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The Unbearable Lightness of Lockdown

Notes on joy and disillusionment from week 742 of isolation



Last week, I had “I’m a little teapot...” stuck in my head for the whole of Tuesday.

This was mildly amusing until around 4pm, when I added head movements and upped the BPM to a pace best described as ‘frantic’. I stopped short of listening to it on Youtube – but only because one of my housemates opened the door and I almost knocked my computer off the table in an attempt to appear sane.

I fantasize about switching off my phone and returning to nature (?) so that no one is able to contact me and I can eek out an existence free of expectation. But if I am left alone in the house for more than 2 seconds, I start to question whether anyone remembers I exist, and I feel a sense of deep outrage that my mum didn’t think to call in the last 5 minutes.

I have started to look around my room with purpose – whatever doesn’t spark joy shall be GONE – but then I cling to a polka-dot sock (which has been single for close to 6 months) and it comes out of the ‘NO’ pile – because one day it might be reunited with its sock-mate, and who am I to stand in the way of rekindled love?

Sourdough is becoming a dirty word, houseparty is dead to me and I spend half my 5-minute voicenotes apologising for the gobbledygook I’m speaking. I’m going to read between the lines here and say we’ve reached the “what next?” leg of lockdown – the phase that begs necessary questions like “Am I the kind of person who microdoses shrooms?”, “How many calories do you burn opening the fridge”? or “Is Kieran Culkin ​HOT​ hot? Or just ​‘hot’​ compared to the rest of the ​Succession​ cast, ‘hot’​?” (​ DM me your thoughts immediately).

Like the Bleep test, or a meeting that could have been an email, we are all desperate for this period to be over. I dream of delving into the corners of my mind and surveying the riches of my recent memories while uttering “yes, ​wonnnnderful​ things” – like Howard Carter when he first gazed upon Tutankhamun’s tomb. Instead, this particular chamber has been pillaged already and spoiler alert: it was me, three days ago on the group chat when I told the same story for the third time.

When you’re duct-taped to your own emotions, it’s so much easier to succumb to anxiety or existential angst (and forget that really, we are just staying home), but here comes the weekly reminder that you are not the sum of your increasingly misspelled words, the cigarettes you’ve smoked, or the moments you’ve barked at Siri to push back your alarm, because you couldn’t face getting out of bed.

I am ready. Ready to run free. To be that friend at a festival who drinks an entire bottle of tequila before 2pm and skips off into the sunset, sunglasses askew, shedding clothing and self-awareness in equal measure.That might still be a while off, so before we get into “Life is a rollercoaster...” territory (and believe me, I’ll go there), let’s keep things light ​with a round-up of people, activities or observations that currently bring joy.

“If instant coffees be the drink of gods, sip on” – Shakespeare

It took me 22 years to make my way to a cup of coffee, and in my opinion, that was 22 years too late.

It was 2012 and I was teaching at a school in Bangkok. I was tired, oh-so-tired of moody teenagers staring at their three mobile phone screens instead of at me and whatever scintillating quiz I had prepared on the board.

I watched on wistfully as the other teachers made coffee until one day, and much like the friend in university who swore they’d never touch ritalin, I cracked.

I went straight for the Nescafé, and it was like Zeus himself had lent down from the heavens to drop liquid gold into my veins. I felt spritely, I felt alive. I felt ​powerful​. Everyone needed to hear what I had to say and as luck would have it, I was ready to talk until the end of time. I’m not sure if you could see the whites all the way round my eyes, but from the reaction, I would hazard an “absolutely yes”.

I’ve since upskilled myself to americanos, adding oat milk when I feel extravagant, but it’s the inclusion of a black instant coffee in the daily round-up of beverages that I look forward to most – no frothy frills, no sugary distractions. Give me those clammy palms and the ability to rattle off sentences at the speed of light, and I will show you nirvana.

Everything Is Erotic: the outside world edition

A tree in blossom (and the thought of sitting beneath it, mainlining luke-warm sparkling wine from a plastic cup).

The smell of a bbq/braai catching the evening breeze.

The shop that isn’t sold out of Salt and Vinegar crisps.

The Italian couple doing high knees in the park with their tops off.

A coffee I didn’t make myself.

The ice cream van outside my house on a Sunday – once culty, now irresistible.

A queue of people my age outside the supermarket like they’ve got guestlist for the hottest club in town.

A park I haven’t explored yet.

The newly-mowed patch of lawn in the park where we used to dance around empty salad bowls on a Sunday night.

The ​Pub.​

And yes, although not technically outside, Stanley Tucci making negronis. 

“Siri, cancel my alarm for 8am”

In a pre-lockdown world, I hated talking about dreams. Ok let me rephrase that: I hated talking about ​other​ ​people’s​ dreams. Someone would start a recap and I’d resurface hours later, unable to provide any feedback on what their subconscious was telling them about a boyfriend who’d morphed into a teletubby and started using the shakka as his only form of communication.

Well... sleep may have lost its lustre, but in the absence of life’s cacophony, I am ready to embrace the final frontier of adventure: our dreams.

Sign me up for somnambulant soliloquies to a misspent youth. I’m ready to rehash toxic relationships through a kaleidoscope of memories. Let me live vicariously through illicit encounters that no one will ever know about because they took place inside my head.

This deep dive into dreamworld was all fun and games until I woke up thinking I’d texted “I love you” to a string of past romantic endeavours i.e. the LAST people on earth I would want to say that to – especially unnerving as I have been known to send messages in my sleep.

As I reached for my phone to block every last one of them and google “Off-the-grid communes in South-West England” I realised with a huge sense of relief that I ​had​ used my phone in my sleep but for a totally different purpose: to write down the phrase “dAytime pyjamas” in my notes.

Was this a business venture or a state of mind? I’ll psycho-analyse that on another day.
 

Spying on neighbours and the people in the park

8am: The LARP-ers are at it again, wielding their imaginary swords in slow motion like they are opening up an invisible portal to a dimension where corona doesn’t exist. “Take me with you” I whisper gently into the early morning air.

They keep me young.

11am: The downstairs neighbours give Tigger the Husky a bath. Tigger pretends he doesn’t like the water and jumps around the garden, letting out high-pitched squeals of delight, inevitably coming back for more.

He keeps me hopeful.

2pm: Slack liner alert!! Will I call the police on those social slack liners? Am I annoyed because they aren’t social-distancing or because they are wearing Harem pants? What does this say about me?

They keep me guessing.

3pm: I can’t take all this frivolity so I go to the park. I sit down with my book. A 5-year-old walks past with her mum and says “Mummy – that girl is having a ​relax​”. I go inside. 

They keep me grounded. 

6pm: I hear a daily rattling sound from upstairs. I hear nothing else. This leads me to believe that upstairs neighbour keeps his family in a cage.

This keeps me on edge.

9pm: Downstairs neighbour plays Blink 182 on top volume. It is like the speaker is in my head. I say nothing, because he works nights in healthcare and I know he is getting ready for his shift.

He keeps me grateful.

Gemma Collins – a diva on lockdown

Oh, Gemma, The GC, my Brentwood-born Guardian Angel. I don’t know what we did to deserve you, but I thank my lucky tie-dye socks for your presence on this planet. The ​TOWIE​-made superstar has kick-started the latest series of her reality show and from the moment she referred to herself in the third person, called Prince Charles “Prince Chiles” and pronounced meme “memé”, I knew this was the woman for me.

She is a down-to-earth diva laced with delusions of grandeur, crystal-field energy topped up with lunchtime proseccos. She is personalised voicenotes to the Gucci team, hitting on toilet salesmen then combining their surnames on the drive home, while claiming she predicted the Covid-19 economic crash three years ago when they put the ticket prices up in the parking lot.

She is the only person who can pull off shouting “​Corona​ ​Corona​” into her phone like she’s saying “over and out” on a walkie talkie – my spiritual guru, my summer mood, a blinding light in a social life gone dark.

“I love my friends” – The First Lady of America, Kris Jenner

Between my inability to adhere to any form of decent Whatsapp etiquette, my going-nowhere voicenotes or the fact that I have started repeating just about every story I’ve ever told, it’s a miracle I have any friends left.

But without fail, they are there: to answer every unhinged message and to video call at the precise moment you need a lift. To send presents in the post for no other reason than to brighten your day. To message and say they were thinking about you even though you haven’t seen each other in years. To get you out of the house when you’re feeling anxious. To inspire you to show this compassion to someone else – a housemate, grandparent, your favourite small brand, local charity or someone in your block – because if our friends can teach us one thing: it’s to look outwards and onwards when it feels like the world is closing in.

Size Guide

We want you to be entirely satisfied with the way your ring fits. That means we need a little help from you before you choose your size.

Step One

Take a piece of string and wrap it around the base of your finger.

Step Two

Using a pen, mark the point on the string where the end meets.

Step Three

Using a ruler, measure this length in mm.

Step Four

Match your measurement to the table below.

Extra Tips

Don’t forget to allow for enough room to get the ring over your knuckle.

Remember that all of your fingers probably have different measurements. Make sure you measure the specific finger you are buying the ring for.

To be 100% sure, measure your finger at the end of the day. That’s when it is most likely to be at its largest.

US 6
51.9mm circumference
US 7
54.4mm circumference
US 8
57mm circumference