London Calling

This month, London Calling has invited our great friend, the actress Gemma Oaten to share her feelings and experiences about Lockdown Life in London. Until the pandemic reared its ugly head, Gemma had a leading role in the hugely successful Alan Ayckbourn play Ten Times Table. Perhaps best known for her roles in Emmerdale and Holby City, Gemma dedicates much of her time to the eating disorder charity SEED which is a cause very close to her heart – Richard Lamberth
Home thoughts from abroad

By Gemma Oaten
Cheers all! I think Ruby is officially as bored of me as I am of myself (awkward…she’s stuck with me!)

In all seriousness, I hope you’re all keeping well, sane and safe. It’s tough all of this, isn’t it? I’m keeping myself going with the love of my two-year-old schnoodle Ruby Tuesday. She’s four on May 22 and I am secretly planning her birthday party already! Or we could have a joint one for mine on May 8. Decisions, decisions…

Thinking of getting some dog teddies and dog alcohol (and gin for me, of course). Apparently, there are mock dog beers, who knew?! And letting her party like it’s her birthday, go shorty and all that, and then she will rip all the dog teddy friends up thinking they are toys, so it will kind of be like how a proper party ends up really?!)

Sorry. Back on track … I am keeping going with our play time and enjoying her unconditional love. She really is a massive help to my mental health and sanity. I’m in touch with friends and family daily and loving our online wine chats (don’t get me wrong … I can’t wait for a chuffin pub night!)

I’m keeping up my daily workout which clears my head and makes me feel like I am doing something good for me in all this uncertainty. I am focusing hard on my charity work for SEED eating disorder support services, as, like many charities out there, we are set to lose so much, and I will fight to the high heaven for us to keep going.

I’m focusing on helping others as best I can with little videos, snippets and ramblings like this (apologies, it was an inspired moment to write, I grabbed it … possibly never to be read but it really is quite cathartic! Oooo, long word, go me! Sorry, I digress…).

I am also keeping my public-speaking spark alive (even if I talk to myself!) and looking at how to keep it going while this is all going on and the importance of all our messages and stories to still be heard now more than ever. I’m starting to think outside the box and working on a theatrical project. I am using my initiative and keeping the cogs turning.

So many of us are too, and it’s incredible to witness how everyone is rallying round and reaching out and supporting each other both personally and business wise. Bravo! Gives me faith in us all and also gives me hope.

I’m also going easy on myself. Self-care is everything right now. I know it’s so hard financially now for so many (trust me, two hours today out of my life, trying to verify my identity and talk to someone to get guidance and help … You’re not alone). So, yes, keep driven and keep striving because when the world hits ‘play’ again, it will feel amazing to be ready. But also, take a beat … take a breath. Accept and adapt. Empathise and sympathise. Now is the time to tap into your heart and emotions. For yourself and for others.

Money and “smashing it” isn’t everything. It really isn’t. I have been in front of eight million viewers around the UK, and more around the world at times, over the years I’ve been on Emmerdale, Casualty, Holby City and the like, and I am now viewed by Ruby and few dog owners on our walk. And that is just grand by me. Things have changed and we have to be able to look at things and see the difference because it will help us all.

The band aid has well and truly been ripped off! We are sore, but it will not last. It’s not forever and it’s just a moment in our lives. I’m not trivialising it at all, but I am saying it is here, it is happening, and priorities, as hard as it is, should and can change.

When do we ever get this chance to truly breathe and focus on what we want? Soon, we will all be back to the race against the clock, the race for the seat on the tube, the complaining about people being in our space, the stress and pressure.

So, I am using the time to embrace this, and learn lessons for when life does kick off. I’ve always felt I have high emotional intelligence – to my detriment at times – but, my goodness, I am learning even more and will take what I have learnt with me in the future. I hope and believe we can all rise like the Phoenix, stronger and more ablaze in our hearts than ever. Remember kindness, compassion and empathy.

And more than ever, remember laughter. That’s what we need and still have. Whether you find it in memes, gifs, social media, friends, family or yourself (I’ve started finding myself very funny … self-isolation does that when you live alone with a dog that thinks you’re nuts … Then again, nothing new there!) Also, cry if you need to. It’s OK. I’ve cried. For those we are losing, for those that have lost, for those that are scared and anxious, for me, for friends, for strangers, for family, for lots of things and reasons.

It’s OK to feel angry and lost. None of this is fair. None of this is at all easy. This is out of our control, and control for many is everything. This leads me onto my last point before I go back to my pink gin.

Your well-being and mental health are so, so important right now. I know a lot of what we are going through is about protecting our physical health, but we have to remember the importance of looking after our minds and mental health. It is vital we do. Please keep talking. You’re not alone. We’ll get through this together.

Lots of love and social distancing, arms reached out hugs, Gem & Ruby.

Gemma Oaten, actress and patron of SEED –