Things are going to be different. Really different...
So I was back to work on Sunday 8th March. Two gigs down (one in an arts centre in Walton on Thames, and one in a cocktail bar in Soho) and another four the following week. A slightly quieter few weeks ahead, but I had jobs to get on with, last minute gigs often came in anyway, and I'd had a busy start to the year anyway (luckily for me - most musicians I knew had had a typically quiet January and February). So it was business as usual.
There were scarey stories on the news about the outbreak, but we were told we were all going to get it, and once we did then it would fizzle out and we could get on with our lives. While all this was happening some at-risk people might have to stay at home and wash their hands a bit more often. A few people started talking about gigs being cancelled but none of mine had been yet. I joked that I had a quiet couple of weeks coming up in April so maybe I could hang with someone who had the bug then and get it over and done with. The news all seemed a bit gloomy anyway so I didn't follow it too much.
Me and my wife snuck in a cheeky last-minute trip to the local theatre on Tuesday night (a slightly odd comedy called Corpse, but we felt pleased to be enjoying theatre on our doorstep and vowed to get along more often). I wouldn't see her on Wednesday because I was going to be out gigging, and I had a funeral to play for in Welwyn Garden City on the following moring too.
An extra gig popped up for the Thursday night playing in Hertford theatre, playing trombone for someone who needed cover at the last minute. A top 1920's style orchestra - always fun to play with them. I nipped up on the train from Finsbury Park, with my trusty folding bike, my trombone and a dj tucked into a rucksack. The audience was slightly thinner than usual and the band leader looked a bit worried, but nothing seemed too amiss. Our promised food never materialised but these things happen and there was luckily a Wetherspoons by the theatre. The concert finished, as ever, with an encore and I went home feeling pleased.
I was welcomed with my first gig cancellation on Friday morning - a text from a bandleader: "18th March cancelled, heartfelt apologies, bad times for us..." etc. That evening I was playing folk and blues in a nearby Louisianna themed bar / restaurant on my double bass with a guitar player and violinist who I hadn't met before. It's interesting in my work to meet so many people and find out their stories. He'd been encouraged by his mother to become a concert violinist until as a teenager he decided he had other plans. Decades later he's played with a huge list of luminaries on the popular music scene. The bar was full and good times were had by all.
Saturday I was playing sousaphone with a trad jazz quartet for a 90th birthday in Milton Keynes. One of the great privilages of my job is being invited to be a part of such special occasions. There seemed to be a good crowd, although the caterer advised us to tuck in to the food as they had catered for far more. The chit-chat among us was of the virus and how it might affect our lifestyles - it was becoming very much more real, and just to illustrate the point, while we were chatting I had a call cancelling my gig in a jazz club the following Tuesday.
I drove up to Cambridge that night to do a last minute duo gig with a pianist in a hotel. I didn't realise at the time that it was to be my last gig for months. I knew things were looking bad, but still didn't realise quite how bad.