’t know that I’ll be here forever, but I am glad to be here for now. I’m glad to have made friends and found my people, and started a company here. And I think that’s what feels disconnected right now. I like my flat, and sitting by the window in the sunshine, and wearing pyjamas all day, and chatting to Rachael in the evenings. But part of what makes this place home is connected to the freedom to go out, to see people and to feel independent.
So I just feel a little lost right now.
And don’t get me wrong – all of this is not to suggest that you shouldn’t stay home, that it’s not necessary right now. Because it absolutely is. And I know how lucky I am to be able to socialise online, to keep in touch with friends via WhatsApp, to drink a toast to my Grandpa over Zoom.
For the time being then, I will cherish the little moments of joy. Like running a quiz via facebook live and accidentally giving away an answer – which I’m sure I’ll never live down, but was a moment of pure hilarity. Like receiving discovering a box of doughnuts left on the doorstep – a delivery arranged by a friend, and scoffing a huge yum-yum almost immediately. Like catching up with a mate, from a safe distance, as he tries to help me jump start my battery in the Lidl car park.
And sometime soon, I hope, I’ll be able to repay those friends by buying them a pint, and go on tour with The Roaring Girls, and maybe even make my way 390 miles to give my mum a hug.
Stay home, stay safe, look after each other, we’ll see you soon.