Fulham Road, London, 21st July 2023.

Got this fever, getting deeper,
Until it cuts like a knife…

If you asked me to describe my pandemic experience, those two lines from Rory Gallagher’s Lonely Mile would do the trick. In fact, there was a time when they swirled inside my head on a daily basis.

Like many, my mental health took a real hit during lockdown. I had always struggled with anxiety, but never to this extent before. My days became defined not by hours, but by the number of panic attacks I had. I lost the desire or inclination to do anything or go anywhere.

And then, as the world began to open up again, mine just got smaller. Everything beyond my four walls was so scary that I just couldn’t face it. The only thing keeping me more or less afloat was Rory.

Rory had always been my favourite musician. No matter how bad I felt, listening to his music was a tonic that could momentarily stall my racing thoughts. But in pandemic times, his music grew in importance to me, turning into a lifeline, the one glimmer of hope and salvation.

As I plucked up the courage to seek help with a therapist, she encouraged me to start going back outside again by slipping Rory onto my headphones to comfort me. She suggested that I begin by walking the short distance from my house to the supermarket at the top of the road. Approximately one mile.

Naturally, there was no better song choice for this trip than Lonely Mile, written by Rory about the stretch of Fulham Road that he would frequently walk when he was suffering from insomnia.

Over the next year, Lonely Mile turned into my soundtrack, my source of inspiration, my own Rocky theme, if you will.

Day after day, I would take on the challenge of walking my own Lonely Mile to varying degrees of success. More often than I care to remember, I failed to make it past the front door and would stand in my hallway in tears or I’d return to my house after just a few minutes hyperventilating and heart pounding with fear. But sometimes I managed to make it a quarter of the way … then half the way … then three-quarters of the way. And finally – by June 2022 – all the way.

Lonely Mile gave me inner strength. Rory sang with the wisdom of lived experience. Like me, he too was alone and scared. His brother and manager Dónal, on whom he relied so much, had recently got married and moved out of their shared apartment. With Dónal no longer around to speak to when he was feeling anxious (“I wo