Pat Blythe – 365 Days …and Music!

When this column posts it will be exactly 365 days to the date the World Health Organization (WHO) declared COVID-19 a pandemic. It’s been 365 days since the entire planet turned upside down, essentially transforming life as we knew it. There have been massive upsides and downsides, upheavals and confusion, disruptions and adjustments. As much as I have an intense dislike for the phrase “new normal”, that’s what we’re experiencing and there is no turning back. So, whether we like it or not, here we are.

We still have choices. We can wallow in our misery or take this opportunity to make some positive changes…..personally, professionally and in the world around us. It’s no longer a “pie in the sky” chance to move forward. The entire planet is in the same predicament….a once-in-a-lifetime experience and opportunity. The pandemic is a global health, inequality, economic and social problem and it’s shining a huge beam of light on all of this. Our misery is not just in the spread of a disease, but the underbelly it’s exposed…..the ugliness of the human condition. It’s also given us a chance to clean up this mess…..a chance for redemption.

Homelessness in a Las Vegas parking lot

World leaders have two options (along with the rest of us)…..stare down the barrel of the gun; face the truth and ugliness, and begin to make those difficult and tough decisions that lead toward positive change.  Or, placate with band-aid solutions and walk away; cover our eyes so if we can’t see it, it must not exist….. like a child’s game of peek-a-boo; or every politician’s favourite…..obfuscate.

If we chose to face it head on, we choose a stronger “us”, healthier world and a better future for our children and grandchildren. If we choose to cover the wound without addressing the underlying condition and ignoring the real issues, what we’re experiencing will happen again and again, and it will get much worse. This is not the time to be pointing fingers and playing the blame game. We all need to work together to make a difference… drown out the negative with the positive and walk around those who would stand in our way.

Glass half empty…..

I’m going to wade through the shit first. Then we’ll get to the good stuff….and yes, there’s good stuff.

The downsides to this pandemic have been blatantly obvious. Top of the list is loss of life. It will get to the point where all of us will know someone who lost their life to this disease. Jobs, livelihoods have disappeared, never to return. The so called “gig economy”, which encompasses a huge arts and entertainment industry and all those who support it, has been decimated. For the most part, the people who keep us entertained (and those they keep employed) have been ignored by both governments and big business.

The shuttered theatres of Broadway

Much to the chagrin of most parents, home schooling is a “thing” now….it’s not just the hippies down the street. The challenge is children are becoming accustomed to learning and interacting on line in 2D. Their social skills are suffering as isolation keeps them from growing and interacting with their peers, teaching them how to navigate life. Even in school settings, they are forced to keep a distance, devoid of touch, the one thing they need the most.

Healthcare systems worldwide have suffered immensely, highlighting the unpreparedness, even after experiencing SARS. People who require non-COVID urgent care are either too afraid to seek help or simply can’t access it for a myriad of reasons. The demand placed on healthcare and personal support workers is unprecedented and unforgiving. Our lives depend on them yet this seems to be another group where our expectations run high but our respect, consideration and remuneration run counter to this. The dark covers that hide or keep homelessness, poverty, even starvation hidden, and in the shadows, have been ripped aside. COVID has disproportionately affected women, the poorest and the most vulnerable groups around the world.

Individually and collectively we are experiencing something we could neither have planned nor prepared for. As we ease out of the worldwide shutdown and isolation, the mental health after effects and the lingering damage to overall well being will be far-reaching. Now is the time to prepare and plan courses of action how this will all be handled. It is not the time to crawl back under that rock.

Glass half full…..

How is it that anything positive could possibly come out of this shitstorm we’re battling? First of all, I’m a Libra…..I like balance, it can’t all be one-sided. Then there are those old sayings, “every cloud……” or “after every rain…..” Cliché but always a grain of truth in those old axioms.

Climate change is an obvious one. It’s inevitable but we’ve managed to slow it down just a tad. Not noticeably obvious, like in your face, but hey, every little bit helps. China and L.A. are seeing blue skies and sunshine for the first time in years. The air is clear of pollutants in all major cities around the world. Last year plants were healthier, greener, thicker and more abundant.

L.A. clear skies and mountains

 We’re washing our hands. That’s HUGE! It’s no wonder the seasonal round of influenza has all but vacated the planet. Hospitals and medical facilities are scratching their heads, but to me it’s obvious. People are paying more attention to personal hygiene and the majority are actually washing their hands. They’re not going out when they are sick…..only to sniffle and hack up a lung all over passengers on public transit. Keeping that two metre distance, and of course wearing a mask helps. The minute I walk through my front door, I hear every mother’s voice, “Wash your hands! I don’t know where you’ve been.” There is nothing our hands don’t touch so keeping them clean is paramount.

We are more in touch with family and friends, whether it’s a phone call or a Zoom call. That old commercial “reach out and touch someone” is true now more than ever. Face-to-face, even if it’s over FB, Skype or Zoom, people are having real, full-blown conversations while actually looking at each other instead of down at their phones. Communications channels are being opened and widened. It’s not perfect but it’s opened up a lot of doors, healed many wounds, connected and re-connected long lost friends and family members, and forced us to take another look at ourselves and how we conduct our lives.

People are discovering it really doesn’t take oodles of dollars to live and survive. Our daily expenses have gone way down and incidental spending has plummeted. Instead of spending money on “stuff” we’re actually putting it in back into our homes or bank accounts. All those cute chachkas (or as my eldest calls them, “fine dustables”)…..we’re actually looking to get rid of them. Basics and in-home comfort are back.

Cooking! Baking! Who would have thought those who have never seen the inside of a kitchen could graduate beyond burning the pot of water on the stove. Getting past all those loaves of sourdough, people are paying attention to their groceries and produce. Learning and enjoying how to prepare meals and treats….and having fun doing it. All that basic and practical learning we “girls” did in HomeEc class way back when is coming in handy in kitchens around the world. One thing this has taught us, no more tolerating bad meals in restaurants anymore. We now know what shit goes in that food you serve us.

Sourdough September 2020 from around the world

Exercise is on the rise! Ooooo….good slogan. All those, including myself, who have had a steady relationship with their fridge these past months, are now breaking off the engagement. More people are out, even in bad weather, walking, running and biking. With every ray of sunshine and a bump in the temp, more and more of us are discovering our wonderful parks, bike and walking trails. We’re meandering around our neighbourhoods or heading to the country, breathing in that clean air and loading up on the vitamin D.

Day by day by day…..

There are great days, good days, okay days and really lousy days…..days where everything seemed relatively normal and others when we don’t want to get out of bed. Most, if not all of us, have experienced them.

Day by Day – Doug and the Slugs

So here we are, 365 days later. Slightly plumper; familiar with all the intimate details of our homes, navels and partner’s bad habits; kitchen gods and goddesses; the contents of our refrigerators; realizing how little we actually know about today’s math; experienced every cocktail known to man and then some; alphabetized entire record/CD collections…..and the list goes on.

Let’s all stick together!

I could get philosophical here, but I won’t. We’ve still got a ways to go, and the long-term consequences, both physical and mental, have yet to show their true face and the depth of the damage done. By retaining and building on those connections we can work together and return to some semblance of sanity. We have been shaken to our core by a tiny virus, a wee, invisible “bug” that has literally brought us to our knees, showing us that Mother Nature is still boss.

I found this quote by 19th century German philosopher, economist and socialist Friedrich Engels, who also happened to be a very good friend of Karl Marx, Let us not … flatter ourselves overmuch on account of our human conquest over nature. For each such conquest takes its revenge on us … Thus at every step we are reminded that we by no means rule over nature like a conqueror over a foreign people.”

Julian Taylor Juno Fever

Two days ago Julian Taylor was nominated for two Juno Awards in two categories; Indigenous Artist or Group of the Year and Contemporary Roots Album of the Year for The Ridge.

Julian Taylor performing at Mariposa 2019

From his first gig at the El Mocambo in 1994 to the formation of Staggered Crossing in 1997 to the current Julian Taylor Band and as a solo artist, it’s been a long and event filled journey to get to The Ridge and the place he is now. With several albums and EPs released during his career, the world has finally taken notice of this funky, soulful, sometimes mystical and all too human talent.

I admire and respect this man’s passion, his depth, his skills, his determination, but most of all his humanity. I am thrilled for Julian, his band and his family, and extend my heartfelt congratulations. Overwhelming and unexpected I’m sure, but never more well deserved.

This week’s podcast was released five hours prior to the Juno nomination announcement. Synchronicity?

The Ridge – Julian Taylor

Avalanche – Julian Taylor Band

Originally from Toronto, singer/songwriter Ember Swift has been living in her adopted home of Beijing, China for the past 10 years. She tours internationally (in non-pandemic times) and when we’re lucky, returns to Toronto for live performances and special events. Ember has just released her most recent single, Broken Thing. She is the founder of grassroots record label, Few’ll Ignite Sound (Motto: May the few who ignite sound fuel a change in the night. May the few who fuel change ignite sound into light)

Broken Thing – Ember Swift

…..and a brand new release from Suzi Kory. An ode to a friend who lost a child, this beautiful melody is wistful, heartbreaking and soothing.

The Monowhales slay it again with their new album Daytona Beach. Just released, this power trio packs a punch. It’s rare I like every song I hear but…..I love every song I hear, and in my mind’s eye, the energizer bunny that is Sally Schaar never stops moving!

Over My Head – Monowhales

I Don’t Think About U – Monowhales

1950 – King Princess

Playing For Change (PFC) is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music, born from the shared belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people. The primary focus of PFC is to record and film musicians performing in their natural environments and combine their talents and cultural power in innovative videos calls Songs Around The World.

The following song is for and about (Bantu) Stephen Biko, a South African anti-apartheid activist who was at the forefront of a grassroots anti-apartheid campaign known as the Black Consciousness Movement during the late 1960s and 1970s. He was arrested and beaten to death by state security officials in 1977 at the age of 30. Over 200,000 people attended his funeral.

Biko – Peter Gabriel/Songs Around the World/Playing for Change

What Did I Ask For – MARKS

Better Without You – Evanescence

Photograph of Julian Taylor ©2019 Pat Blythe A Girl With A Camera


Be well. Stay safe. Stay sane.



Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence —  33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance! 

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