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Lockdown correspondent, Joseph Seelig, Céret, south France.

Here's a good 'did you know' fact: the UK's longest-running theatre season is the London International Mime Festival (aka LIMF). Its debut was at The Cockpit Theatre in 1977 and has since grown into an annual January event at London's leading venues.

The co-founder of LIMF is the unflappable Joseph Seelig, who right now is experiencing his lockdown in Céret, south France. Over to you Joseph...

I’m isolating in the delightful company of my personal doctor (albeit of philosophy) in a little French town close to the Spanish border. There’s a small leak in the roof, but in the bigger picture, well, things could be a lot worse!

The French quite rightly take all the coronavirus rules and reg's très sérieusement. To venture out one needs an ‘attestation’ to show to any policeman who may ask to see it. I haven’t seen a policeman yet and it’s now been three weeks of lockdown. This document states one’s name, date of birth etc, reason for being out and about - which of course must be for one of the very few legitimate purposes allowed. There’s almost no-one in the streets, those few who are scuttle about wearing masks and giving each other a wide berth. It’s a ghost town, like something from a low budget sci-fi movie from the 1950s. I love it.

With no outside distractions days simply merge into each other; the routine is very much the same, a few stretches, coffee, eating, drinking, more drinking, realisation that in my case none of the drinking involves water - and a great deal of painting, of the Dulux rather than Dégas variety. Exercise really isn’t a problem in an old house with some fifty steps from ground to top floor. There’s no TV here but I don’t miss it. I get all the drama I can manage in daily FaceTime encounters with my sister in Birmingham. I do miss movies but I’m no good at watching on small, laptop screens, I inevitably fall asleep. If the present confinement goes on too much longer I’ll have to do something about getting broadband. At the moment we just hijack the neighbours wifi. Listening to music is important, and wonderful.

I don’t know anyone who has contracted the virus but the UK figures are alarming and the French think we’re hopeless. No surprise there. I worry about friends whose livelihoods have come to an abrupt halt. Every day news of yet another event or season cancelled. It’s heartbreaking and I feel so fortunate that my festival, London International Mime Festival which I run with my friend Helen Lannaghan each year, ended at the start of February, long before the curtain descended.

Ok, enough gloom already. The silver lining for me is being in a beautiful place in the company of someone I’m only too happy to be with. I wake up to see snow-capped mountains bathed in the red glow of dawn light. Pretty good eh, almost poetic, talking of which I think this period of needing to entertain oneself presents a great opportunity to read. Get your teeth into Dickens or Jane Austen, or Daniel Defoe’s horribly relevant Journal of the Plague Year. Learn another language; I was fourteen when I first met my communist French uncle who told me I had the political intellect of a choirboy, but he also told me the best way to learn a language was to read an Agatha Christie novel in appropriate translation. I’ve just finished The Mysterious Mr.Quinn, absolute  rubbish, but he wasn’t entirely wrong. Or we can just gorge ourselves on the fabulous online content being put out by almost every performing company and all the major arts institutions. There’s no shortage of tremendous entertainment and learning out there, it’s yet more time spent in front of a screen but hats off to the arts world for getting its acts together so quickly.

My children and their families seem to be in contact far more than they would if I were at home. Should I worry about this?

Like everyone I’m desperate to return to ‘normal’ life, which I’m sure will be rather different to how we knew it before. There will be a ‘liberation day’ but surely habits won’t change overnight. How will I celebrate? Sceptically, for sure. O me of little faith but strangely superstitious, I’ll give thanks, renew my promise never to eat another bat, won’t have to watch any more ‘hilarious’ video clips sent round to cheer me up, resume my sporting career as a fives and snooker player, and best of all, see my friends. If all this has done nothing else it has made me realise how much I miss personal contact. Virtual reality? Not for me. See you all soon!

Keep up to date with Joseph Seelig and the London International Mime Festival 2021: mimelondon.com

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