Coronavirus and self isolation have broadly inspired everyone who is not a key-worker to do one of three things:
– Sit at home, do nothing, order take-aways and masturbate on the hour, ever hour.
– During this imperative time to stay home, take up some kind of exercise regime, convince themselves that they won’t get sick or find themselves in trouble when out and about, as it’s really only just everyone else who needs to stay home, after all, they’re ‘just getting what they’ve been told they can have by the Prime Minister’, who has only just come out of an Intensive Care Unit; even though up until this point, they have usually been the type of person who would normally fit into my first point.
– Now is my renaissance! I can learn new skills. Fuck it! I’m going to be the next Mozart! I just need to learn how to play the piano…
Well, I have dipped my toe into all of the above categories over these lonely weeks. But, up until now, I have spent my whole life in the theatre or performing arts and often my free-time vs. work-time balance has been heavily see-sawed on the work side. And I know during this enforced sabbatical, that I could write a play, I know I could create YouTube videos and live-stream my daily life and professional insights, like a sort of disappointing Joe Wickes meets Martin Lewis. In fact, I tried that, but gave up after satirically teaching the people of Twitter how to make beans on toast via their go-live function. It was unsurprisingly popular.
I know I could be using this time selflessly for others. I am already creating support and information services for actors via The Show People Podcast, so feel my energy is already being directed to something good, and that in itself takes up a lot of my time simply to interview, edit and share original audio content worldwide. I am constantly seeing what possible money I can bring in during this barren time for the self-employed too. The devil does indeed, find work for idle hands – but what to do with them?
What I really needed – no, what I wanted – was a hobby; something that was so completely different to my everyday life and work. I wanted something tangible and crafty; something real, rather than the digital landscape of social media, podcasts and the other that I’ve found myself willingly exiled to. I wanted something that come-an-evening, I could focus on using my hands in a manner that wasn’t like the people I mentioned in the first category above. I wanted something new, exciting and that would teach me new skills without feeling the pressure of creating an opus akin to a great 18th century composer.
I had already finished the various odds-and-sods around my flat. My office chair that had squeaked for over three years was finally silenced with WD-40, the eight rolls of posh wallpaper that I bought when I moved into the flat had been hung, the kitchen repainted, shelves built and my Acacia Palm had never received so much TLC. I enjoy making things, be it art, digital content or DIY. But I couldn’t think of a hobby that was really a hobby – everything else seemed to have a means to the end, and the end was nearly always connected back to my career as a theatre director.
One night, I felt depressingly low. A great number of my friends had reached out to me asking for someone to listen to, of course I was there, and I listened as they told me of relatives and friends who had died due to Covid-19 – and the trauma of not being able to be near the person they loved as they died. My mum and sister (both carers and nurses) looked dead on their feet via video calls; the burden of this bastard virus weighing down their eye-lids and their morale. Like osmosis, I was taking on the worries of those I loved and the news became the twenty-four-hour soundtrack of my life. I needed to make a den and do what I have always done when I feel like fragile or sad: I raided my cupboards of every maize-based snack and chocolate covered confectionary, got into bed and looked for something to watch on the tele that could help me forget about the war with Coronavirus.
I scrolled through my favourite Science Fiction and Fantasy films. I didn’t want to just escape the way I was feeling – I wanted a totally different universe for a couple of hours. I turned on my TV and scrolled through my favourite films from childhood: Bicentennial Man, Jurassic Park, Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, Ghostbusters, Labyrinth, The Nightmare Before Christmas… Back To The Future (as this point, dear reader, I’d like to you think of Alan Silvestri’s triumphant herald intrinsically associated with the film ‘Daaaa – da da – da da da – daaaaa!).
As I munched through thirty-six Jaffa Cakes, a large packet of Nice’N’Spicy Nik Naks and guzzled a flagon of Ribena, finally came an iconic moment in the first film. An OUTATIME numberplate reversed into shot, engulfed in dry ice and the camera panned to reveal a DMC logo proudly adorning the grill of a DeLorean. Already feeling childlike, the thirty-three year old Andrew Keates whispered the same thing the ten year old me used to say,
“I wish I had a DeLorean”.
Hours later, I would find myself googling ‘build your own DeLorean’. Of course, the thought of building any time machine during this nightmare was always going to be appealing, especially considering the prospect of seeing how and when this Covid-19 purgatory will end. For a few seconds, I considered making a life-sized version, but quickly remembered that this would come with an exorbitant cost and the barrier that I don’t know how to drive a car.
Instead, I started to find plastic scale-models of the various iterations of the DeLorean from the Back To The Future franchise. The first with its lighting rod, the second with its turned up wheels and Mr. Fusion reactor, and the final locomotive cannibalised version. I watched a few clips on YouTube of people building these mini-Ds. The hobbyists weren’t just throwing them together, but rather like precision engineers, sanding, priming, gluing, airbrushing and finessing these kits for children aged 12 and up and enjoying a process of crafting some chunks of plastic into a scale model George Lucas would be impressed by.
After much research. I found a company called Kent Models who sold an Aoshima 1/24 scale Back To The Future II DeLorean Time Machine and bought it.
Days past like the time-circuit on Doc Brown’s infamous time shifter. Eventually, my postman arrived with a package from my past and tossed it to me from five meters away. I prised it open and instead of the dry ice and orchestral music, I only saw hundreds of tiny plastic parts and instructions written by a nuclear physicist. I was going to have to learn some serious shit. I doubted myself. This would be the beginning of learning how to do something new. A whole new skillset. I had so many questions. What was a sprue? How am I able to paint this thing without leaving brush-strokes? What kind of glue do I need? I took a moment and new that this was perfect. I was about about to embark on an adventure that would require concentration, commitment and learning new skills. And then I remembered, if you’re gonna build a time machine, why not do it with some style?
To be continued…
As I progress with my time-machine, I’ll update The DeLorean Diaries.