Our transactions define us. Each swipe of a card is recorded in some ledger that we can later playback to see where and what we were doing on any given day. We can see the impact of the lockdown in the transactions that are no longer there. For me the local chocolate shop is missing and so there are no longer those purchases for that ridiculously expensive 100% cocoa chocolate that is completely devoid of sugar. However, one and a half weeks into lockdown, the change in my recorded transactions, and the lack of my favorite chocolate, doesn’t come close to accounting for how I feel.
It is not transactions that are missing but rather the consensual interactions. It is not the paying for my cafe con leche descafeinado in the local bar that I have lost, but rather the hundreds of other interactions that surround my daily coffee. The smile of recognition from the barman, the kindness of the old lady to my left as she moves her shopping so that I can perch onto the bar stool - these are the things that make life worth living. These are the things that we have lost so profoundly. I know that we have to isolate to avoid infection from the virus - but in doing so we have lost the opportunity to infect each other with a smile.
I have always loved the intense, whether that is strong chocolate, coffee or cheese. The dance floor to me has always been one of those intensities, a distillation of the everyday into a compact loud space. A place where our dance infects those around us, our joy at movement spreading across the floor like a virus. We incorporate into our dance, aspects of our daily kindness as we shift, to let others pass, while still keeping our rhythm. The realisation that came instantly with the news of lockdown was the loss of the dancefloor. With this in mind I and others scrambled to create virtual equivalents. As lockdown has drawn on though, I realize that my every day is a dance, just slower and more considered. I write the story of my life in the memory of others with my very own choreography of daily interactions. Now with those interactions gone I struggle to express myself as if I have suddenly lost the power of speech.
The life as a dancefloor metaphor suits. I suppose when I sailed away from Brexit Britain back in 2017 I was leaving a club that I was growing to detest. It’s music was disharmonious, the sound clashes appalling and the clientele rude and obnoxious. The next venue was Portugal where the music was divine - tunes sung in the most poetic of languages. Though as I lingered I detected a hint of sadness that seems to permeate all, perhaps from the Fauda. Ultimately there just weren’t enough beats per minute to keep me dancing with any sense of conviction so I moved on. Next was Spain and I knew as soon as we had sailed into that first Spanish bay that I had found my night out. The rat tat tat cadence of Cadiz was the beat I had been seeking. As I passed through the dancefloors of Ibiza and Barcelona I found more to amuse and enjoy but it was when I entered Valencia that I knew that I’d found the place to dance the night away.
Valencia warms the soul with its sun and welcomes with open arms. I have never felt so loved outside of my native London. It is the dancefloor of my dreams. It is a place of contrasts and depths. The medieval Torres de Serranos sits on the banks of the old Turia river bed that now forms a massive park flowing through the city. Downstream, as it were, on the way to the sea sits the ultra modern City of Arts and Sciences. Though the atmosphere is calm and relaxed, there is life when you need it. Valencianos love noise as the annual Fallas festival attests. It was brutal that the lockdown came as the festival was getting underway. Valencia you have infected me with your spirit, with all of those tiny daily interactions. I have truly loved it here. I have found my home.
Now I stand on my chosen dancefloor. It’s space has expanded infinitely so that the other dancers are no longer visible. The sound has consequently slowed to less than a sub bass hum. I cannot move. I am totally lost - though I’m not though am I - because I have my grief - my knowledge of what was. I feel so totally what I have lost. I know, as deep down I always have, that it is not transactions that are missing from my life but those consensual interactions that are so much more important. I know that when the dance floor shrinks and the music speeds up and the daily dance is once again in full flow that I will cherish it more than ever. I will dance to infect others hearts and souls and others will dance to infect me.