Unprecedented use of Unprecedented

The word unprecedented has finally found its time. I’ve never heard it used so often and by such an enormous cross-section of the world, from spam emails to government announcements, everything seems to be unprecedented at the moment.

The world has become strange and alien, our routines that seemed so fixed and important have revealed their saggy underbellies. We are breaking new ground and finding that to save the world, sometimes the bravest thing you can do is retreat from it. As an autistic person this is something I have suspected to be the truth for a long time.

Today The Edinburgh Fringe have announced that they will not be going ahead this year. Again, it’s unprecedented, but undoubtedly the right thing to do at the moment. Barnstaple Fringe had already announced their decision to cancel, and with that The Duck is without performance dates until the end of August at the earliest.

I have a habit of being honest, and it’s not one I intend to break anytime soon. When the news came through I met it with mixed emotions; uncertainty is the enemy of peace, not knowing what will happen and when makes most people feel uncomfortable, for those of us who are autistic the effect can be insurmountable. It is a relief to know what to expect now and to know that I can spend this time focusing on family and the truly important things in life – like dancing around the kitchen after a glass of self-isolated wine.

That isn’t to say that there isn’t sadness too. There is no greater belonging than seeing my words connect with people. There is no greater homecoming than feeling understood and seen. When you grow up an undiagnosed autistic person you grow up thinking that you are very alone in how you see the world. Touring The Duck has taught me that I am very far from alone.

As ever I owe an enormous debt of gratitude to Lucy Theobald, who has taken the role of The Duck and made it her own. She astonishes me each and every time I watch her perform. She is the embodiment of understanding and demonstrating just how well we can all understand each other. I owe the same debt to Jo Loyn, our director, who took the words on the page and built a whole performance out of nothing. What a skill to see what could be from words on a page.

It may be an enforced break, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t embrace it to its full potential. I hope you are all able to find a path through the next few months. None of it will be easy, but it is the brave thing to do, and after all, these times are unprecedented.

To share The Duck whilst we are under wraps I have recorded an audio reading of The Duck, which you can download by following the instructions on the link below. There is also a Kindle version of my poetry collection available. We may not be able to perform for you in person, but we are still in the world, and we all need those connections to keep going.

Wishing you all much health and happiness,