From the first time I heard Everybody’s Free to Wear Sunscreen on the Jo Wiley show on Radio 1, I think life started to make a little bit more sense.
It would have been the late 90s, in a small industrial unit, tucked away in Portsmouth, whilst sewing an ever increasing pile of furry legwarmers. Generally, I’d start the day with a dose of the Chris Moyles’ Breakfast Show. I don’t have any excuses. This ran into the Jo Wiley Show, where in my mind, I was likely to hear the best new music on a radio station (this is way before 6 music, Spotify or podcasts). Eg. Goldie Lookin Chain, who, it turned out, were playing The Wedgewood Rooms in Portsmouth that night. We had a call from Mr Shenton, sound engineer extraordinaire at the Wedge back then, saying there’s a bunch of Welsh rappers playing here tonight – you’ve got to come down! Newport, Newport, so good they named it twice.
The Sunscreen song, though, was different to anything I’d really heard before. I loved it’s sentiment, and it stopped me in my sewing tracks. I’d only heard of Baz Lurhnamm as having directed the latest (at the time) Romeo and Juliet film (1996), which I guess, gave it a different heritage and experience to other songs. I didn’t realise it then, but now I look back on the times in life when I’ve had to think A or B, (and before the lockdown meme that told us it was definitely B), I’ve referenced his lyrics more than a few times. Both in heartfelt matters and in very practical ways:
‘You are not as fat as you imagine’ – True dat.
‘Keep your old love letters, throw away your old bank statements’ – Makes clearing out an old drawer or cupboard so much easier.
‘Don’t be reckless with other people’s hearts and don’t put up with people who are reckless with yours’ – Sometimes, just sometimes, when you get that crushed feeling inside and really wish you could be anywhere else – it’s ok to walk away. Life can begin again.
‘Your choices are half chance and so are everybody else’s’ – Yes, come on humanity.
‘Friends come and go but with a precious few you should hold on, Work hard to bridge the gaps in geography and lifestyle’ – thanks Facebook. But yeah, now, more than ever, realising who those special people are. And if you could get on a plane, train or automoblie tomorrow who would you go and see?
‘Accept certain inalienable truths: prices will rise; politicians will philander; you too will get old and when you do, you’ll fantasize that when you were young prices were reasonable, politicians were noble and children respected their elders.’ – haha, one of my favourites.
I set out in this blog to try and make a light-hearted list of covid happening observations thus far into lockdown, by using the sunscreen song as a framework. However, having listened closely to Baz again this morning, it’s made me reflect on how much of his ‘advice’ I actually live by – and some notable exceptions that I ignore. But how it has helped me through the bleaker landscape of life, and also, not take too much for granted in the epic times. So I’m gonna start with Baz’s first piece of advice, and go on secondly, for me at least, to his most poignant.
Well, fuck that, I never do. I put it down to being a tweenager in the 80s. Caught between being a fabulous Chelsea Girl just wanning to have fun, whilst being drawn to the dark side and gothing up by wearing so much Leichner clown white on my face and fully clothed in black on black, that no uv radiation was gonna touch me. No one really wore sunscreen back then or had fake tans. It was the real Miami Vice deal or nothing. I’ve always loved the sun. I’m generally quite a busy person and sitting in the sun or, once upon a time, smoking a joint, were about the only two things in life that would make me properly sit still for a while.
So covid afternoons have been pretty much that for me. Feeling really appreciative to have a garden outside the back of a terrace house, I’d stretch my tortoise neck out of the back door to check the sun possibility (obviously I’d already checked my weather app the previous day). I’ve always been obsessed by the weather. I thought I’d be a weather person on tv for a lot of my childhood. The other day, my husband was talking to one of the young people working at Music Fusion and saying ‘my wife (me!) says this is the last of the sunshine for a while’. My weather advice was now being voiced around Portsmouth – what a responsibility – I spent the rest of the day hoping I’d got it right! Tortoise check in place though, I’ve been sitting in the sun, reptilianly lifting the odd arm or leg to turn a book page, touch a screen or lift a beer. And all without sunscreen. Sorry Baz.
‘Don’t worry about the future. Or worry, or know that worrying is as effective as trying to solve an algebra equation by chewing bubblegum. The real troubles in your life are apt to be things that never crossed your worried mind, the kind that blindsides you at 4pm on some idle Tuesday.’
I used to worry about a lot of things. My parents are adorable yet cautious creatures so I grew up carefully and without much risk. I grew up with children’s stories written about nuclear winters, and in an age where sex was dreadfully risky, and still not much talked about. Unless you were having sex without a condom when you would for sure get Aids or pregnant, both equally as awful according to the media.
But surely worrying is kind of a bad fantasy. We generally think of fantasies or daydreams as a good or positive thing, but our drifting into an imagined or improbable bad future is just as easy. And generally worry is just that. An imagined bad future. It hasn’t happened yet so its not real, but we are story tellers as a species and our imaginations are incredibly good at weaving tales to ourselves which can seem so real that our bodies then start reacting with real emotions. Thinking of worst case scenarios can definitely help us to plan for the future, but worrying about the worst case scenarios that we create can be really harmful to us. If it hasn’t happened yet, great, surely we’re still winning?
I would never have worried about having heart disease. Nothing was further from my mind when I keeled over in the Post Office. I could have been driving, or on my own at home up a ladder painting a ceiling (which is what I was doing two days previously). In both cases I would quite possibly be dead now. It absolutely was something that blindsided me at 10am on some idle Monday.
I never worried about a pandemic. Despite hearing on Radio 4 news every morning about the Wholesale Seafood Market closing in Wuhan, China in early 2020, to the first cases of the coronavirus being reported in Europe and then the UK. Brexit, Brexit, Brexit was all the politicians, the economy and facebook were worried about, and bang, here we are, pretty much the whole world in lockdown.
Here are 5 things I have learned:
1 If you need bubble bath don’t write bubbles on the shopping list or you’ll come home with prosecco
2 Watching too much ‘Money Heist’ can lead to random learning of Spanish phrases: ‘No manana, no – AHORA!’ – ‘Not tomorrow no – NOW!’
3 Don’t check your mate’s conspiracy theories online or that algorithm will hunt you down
4 Get a bird feeder / bird bath – birds are great and quite fighty
5 I’ve earned a beer just for staying in – right?
The future is uncertain, bloody uncertain, but I’m gonna stick with Baz, and deal with each bit of shit as it hits the fan, rather than the imagined shit that hasn’t even started flying yet. Hopefully not all of it will stick.
One thought on “Love in the time of covid #5 – Baz Luhrmann – Are we Still Free to Wear Sunscreen?”
This is great writing, Hannah! Punchy, witty and completely relevant. Brilliant!
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