I’m entirely sure I’m not author enough for this, but I’m an expert procrastinator and I have university work to be doing. I occasionally write books and do book-things. If you’re procrastinating as hard as I am and want something to do, you can also follow me on twitter @helen_hiorns or check out my facebook page https://www.facebook.com/helenhiornsauthor
Number of days it’s been illegal for me to be in the same room as my best friends: 290 in total, including: one period of self isolation, three national lockdowns, two local lockdowns and two tiers (on three different occasions). 145 consecutive days.
Pasta stocks: gone big on the pasta supplies due to intention to avoid going to the shops as much as possible, cause baby, it’s coronar-y outside. To be honest, this plan hasn’t been going entirely smoothly. There’s a three pronged attack including: supermarket deliveries, occasional recipe boxes from Gousto and fortnightly vegetable deliveries. I have a big plan which has all the food I’m supposed to eat from now until the apocalypse (so, you know, any time from March 2020 onwards). In the first week of this plan, I missed my slot to edit my supermarket delivery online due to migraine so missed half the things on my list (I’d booked a slot to reserve it before they all disappeared with editing-intentions), my veg delivery was snow-ed off and my Gousto box was late. Still, we’re six weeks into the year and I’ve been to the top three times, and I have enough for the next two weeks, which isn’t so bad.
That being said, last time I went to the supermarket the combination of over the shoulder bag and shirt didn’t go very well. Apparently, something about where the strap was sitting just…. Undid the top three buttons of my shirt. I looked down when I was returning my trolly and realised that I’d just been walking around in my bra. Absolutely no idea how much of the supermarket trip was spent with my boobs out, but there we go. At this point, I also was trying to push the trolly, pull my super-cool granny pull-trolly containing three weeks of shopping and carrying two bags of stuff that didn’t fit in my trolly, so I couldn’t even fix it immediately.
There are probably a number of reasons I should avoid going to the shop. Will leave it up to you to decide if “ avoiding coronavirus” or “avoiding flashing everyone” is a better reason. At least I had a mask on to hide my face.
Mum’s quote of the week:
Great minds think alike but some can type faster. So true, Mum. So true.
Nothing has happened in my life in approximately ten months, so this is me just gratuitously talking about my cat. Buckle up your seat belts, folks, it’s about to get pandemic-interesting.
(This being the scale where “reorganising your spice rack’ has become a valid evening activity. If you were wondering, after consulting a friend I decided to go for “frequency” rather than “alphabetical” with any duplicates stored in a separate cupboard. I also threw out some mint that went out of date in 2012. Thrilling stuff).
Bertrand Hiorns-Russel became part of my household approximately four months ago. He is a good additional member of the household in that he doesn’t mean I lose my entitlement to a bubble (or single person council tax) and I really like my bubble. He’s a bad member of the household in that he doesn’t contribute to my mortgage and I’m regularly expected to clean up his excrement. I’ve had many lodgers before and all of them have paid me rent and not relieved themselves in my front room in a box of wood chips (that I know of). According to the paperwork lovingly given to me by cats protection, Bertie’s approximate month of birth falls in this month.
Happy first birthday Bertie!!
Adopting a cat in a pandemic is kind of weird. I’ve heard that normally they do house inspections and you meet the cat etc etc, but I filled in an application, sent them proof of my address, paid my donation then rocked up to a semi-deserted retail park.
Friend who drove me (and reassured me that everything would be fine) and I wander aimlessly around the car park, cross referencing the instructions, before we find a weird, large gate and a bell.
We ring the bell.
Woman comes out in mask and says “you here for Harrison?” (This was Bertie’s name before he became mine)
Woman nods, shuts gate and disappears.
Friend and I look at each other.
Woman comes out and hands me a cat carry with a cat in and hands me several sheets of paperwork, then disappears. Feels weirdly like a drug deal rather than a legitimate cat transaction, but we take cat carry and I sit in the back with my new pal Bertie and drive home.
Bertie is “chatty” which means “makes a bloody racket”. He meows a heartbreaking chorus on the way home while I baby talk to him from the back seat. He is very tiny (my niece, who was very excited about Bertie, had said the week before that he was “small enough to fit into a slipper” because she saw a video of him. He is not this small) and he is very smol.
Friend comes in when we get home (this is in those two weeks of the year where this is legal, as it happens) and we let Bertie go a-roaming and sit very quietly and watch him hide under my sofa. I give him dreamies. By that evening, we are curled up together watching television.
He is, obviously, completely perfect. He is absolutely the best lockdown decision I have made so far.
So here are some facts for you to get to know Bertie before we begin.
Bertie likes to share.
He is a massive fan of Christmas.
And he loves cuddles.
He just loves them.
Lockdown Diaries with Bertie
Morning (Cuddle hour, breakfast time, the zoomies)
Day begins with Bertie clawing at bedroom door and squeaking to get attention. This means he has decided that it is MORNING which means he would like attention and also breakfast. As previously mentioned by cats protection, Bertie is “chatty” (read: loud), so I ignore this for as long as I am able — I love sleep, hate mornings — then let Bertie into my room for what I have affectionately dubbed ‘cuddle hour’.
Cuddle hour either contains Bertie sitting on my chest / face while he purrs and I stroke him, or it contains Bertie trying to burrow under my duvet and hunt my feet. At its best, cuddle hour involves us both falling back to sleep with him tucked under my arm and purring and at worse it contains Bertie leaping across the bed and head butting me in the eye (I’m charitably assuming this was accidental). This also tends to involve a lot of Bertie licking my face.
I do understand that this is a sign of great affection, but it is also unpleasant. Particularly so when Bertie attempts to ‘clean’ my hair which usually involves him ripping a fair bit of it from my skull.
Sometimes, he gets bored of these activities and fights the pull light over my bed. He does this by standing on the edge of my headboard and batting this around. Unfortunately, he’s not very good at this, so this generally ends with 4kgs (Bertie is no longer tiny and smol; he is approximately double the size of when he was bought home) of cat falling on my head.
I like cuddle hour. As I’m writing this, I am not entirely sure why.
Eventually, after I cannot ignore my alarms any longer (or Bertie has hunted my feet so successfully that they are bleeding), I get out of bed.
As I mentioned in one of my other blogs, my bathroom pull light died in August. There was a bit of a saga involved in fixing it (unlabelled fuse box, burglar alarm with no known code etc etc; story for another time) and I am both slightly lazy and was living alone in a pandemic, so I just lived without a bathroom light for five months. After a while, I did get a special ‘bathroom torch’ which I think added a sense of camping-esque-adventure to going to the loo, which I’m sure my bubble appreciated when they came over for bubble dinner. At the moment, you have to take your ‘excitement’ where you can get it. However, these were also Bertie’s formative months and it was very dark outside, so he has become very accustomed to the bathroom door being open.
This means that when I crawl from bed to bathroom and sit on the loo, Bertie generally immediately sits on my lap and demands stroking. If the door is shut, he sits outside and whines and this is loud, so normally I just let him in.
I did not expect to be this person. I think I have retained some respectable boundaries with not letting him in my room at night (this was cemented the second time he fell on my head pre 6am on those occasions where I forgot/ he snuck in). Once, my sister told me a story of their cat falling off her legs when she was on the loo and digging her claws in all the way down and I thought I would never be that person.
I’m not, but only because I make sure I’m wearing layers on my legs. I know the second I sit on the toilet I’m getting a lap full of cat, so it’s good to be prepared.
After I chuck him off my lap, he sits in the sink while I attempt to brush my teeth. The first few times I attempted to be gracious and not just turn the tap on when he sat there, but… I’m already running late enough in the morning and really he should have learnt by now.
Next, we have a compromise where I get to put the kettle on first before Bertie finally gets his breakfast, although he does like to attempt to crawl up my leg during this process just to make sure I don’t forget about his breakfast. We also like to play a game where Bertie decides to forgo the lovely hand painted bowl of water with his name on and instead jumps on the counter, walks over the sink and drinks the leftover cleaning-out-the-cafetiere water that I gave the plants, then I tell him off and he pretends to give a crap and I pretend to believe I have any authority or control over his behaviour (I do not).
By this point, I am usually slightly late for work even though ‘work’ is my sofa and Bertie is in a post-breakfast zoom-phase (zoom like running around like a maniac not like video calling zoom; Bertie has yet to independently video call people). I log in to my laptop / first meeting while Bertie fights the blinds / hunts my now-sock-clad feet / knocks the coffee table (and my coffee) over. Occasionally, he takes advantage of this time to test out his career as ‘butt model’ by shoving his ass in the direction of my video camera, but usually by the time my first meeting finishes he’s calmed down and taken himself off upstairs to snuggle up with my clean laundry.
He continues hanging out on my clean clothes until the afternoon. He does not appreciate being interrupted.
Afternoon (psychological warfare / ‘give me attention hour’)
At some point between 3pm and 4pm, Bertie shows up again which is nice. I like to think that he’s trying to help me out of my afternoon slump by reminding me that I’m working hard to keep him in dreamies, disgusting sachets of tuna and litter, but mostly I think it’s because the sun’s gone in so the laundry room is no longer the warmest room in the house. Sometimes, he does this by depositing himself on my lap and well…. Watching me like a total creeper. Preferably, he comes and sits on my lap mid-meeting and demonstrates to the masses that he is affectionate and beautiful.
Or, if he’s in the mood for a game he very subtly finds his favourite toy and drags it into my vicinity then looks at me which is slightly less helpful for getting through my workload. Sometimes, if I’m particularly reluctant to play with him he passive aggressively plays by himself, by dragging the toy onto the sofa, then fighting it from the floor until it hits him on the head.
Currently, Bertie is an indoor cat. I have made efforts to let him outside, but he’s not completely convinced by it. He’s made it a foot out and then mostly hides in some unknown location ( I think in my bedroom). At this point of the day, I’m very glad about this, because it’s nice to have someone else in my house wanting attention or just being there and well… I’m not allowed out, so why should the cat be?
Last week, I had a minor heart attack because I thought there was someone else in my house and then I realised I’d walked past a mirror and seen myself in the peripheries. I think it’s good for me to have another being around the house. I’ve stopped talking to the plants so much, at least (although this is in part because most of them are dead; tis the season and all that), although I’ve noticed that sometimes I talk to Bertie in a Russian accent for no reason. I have filed this under “deal with after pandemic”.
Evening ( you are but a pillow time)
Currently, I’m trialing a new thing where after I finish work I set a timer for 45 minutes and have to ‘adult’ until the timer goes off. This is in part because I’m trying to have a proper sabbath on Sundays because reasons, but also because I’m trying to segment my day a bit better and stop myself from shutting my work laptop and sitting aimlessly in the exact same spot while time just passess. Not necessarily usually so keen on structure, but life does tend to become a bit of a long homogeneous mass otherwise. I mean, it’s fine. Everything falls into the realm of being ‘okay’ if not particularly interesting or fun, so, yes, structure.
Bertie is super helpful for this chore time and demonstrates this by: knocking laundry off the dryers while I’m trying to hang them; breaking into the cupboard where his food is keep, somehow getting the food sachets out of the box, shredding the packets with his teeth and ‘storing’ them in unexpected places so I don’t run out of things to tidy; kicking his litter all over the floor to give me ample opportunity to enjoy my new hoover; knocking things off the coffee table because he likes to watch the world burn; winding round my feet on the stairs, knocking over my coffee. He looks out for me, does our Bertie.
Once I’ve adulted, cooked and we’ve both eaten, I usually end up embracing my super fun ‘social life’ which consists of video call home church or video calls with the besties, or video ‘What the book book club’ podcast (this week we’re reviewing ‘Kissing the Coronavirus’ and ‘Pounded by the pound:Turned Gay By The Socioeconomic Implications Of Britain Leaving The European Union’; it’s sure to be a real high point of the week), or playing ticket to ride on the phone to my family. Or it involves playing a video game or reading a book or watching netflix, etc. The common thematic theme for all of these activities is the sofa.
(This week I decided to ‘shake things up’ a bit and sit on one of my other sofas for a bit. It was quite exciting really).
Bertie has perfected the art of only choosing to sit on me at maximum inconvenient moments, like when I have just thought ‘I’d quite like another glass of wine’ or ‘probably time for bed’ and thus trapping me on the sofa for hours a time. Or he straight up sits on the wii remote. During this time, he ‘kneads’ me which is theoretically a sign of great affection, but it turns out even through three layers I still ended up with my stomach peppered with little red marks from his claws.
See also: my hands, my feed and the other week — goodness knows how but I bet it was his fault — my forehead. This is an extra fun game due to the prevalent requirement of alcohol hand gel. Ain’t no party like a hand sanitizer in a cut, party.
It should also be noted that Bertie does not respect the sanctity of the keyboard. It’s like he doesn’t care that I’m the highly successful author of a book, The Name On Your Wrist (no longer known on Amazon as ‘why my life sucks and what you should do about it’ because it seems like they’ve finally corrected that. Shame, it was kind of funny). He has managed to achieve some strange things in his time. My highlights are:
- Somehow sending my bestie a screenshot of my screen while we were watching remote Drag Race
- Somehow sending two sentences of my NaNoWriMo attempt (we got like a week in) repeated about fifty times into the chat function of my online game of ticket to ride.
- Somehow setting my desktop background as a screenshot of me googling how to take a screenshot.
I should note here that there are some variations of this that do involve other human beings in the flesh. Every Thursday I leave the house (!!!) to go to the foodbank, on Sundays we have a bubble dinner rotation and we do the ad-hoc bit of bubbling. Bertie isn’t 10000% on other people because he hasn’t really met any, but he’s getting used to my bubble. He likes to make himself known here, too, like when we played bubble hairdressers and Bertie sat on the pile of my freshly cut hair for no apparent reason, or that truly excellent evening where we had takeout, prosecco, played Just Dance and tried to give Bertie his worming treatment (the obvious combination of activities).
But normally it’s Netflix and blankets and video calls and cat-cuddles. Books (questionable and otherwise) with glasses of wine. Trying to get Bertie to let me paint. Harry Potter Lego Wii 1-4 for the second time this pandemic (decided once per lockdown was acceptable), playing the sims and laughing at them getting the ‘cabin fever’ moodlet after three days of not leaving the house (FU, sim), joggers / PJs and hibernation.
After another thrilling day of doing not much, I extract myself from underneath Bertie with varying degrees of success and then trudge up to bed, shut the door VERY FIRMLY in the name of sleep and prepare myself to repeat the whole process tomorrow.
And the next day.
And the next.
(I think at least one of us has Stockholm syndrome)
5 things I would like to keep after all of this is over:
- Sunday Bubble Dinners! I’m sure that we’ll expand the guest list, but it’s such a great way to end the weekend.
- Gardening breakdown. I’ve already embraced the mania for 2021, with my seeds propagating on the window sill and my potatoes a-chitting. I have a plan. I have seeds. I’m so ready for the snow to go away so I can start planting.
- Having mildly less anxiety about making phone calls. Not saying I’ve been cured (or I’d have given up checking my Drs website every night where their ‘appointments are released’ — which is a blatant lie — and just called them already).
- My killer time-saving strategy of: jumper over PJs and lipstick to make it look like you’ve made a genuine effort.
- Bertrand Hiorns-Russel
Toilet roll situation: Yes, I own some. Stocks are depleting faster than normal due to crying alone into my takeout.
Pasta stocks: Pasta supplies have been replenished by large quantities of pasta that has been donated to the foodbank with split bags. This means that we can’t give it out, so…. Muchas pasta for me. This is mostly a good thing, although it did lead to an incident in which my cat — who is quite into human food — opened a bag of partially open spaghetti with his claws and ate some of it. Dried pasta. Dried pasta. He’s an odd munchkin.
Mum’s top tip of the week: Not a top tip, but my mother did recently knit me some leg warmers. And some fingerless gloves with snowman on. We’re a really cool family.
The Road So Far
March 14th: Develop a persistent cough, return home to self isolate for 7 days.
March 21st: FREEDOM
March 23rd: National Lockdown starts
July 4th: FREEDOM
August 1st: Local Lockdown begins
September 4th: FREEDOM
September 22nd: Local Lockdown reinstated
October 14th: Local lockdown usurped by ‘Tier 2’
November 2nd: Tier 2 usurped by Tier 3
November ??th: National lockdown, take two. (Probably??)
December 24th: Cruelly deprived of a proper Christmas, the author goes on a festive ramage, hugs strangers, goes to visit her mother, aggressively cooks people Christmas Dinner and feeds it to them in her home. The author sings Christmas songs within 2 meters of other individuals, makes vicious demands for carol services, goes on holiday, visits her friends and starts having in depth conversations with her Christmas Tree.
I intended to update this sooner, but I’ve been riding a distinct wave of Lockdown en-rage (like ennui, but angrier) and everything I wrote was distinctly grumpy, whiny and self-pitying. I don’t think it’s necessarily a good look on me, so I decided to spare you all. However, with rumours of National Lockdown looming, I thought I’d compile some of things I have learned over the past seven months.
I have now been doing this crap for 180 days, so you could say I’m a bit of an expert.
FYI, that’s about 80% longer from some of you bastards who have avoided local lockdowns / tiers (here’s looking at you, southerners), so I reserve the right to be 80% more grumpy than any of you. The only people who get any of my sympathy are those from Leicester or that other part of Bradford that didn’t get that 19 day respite. Or people who’ve been shielding. Or maybe those in Scotland/ Wales / NI because I haven’t been keeping track of the rules there. Or people who are going to be significantly financially affected. Or people whose families are further away. Or, well.. Whatever. The point is that I hate you all and am definitely, definitely past my lockdown en-rage.
Helen’s guide to surviving lockdown measures
- If you can’t see your friends or family, you can buy company. By which I mean a cat. Just a mere £95 donation to cat’s protection (plus the money on litter trays, cat trees, cat food, litter, toys, insurance…. ) and there will be someone to watch TV with you for the next 12-15 years, unless the cat is busy doing cat-things. Or eating. Or kicking litter all over the front room. Or fighting the blinds. Or hiding. Or sleeping. Or if you scared the cat by spontaneously singing or laughing.
Introducing — Bertrand Hiorns-Russel (mostly known as Bertie)!
- If you can’t see your beloved besties, replace them with inanimate objects. For my birthday this year, Northern Bestie bought me an Elsa doll to represent OG Northern Bestie & and Barbie that represents her. Then London Beloved Bestie independently bought me a ‘peepee plush’ (AKA, a ‘giant cuddly penis’) after we laughed a lot at this website a million years ago. So now they sit on my sofa and are with me always.
- If no one’s happy to see you when you get home (from your trip to the supermarket / six thousandth walk of the month), create the illusion! If you are not prepared to go full feline-solution to this problem, you can just use a large teddy and place him in the window, eagerly anticipating your homecoming. I missed you too, Boris.
- It’s still a conversation if no one answers. Just ask creepy men on dating websites everywhere, even if you get no response, if you keep talking it still counts. Thank you to my tomato plants, Boris and Berite for such excellent conversations in the last seven months.
5. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and no one is looking. I now own four pairs of jogging bottoms and two different types of dry shampoo.
6. You can always work around restrictions placed upon you. It may not be ideal, but there’s always a work around. For example, the pull string on my bathroom light has been broken since August, so I’ve been primarily showering in the steadily-decreasing daylight hours and leaving the door open so I have the light from the corridor. Not ideal but workable. Also discovered my front room lights intermittently flash (quick enough that it’s imperceptible) and may-or-may-not trigger my Bubble Buddies epilepsy, so she hasn’t been coming into my house. The electrician is too busy to come look at it, but now I’ve bought lamps! Workarounds, my friends. Also true of lockdown restrictions. Probably. For example, hanging out with your friends in the park is allowed (if there’s less than six) and that’s always very practical and convenient
7. Practice gratitude. This is scientifically proven to make you happier and all that jazz. So instead of thinking ‘well this is annoying, I’m now showering in the dark’ think ‘at least no one is allowed in my house, so I am the only person inconvenienced by having no light in my bathroom’.
8. Remember the things that you are allowed to do. It is not currently illegal for me to do my laundry or my washing up. Yes, I have been legally allowed to be in the same room as my mother for 40 days since March, but reorganising the tupperware cupboard is totally legal and corona safe. Obviously, I’m not going to do those things, but it’s good to know your options.
(Also, pottery painting with bubble, pumpkin picking, pumpkin carving in the garden,walks and rainy picnics with my niece. Virtual — and virtually impossible — Halloween quizzes with the beloved besties. Bubble Sunday dinners and bubble cups-of-coffee. Reading books under blankets, lie-ins, hanging out with the cat).
9.) Remember your experiences and problems are not unique. It’s super easy to get into a rut or get into a habit of trying to justify your pain ahead of other people, because you have to live with yours all the time. However, chances are, you are not alone. For example, the other week when I was cat sitting for a friend and I somehow managed to stain her cat with lipstick (no, I did not snog the cat; I am not saying this again). I found it very encouraging that the internet confirmed I am not the only person whose had this problem.
10. Accept the things you cannot change and change literally anything within your power that’s left. Such as your hair. As I have been taught by many films about breakups, there is nothing more empowering than changing your hair. Guaranteed to make you feel like you are in charge of your own destiny for at least five minutes (three and a half, in lockdown situations).
11. Celebrate past successes to remind yourself that you’re not (just) an unproductive hermit who hasn’t seen another real life human for five days. Such as looking at reminding yourself of the book you published, many moons ago. Unfortunately, this tactic doesn’t necessarily work well if Amazon have randomly replaced the front cover of your book with a book entitled ‘Why your life sucks (and what you can do about it)’.
(I have looked up the book, because I would really like to know what I can do about it).
12. Do nice things for other people. Like volunteer at your local foodbank! And if, say, your lift-to-foodbank’s car breaks down on your driveway and is still waiting for the RAC man by the time you’ve finished up, it’s nice to offer to keep hold of the keys and give them to the RAC in the morning. This is especially good if you are also holding the keys for foodbank, because you can feel very responsible and internally call yourself the ‘keeper of the keys’ and perform a Hagrid impression for the cat.
SUB POINT TO POINT 12: However, if you do offer to hold keys for the foodbank / friend’s car, it is considered polite to actually be conscious when the RAC man / Foodbank manager turns up to collect the keys. If, say, the RAC man arrives earlier than expected, it is probably a good idea to put your phone on loud so you don’t miss three phone calls from friend who owns car. Or two from Foodbank Manager. Alternatively, it is a good idea to actually wake up when your alarm goes off, rather than staying completely dead-to-the-world until Foodbank Manager throws a rock at your window.
If all else fails, make sure that you are wearing appropriate PJs for when you blearily run down stairs to open the door and find both Foodbank Manager and RAC man waiting for their keys.
13. Support local businesses. Such as your local chinese take out. And your local indian takeout. And your local pizza place. The burger place. The off licence, etc. Cheerfully declare ‘just doing my bit for the economy’ as you eat your fourth takeout of the week and drink everything.
14. Capitalism is the answer. If all else fails, there’s nothing some targeted-shopping can’t fix (another thing I have learned from those break-up films). Last week, I spent away my pain by preparing for a depressing winter of only ever seeing most of the people I care about in the cold / rain /dark (or in fact, not at all), by buying thermal socks, micro fleeces, fleece-lined leggings and a torch. Oh, and outdoor lighting for my garden, given there were two whole weeks when it wasn’t illegal for me to have someone come to my garden. Sadly, we are being moved into tier 3 before I could get the lights out the box. So now they’re a depressing reminder that I have no power over my life and of the cruel cycle of hope and disappointment that is trying to make plans to make yourself feel better while isolated, fed up and lonely. Apart from that though, the spending thing works a treat.
Also bought a nice plant.
15. You’re not doing it alone if your pet is with you. In my case, this is particularly true if the thing you are trying to do is consume food. Or throwing up. Or working from home.
Here’s a picture of my intended breakfast. I did not eat any of it.
Happy National lockdown again everyone! (Probably)
It’s the morning of Friday the 29th August and a humble, frustrated, intelligent and attractive young woman is wearing joggers, a PJ top and a hoodie combo, leaving a video message for a friend while making coffee. She optimistically declares that she thinks local lockdown will be lifted in the part of Bradford she’s in today, despite little to no scientific backing (while my area of Bradford has been corona-light, there were actually some cases in the preceding week. 3, or something. Not major, but enough that it’s light blue on that map thing). Despite the pretty miserable outlook of the past few weeks — partially hormone inspired and a bit because of regular old jealousy — she is cautiously optimistic, and lists some of the things that will be possible of local lockdown lifts. She signs off the message with a ‘we’ll see’ and then spends the day working in her PJs, because it’s Friday, and she made a lockdown decision ™ to drop her hours to a half day on Friday months ago, and if it’s a half day working from home getting dressed is really superfluous.
Bizarrely, she is not wrong.
(Funnily enough, it took me long enough to get round to posting this that I’m back in local lockdown again, ha ha ha ha ha ha ha 😶)
There are a number of really, really excellent things about local lockdown restrictions being lifted.
Number one: In a plan that was half-optimistically made a month or so ago that none of us really believed was going to happen, I am GOING TO SHEFFIELD TO SEE NORTHERN BELOVED BESTIES. It has been SIX MONTHS and I usually low-key depend on these weekends as little pockets of rest that restore my resilience levels and make my soul all happy. Plus, it’s Northern bestie’s birthday. It’s been over five years since Northern bestie and OG Northern bestie have been dating and I have a pretty solid track record of inadvertently missing her birthday, as the first week of September often = holiday. Last year I was in Disney Florida, which feels like a good reason to miss it (thank you, facebook, for the incessant reminders about that).
SIDE NOTE: Received a message from Northern bestie after last blog post declaring that she was really happy to be referred to as one of the beloved besties rather than beloved bestie’s girlfriend (I’m sorry, fiancé!!!!). So to be entirely clear, Northern bestie was ABSOLUTELY always included in written mentions of ‘beloved besties’, I was just trying to find a suitable way of differentiating when I was talking about specific ones. Northern bestie: I think you’re completely top, I’m very proud of you, you have absolutely counted as a bestie in your own right for years and I am VERY EXCITED ABOUT YOU GUYS GETTING MARRIED NEXT SUMMER. Ahem. Back to regularly scheduled programming.
When I find out local lockdown is being lifted in my part of Bradford, send approximately six hundred messages to our group chat containing approximately six thousand exclamation marks. Nearly cry.
Number two: long distance housemate is going to visit for a few days. We’ve seen each other once since that time she hastily packed stuff for “a week” while I said goodbye through the window into the conservatory due to my intermittent cough. I’ve posted her three lots of clothes and took a big box of things down in the car, but mostly she’s been living at her parents with a fraction of her belongings. She sends me this meme, so we decide that we’re going to have fake Christmas. I think whichever of us mentioned it first was probably joking, but twenty minutes after the phone call — and before local lockdown restrictions have actually been lifted — I’ve ordered a new Christmas tree (long distance housemate sort of broke mine when we put it up last year, so we spent the festive season with the tree propped up against the wall and pissing ourselves laughing every time we looked at it. The tree arrives five days later and the smarmy ass delivery guy says “you know it’s August, right?” because it turns out it says “XMAS TREE” on the side of the box) and the day after our phone call I find three advent calendars and a panettone in the out of date Foodbank donations.
Number Three: I am getting a cat!! This actually has nothing to do with local lockdown restrictions, but I do find out about it on that same Friday thanks to a nice lady from Cats Protection ringing me to say that my application has been approved.
Just be clear, while this is a lockdown decision, this isn’t a Lockdown Decision ™ entirely inspired by the nice cat that hung out on my doorstep while I was hormonal and a bit sad. I’ve been talking about adopting a cat for three years. My sister has been sending me links to various cats for three years. When I purchased my sofas — three years ago — I paid for extra insurance to cover pet damage because I fully intended to get a cat. Last October, I visited a cat. I’ve just always had commitment anxiety, or been able to find a reason not to (the most recent being that long distant housemate doesn’t really like cats), or been low key convinced that I’m not quite responsible enough to look after another living creature. I fall down stairs on days I’m supposed to be catching flights to France and get wine stains on my ceiling and keep forgetting to do something about the fact that my conservatory leaks.
When I declare to friend that I’m ACTUALLY going to get a cat this time, she replies with ‘I’m not holding my breath’ (fair: she came with me on the meeting-the-cat-visit), but…. Have this moment of clarity when I realise I have now worked at my place of employment for five years, have had a mortgage for three years and I recently asked for a composter and a study chair as a birthday present. The labour party recently wrote to me and said I no longer qualified to pay student rates because I am turning twenty seven. Turns out, I am actually a responsible adult and quite a dull one at that. It happened. Might as well knuckle down and get myself a kitty cat.
As is often the way with these things, nothing happens for six months, then all of these things are supposed to happen in the same week.
Feel intermittently stressed about the number of things I need to “fix” before plans. Discover I own 37 pillow cases. Break Hoover. Order Christmas dinner food and keep having to remind myself that I used to have someone live with me or stay with me all the time and used to go away for the weekend all the time and it’s not actually the end of the world if I leave the house before my to do list is finished.
Long distance housemate is dropped off by her parents, twenty minutes after I’ve finished my morning working from PJs. In the end I decide not to get dressed because I also really need a shower and getting dressed first feels counterproductive and I don’t have time to do both, so I do the meet the parents thing in my PJs. The parents have a drink (of caffeine, not alcohol) for the road and later say to long distance housemate that I am ‘clearly very comfortable with who I am’ which is a nice way of saying that I am a total weirdo, but happy about it, which is definitely a backhanded insult I’ll be using in the future. To be fair, much of our conversation is based around Housemate & my big fake christmas plans, which is mildly ridiculous.
Have lunch with housemate, shower, pack and then jump on the train to Sheffield. While, yes, it’s illogical for these things to overlap, that’s sort of how it panned out and…. To be fair, it was a lot like this when we actually lived together. Housemate never did catch probable-coronavirus from me, mostly because when we backtracked we realised that we basically lived in different time zones and hadn’t actually seen each other for a week at the point where I got ill. Still, it does feel a little odd merrily leaving long distance housemate at my house, but at least I have a tomato-sitter.
And then, and then, I am in Sheffield.
Finally. Finally. Finally!!!!!!
Obviously, because I’ve been looking forward to and hoping this for months and months, I come down with a migraine, go to bed early and wake up at 4am to throw up a lot in their bathroom, which isn’t very corona friendly. Soz, folks.
Begin the day with a breakfast of paracetamol, aspirin and half a litre of water. We had big intentions to get food from this vegan junk food restaurant / take out place this evening, which is the source of a few jokes because the last time we’d planned to go there, I had the mother of all migraines and spent literally the entire weekend in bed or throwing up. I’d already thrown up twice when we walked to the restaurant for lunch and I’d optimistically thought that I was done with the vomiting and that the fresh air would make me feel better. What actually happened is that the second I smelt the food, I had to immediately leave to throw up again. The place is small enough not to have a loo, so I wound up throwing up on the street like the class act I am. That November-weekend was what inspired me to go back to the doctors ask them if they could do something about the damn things, because I was so sad that I didn’t get to spend any actual time with the besties that on the Saturday night I just laid in bed and cried to due a mixture of the pain and knowing that I’d lost my once chance to hangout with my besties that month. (Obviously, I left the drugs they gave me at home).
In comparison to that migraine, this whole thing is much less dramatic and by lunch time I manage to eat food and play a couple of games of mario kart before it’s evident that it’s not really a good idea. We watch Supernanny and play games and chat and drink coffee and it feels like everything is normal and good and lovely. There is cake and birthday presents and assigned ends of the sofa because ~social distancing~ and actually feel alive enough for vegan junk food.
Northern Bestie has been shielding and, at this point, has gone further than the end of the garden twice. Her report from the first instance was she managed to social distance quite well, apart from this drunk guy at the park who came at her rambling very loudly about football. We all decide to walk the five / ten minutes through the park to pick up our food, and we run into the same drunk man spouting monologues to football at no one, which brings a nice sense of symmetry to things.
Vegan junk food is good. Sheffield is good. I lose at Mario Kart.
Have traditional our-weekend brunch with Northern besties then play a few more games before I have to leave to go get the train. Feel much better than I have in weeks and we have another weekend scheduled together in a few weeks. Plus, am not going home to empty house, but to housemate who has purchased things for dinner because I am playing that game where I put off going to the shop until my Morrisons delivery, which is due that night.
As it turns out, I completely lose that game because a bottle of something smashes in my order and they end up not bringing £45 out of a £100 food shop. This is actually a disaster, because this is the Christmas foodshop and it’s effectively fake christmas eve. This is the mulled wine, sprouts and stuffing foodshop. I email Morrisons and (politely) explain that they’ve ruined fake christmas and that it’s all well and good refunding me for the items they didn’t bring, but I kinda wanted those items. Have no idea how else I’m going to source mulled wine before tomorrow and feel an impending sense of doom. It’s strange that even fake Christmas has the ability to be kind of stressful.
Fake Christmas day!! (Yes, this means I booked the day off work to have fake christmas. I have absolutely no regrets about this).
Breakfast of out of date panettone (Foodbank find) and mimosas in our matching Christmas PJs (we didn’t buy these especially; this is from the work christmas card where our whole team wore the same PJs. I do not know if this is better or worse). We also dress up Boris because, well, it’s that kind of day. If you’re going to commit to full on festivities in the first week of September, you might as well dress up the teddy.
The out of date vegan sugar-free advent calendar turns out to be as disappointing as you’d expect that collection of words to be. I don’t even make it through December 1st. To be fair, this is relatively accurate to my track record with advert calendar. Have one of those cloth ones that you fill yourself and my lovely mother sends me a big bag of chocolate and goodies to fill it with every November. I still have some of the chocolate left from Advent 2018. Housemate, however, sat and ate the entirety of her advert calendar in one sitting in the second week of December last year. This is not repeated with the out of date vegan sugar free chocolate.
Next, we put up my brand new Christmas tree while blasting out Christmas tunes, to the real delight of all my neighbours. No festive casualties this year and am very happy with new tree. At this point, we’ve changed into coordinating Santa and Elf costumes (both mine) and housemates accepts the first delivery of the day dressed as Santa. Delivery guy does not mention it.
Instead of purchasing gifts for Christmas, we decided to practice the spirit of gratitude by stealing some of each other’s belongings, wrapping them up and giving them back to the original owner. Housemate does an EXCELLENT job, here and (re)gifts me:
- A large phallic shaped mug that my uni-housemates once purchased for me from Amsterdam. Not entirely sure why I still own this. Not only is the handle of the mug a giant penis, it is also hollow, which means if you drink a hot beverage out of the mug the penis-handle gets so hot you have to hold it with a tea-towel. At uni, it used to be a fun game of ‘which member of the church group should we give the giant dick mug to’ but… I am about to turn twenty seven. Maybe it’s time.
- A copy of my own book, The Name on Your Wrist. No one’s ever got me this book before. Quite thoughtful, really. Would have been a double gift if she’d actually paid for it, as in a year’s time I’d get 70p in royalties.
- A sachet of cat food
- Most of our herbs, in homage to that time I got really pissy about her using the last of the basil.
- An empty bottle of tomato feed.
I give her a copy of a book she leant me that I spilt coffee on, some Rhibenna mulled punch that went out of date in March 2017 and a copy of two books that everyone got free from our employer. Both very satisfied with our gifts.
Another amazon delivery arrives. I answer in my elf outfit. He, once again, does not mention it.
Change into the third Christmas outfit of the day — Christmas jumpers & matching socks — for Christmas crafts and beginning our Christmas jigsaw while watching Christmas Friends Episodes. I head to Asda to pick up the things that Morrisons failed to bring us. Can’t for the life of me find mulled wine, so commit hard and buy cloves, star anise, etc etc — and then we head out on our Christmas walk.
No one we walk past mention the Christmas jumpers.
Next stop: Christmas dinner & crackers. At this point, the whole thing feels positively normal and we are having the best day. Stuff faces with stuffing and roast potatoes and sprouts.
Finish the day with mulled wine, watching Christmas Mingle (a heartwarming and inspirational film about a woman who makes the step to expand her dating horizons by pretending to be a Chrstian and joining Christian Mingle — because we all know that the best way to expend the dating pool is to search for Christian men- — eventually finding the Lord. Please note that I am being mildly sarcastic. It is a TERRIBLE film. You should absolutely watch it), receiving a video of our friends carol singing and making almost no progress on our christmas jigsaw.
So. Much. Fun.
Have to work. Being forced to attend meetings on fake boxing day is clearly a violation of my human rights. May join a union.
In a truly poetic turn of events, housemate mother gets ill with not-coronavirus, so housemate is stuck. Amusingly, she’d been paranoid about packing for a week and getting stuck for six month, so she’d packed almost everything she owns. Unfortunately, she left all her bottom-half-clothes in the car.
Cats protection call and say can’t have cat tomorrow as he’s got a stomach upset. Probably a good thing, as I still have long distance housemate staying.
Housemate still here (love ya girl).
Alone again! Am taking the week off to recover.
Morrisons finally apologise for ruining fake Christmas and refund me £3.50 for delivery.
Go crash family holiday.
Think “will be nice to have a bit of alone time” on the way home from holiday and Boris Johnson promptly puts me back in local lockdown, starting from my birthday.
Top 5 things about being around people:
- “I’ve popped the kettle on. Do you fancy a brew?”
- Eating meals with another human being. This is SO nice. I don’t think I ever appreciated this before. Even though I was working the rest of the week and housemate was out and about seeing people etc, so nice to have points at the day where you come together and chat over food. We don’t tend to eat the same things because I’m veggie and housemate is gluten free onion free garlic free and the intersect of foods we can both eat that taste nice tends to be a little small. But, still! Am convinced that when housemate comes back for good, will intentionally try to eat together. Also, also, also, also, when another human cooks you dinner. Man, that is the best. OOOh. Or when another human PLANS AND COOKS you dinner and you just show up with your appetite and an empty plate. Nom.
- The god stuff. SOO nice to watch Online-Church with another person. Pray with another real life person, who is in your room. Worship with a real life person. Soooo good.
- Stuff is MORE FUN and there are more options. Mariokart. Board games. Watching TV together. Cooking. Making tea & coffee. Putting together your new composter and using it as a giant tombola to decide what to do with the rest of the evening. Complaining about your migraine. Seeing someone open their birthday presents, not over video call.
- Makes you remember how much you love alone time again. (Until you’re sat in your very quiet house, again, thinking ‘so… guess this is it for a while.’)
At least I have a cat now.
Toilet roll situation: Yes, I own some.
Pasta stocks: Yes, I own some.
Mum’s top tip of the week: not sure if I’ve actually spoken to my mother this week. Should probably get on that.
Let’s get one thing straight before we begin the story: I am, broadly, a stable individual who is functional human being even when I am being savaged by the cruel beast that is hormonal fluctuations (actually, I suffer from hormonal migraines so am usually not a functional human being about one day a month, when I am instead throwing up, with a splitting headache and unconscious for fifteen plus hours a day while I try and sleep it off, but this is beside the point). I have my moments, sure. I’ve cried over Tesco’s adverts and spilling coffee over work laptops, but generally I, you know, bury the desire to smother myself in blankets and drown in chocolate by eating carbs, drinking extra coffees and just getting on with it.
And then there are hormones while on lockdown.
Various days last week:
Am incredibly irritable and irrational and decide I hate everyone, particularly those on holiday (see last blog post). Do sense check this against the hormonal calendar, which says that I shouldn’t be a mess for another week. This makes me feel much worse about my emotional instability. It’s very hot and become entirely convinced that I have missed my slot to ever leave Bradford again and that a full lockdown is imminent due to schools. Complain a lot.
Meanwhile, new neighbours move in and a very nice cat starts showing up. One evening, I leave front door open to coax in cold air while I bulk cook more Persian salads that one person can reasonably eat and turn around to find cat in my front room. Another evening, am on video call with beloved besties and find that cat is on my window still (which actually nearly gives me a heart attack, but after the shock it’s cute). By Saturday, I am spending an hour a day sat on the front step with the cat and am seriously considering stealing the cat, but feel this may negatively impact future relationship with neighbours.
Am gallantly gardening in the pouring rain because I bought some more seeds to extend my harvest into the autumn (yes, the gardening breakdown continues), when New Neighbour’s Nan asks me if I know who owns the cat. We have a bit of an odd conversation in which she compliments my gardening prowess and starts talking about how that’s what they did in ‘her generation’ and tells me about her fourteen grandkids in the rain. I tell her it’s a lockdown hobby and she says ‘yes this bloody lockdown, looks like we might be heading back that way because of the pubs’. Am a bit confused, because… well, we are back in lockdown, but don’t mention this because New Neighbour’s Nan doesn’t live with neighbours and feels rude to point out they are currently in violation of the rules. Maybe they didn’t realise they were moving into the plague zone. Maybe they do not care.
Take away point from the conversation is that I realise the cat doesn’t belong to the new neighbour. At this point, I am besotted with the cat and have already been inspired to contact cat protection to try to reserve my own little kitty cat, but now I want this cat.
Mission find cat owner begins. Contact street WhatsApp and no one comes forward as cat owners. Put a note in kitty’s collar to see if he’s going home to some place and make a four point plan that includes me eventually adopting the cat and living happily ever after.
Hormones hit me like a freight train. Established yesterday that calendar was wrong, which is encouraging because it means that there is an explanation for the past week of my life, but does not actually help me today. Knowing I am being irrational does not, in fact, make me feel more rational.
Sleep in an hour past the start of work and end up attending team check twenty minutes late in in my pjs before I’ve even brushed my teeth. On Mondays, we have a ‘how are you feeling’ check-in where we self identify with a bunch of images to visually display our mood. Tell team that I am the particularly disgruntled mop, that I want to go on holiday and leave Bradford and that I want to adopt the random cat from the street (this is the first they have heard about the cat; this is not the last they have heard about the cat) and that I don’t want to be at work. Afterwards, get dressed and get waylaid by checking that the cat is still outside (he is; little cutie) and then manage to work for about an hour before I start randomly crying about the fact that I do not, in fact, own the cat.
Consider texting manager that I need to cash in our provision of mental days because I am sobbing over a cat, but feel too pathetic. Force myself to calm down, have another coffee and get some work done.
Cry through lunch break, sat on front step, trying to get the cat to come give me cuddles. Have a short lunch break in an attempt to work back some of lost time from this morning (we have flexi, which means at least me being a terrible employee is recorded) and manage about another hour of productivity before the tears start again.
Female colleague fresh back from holiday asks me if I will be in optional afternoon check in to say hi. I explain about random bouts of hormonal crying and that I may join depending on how likely tears are. She says she can handle the hormonal tears. I point out that she might be able to, but am concerned about the men. She sends me private video call link, which is so nice that I start to cry, then I sob over video call to her for twenty minutes or so (while talking about work).
Work for another hour, then take afternoon break sat on the front step stroking cat in the rain. Kitty now comes when I call. At this point, I genuinely believe that this cat is the only good thing I have in my life, and am traumatised by fact that the cat probably has an owner and I will never get to own the cat. Text several separate people and tell them that the cat is the best thing that I have in my life right now, which mostly goes unacknowledged because it is ridiculous.
Do some more work with degree of composure, but am missing cat enough that I decide to have final meeting of the day (with team mates I work closely with) with cat on my front doorstep. Tune into meeting sat cross legged on the floor outside of my house, with cat (yes, it’s still raining).
Meeting gets interrupted because another cat shows up and also tries to enter my house. Am somewhat aware that to my neighbours I am now the single twenty something who:
- had a picnic with an oversized teddy named Boris
- Sits in her bikini in a paddling pool made for a toddler
- Conducts work meetings sat on the floor outside her house with a random cat.
Internet gets a little wobbly so go in for the rest of the meeting.
As soon as it hits five, start crying about how ridiculous and irrational I’m being. Message bubble buddy and ask if I can come over for a hug and a cup of tea because I am a hormonal blubbery mess. She sends male housemate upstairs and I end up crying on her bed about how much I love the cat. Tell her that the cat is the best thing in my life and she laughs at me, but kindly, and it’s all a bit funny with company. She invites me over for dinner but I really want pizza, so instead I just hang around while she cooks with coffee and have occasional semi-hysterical outbursts as I go through the list of things that I have cried over in the last seven days. We agree I need to go on holiday. We agree I need to adopt a cat, if not the cat.
Order pizza at her house and only nearly cry when dominos takes my money but don’t accept my order, which shows real strength of character I feel. Bubble buddy phones them because I ask her too (which shows real lack of strength of character, I guess) and I look very pathetic and in the end she pays for it on her card and it’s so lovely that I, yes, nearly cry again.
Go home and sit on doorstep with cat in rain. Cat sits on my keys, so have little choice but to sit there. Feel very calm while stroking cat. Also feel slightly damp, because it is raining.
Sit on front doorstep with cat until pizza arrives.
Dominos man thinks I am very, very, keen for my pizza.
He isn’t entirely wrong.
Have first back day in office since March! Given yesterday, had expected this to be a bit of a disaster, but this actually turns out to be okay and actually quite fun (and no tears—- goodbyeeeee choking on hormones for another month).
Am going into the office because I’m writing a report on another team’s workload, so was intending to shadow some of their work to understand it. This is a bit of a social distancing nightmare, to be honest, but in the end we find a way through with her zooming into her web browser until the font is comically large while I squint at her screen from ‘1 meter plus’ away. Get what I need and have a quasi-productive day, involving chatting to some people I haven’t seen in a while and getting to buy a Taco Bell for lunch then eating it outside in the sort-of-rain with colleague.
I have missed wasting large amounts of money buying lunch from town.
May reply to the email about yesterday’s meeting’s action points asking colleagues to give action points to the cat so that he doesn’t feel left out. Colleague actually does which is brilliant, or perhaps a sign that we’ve all been on lockdown too long.
Get home to find kitty on my front step waiting for me. Sit in the rain with the cat for another hour and then cancel plans to nearly fall asleep on the sofa and eat leftover pizza.
Day initially uneventful.
Conduct another meeting with a cat & discover the note I put in kitty’s collar in my back garden.
After work, continue mission locate cats owner: speak to vets about how to get his chip read (intend to go down on Friday with my afternoon off) and then put several pictures of the cat on Facebook pet lost and found groups. Had been searching these previously to see if anyone had lost my kitty, but nothing had come up. Am just about to go on first of two rain-sodden walks in the park of the evening ( the first including a side trip to friend’s to pick up cat carry to transport kitty on Friday), when start receiving a large number of messages from woman who thinks I might have her cat.
At this point, had taken a minor detour from going on walk to sit on the step and cuddle kitty goodbye. We exchange a few messages in which she sends me a few pictures of a cat that looks broadly similar to the one that’s currently on my lap but are quite poor quality. Then she asks if she can facetime me with the cat in an attempt to make a positive ID…. . Which is how I end up video calling a random woman from Halifax from my front step (and yes, it is still raining).
Her cat is called Marley. She starts going ‘Marley, Marley, Marley!! Is he answering my voice?’ while kitty indifferently does, well, nothing. She calls the eldest child over and says ‘Is that Marley? Kevin*, is that Marley? Is that our Marley?’ while I awkwardly point the camera in the direction of the cat. ‘It’s hard to tell when he’s so wet!’ As a person who is also very wet — due to sitting on the step in the rain — I do understand why this is an issue.
‘Is he a boy??? Is he a boy??’
‘Well… I don’t really know how to tell, to be honest. I’ve been calling him a he.’
‘Lift up his legs. Lift him up. See if he has any balls. Marley’s neutered, so he won’t anyway but….’
(At this point, I stop trying to both video call with a cat and lift the front of the cat up to look at his genitals; while this cat has been very good and well behaved, I don’t want to try my luck.)
‘Charlene. Charlene*, come here now, please. Tell me if this is Marley. My daughter. She loves him, she’ll know. Is that our Marley? (random teenager on the other end of the video call comes over and shrugs a ‘maybe’ as the very, very wet cat on my lap continues to stare indifferently at the screen). What does his meow sound like?’
“Uh, well. He only really meows when he’s hungry so I haven’t heard it much.”
‘That’s it!! That must be our Marley!! He only meows when he’s hungry. Sounds like a baby crying. My youngest can do his meow. Danny*, Danny come here — do Marley’s meaow. Do the meow.’
Danny joins the conversation. At this point I am video calling a pre-teen boy doing a very generic cat impression, sat on my front step in the rain which…. I did not see coming.
‘So, does he sound like that? Maybe he’ll answer to the meow. Danny. Do it again Danny. Do the meaow again.’
The cat impression is repeated. The cat gives me a blank look.
*Please note I have forgotten the name of her children. These names are made up.
At this point, I am bemused, confused, slightly wet and a little dubious. The woman lives a good 35 minute drive from my house and her cat was lost without a collar while mine has one, so I’m a little iffy about whether this is or isn’t her cat and unsure whether I’m just in denial. I do know that cat belongs to someone that is not me. I tell the woman that I’m just going out, but I’ll continue with my plan of getting the cat’s chip read and will let her know on Friday. She sends an additional nine pictures of the cat, fifteen messages and a length explanation of what the chip information should say.
Cat follows me up the road when I go on my walk. When I come back (now with cat carry for vet trip on Friday), Cat is on my front step again. I have another ten messages from the woman about the cat and whether she can send her mum / friend / cousin to my house to ID the cat before Friday. While I do absolutely understand her eagerness — the cat has been missing for three weeks — this is slightly stressful, and the reason I’m going on Friday is because I’ve only just got the cat carry off my friend and I’m going to the beach (!!!!) tomorrow.
Turns out, the lost and found facebook group puts me in contact with a woman who has a scanner thing and can come to my house and scan the kitty cat. Arrange for her to come tomorrow morning, cave and let the cat inside for a bit, and then go to bed.
First mission of the day is to ‘contain’ the cat so a woman can come and scan his chip. This cat has never heard the expression about herding cats and is remarkably chill about doing exactly what I want it to. I point it inside my conservatory and he goes. Cat also doesn’t mind just hanging out in the conservatory as long as I don’t leave him alone, where he tries to follow me (and it turns out he can open doors, so that’s an experience). Right before she gets here, I feed the cat and he eats it so quickly that he throws up on my carpet.
Cat woman comes. Turns out I have been appropriately gender-ing the cat. He also does not belong to random woman in Halifax, but is supposed to live about a ten minute walk from my house. He’s been with his family for ten years and has been missing for four weeks. Cat woman calls the family and they turn up within ten minutes, just after I’ve evicted the kitty (pointed at the door and he went; this cat is so well trained it’s unbelievable) and am having a final hang out session on my front step. They are appropriately relieved that their cat has shown up and cat looks sufficiently indifferent about it (because cats). I’m both happy for them and a bit sad, because I really loved that damn cat. Within fifteen minutes, I am left alone with nothing but cat vomit in my conservatory.
I’m very glad this didn’t happen on Monday, because I probably would have been an inconsolable, sobbing, snotty mess, but now I’m just a bit gutted and a lot disgusted by the cat vomit.
The good news is, cat woman delivers the bad news to Halifax lady, who has already sent me another five messages this morning, which means I do not have to contact her again.
The other good news is that last week, when friend and I went for a walk around the park in the middle of our lack-of-holiday, lockdown-frustration (and hormone) inspired rage, we decided to book this Thursday off and go to the beach (incidentally, this is not in violation of local lockdown rules, because the rules are really odd). Both of us were fully anticipating the weather to be completely terrible and that we’d drive for two and half hours, sit on a cold, wet beach for an hour out of spite, then turn round and come home feeling more irritable than when we started. However, by some minor miracle it is gloriously sunny so, although my day starts off with abandonment and vomit, twenty minutes after I’ve seriously considered throwing out the rug rather than cleaning up regurgitated tuna we’re on our way to the freaking beach!!!!!!
We decided we’d pick which direction we went on the day based on the weather and the forecast says Whitby. Whitby is one of those places that stepped in childhood nostalgia and affection for me, so am very happy about this.
Other good news: other friend linked me to government website that says that, contrary to my belief (and I’m sure contrary to what they initially announced), I am allowed to go to a restaurant with another household as long as we sit outside. Slightly gualling that this means I could have been cashing in on the government cheap food deal and what not but, to be fair, it’s been tipping it down with rain all week. However, this means we get a nice table on the decking at the first restaurant we find, buy some drinks, sit in the sun and both occasional sigh and say ‘I’m so happy’ or ‘I feel like I’m on holiday’ or ‘we couldn’t have asked for better weather’ on repeat. We do this intermittently for the entire six hours we stay in Whitby.
Order fish and chips at the restaurant because we’re right by the beach.
Waitress-wearing-mask-over-mouth-but-not-nose asks if we want any sauces, but then comes back sheepishly and tells me that the restaurant is out of ketchup.
After she’s gone, take a sage sip of my white wine and say ‘this is why you always carry ketchup in your handbag’.
Woman on the next table turns to us and says “…. I actually do have ketchup in my handbag, if you wanted some.’ Historically, I have been taught not to take sweets from strangers, but no one has ever given me any advice from taking ketchup from strangers, so I take the ketchup and feel very good about that fact because it’s a good addition to my fish and chips (if this is the reason I catch coronavirus, I’m going to be pissed).
Very idyllic day.
Drink wine (on outside table) in restaurant while low-key judging the family with the nine year old playing with a toy gun and a fake cigarette, then wander down to the beach. Take great pleasure social distancing from group of boys who are having a farting competition. We paddle, read books, partake in a very odd pandemic experience of the 2p slot machines (literally how are they allowed to be open?), discuss at length the different quality levels of an establishment’s hand sanitiser, wander into shops, walk up to the abbey, eat ice cream, run into a couple from work and chat about the fact that they’re supposed to be in Malaga, take a brief trip to the supermarket after friend (who is allergic to wasps) accidentally kneels on one and we have to get antihistamines and take a boat ride round the bay.
Approximately a year ago, the two of us were on holiday in Malaga and we took a catamaran trip where they bought you a cocktail and they had the equivalent of sun lounges and we made decisions about where to eat based on where they had sufficient aircon because it was so hot we were mostly just sweaty puddles rather than people. She made a running tally of how much wine I drank (which she reported was ‘disappointedly little’) and we had the best part of a week of sun, beaches and hanging out . We decide that six hours in Whitby is Exactly The Same Thing ™ as that holiday and return to parroting ‘this is so nice’ and ‘we were so lucky with the weather’ and ‘I’m so glad we’re not at work’ at each other on repeat.
Stop at Taco Bell for food on the way home (friend’s choice; I sent her a video of me waiting at Taco Bell on Tuesday because we used to have taco Tuesdays at work and she was very jealous, then in an attempt to find somewhere to buy food and use loos we stumbled across it). Eat outside, because rules, which means we’re sat at the table right next to the Drive Thru order place and get to judge all the people who are insane enough to ask for things without guacamole.
Friend doesn’t use all her ketchup, so I pocket it in honour of the ketchup-giver from this morning. Turn to her sagely and say ‘You should always have ketchup in your handbag’.
She says “knowing your luck, it’ll spill everywhere.” There’s a solid basis for this comment, given the usual coffee situation and that thing with the guacamole and the cinema trip and that time I tipped an entire bowl of grated cucumber into my handbag, or that morning I broke the bathroom sink, dropped a toilet roll down the loo and dropped my breakfast all before 10AM. Or the fact that there’s a wine stain on my ceiling, or the homemade salsa that fell on my head, or that work laptop / coffee situation that could have ended a little better.
Get home at around half nine to discover that, in my rush to move laundry from bathroom to washing machine and clean up cat vomit before going to the beach, I managed to drop a t-shirt and a sock down the toilet.
Still. Very idyllic day.
Top 5 things about being a woman:
The prerogative to have a little fun. Although there’s little else that I agreed with Shania on, I’m not sure that I actually do agree with her here. I certainly don’t think that the prerogative to have a little fun outweighs the total nightmare that is the hormone thing, as referenced above. Or the systematic violence against women. Or the patriarchy. There’s a lot of crap about being a woman.
- The prevalence of handbags means I can carry all the crap I need without trying to fit it in my pocket. Like my reusable coffee cup, six types of drugs, a book, ketchup etc.
- People expect me to care about football less. While I am generally anti these types of stereotypes, I really, really do not like people trying to talk to me about football.
- If I get married, on my hen do no one would ever expect me to keep a steak in my underwear all day, go wild swimming and then BBQ and eat the steak, like that story my male bubble buddy told us about. Women don’t do that to each other because it’s disgusting and odd.
- If a bird dies in my garden it’s socially acceptable for me to accidentally enlist a man to remove the dead corpse from my front path. If I was a man, I would be expected to do this myself because toxic masculinity. In general, toxic. Occasionally, quite useful.
- Can text a friend while sobbing inconsolably about a cat and friend will greet me with hug, coffee and a glass of wine, chat to me about my feelings as I cry on her bed, laugh companionably about how crap hormones are, then order me a pizza. Female friendships are these meaningful, life long things based on mutual support, emotions, and chocolate.
Toilet roll situation: Ran out of loo roll!!! Finally happened!! I mean, I actually got down to 3 rolls then made a mental note to buy some more which I later forgot until 4am, at which point I blearily grabbed my phone and emailed my work email (side note: emailing my work email to remind me to do something feels a lot weirder now that I pick it up from my sofa. It’s kinda like I’m just emailing downstairs, which would actually be totally cool).
Pasta stocks: I’m going to level with you here. I’m too lazy to get up and find out how much pasta I own. Presumably, I own some pasta.
Mum’s Top Tip of the week:
Last week, my brilliant, determined and very hard working sister finished her nursing degree after a long slog. We celebrated with a family zoom call, mini bottles of prosecco (for me) and comparing conversatories because we are middle class AF. In classic zoom fashion, we timed out of the meeting (introvert pro tip: Zoom’s handy meeting limit is also good at providing an external limit to social situations. Much easier to text ‘was lovely to see you — need to go on’ after you’ve been kicked out than saying ‘I need to leave to literally do nothing’ during the call. More golden wisdom like this continued below).
My grandma was a little confused about what happened with the call ending, so popped a message on our whatsapp asking what was going on.
It should be noted that at this point my Mum was at my sister’s to provide childcare while my sister & brother-in-law navigated both of them working shifts with a toddler, and that they had opted for the full sized bottle of prosecco. It should also be noted that apparently my Mum — who taught me everything I know about wine drinking (ish) — can’t hold her prosecco very well. She was slightly giggly and slightly loud during the first zoom call which was apparently the result of two glasses of prosecco. And, as my dad and other-sister scrambled together to set up a new link, my mother attempted to explain to my grandma the deal.
According to my mother:
I think someone sends you another drink.
Now that’s a service I’m here for.
(Actually, my parents have become the lockdown wine-fairies and sporadically send wine deliveries to my house because alcohol is their love language, so really I do have this service. This week, the wine company rang me ‘concerned’ because I hadn’t put in an order for a while and I had to explain that my parents have just been shipping it to my address. Feel like I should be ‘concerned’ about their ‘concern’, but I am not. Because I have wine).
Lockdown: in, out, in out, shake it all about
As of the 31st July, I am one of them lucky folks back on local lockdown.
I would love to tell you that I have been taking this with dignity and grace, but that would be a lie.
Initially, I was more annoyed about the Eid-Eve thing and the communication thereof than the actual impact on my life and I sort of shrugged it off with a ‘it’s coming for us all’ and ‘we’ve done it before’ and ‘I had a good run with those four weeks I was allowed to go into someone else’s house’ and ‘man this is a really odd collection of rules, but okay’.
This week I traded that in for compiling a long list of people I hate. This includes:
- People who are on a beach because all I want in the whole world is to be on a beach.
- People who are furloughed because they at least get to not work and I would like to not be at work (I know this one is particularly unfair and ungracious, because I am aware that furlough is also uncertain and stressful)
- People who don’t work during the summer because they don’t have to try and work when it’s a thousand degrees
- People who have cars and can do things like drive places like say, I don’t know, a beach.
- People who have just been on holiday, who look all relaxed and happy and like they’ve a nice time. Bastards.
- People who have a holiday booked and are doing that counting down thing, or say things like ‘it’s nice to have something to look forward to’.
- People who ask me if I have any time off booked and I have to say “well no… not really. I don’t fancy going away on my own so….”
- People who live with people and are therefore still allowed to do things with people, like go eat food out or watch tv together or, I don’t know, GO ON HOLIDAY SOMEONE PLEASE TAKE ME ON HOLIDAY
- People who don’t live in a local lockdown area, so are allowed to do things with other people, like go eat or watch TV or, I don’t know, GO ON A DAMN HOLIDAY.
In my defence of my awful and rampant jealousy (I’ve never really thought of myself as someone prone to jealousy until this pandemic but, daym, and it’s horrible. How do you make it go away?), I am a complete disaster when it’s this hot. I can’t sleep, I get headaches, I get nauseous and I get very, very cranky.
But, also. It’s August 13th as I write this. I went into self isolation on the 13th March. Since then, there has been four weeks when I have been allowed to be in the same room as another person. I have spent the same amount of time being allowed to have anyone in my home as not this year.
(Well, I actually have had a support bubble as a single adult household since June 13th, but that’s still three months of me and Boris rattling around and it sort of ruins a good whinge. My bubble buddies are top, though. There have been dinners and wine and cheese and Mariokart and just popping over for a coffee. My first hug was bloody incredible and I nearly cried and I got to go into their house!!! And my bubble knows how to have a kick ass wine and cheese night and, oh yeah, I definitely forgot that one of said bubble filmed us doing fake wine reviews and I should probably track and trace the footage and have it destroyed. Also, did I mention the hugs?)
Alas, as a wise man once said, we must try not to sink beneath our anguish, Harry, but battle on.
(Of course, Dumbledore was actually being a sarcastic little shit when he said that, but it’s still a good quote).
So, let’s go back in time to when I was less of a moody so-and-so.
An introverts guide to (temporarily 🙄) leaving lockdown:
- Use the rules to your advantage
We’ll kick off where we left off: my first gathering of more than one other person in my garden and the first face to face group-social in months, set the morning after my last blog post. Scones in the garden.
Spoiler alert: it rained.
However, we are British. Couldn’t be arsed to find my umbrella, so instead give friends the parasol-thing (quasi-waterproof and about as wind proof as a regular umbrellas – AKA not at all – brilliant moment when the whole thing flew off taking a plant pot and the milk bottle top with it) and then attached Ikea bag to washing line to fashion an ingenious awning. Turns out the bamboo canes from garden are exactly the right size to hold this open. Look like a tit, but am dry. Then fourth friend shows up with a champing chair and an anorak so massive she puts it on over her and the chair. Feel much better about my own waterproofing (love you really, pal).
We sit in the rain and chat. Is properly, properly lovely and feel lots of warm and fuzzy things. And also I feel damp, because it is raining, and ikea waterproofing only works if I keep hold of the straps.
At this point, they are unable to come in and use my bathroom. This is where my first introvert pro-tip comes in: if you give them enough cups of tea, the social interaction can only last as long as their bladder. Introvert win.
- Be flexible
So, it’s tipping it down with rain and you can’t have the garden based lunch you planned? So, you can’t sit on the picnic tables as you expected because they’re locked up? So, you’re wandering around after your Foodbank shift with three supermarket purchased sundaes and three gradually being-diluted-by-the-rain-cups-of-tea?
It’s perfectly acceptable to have tea and dessert in a random bus shelter in the middle of a downpour. Perfectly. Acceptable.
Introvert pro-tip: the rain puts a time limit on things too.
- It’s important to take time to yourself
Remember, just because you’ve been locked in a house alone for three months doesn’t mean you actually like people. As people start expecting you to enter real life again and do things like… socialise in person and… leave the house and… stop talking to giant teddies called Boris, carve out some Quality Introvert time.
As always with quality time, it’s not about just being in the same room with no one. It’s about enjoying the experience of being on your own. Finding things that you enjoy more on your own. Time does not equal quality time.
For example, I took a week off (mostly because I realised I’d only used my annual leave to volunteer at foodbank, forced bank holidays and two other days else where; this does not a very relaxed Helen make) and fully embraced the fake holiday life. By which I mean I went for walks in the park, read books, made myself iced coffee and…
And, yes, I sat in my bikini in the three inches of water in the paddling pool that my three year old niece rejected as being too small.
Would I do it again? Absolutely.
Do my neighbors think I’m odd? Yes, yes they do.
Do I regret the delivery guy showing up while I was sat in the paddling pool in my bikini? Yes.
(As a solution to my want to be on holiday angst I’m not sure repeating this experience is the one. I enjoyed myself and it was restful and relaxing, but I’ve done the annual leave to sit around my house thing now)
- Maintain healthy rhythms
Once upon a time in a world long long ago, there was no coronavirus and my besties and I would spend one weekend every month together drinking wine or cocktails, watching telly, playing games, eating food and R E L A X I N G. Haven’t seen London bestie in real life since February and haven’t seen Northern besties since that time I came down with coronavirus while in their house and had to leave back in March.
(If if wasn’t for this stupid local lockdown I’d be SEEING THEM RIGHT NOW. I hate coronavirus).
However, now we have weekly online cards against humanity, psyche and video chats. Oh, and me and OG northern bestie have instituted Drag Race Sunday’s, where after I’ve watched online church we watch an episode of Drag Race over Netflix watch party because I am a well rounded individual.
- Give up healthy rhythms
Am I going to go for a walk every day of my life for the rest of time? No.
Do I believe that it is broadly good for me and was a really great thing I got out of lockdown? Yes.
Am I going to feel bad about immediate dissolving of good discipline now things are more normal? No.
- Take things slow
What we’re really looking for here is someone saying “So what have you done this weekend now X rule has changed and you can do Y?”
And you realize that you forgot to make any plans to see the people and that you should probably do that.
(Just not TOO slow. Who knows when those rules are going to change again?)
- Family is a bit like a contagious disease (but in a nice way). Nothing for months, then one case tends into a social contact pandemic (but a nice one)
I usually see my family quite a lot and I found not seeing them really hard. There was a time when the concept of seeing my parents made me have a little cry and when the concept of missing my niece’s third birthday felt quite likely and really painful. I saw my sister last that time we-shared-a-cocktail-and-I-may-have-given-her-coronavirus-in-March and I hadn’t seen my parents since Christmas, cause the week they were supposed to stay was when I was self-isolating.
And then, the floodgates opened.
McDonalds in my garden with sister & brother in law, with fake-prosecco and, of course, adequate social distancing and what not. So good to see them.
And then — parents! Soooooo nice. Got a bit emotional about not being able to hug my mum before they came, but then they were in my garden and she’d sewn me some masks and bought me an entire cake. Went for a classic lockdown walk and had pizza in the garden and felt a bit emotional again when they left.
That was probably a bit dramatic, because two weeks later they were back with my niece, sister and brother in law for a garden BBQ (in the slight rain) and after that they were allowed in my house (!!) and we ate nachos.
And then, two weeks later, they’re back again, only this time they stayed for three nights so that we can all go to my niece’s 3rd birthday day-out and we do things like go to a restaurant (!!!!) and go to tourist attractions (!!!). When they go home, they take me with them and I stay at my parents house for three nights and work from there.
I left Bradford.
This was actually very anxiety inducing because I have never left my tomato plants alone before and it was supposed to be very hot, but I gave my Bubble Buddy the key to my house and she did an excellent job at keeping them company and no one died (and I think she enjoyed the change of scenery).
In retrospect, I wish I’d just booked the time off and taken a proper break while I was at my parents, because I was only there Wednesday-Friday and I worked all of it. Still, I got to see one of my best friends in the whole world in person (!!!) and we went for walks, went out for dinner and even — this one was wild — went to a bar.
On the way back, we take a detour to sister and Brother-in-law’s house and take niece to a place where there are penguins and a make-shift stage for her to perform Ring-around-the-Rosie which I think was a remarkable satirical commentary on the the current pandemic, given that she is three. At this point, I have gone from spending an average of twenty three hours a day completely alone to spending six days in a house with other people, going outside, going inside to places where there are other people and am possibly more tired than I’ve ever been in my life.
I say to long-distant-housemate ‘putting myself on fake lockdown after a very busy week last week’. Then the government did it for me. Damnit.
- Plants talk less than people
Also, you can eat (some of) them. Nom nom nom.
Top 5 things about being back in local lockdown:
- More time to listen to Taylor Swift’s new album on repeat for hours
- … got nothing.
- If it’s an effective measure against rising infections then it’s good that less people will catch coronavirus and suffer serious health implications and it will ultimately be better for everyone.
Let’s go back in time.
It’s Friday 13th March and an attractive, intelligent and humble woman is hunched over a desk at the office. She’s slightly tired from taking her sister out for a belated birthday meal the night before (which she will later discover is the meal where she may-or-may-not have given half her family coronavirus) and from this very technical mega-forecasting-project (that will become slightly obsolete and tabled for three months around 100 hours from now).
On Fridays, her floor of the office plays music requests during the afternoon and her team is in charge of the theme this week. She has just stumbled across the ‘COVID-19 Quarantine’ playlist on spotify, which at the time feels very, very funny. This turns into a quasi-raucous joke over the desks and in the end she convinces the-person-in-charge to make the theme for this week ‘Current affairs.’
Over her regular Friday lunchtime Thai-Restraurant with friend, he says ‘we should probably make the most of it, because this may be the last Thaiday that we have for a while’. She vaguely regrets how much money she’s spent on eating out this week and definitely believes that next week they will be back in this restaurant, as per, with the waiters guessing their orders mostly-correctly before they’ve looked at the menu.
She gets back to her desk as they start playing the ‘current affairs’ playlist. She listens to half of it, amused at everyone’s slightly off-colour requests, and then remembers that it’s loud, puts her headphones on and works until five.
On a whim, at the end of the day she decides to take her work laptop home. Just in case.
Sixteen hours later, she starts to cough.
Now, twelve weeks later, that same attractive, intelligent, increasingly funny, humble woman finishes another working week from her sofa and remembers, in a moment of odd, slightly hysterical clarity, the songs that she requested to be played the last time she was allowed in the office.
U can’t touch this.
Work From Home.
(I just checked and the playlist has now expanded to include ‘We Are Never Ever Getting Back Together and ‘Kiss Me Thru The Phone’ and ‘All By Myself’ and I stand by the fact that it’s hilarious).
Toilet roll situation: Yup. Have yet to run out of toilet roll.
Pasta stocks: Yup. Also still have pasta. Today I ate my second Asdas ‘extra special’ stuffed sage and butternut squash ravioli of lockdown. Inspired by the mild insanity of having not really left home for the past 83 days (but who’s counting?), I decided to try and make it ‘serve two’. Or, you know, myself twice, given I’m relatively sure I’m still not allowed to share food with people, and Boris (the teddy) doesn’t eat.
As an experiment, I’d say it was a stonking failure. Although I did only eat half of it, by the time it got to 3:30pm I was so hungry that I bought myself a dine in for two (for one; see notes above about Boris not eating) and a pizza meal deal when I popped into M&S after Foodbank. After spending my entire grocery budget on more-than-I-needed-but-not-enough-to-justify-the-cost, I got home and immediately ate the rest of it. At 4pm. For a snack. Plus, now I own two pizzas. I’ve already had a pizza this week and have got another pizza base to make a second.
Is a global pandemic enough justification to eat four pizzas in a week?
Mum’s Top Tip of the last few weeks: On Sunday, I was just merrily going about my lockdown business when my glasses fell apart in my hands. I’m not one of those people who needs glasses ‘a bit’. I’m one of those people where people do that thing where they take your glasses and try them on and go ‘man, your eye sights terrible!!’ (I’ve never really understood the logic of this process) and then wave a hand in front of your face and ask if you can see it.
I really like being able to see things. It’s nice. Ergo, glasses breaking — not ideal.
So, here I am, a bit stressed, wearing my sunglasses inside, trying to look up what the deal is with opticians in the middle of a pandemic, trying to use those tiny screwdrivers that come out of Christmas crackers to do some kind of repair job (while wearing sunglasses). I put a picture of my poor, sad glasses on the family whatsapp, seeking comfort and sympathy, and then ask for suggestions about where past-Helen might have kept her old glasses.
My mother is the first to reply.
Have you tried looking under that pile of things on the floor.
(I wasn’t sure which pile of things on the floor she was talking about, but I did look, and they weren’t there).
Side note: I wouldn’t recommend breaking your glasses during a pandemic. It really is a complete pain in the ass, especially if you got your glasses from a place that isn’t open in the city you live in during the pandemic (it’s not just my mother that offers a stunning lack of sympathy in my time of need. As I was stressing at a friend about Boots being shut and my fear of being left blind and bereft of sight she just goes, totally deadpan, ‘you should have gone to Specsavers’). In the end, I did go to Specsavers — by appointment to enter the store only — and they took pity on me and gave me an eye test so I didn’t have to spend £200 on a pair of glasses with an out of date prescription. Still, trying on glasses with someone wearing a full face guard who has to disinfect everything you touch, when there’s a guy waiting outside for you to be done so he can come into the shop, is worse than the experience that trying on glasses when you can’t see what they look like because you’re not wearing glasses is normally. Also, everyone makes jokes about Banard Castle. Now, my glasses are on order and I’m rocking the Harry Potter sello-taped look.
Back in March, when the government announced that, if you had symptoms, you had to stay at home for 14 days and I sobbed like a baby (before I read the clearer, written down version of this and concluded that as a solo-isolator I was free after 7). Given that now, months later, I haven’t gone further from my home than the Foodbank (around 3 miles) for 12 weeks…. This feels like a really serious overreaction. I recently filled in work’s ‘back to the office’ survey to say that I am happy to work from home indefinitely and actively want to stay working from home three days a week forever. I am very, very close to have my first home-grown tomatoes and, just this week, finally, after 11 weeks of searching I managed to get fence paint!!!
Obviously, and especially given this was combined with BJ’s recent ‘you can meet in gardens’ announcement, this happened:
Still, I persevered and used the final scrap of sun on Tuesday to paint through my break times, lunch times and as soon as I’d finished work until my fence was finally, finally painted! I started the job approximately last August, before running out of nice weather / paint / motivation. I like to think succumbing to the ‘lockdown home improvements’ makes me officially an adult, even if it’s probably more symptomatic of neglect. Exhausting though. Finished up at 7:30pm and mostly just wanted to go to bed. Persevered through reheating & eating portion six million of my moussaka (official conclusion; moussaka is not worth the effort of cooking even if it’s batch cooked), then ran myself a bath as soon as I had the energy too. Will blame the paint fumes for the fact that I wound up reading Harry Potter in the bath with a glass of wine and a Brownie which was fine, perfectly lovely in fact, until, for unknown reasons, I started reading it out loud. To myself. With voices.
We’ll take this as a good segue.
Things I never thought I would do before lockdown but now seem totally acceptable / fun ways to spend the time:
- Reading Harry Potter, out loud, to myself with voices. Naked. With the window open. (That all sounds a lot weirder without the context that I was in the bath but, you know).
- General gardening related Mania. This includes: watching Youtube videos about gardening, exchanging pictures of plants with beloved bestie who’s also having a gardening themed lockdown-breakdown, getting up in the middle of an awful six-day-migraine purely because I was concerned that my tomatoes hadn’t been watered and I didn’t want them to be sad and apologising, out loud, to my tomatoes one Saturday for not feeding them until past 11am. That one wouldn’t be so bad, really, but for some reason I did it in a broad yorkshire accent. Anyway.
- Being a 26 year old with a paddling pool. Apparently, I talked enough about having a low level jealousy for my sister’s paddling pool enough that she sent one to me in the post (her 3 year old likes all of them to be in the paddling pool, so they upgraded to a larger one that can fit them all in). Last weekend, I set it up in the garden and sat reading with my feet in it, and it was great!! Was so tempted to put on my new swimming costume and sit in it, but in the end I resisted. When it’s warm again, though, I’m totally gonna do that.
- The amount of time I spend with an oversized teddy called Boris. No elaboration needed, I feel.
- Laughing more at the captions on google hangouts than I’ve laughed at anything for weeks. The discovery of the captions on google meet / google hangouts has been a beautiful, beautiful thing, given we use it for work and for church social stuff. Last Sunday evening, we were playing some classic-lockdown games and… I don’t even know what was actually said, but google captioned it as ‘You smell’ and it was so funny and brilliant to be properly laughing from your gut. Would HIGHLY recommended putting it on if you use google.
Especially if it’s a dull meeting.
- Appreciating things like someone making you a drink. Have had a rough few weeks, what with this mega-migraine (don’t have a migraine during lockdown; you can’t look at screens and your whole life is screens and it sucks) so I decided to write down an emotional splurge of all the gritty, crap stuff that I’ve felt at various points during this saga, like jealousy, and self-pity, and restlessness and listlessness. Might share some of it at some point, but one of the things I wrote in my spiels about jealousy was how I had a spark of it every time someone’s spouse / child / housemate bought them a cup of tea while they were on work call. A couple of days after writing ‘God, I just want someone to make me a drink!’ in this overzealous, emotional rant, I had a –socially distanced and outside, of course — lunch with my friend / neighbour and she…. Made me a vanilla iced latte. No one had made me a drink for, like, 11 weeks!! It was delicious.
- Playing Badminton. It’s not actually true that I thought I would never do this, because friend and I have been talking about it for over 3 years. It’s just on the list because it…. It never actually happened until now. However, I totally dug out my old badminton rackets that stain your hands black (good way to tell if you’ve been touching your face) the first day that we were allowed to meet in twos outside. As it turns out, the tennis courts in the local park were still locked up, so instead we played on the grass field. Said grass field is on quite an incline and it was super windy so it was a somewhat unconventional game of badminton, in that you couldn’t really run backwards without risking falling down the hill and the Shuttlecocks randomly changed direction. The next time, we may or may not have gone through the big gaping hole in the fence for the tennis courts and played there, netless. We have big plans for Sunday and rumour has it that the nets are back. Also, we have new Shuttlecocks (mine had a habit of, well, separating into two pieces mid flight, so you didn’t so much have a shuttlecock that you were running after, as a shuttle flying off in one direction and a … well. You get it).
- Accidentally flashing everyone during a video with the church lot due to the world’s largest rip in my pjs. This one doesn’t fall into the ‘seems acceptable after lockdown’ so much. More ‘didn’t see that coming’ although probably I should have.
- Creating a quiz round about obscure animal sex facts for our weekly quiz nights. After this many weeks, I was struggling to come up with anything original and interesting. Reviews said that they felt ‘distrubed and slightly violated’ after completing the quiz, so there we go.
- Turning my weekly shop into an EVENT. Broadly, I guess I mean the mental adjustment where I now consider ‘going to the shop’ to be sufficient activity for the whole day. In my head, I’m now completely convinced that the whole-day is full if you need to go to the shop. Today’s post-foodbank M&S trip is the first time I’ve just casually popped to the shop (and this is just because it’s opposite foodbank), rather than doing serious prep work, writing a list etc. The most notable of these SHOPPING EVENTS probably ties in with my Gardening Mania point above, where I decided that food was overrated and, instead, I was going to use my weekly-shop to go to the Gardening Centre, right after they reopened. I think I forgot that the garden centre is… quite a long way away. Not super-far, but… a good mile and a half. Down a hill. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a totally manageable distance but…. I don’t know if you’ve ever walked a mile and a half up a hill dragging a trolley full of plant pots, plant seeds and plant food, while carrying a tray of actual plants…. It becomes a bit of a journey.
I bought an extra tray in order to rest the plants on and had to hold them steady up the hill. I thought it was going pretty well, but then I got home and looked at one of the flowers and realised that it had been lent against me and…
And that my poor plant had a boob dent.
My poor, March-self had no idea what was coming.
Meanwhile, my June-self is cooking my M&S dine in for two (for one) and listening to ‘Harder to Breathe’. I’m planning to bake scones tomorrow and I’m looking forward to having a couple of friends coming to sit in my garden (biggest social gathering I’ll have been in for 12 weeks, with a staggering 4 people!!), for what I am sure will be a very soggy get together. I am both convinced that we’re easing this lockdown too soon given the current death rates in the UK and completely fed up of it at the same time. I am ready for some semblance of normal, but sort of dreading trying to rectify these things I have learnt about myself with ‘real life’. A lot of the time, I’m enjoying the slower, less chaotic pace of my life, and sometimes I want to throw Boris out the window for being crappy company.
That being said, the new series of Queer Eye came out today, so maybe I’ll cancel those people plans and binge watch Queer Eye in my brand new jogging bottoms (12 weeks in, and finally own proper lounge wear!) instead.
Toilet roll situation: Still own toilet roll. Everyone seems to have calmed down on that front, now, and I’m not quite bored enough to keep counting.
Pasta stocks: Actually bought more pasta yesterday! I hadn’t run out, exactly, because I still have half a pack of lasagne sheets, two packets of spaghetti and half a pack of impractically large pasta. However, this week I made a cauliflower mac and cheese and I had to use the impractically large pasta and it was… well, impractically large. ASDA no longer seems to have a perpetual shortage of pasta, so I didn’t feel too bad about buying some penne for pasta bake type things.
Milk stocks: Removed a initial 300 word milk update here because, even in lockdown, surely no one can be that bored. Cliff notes: I have too much milk.
Mum’s Top Tip of the last few weeks: Had been getting into a bad habit of burning my back every weekend because I am the type of person who cannot go outside in April in England without wearing factor 50 and, also, because I cannot adequately sun cream my back and, due to government advice, no one is allowed to come anywhere near me.
Mum’s suggestion to this was:
Just use a spatula.
(Housemate also suggested the same thing actually)
(Concept of applying suncream to myself with kitchen utensils wasn’t very appealing but Sheffield beloved besties actually fixed this problem by sending me this hilarious and effective lotion applicator. They assure me they put in serious effort not to get this from Age Uk)
Today is 50 days since I came down with the dreaded ‘cough’, which means I’ve now been on lockdown in my house for 50 days (there was the two day stint of freedom, to be fair, but it doesn’t feel like I fully utilised those two days of relative freedom before actual lockdown came upon us, as the guidance was still to avoid unnecessary trips etc.)
This means the grand total of all my mini-exodus from my house since then has been:
- 1 trip to the gardening centre to by plants (pre-lockdown, in that two day freedom stint)
- 1 trip to the supermarket to buy cereal and garlic (pre-lockdown; before the days of weird queuing and one way systems that I think approximately zero people are following)
- 3 (or maybe 4?) trips to the Foodbank to help sort tins (this is literally so exciting. I am allowed to be in a room with OTHER REAL LIFE PEOPLE. I got a note from the Trussell Trust confirming that I am allowed to do the thing and it’s this lovely, surreal pocket of normal in the midst of all this madness)
- 4(??)further trips to the shop(post-lockdown).
- 1 trip to the post office to post housemate some clothes (she packed expecting to go home for a week which somehow turned into 7 weeks with no specific end date. Frankly, I’m surprised she hasn’t asked me to do this more than once). This was actually supposed to be combined with the weekly shop, but the post office opening times on the internet were incorrect, so I was treated to an ENTIRE extra trip. That was a v. Exciting Monday.
- Walks in the park opposite my house. This has been downgraded from daily activity to a most-days activity. If I have another leaving-the-house thing on that day, like going to the shop or foodbank, I’m skipping the walk so as to not over-exert myself. The first Saturday I contemplated trying to fit in going to the shop, going for a walk and weekend quiz night with beloved besties felt like WAYYY too much to fit into one day, which means I may have adjusted to this too well.
To be honest, most of the time I’ve been quite enjoying myself.
As an introverted, indoorsy type with my own home, financial security and lots of good people who live by, I am both very blessed and well setup to deal with this. That’s not to say that I didn’t spend Tuesday completely fed up “at work”, then an evening crying through six episodes of Gilmore Girls (I just can’t deal with Loreali being sad), forgetting to microwave my tacos until 9pm and, somehow, failing to put my bin out even though there’s literally nothing going on. There are bad days.
I really miss hugs. Housemate slightly solved this problem for me by telling me about a giant Teddy she had in a cupboard in a room, so I now have a cuddle buddy. Hugging a giant teddy is, of course, Exactly The Same as hugging a real person (read: it’s really, really not). Unfortunately, he is called Boris.
This was almost enough for me to leave him in his cupboard, but physical contact prevailed. Now, we sometimes watch Netflix together. He has joined me on several video calls, for a picnic in the garden and sometimes we sit and read together.
(I never said I was still sane: just that I have been quite enjoying myself).
When this is over, I am going to visit my parents and hug my mum. I am going to hug my niece and my sister and my brother in law and my beloved besties and my work friends and my church friends. When housemate returns, I am going to hug-attack her and probably cry and it’s going to be brilliant.
On the flip side, turns out I’ve been living at my introvert-maximum for basically my entire life, and it turns out the minimum is a lot lower than anticipated. Current routine is plenty of people for my poor introvert soul (learning that you can still overdose on people when you’re not, actually, allowed to see people was fun) and have absolutely no idea how I would manage to spend an entire working day, plus extra-circulars, in the same building with like hundreds of people, after learning how great it is to not do that.
I miss specific people and specific stuff, rather than general people-and-things. Got sad about missing my holiday and my school friend’s wedding, but not about generally being allowed freedom.
I love hanging out on my own. Took Friday off this week, so Thursday night was my fake-Friday. Ordered myself more Chinese take out than anyone could ever eat (more on this later), drank a couple of beers and started playing Harry Potter Lego years 1-4 on the Wii. Best evening ever. I had such a great time that I accidentally stayed up till 2am cause I didn’t want the evening to end.
I’ve spent most of the last four years living alone and that really works for me. Really love living with my housemate because she’s great (herb gate notwithstanding). If I’ve had a bad day at work, she’ll greet me with a glass of wine and ask if I wanna talk about it or dance it out. She organised the tupperware drawer (I’ve done my best at maintaining it, Grace, but it’s not as good as it was. I’ll fix it before you come home) and she always beats me at Mariokart, but I wasn’t looking for a housemate. It was one of those temporary things that really worked so became pretty permanent, but…
There was this point when I was living in my first solo flat where I was sick of it always being my turn to cook dinner, and wash up, and call the electricity provider, and plan food, and did I mention the damn washing up? It’s so relentless, sometimes, and I got to this place where the idea of having a partner who could be in all of it with me felt kind of appealing. I thought, maybe, I was beginning to understand the appeal of this marriage / relationship lark. Sharing the load with someone. Someone being able to take on that stuff when you’ve had a crappy day and just want to hibernate.
And then it hit me.
I didn’t want another half.
I wanted a dishwasher and to order more take out.
Well, I am now on lockdown with my Dishwasher,a giant teddy who shares a name with our fearless leader (please note this is not a term of endearment; I have no terms of endearment for Boris Johnson) and at least some of the take out places are still open.
Life is (broadly) good (if certainly not ideal).
Lockdown: an extract (day 48 & day 49):
(Featuring my two outings for the week, foodbank & the weekly shop, and a lot more excitement than most of the preceding 47
. There’s a reason I stopped writing these as regularly. As good of a time as I’ve been having, it’s pretty dull to write about. Ha.)
Normally, foodbank is a very tin-centric offering. This leads to great foodbank games such as ‘mystery tin’ (when we get label-less tins that we can’t give out, so someone has to commit to eating whatever is in the tin without knowing what it is) and to great exclaims of horror / surprise when you learn about some of the things that people have chosen to put into a tin (all day breakfast in a tin. Grim, grim grim). At the moment, supermarkets are donating fresh fruit, veg, meat and bread, which massively improves the quality of the food parcel content.
However, they tend to donate the shortest dated things. This is generally fine but it does mean that if we get a load of stuff in on a Friday, we can’t always give said stuff out on time. If it’s out of date, we can’t give it out and it has to be thrown away / claimed by volunteers (normally you can also pick up out of date stuff at your own risk, but at the moment we’re mostly doing deliveries rather than it being a drop in which means this doesn’t really happen).
This week, we had a v. large quantity of bread.
Usually, we start by
forcing encouraging every volunteer to take some bread home. And some for the freezer. If that doesn’t work, we take our food offerings to the flats opposite to see if they want the things and usually that covers it.
Today, they don’t want the bread. There’s about 40 loaves of bread. This is a lot of bread.
After some debate, we stagger (due to shape of crate rather than weight of bread or any mid afternoon drunkenness) across to this other block of flats carrying our crates of bread. These, however, don’t have a nice reception and shared entrance, but…. Individual doors to individual flats. By some brilliant divine luck, we accost a man (from 2m away) who is returning home from his shopping and tell him we’re trying to give away lots of bread. As it turns out, he works at one of the other foodbanks and is happy to let us in the building. He takes ten loaves of bread up to the seventh floor to distribute and we decide to start on floor six.
It’s only after the lift doors open that I remember that I am really, really scared of heights. It’s one of those things I forget about, generally, until I’m in any shopping centre ever and they have all those glass walls and death defying drops (of , you know, one or two floors), and wind up having to grit my teeth and walk slap bang in the middle of the bridge / floor or press myself against the shop entrances to avoid the edge . These flats have tiny, person-wide balconies with gaps at the bottom. Don’t actually get as far as being able to see the drop because the fear-reminder kicks in the second I step away from the lift and remember what these flats look like.
We decide I will guard the bread. Do not move for the next ten / fifteen minutes, while friend attempts bread distribution.
(It’s also worth noting that knocking on people’s doors who I don’t know is actually my idea of the seventh circle of hell. The fear of heights is absolutely real, but please don’t think that I actually wanted to do this anyway).
Third member of our party is at the bottom and occasionally yells ‘hows it going’ from the car park.
No answer at the first flat. Second flat only eats brown bread. Third flat is a man who has just had throat surgery and cannot, in fact, eat bread. Or solid food. Fourth flat is confused. At this point, man from first flat has come to his door. Friend hurries back down to the corridor in his direction.
As it turns out, the man was in the shower when we knocked. In my head, he came to the door in a very sparing towel to have the subsequent bread-conversation, but didn’t actually ask and couldn’t see. For the purpose of a good story, man is mostly naked and still has shampoo in his hair and is gluten free and mortally offended by us offering bread (the last part definitely isn’t true).
We get back into the lift with almost the same amount of bread we had in the first place.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to give out free bread during a pandemic, but it’s quite tricky. Jesus certainly never had this problem when he gave out bread.
Go to the ground floor and prop open the door with our bread crate. Text my street whatsapp and everyone I know who lives locally to see if they want any bread. Friend now talking to a man who answered the door in his underwear (or shorts that look a lot like underwear) who sounds drunk. It’s quite a long conversation and it doesn’t involve bread acceptance. We accost (from 2m away) a woman coming out of a taxi and ask if she wants bread. We manage to talk one guy into taking two loaves.
In the end, we don’t do badly. I wind up with five loaves and a packet of bed buns, but these are largely going to my neighbours.
Am very happy to return to social distancing in my house.
Leave some bread on people’s door steps, play some HP lego wii, eat leftover Chinese food, call school friend for a bit and drink wine. Another top evening.
Am hanging out laundry pre-shop when neighbour waves at me over the fence and says the words that nobody, nobody, ever wants to hear.
There’s a dead bird in your front garden.
She is not wrong.
The bird is very dead and it is very much splayed out on my garden path.
Okay. Confession time.
I am a vegetarian, but not because I find the concept of eating animals repulsive or because I don’t like meat. It’s an environmental thing. I believe that everyone should eat less meat but I cannot control everyone (shame) so, after years of half-assing meat reduction, I actually committed a couple of years back. The first year I still ate meat at Christmas, but I haven’t in subsequent years. Generally, I don’t miss meat. I think it’s made me a better cook and I like vegetables and the fake meat industry has really stepped up it’s game recently, so it’s all good.
It started with Chorizo, three weeks into lockdown.
Chorizo is delicious. Once found this fake chorizo from Iceland that kinda tasted the same as real chorizo, except a lot less good (like hugging a giant teddy instead of a real hug. Better than nothing, sure, but not really the same thing), but they don’t sell it anymore. Started thinking about Chorizo. A lot. Accidentally planned what I’d eat with it. Could almost taste it and, also, was locked in my house, alone, indefinitely, and the world was probably ending anyway, so why not?
Put it on top of my veggie burger. It was so good I nearly cried. And then I felt very sick, but after I pushed past that it was just delicious again. Paella. Cooked with sweet peppers and butternut squash in wraps. In scrambled eggs. Just on it’s own. Ate it all much quicker than I intended and then it was gone and I was done, back on the bandwagon, committed to my personal ethics.
And then….. I was ordering chinese take out on Fake-Friday and I remembered how much I love lemon chicken.
(Incidentally, I once went to China with my dad when I ate meat about once a week. We were on a group tour and they said they couldn’t cater for vegetarians, so I put myself down to have veggie food on the plane so at least I could make a token nod. Didn’t realise they’d passed this information on to the whole tour and had actually been catering for me the whole time because all the meals were big communal type things. Only realised this on the penultimate day, when the tour guide comes to check if I have enough veggie food. Look up from my massive plate of lemon chicken and say ‘… yes. There’s plenty thanks.’)
There’s a dead bird in your front garden.
Feel somewhat attacked by the universe. This is intensified by the fact that I found the remaining lemon sauce up turned in fridge this morning, so spent a great deal of time de-sticky-ing the fridge.
I don’t want to deal with the dead bird.
Have similar feeling to that one I had at my old flat. Maybe going it solo isn’t the best option, because then when something pointedly dies in your garden to remind you of your immoral chinese food order, you have to get rid of yourself.
Fall back on my time old method of avoiding the situation for the time being: avoidance.
Use neighbour’s path to leave house rather than mine to give the bird a wide birth, then set out on Exciting Trip To the Shop.
Have one final loaf of bread to deliver from yesterday so have to go via the street opposite. Know the friend who wants the bread lives either directly to the left or the right of two of my good friends. He hasn’t seen my message asking which house number is which, so ring the doorbell to friends instead to confirm.
Friends come to the door and confirms which house wants the bread.
We chat a bit (from 2m away). I tell them about my dead bird and tell them more about the bread surplus (they already turned down extra bread yesterday). Dressed for the weather that was happening in my conservatory rather than the weather that was happening outside (occupational hazard), so am already cold and debating nipping back home. Instead, friend offers his coat, I think largely for the amusement factor. Am cold, though, so accept coat (he throws it from 2m away; we’re fine), and head to the supermarket in a men’s coat that’s much too big for me, with my mildly comedic little wheely shopping trolley.
Call housemate while I’m in the queue. Tell her about the coat-and-trolly combo, the bread surplus and the dead bird. Impulse buy a blackberry plant, but knock it over the second I get through the doors of asda and tip a significant amount of soil on the way home.
Stop outside friends’ on the way home to return coat.
We talk v. briefly about the queues at asda and what not and then non-coat-lending-friends says something that every person who has a dead bird on their front path wants to hear.
Don’t you want to get [other friend] to go sort out the dead bird for you?
Look to other friend. He shrugs and confirms that he would not, in fact, mind bird disposal. Feel somewhat bad, but this is definitely outweighed by the great, deep, significant desire to not have to pick up the dead bird myself.
Exercise very proper social distancing measures by staying very, very far away while he picks up the dead bird (with the appropriate accompanying joke about picking up birds) and solemnly swear that I will never, ever order chicken again.
Later, win remote pub- quiz with two out of three beloved besties and then we play ‘remote insensitivity’ (Cards Against Humanity). Bestie has added our own customer cards, including ‘killing your whole family on day 3 of lockdown’ and ‘injecting bleach’ and ‘the middle classes baking banana bread’ and it is so brilliant and fun that we play through the whole deck.
Conclude that I was right before. All set just as is. Dishwasher, (chicken-free) take out, friends.
10 things that I have achieved in the past 50 days:
- Work & work stuffs. I guess this isn’t lockdown specific, but I still think I should get some kudos for (mostly) getting dressed and (mostly) dragging myself to my little study and (mostly) being somewhat productive most days of the week.
- 1.5 paint by numbers. Probably can’t get another one, now, because most of them are sold out due to the collective, mass boredom I think people who had the hobby before lockdown should have priority over people who are just taking up things (although, of course, this would preclude me from buying any gardening things), because they won’t appreciate them like I would.
- Built, disassembled, and returned the entire Harry Potter Lego collection to the loft.
- Read 11 books. In a week. Whoops.
- Finished reading Luke’s gospel, Leviticus and Deuteronomy. So fed up of Moses that I was almost pleased when he went up to the mountain to die (sorry, god, I don’t mean that. Moses was a top bloke. Real stand up chap.)
- Maintained interest in garden for over a month, including mowing lawn twice (!!!)
- Won weekly remote pub quiz with beloved besties 4 times
- Finally put sofas back to where they’re supposed to be when the Christmas tree isn’t up
- Finished Harry Potter Lego Wii years 1-4 to 63.2% This doesn’t sound very impressive, but I started on Thursday. Just give me a couple more days.
- And, of course, the biggest achievement of the year: I found the shed key
10 things that I have not achieved in the past 50 days:
- Pairing socks (sorry, Mum. We did a sweepstakes and the earliest date we thought this would happen was November. If we’re still in lockdown in Nov, maybe I’ll do it then)
- Locating and purchasing fence paint, although significant efforts have been made to this end. It is really, really hard to by fence paint.
- Hoovering the stairs. Who cares? Honestly, it’s not like it affects anyone else.
- Finding a number for Ryanair that I can ring to get them to change our travel credit into actual bank credit
- Creating a new routine centered around fitness, wellness and meditation that will transform my life for years to come.
- Going to bed when my phone tells me to go to bed (again; not lockdown specific)
- Being on time to Church
- Being on time for work (except that night with the insomnia where I was, in fact, an hour and a half early)
- Being on time for social activities
- Discovering the identity of my mystery milkmen
Toilet roll situation: still on same loo roll (you should know that I write these in arrears — or behind, as anyone who hasn’t been a debt counselor would probably say — which means I now have a comprehensive internal log of when I started each loo roll, so that I can give accurate information for the fictional time of writing, because this one was about last week, and now the loo roll situation is COMPLETELY different. By one roll. It’s actually quite stressful)
Pasta stocks: as per
Plants still alive: all of them!
Mum’s Top Tip of the Day: This is not actually a top tip, but is more insight, but she hasn’t given me any direct advice that I can think of, so we’ll go with it.
Discovered while creating the ‘Who said this on facebook 10 years ago’ quiz* that I have owned my swimming costume for 10 years. Quite alarmed by this (I have had the same swimming costume since I was <em>sixteen</em>. Wait, is that right? Just had to take the year of my birth off the actual date to try and work out how old I am. Anyway). Messaged my family to inform them of this discovery, which sparked off a bizarre oldest item of clothes competition.
Well, this is my mother’s cardigan.
She has had it since 1974.
Betcha can’t beat that.
*Side note on the ‘who said this on facebook 10 years ago’ quiz. Firstly, DO IT, it’s hilarious. Secondly, although it may seem initially funny to comment on a friend’s 11 year old status about their cough saying ‘CORONAVIRUS :O’, this WILL make it show up on everyone’s news feed and give their ex who commented on this 11 years ago a notification. While this, again, may seem initially funny, it becomes less so when you inadvertently generate a lot of concern over that person’s welfare, and they end up getting a lot of messages of people asking about their health. Soz, pal.
INTRODUCING: the coronavirus version of a gripping whodunnit.
It is seven minutes after half past five. The milk is placed to the left of the doorstep (and also there are eggs). An attractive, intelligent and humble young woman exits her home and pauses. It is the middle of lockdown and she is going on her BJ sanctioned walk. She pauses. She hesitates as her gaze falls on the milk.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a single woman in the middle of a lockdown, must be in want of some milk.
(Especially if she ran out of milk two days ago and recently posted as such in her wildly entertaining and critically exclaimed blog).
She pauses. She smiles. She takes the milk (and eggs) inside and puts them in the fridge. She was feeling sad and a little intimidated of the prospect of a week’s annual leave sitting in her house alone (the one that was supposed to contain two weddings, a holiday to Malta with beloved besties and a hen do) and had spent the last fifteen minutes melancholy and dramatically hugging a pillow to her chest, before she had eschewed Idleness to embrace her future as Outdoorsy Type.™
The milk fills her being with joy.
The attractive, intelligent and humble woman embarks on her walk, full of renewed encouragement and contentment.
(If you weren’t paying attention, that was a long way of writing I was having a bad day and found some milk and eggs on my doorstep and it cheered me up.)
(Also, we’re going back to first person now. Generally against changes of perspective halfway through a story because to me it’s basically lazy writing — hello, twilight?? You sucked a long time before you changed to Jacob’s point of view in that last book, but that is some seriously unacceptable literary decisions – but, this is a blog, and this is a pandemic; get over it)
Get home from walk and message colleague from work to ask if she is my milk deliver-er, as we’d had a conversation earlier that day in which I had said that I didn’t have any real milk, or indeed real coffee, so was now drinking instant l
coffee with mildly congealed cashew nut milk. She had made a joke about delivering milk but confirms that she is not responsible for my milky-goodness.
Which means, either:
- Milk is milkman milk, which means it’s entirely possible that this is not a gift, but accidental theft and this really belongs to a neighbour who is now bereft and Without Milk.
- This is a gift, from someone who knows that I am without milk, either from blog or other source
- This is mana from heaven and milk has been provideth in my hour of need.
From the offset, the first seems more likely, and I do try and resolve instances of accidental theft in my life, which happen more than you might think.
Most recently, I took friend out for a birthday dinner because I’m not very good at birthdays and birthdays presents. I’m not necessarily giftsy so I’d generally offer the best gift of all — quality time with yours truly (and food). I am not very good at this either.
This meal happened around mid January. Friend’s birthday in question was in May. Whoops.
Anyway, we had LOVELY meal where I ate approximately six times the amount of food that friend did. Even if I wasn’t picking up the tab, should probably have paid at least Seventy percent.
Friend drives me home.
There’s a moment where we’re chatting on the drive when she say: “Why is there a Christmas tree on your front lawn?” (This is literally completely unrelated to the story I’m telling, it just happens to also be the day that someone fly-tipped a Christmas tree on my lawn. Only put three fake trees up this year and had missed chance to buy one; thought the benefit of this sub-par Christmas spirit was not have to work out how to dispose of Real Tree, as always sort it out too late for collection services, but no. Still wound up with this problem. I optimistically hoped it was the wind and that someone would take the tree, but they did not, and three weeks later I cut it up with my bread knife so I could put it in my garden waste bin. Housemate also broke my fake tree when we put it up, which led to hilariously wonky tree propped up by wall and the invention of the phrase ‘on a scale of one to our Christmas tree…’ which would usually be followed by one of us flopping like a dead fish. This means that one of my bin collections was entirely sad, broken up bits of Christmas tree. Anyway.)
I say: “That is a great question. I do not know why there is a Christmas tree on my front lawn.”
She says: “Is this your Christmas tree?”
I say: It is not my Christmas tree.”
Mutual laughter happens.
I say: “Happy birthday for eight months ago. Maybe next year I’ll be more on time.”
(Unlikely, but now I can blame coronavirus).
Get my phone out to take picture of Christmas tree now on my front lawn. As I’m doing so, see a notification from my bank saying:
Card declined: please use chip and pin.
I did not use a chip and pin.
I have not paid for my friend’s eight month late birthday dinner.
No one has paid for the eight month late birthday dinner.
Enter the house laughing a lot. Tell the confused housemate that we have another Christmas tree and I have dined and dashed. She goes out to see Christmas tree and we now appoint a fly-tipped tree as the new bottom of the ‘Christmas tree’ scale.
Call restaurant. (Look!!! Despite how much I hate phone calls I even try to CALL in incidents of accidental theft). Restaurant does not pick up. Eventually end up sending them a message on Facebook and explaining that it was an accident and I would really like to pay. They reply within 20 mins and I set up bank transfer (should have done that before calling).
Restaurant is greatful, but last time I did this the restaurant gave me vouchers for free cocktails for my honesty.
This time my only free gift is a Christmas tree.
And now, months later, milk.
Point being—- If the milk does in fact belong to a neighbour, I don’t want to be the person that deprives them of milk. I understand, intimately, what it is like to be without milk: I do not want that on my shoulders (for anyone else, it’s obviously already my own fault that I am without personal milk). In a technical sense, it would be the fault of the milkman, but we should be good to small businesses.
We still have street wide community WhatsApp set up to help people with coronavirus.
Message street community WhatsApp to ask if any of them ordered some milk and eggs from a milkman.
Haven’t ruled out option 2 (gift from human) and also message likely gift bearers. Feel like I know more people who are the type to both have a milkman and deposit milk on doorstop of lonely social distancer than the average person, but get no positive ID.
Decided to leave it 24 hours for neighbour to claim milk and eggs.
Am then struck by insomnia, sleep zero hours, and decide that 12 hours is plenty.
Milk is delicious. It is whole milk, and creamy enough that it’s actually solid at the top. It takes like it came from an actual cow, but in a nice way. It is very milky, so make coffee extra strong (not a problem), and it is —-
Halfway through the first cup of delicious milky coffee, am racked with guilt and look up milkmen to discover that they do not deliver to my postcode.
This means that:
Milk is a milkmen mistake
- Milk is a gift from someone who knows that I am without milk, either through blog post or through me telling everyone who I have spoken to about the hardship of having no milk and being unsure if this qualifies me for a trip Outside
- Milk is divine intervention. The Lord God Almighty has manifested milk on my doorstep in my hour of need.
Problem is, neighbours have confirmed that although they have ordered no milk and eggs, one of them would like some eggs if there are any going spare.
I do, in fact, now have eggs going spare.
This extra six brings my egg total to thirteen eggs
I am one person. That’s <em> a lot </em> of eggs.
So, no worries, I can drop my neighbour round some eggs, but now have a moral dilemma because —-
My milkmen eggs are from a farm. If the milk is anything to go by, they are going to be delicious. In the nature of cheerful gift giving, I should give neighbour my nice eggs, but…. I want the nice eggs.
In scenario number 1 — that these really belong to someone who has paid for them and have not gotten them — then I should definitely give the nice eggs to neighbour. There’s nothing wrong with my eggs and I have been blessed with the nice milk already, at someone else’s expense.
In scenario number 3, should also give away the nice eggs. If God has provided for my need (nice milk for my coffee) in such a miracle, then I am honor bound to provide for others needs in my hour of blessing.
If it’s a gift, that means someone wanted me to have the nice eggs, right? And it wouldn’t be honouring the gift properly to give them away. Like re-gifting a Christmas present on Boxing Day, or like how my brother in law told me and my sister off for drinking more than one bottle of the Tiny Wines that my parents shipped to us a night, because that ‘wasn’t your mum’s intention when she bought these for you.’ It’s not in the spirit of the thing.
Decided I must prove that these are gifts so I can keep nice eggs.
As all crime (what’s the opposite of crime? un-crime?) writer’s know, your suspects must have: means, motive & opportunity.
Victim (me) has consumed all the milk and remains in good health and coronavirus free. Can therefore assume that the motive was not malice (unless milk WAS infected by coronavirus and the coughing / fever / shortness of breath I had WAS coronavirus, meaning this would be poisoned chalice had no affect??? If so, jokes on you). Very few people benefit from victim having coffee at the moment due to social distancing rules, as if coffee deficiencies result in unpleasantness individuals have the option of turning off video camera.
Seems most likely that the motive is just that someone is very nice and wanted the vic to have milk.
Estimated time of delivery is hard to establish. There is a 24 hour window between witnesses (me) viewing the crime scene (doorstop). HOWEVER, forensics indicates that the milk was still fine, so probably hadn’t been there that long. Milk appeared approximately six hours after victim posted blog post about not having milk. If this is where the perpetrator gained their insight, this means there is a six hour window in which the incident could have occurred. We can extrapolate, however, that the perp:
- knew the victim’s particular milk needs and choose to exploit this need in the name of ‘doing something very nice for another’
- Knew the victim’s address
- Could get to said address sometime within a six hour window
- Victim is UNSURE about whether any vehicles were seen in the area that day, as she tends to have tunnel vision while working.
- Given this is a lockdown situation, we are either looking at someone who: was within a BJ sanctioned walk away from the scene of the gift; has a loose interpretation of the phrase ‘only leave the house if necessary’ or was in the area for another reason, such as commuting, buying groceries etc.
The provenance of the weapon (milk) in question is proving difficult to establish. We know that the milk could not have been delivered directly to the post code after our enquiries (googling the company), BUT the company in question only allows you to search one postcode. The investigating officer (me; no one else cares) has employed several methods of research in order to widen the field of interest, by using different devices and browsers to search the post code of likely subjects.
Investigating officers has used both regular and incognito browsing on phone, work laptop (during lunch; promise I’m a good employee) and regular laptop. All that we have been able to establish about the weapon in question, is that the nearest dispatch centre for this milk is in freaking Hull.
(Seriously, where did this milk come from??)
HOWEVER, due to our understanding of the timeline of events, it seems likely that the individual utilised their own milk. This means perp is likely to have a milkman and drinks whole milk.
We are asking the public to help with finding the perpetrator of this dastardly good deed. We have therefore released the following E-Fit.
WARNING, THIS GOOD HEARTED CRIMINAL IS KNOWN TO:
- Prey on the needs of others
- Drink delicious creamy whole milk
- Actually have faith that I would go for my walk every day, which is confidence in my stickability that I don’t feel I deserve
- Knows where I live
(Thanks, Milk bringer. I really appreciated it. It was very kind and it made me very happy)
(I procrastinated on the decision for three days and then….. kept the farm eggs)
Top 5 things about lockdown:
- Personally, I think I’ve been getting a lot funnier since all this began. No one else has said this, just me, but given my audience is also just my plants and myself, we’ve got 25% increase in satisfaction rating.
- So little going on that I remembered to put out my garden waste bin!! This is 4-weekly on a different day to my actual bin day so I usually forget. I pay for this service, so it’s nice to get my money’s worth. Also, now there’s somewhere to put my dead plants when I eventually kill them.
- Got into my bed on my lunch break yesterday, just cause. My bed is the best. Unsure why I have spent so much of the last few weeks not in my bed?? Literally, ‘not bed’ is the worst when juxtaposed against ‘bed’
- People are bored and kind enough to put things I need outside my front door 🙂
- Can use coronavirus as a valid excuse for not getting anything done. Haven’t repainted the fence? Coronavirus, mate. Didn’t get that work done? You heard about that pandemic, didn’t you?? Behind on bible in a year? Just, you know, been really distracted by covid.
Worst 5 things about lockdown:
- Due to prevalence of video chatting, spend SO MUCH MORE TIME LOOKING AT MY OWN FACE THAN NORMAL. I’m a like, two mins in the morning to get ready type. It’s like, roll out of bed, brush teeth, wash face, lipstick so it looks like I care; done. Intentional time looking in the mirror is the length of time it takes me to open lipstick and put it on. And now, there are hoursssss of my day where I can see this square of my face. I did not need to know what I looked like while thinking, or drinking coffee, or talking. Did not need this in my life.
- Low level guilt that I have yet to learn a new language/ instrument or pair up my socks.
- Low level guilt for not contacting every single person I’ve ever met and asking them if they’re okay
- Low level guilt for cancelling plans, when in theory have nothing to do, but in practically still sort of want to curl up on my sofa and not talk to anyone
- Low level guilt about not giving away my nice eggs
Toilet roll situation: Same loo roll. Still 19 in stock. Considering creating ‘loo roll’ graph on my bathroom wall to track loo roll progression, but not sure am quite bored enough yet. Maybe next weekend.
Pasta stocks: Finished lasagne. Felt good about making a dent on the pasta suppliers, then dropped a packet of lentils on my head and discovered another packet of spaghetti, so…
Mum’s top tip of the day: This is quite a niche tip, but nevertheless some stellar advice, I think. After that moment on the phone the other week when I realised we wouldn’t be having our annual easter egg hunt, my very sweet and very thoughtful parents had a massive box of Thorntons Chocolates & Easter eggs delivered to my house. I have so much chocolate that I have actually bought some scales, so I can make the educated decision about whether to keep eating it (before I used the measurement of ‘how tight my jeans were’ but, come on, who’s going to wear jeans when you’re literally banned from seeing anyone? No one).
Anyway, my mother’s advice this time was around how I could still recreate the Easter Egg Hunt experience whilst on lockdown, by:
- Drinking a lot of wine
- Hiding the chocolate around my house
- Going to bed
- Wake up the next day having forgotten where the easter eggs are, and then compete with myself to find them.
Not only is that sheer genius, but it also means that her advice essentially amounts to the fact that I should get black out drunk on my own.
(Given that this is the third piece of advice my mother has given me that has involved drinking, I think it’s fair to say we have sourced the origin of my subpar relationship with alcohol, so this has also saved me some money in therapy, which is great news all round.)
Weekend starts at approximately twenty past five on Friday, because weekends are one of those things which are defined by working patterns. Am slightly daunted about the prospect of the weekend, because that is a loooooong stretch of time without structure. Work makes things feel a bit normal. This is probably slightly melodramatic because it’s not unheard for me to relish in spending a whole weekend in my house, or at least a whole Saturday.
Have also come to a startling revelation that it is entirely possible (and in fact probable) to overdose on people when you are not, in fact, allowed to see people. Have spent so much time on the phone, or video chat, or sending messages on Whatsapp, that I am completely exhausted. Find phone calls and video calling much to be much more draining on the introvert stakes that, you know, actually just being in the same room as another person and having a chat, which means I’m reaching my limit earlier than normal.
Intended to speak to several people, but all I actually want to do is have a glass of wine, watch a film under a blanket and sleep for hours and hours and hours. This is good, because these are all things I am actually permitted to do.
However, first port of call is my Allowed Exercise Outing.
Am trying to turn this into a Profound Spiritual Experience rather than, you know, the one time that I’m allowed to leave my house and might see a real life human, and not just one through a screen (have actually been enjoying my walks, but… we are on week one and I have kind of run out of different directions to go in the park, so we’ll see how long I actually keep up enjoying it). In order to assist in my PROFOUND SPIRITUAL JOURNEY, I have been listening to my Audio Bible in the Year while walking.
Today I am listening to Leviticus.
It is about defiling skin diseases.
It is graphic and mildly disgusting.
It is… long.
Walk goes something like this.
Me: Gosh, look how lovely the outside is! Am a changed woman! Will have converted to fully fledged Outdoorsy Type ™ by end of Coronavirus.
Audiobible: if there is a white swelling in the skin that has turned the hair white and there is raw flesh in the swelling, it is a chronic skin disease – –
Audiobible: The priest is to examine the spot on the skin then —
Me: Look!! A bird!! I love nature!! The world is beautiful! I will revel in the beauty of the world!!
Audiobible: When someone has a burn on their skin and a reddish-white or white spot appears in the raw flesh of the burn
Me: It’s…. Nature is so very, uh, green and –
Audiobible: If a man or woman has a sore on their head or chin, the priest is to examine the sore, and —
Me: *Checks how many seconds are left in this chapter of Leviticus*
Me: *debates sacking off bible in a year*
Me: *grits teeth*
Audiobible: Anyone with such a defiling disease must wear torn clothes, let their hair be unkempt, cover the lower part of their face and cry out, ‘Unclean! Unclean!’ As long as they have the disease they remain unclean. They must live alone; they must live outside the camp.
Me: Oh, wait. This is weirdly relatable. I, too, must live outside the camp and am duty bound to live alone.
Older person: *walks towards me on the path , looking like they’re going to get closer than 2ms*
Me: *tears clothes*
Me: UNCLEAN!! UNCLEAN!!!
(That last part may or may not have actually happened).
So there you have it, folks. Biblical permission to wear torn clothes and let your hair be unclean, which means it’s totally fine to wear my McCain ‘chips’ jumper (I bought it because I found out that they were selling the jumper that guy in the chips advert wore in the advert, and I was like ‘who would buy that??’ And then I realised that I would buy that) even though it’s full of holes and I don’t have to wash my hair until all of this blows over. Another money saver, that.
Head back home after graphic images of hairs-in-boils have faded from mind, slightly, and watch ‘Mamma Mia: Here we go again’ which was part of the ‘Apocalypse Survival Kit’ that friend bought round back when friends were allowed to drop things round (aka. Two weeks ago). Find the film weirdly emotional. Build Harry Potter Lego Hagrid’s Hut. Drink wine. Play Ticket to Ride with family. Lose.
Housemates asks me what I’ve been up to today at around 4pm, and honestly have no idea. I know that I definitely drank coffee and debated whether running out of milk was a sufficient reason for going to the shop (I didn’t; I do have cashew nut milk. It’s Exactly The Same in the same way that talking to people only via the telephone is Exactly The Same as seeing them in person. Still, if you ignore the way it congeals in hot drinks it’s basically fine, and I didn’t used to have real milk at home until housemate moved in. This was, of course, because I spent the day drinking work’s milk in my coffee rather than being without milk), but the rest of the day is a restful but uneventful blank.
Definitely spent a lot of time in my conservatory. This is mostly because the longue was taken over by lego a few days ago and my dining chairs aren’t very comfortable.
I think I did some painting and had a lie in. Received aforementioned delivery of chocolate and also the additional Harry Potter lego that I probably didn’t need to purchase.
I tried to buy fence paint online. Could not buy fence paint.
All in all, the COVID lockdown version of a very busy day.
Honestly, I really need the rest. Feel unreasonably tired and not sure that can blame the walks for exhaustion in bones (although during Saturday’s walk it actually rained, so I think the distress of it all probably did award me some Serious Tired Points). It’s probably a mixture of all the talking to people and the emotional whiplash and the excitement of my Lego delivery, which I’ll grant you was a highlight.
Family suggests I put new lego set into dishwasher to disinfect it (it’s second hand; I ain’t made of money) which sounds like a bad idea all round, so instead I just wipe it down and wash my hands while singing ‘Happy Birthday’ twice.
Think how my niece would like this, because she’s been declaring it’s people’s birthdays for a while now because she wants to eat cake. I think this is good logical reasoning, but this strategic thinking has not yet been rewarded by cake which, you know, I don’t think is going to encourage her budding career as a cake sales strategist.
Saturday day evening brings remote pub quiz with beloved besties!!! This is, of course, Exactly The Same ™ as going to a real pub quiz. It’s for Juno women’s aid and we all come into it with the same quasi morality that it’s okay to message everyone we know, but it’s not okay to google the answers. The logic is that there’s no limit on team size, so we have expanded team to include:
- Southern beloved bestie’s girlfriend
- Southern beloved bestie’s parents
- Sheffield beloved bestie’s mum
- Everyone in my family WhatsApp group.
They are now proud(ish) members of the Menstrual Cycles (next week Sheffield beloved bestie’s mother is going to officially join us; her caveat is that we have to rename ourselves the Menstrual cyclists).
My dad gives us one of the answers and then Mum states that dad Googled it. Wordlessly, we remove answer from our scribbled sheet of answers. We actually get a shout out for this when results are being read, which is a bizarre form of rewarding our questionable moral code. We come second.
All in all, it’s actually a good Saturday.
Am late “for church” on Sunday, even though it’s a live stream and I don’t have to go anywhere or get dressed. It’s sort of, great, though, and I eat lunch on a video call to one of my friends feeling positive and light. This is, of course Exactly The Same ™ as the usual routine of actually going to church and all getting lunch together afterwards. Exactly. The. Same. Thing ™.
It’s okay. It’ll get old, but it’s fine. Have downloaded free online settlers of catan and that Houseparties App. Still have a few Lego kits to built (new one was AWESOME!! So cool. No pieces missing, and there are these secret hidden treasure chests and keys and this dial that you can spin and it moves loads of stuff. No regrets). Made a lovely dal for tea that doesn’t involve that many ‘fresh’ ingredients, which should help put off going to the shop for longer. #StayAtHome
We do a remote book club at 3pm about a book that some my church gals read (Hinds Feet on High Places). This is, of course, Exactly The Same ™ as our original plan of cake and tea and hanging out; my cashew nut tea isn’t even that bad and, even though I don’t have cake, this is only because I forgot to get some that Housemate messaged me to is in the freezer and needs eating out of the freezer. Also, if we weren’t doing it from our respective homes during to all being ceremonially unclean, it wouldn’t be okay for my clothes to be torn and my hair to be unkempt, and that’s a real timer saver.
(Now have much more time to… sit and contemplate existence).
Go for my walk, have bath with Christmas pudding themed bath bomb (bulk buy post Christmas) , decided to save Dal because I walked past chicken shop on my way home from walk and really wanted fried chicken ( am a vegetarian, so instead had chips and quorn chicken nuggets from my freezer; Exactly The Same ™ and also, another freezer meal, #StayAtHome ), and then play Cards Against Humanity online over video chat with the church lot until bedtime.
This is Exactly The Same ™ as doing this in person, except:
- online version is SUPER confused by eight people playing and a bit laggy, leading to fifty percent of the conversation being WHO MOVED THAT CARD and WHO STOLE MY CARD. We eventually enact strict rules about who is allowed to move cards at any given time. Personally, don’t find that super strict rules is necessarily the best way to maximise the fun, but it was necessary
- Eight people on video chat is certifiable chaos and if it wasn’t all very funny it would probably be very stressful
- We’ve never actually played cards against humanity in real life.
All in all, my weekend was genuinely fun and actually relaxing, and , if my vague memories of Saturday morning are actually correct, I did some life admin. I guess all in all this amounts to Exactly the Same ™ as what I usually look for in a weekend, so… we’ll take it.
I’ll leave you with my experiences on my Sunday walk.
Me: am an inspiration, going for a walk when it is has been hailing this very morn! Need to work out who will play me in the film about my transformational journey to Outdoorsy Type ™ ! Love nature. Love being so cold that my legs are numb. Love walking.
Audio bible: When any man has an unusual bodily discharge…
Me: I. Wow. This is actually worse than the skin diseases.
Audio bible: If the man with the discharge spits on anyone who is clean, they must wash their clothes and bathe with water…
Me: well yes, I suppose that you would want to wash your clothes and bathe in water if…
Audio bible: anyone the man with a discharge touches without rinsing his hands with water must wash their clothes and bathe with water, and they will be unclean till evening.
Me: wash your damn hands people! Topical.
Audio bible: When a man is cleansed from his discharge, he is to count off seven days for his ceremonial cleansing…
Me: right, Helen, this is god’s word and this is a Profound Spiritual Experience. It’s okay that you can’t feel your face. It’s a Beautiful Thing that you’ve done this part of the walk every day for the past week. Revel in nature!! Admire the squirrels)! Be grateful and inspired!! Love the trees! Be transformed by the transformative nature of spending quality time with the beauty of the earth (especially as quality time with actual people is banned).
Audio bible: when a man has an emission of semen…
Top five things about lockdown:
- Redid budget as new council tax bill arrived, and was able to take out money for: travel costs, going out for coffee, going out for drinks, meals out, forgetting to bring lunch to work fund, meals out and leisure. This is, of course, a “Good Thing.” Have used excess funds to increase weekly wine budget (and take out budget).
- Profoundly unaffected by the clocks going back/ forward. So unaffected that I can’t remember which way they went. What does it matter? Time is meaningless, anyway.
- Deep emotional connection formed with plants. So worried for their welfare when it started hailing that I bought all my plant friends who live in pots inside to keep em safe and we hung out in my conservatory together and that was nice.
- Watched that video about the guy thanking the baked potato approximately seventy seven times and will now be able to sing ‘thank you baked potato’ every time I eat a baked potato
- Everyone’s increasing levels of insanity are interesting to watch, in a car crash sort of way
Worst 5 things about lockdown:
- I write dystopian novels and while this is prime material, feels callous to use this to feed fiction writing. Maybe I’ll give it a year or something.
- The best way to make sure I have all zee things I need for the week is to make a fully comprehensive food plan and, basically, I don’t want to. I’m not very good at them because I’m very easily swayed by food envy and have no self control (eg. Making dal and then eating fake chicken instead). Every time my next door neighbour cooks curry, it smells so good I order a take out.
- Realisation that lateness is so engrained in who I am as a person that it actually doesn’t matter if planned social activity just involves turning on computer. This weekend I was late for: pub quiz, church, book club and cards against humanity. Absolutely zero ways I can justify this.
- Was struck during church about the gritty reality that this disease is going to kill a lot of people and decimate the livelihoods of thousands of businesses owners who are never going to recover. Haven’t been watching the news much, so forced myself to read some after to face up the fact that this thing is big, and serious, and scary, and the fact that I’m safe in my house pales into insignificance compared to the pain of families who will lose someone and people in unhappy and dangerous homes and people on the breadline who were struggling anyway. Feel sad and powerless and worried about people that I care about.
- Can’t by flour in the supermarket
(I’m going to be honest with you here, folks, it’s not really Exactly The Same).
Toilet roll situation: new loo roll. Still 19 in stock. Feel secure.
Pasta stocks: actually ate some pasta! Now feel morally better about owning so much, even though this is just apparently how much pasta I own, rather than stockpiling (except all that stuff I swapped for coffee and kidney beans). As such, now own:
- A unopened packet of impracticality large pasta
- ½ pack of date lasagne sheets from the Foodbank
- One packet of spaghetti
- One open packet of macaroni
- That other pasta that housemates says she owns if I run out.
(Am I going crazy, or does that not feel like much pasta? Feel uneasy. Wish I hadn’t counted)
Oh, plus ¾ of a cooked roast veg and lentil lasagne.
Day 1 (Tuesday)
- worky things
- Video Lunch with work colleague. Usually, we go eat Thai food every Friday at this restaurant. They know our orders and our table and always say ‘see you next week!’ at the end of lunch. Went day before my self isolation started and we did say this would probably be the last for a while. Highlight during this lunch was when he says “It must be dreadful to be a drug dealer or house breaker at this time. Will nobody think of the drug dealers?” Had not thought of this previously. Feel moved and humbled.
- Video prayer type meeting with small group. Lead this group with housemate, and felt like given I was shook, others might be and want to pray
- Video call with beloved besties, where we played Psych and chatted and I may have told one of their parents’ beloved besties’ nickname, which may include reference to beloved besties dating preferences. Whoops.
- Phone call with dad & sister (and sort of my mum, but it was clear we were interrupting her TV watching) while playing ticket to ride
In the end, this was 6pm-11:30pm worth of phone calls.
Day 2 (Wednesday)
- worky things
- Neighbour walked past house on her allowed outing. She called me just before she walked past and then I came and sat on my front step and she waved and I got to see her 1 year old son, and I did not get to give 1 year old son cuddles, due to remaining the government recommended distance apart. Seeing babies and not being able to give them hugs is V. Hard.
- Socially distant bible study! We were supposed a study the next chapter of a book that we’ve doing for a while, but the commentary I read was entitled “serving god in the last days: attitudes for end-times believers”. Ultimately decided that this was not appropriate and changed direction mid session (a good learning point here: always plan the day before!!)
Day 3: (Thursday)
- Remote lunch with work friend. V. Lovely, but have concluded eating tacos on a video call is a bad call. I mean, not with friend, but it’s not a good remote first date food, if we do this for long enough that people decide to have remote first dates
- Called school friend on my Allowed Walk and I showed her the park that has now become my Walk Place (turns out all anyone had to do to make me exercise was say that I could only do it once a day; my innate British desire to get the best value out of a deal has meant that I have cashed in daily)
- Organised family call! Scotland sister, “Awesome sister”, grandma, parents and niece!!!! Grandma now video chats. Niece is 2.5 years old and shows us the pictures she’s drawing on the camera and tells us about putting seasoning for dinner in the pan. Niece is so cute I sort of want to cry, because I also cannot hug her.
(Although to be fair, Niece is quite vocal about her physical boundaries, so I don’t get to hug her that much anyway)
Mum’s top tip of the day: told mum about mum’s top tip for the day. Asked her to give me some advice for my blog and she was v. Confused, and later mildly disgruntled and not forthcoming with advice.
The next day I got this, which has left me mildly scarred for life, but I suppose means we’re even again.
Mixed reviews for lockdown so far.
Keep having really lovely moments, then moments of piercing sadness when I realise things that I’m not going to have for a long time.
Like, seeing beloved besties.
We usually meet up once a month, which I think is pretty damn good given general adult friendships and the fact that we’re all living in different parts of the country. We’d intended to meet next weekend with all of us, then the three of us go away the following week (Sheffield beloved bestie’s girlfriend had uni essay so she couldn’t come with).We knew holiday wasn’t going to happen, but we thought that maybe we’d just semi-self-isolate some place together for the week we all have off work, and play games and hang out anyway. Sheffield beloved bestie had started stockpiling sangria (correct type of panic buying, I think).
The three of us have gone away once or twice a year since our second year of university (six years?? Is that right?) and I know this makes me V. V. Privileged, but please never think I am not aware of this. FULLY understand that my middle class existence of lockdown is an entirely different and more internal focused hot bed of pressure, but not financial. Am INCREDIBLY blessed to have secure income and enough wider security that if it all went tits up I could call my parents and they could help me. The lack of fear is the real definition of social class, for me , and I would hope to never walk into a room without an awareness of how my privileges and advantages has led me to a place of living confident that I can be self sufficient.
That being said, I really flipping love our holidays. We read books and swap books and drink cocktails and make iced coffees and do puzzles and watch tv in the evenings all hauled up under blankets. We play card games and sit on the beach and I burn like a crisp, despite commitment to factor fifty, so each holiday they take pictures of my sunburns for prosperity. They have like six different pictures of my burnt arse.
Anyway, the point is, am completely gutted about not seeing beloved besties. Thinking about not seeing them for months makes my soul ache.
I get migraines and I have done for a very long time. I’ve just lived with it due to my mild phobia of going to the doctors and because I kinda figured they couldn’t do a whole lot about them. In our November meet up, I had a SUPER BAD migraine. Wound up throwing up five or six times and spent about two hours of the day out of bed. Was staying at Sheffield beloved bestie and girlfriend’s place and sharing a bed with other beloved bestie, and at the point we were all going to bed I just cried, and part of it was because my head hurt so much every time I moved my head that I kinda wanted to cut the damn thing off my neck, but also because I’d lost the whole Saturday that we were gonna spend together. I cried into one of her pillows (while keeping head v. Still) and decided that I was going to freaking well deal with these migraines, because they were not going to cost me my monthly weekend with beloved besties again.
(Booked first available doctors appointment online the following week, which was in eight weeks time. I think I could have got an appointment earlier if I had called them. Obviously I did not do this because phones.)
There have been some more tears since BJs announcement. I am a cryer, anyway. I once cried at a Tescos ‘food love stories’ advert. I’ve cried at the song ‘Rockabye’ and I have cried at that bit in Angus Thongs and Perfect Snogging (this reference is depressingly retro) where she turns up at the party dressed as an olive and then runs away.
Most awkward tear-fest of the past few days was in work check-in, a new daily occurrence where each member of the team talks about how they’re doing. Well, I thought I was fine, and then people starting talking, and I Was Not Fine. Cue tears. Cue trying to suppress tears. Cue internal battle as to whether to leave virtual meeting for a moment. Cue my turn to share how I’m doing.
I say hi. This means that everyone now gets a view of my face on their laptop. My voice cracks. I see myself on the screen. I do not know what to say. Am now crying on video chat in front of all my work colleagues. Panic. Commit to PEAK DRAMATIC EXIT, and shut laptop and leave the room. Now start to sob like teenagers do in films when they’ve been grounded: throw myself into my bed, hug pillow, and sob. Can hear meeting going on in background because shutting laptop doesn’t actually remove me from meeting. Head of Department awkwardly moves the conversation on. They pray for me (we’re a Christian bunch, we pray for everyone, not just people who run out of virtual meetings to cry, although you should always pray for people who run out of work meetings to cry) while I sob on my bed. Am still half wearing my PJs and have a meeting with all of them immediately after check in.
Compose self. Make coffee. Get properly dressed and put on lipstick. Seamlessly join meeting like nothing has ever happened.
As soon as I start work, feel completely fine again.
That evening, really enjoyed praying with my church group and then had the best time with the besties from afar, and it all felt like it could be a fun kind of challenge again.
Plus, we have another distanced meet up scheduled for this weekend!!
Got to that point during Tuesday evening when I started losing a little of my tunnel vision and really feeling, instead of knowing, that this isn’t an IDEAL situation for anyone. There was a few moments before that when I wanted to scream BUT I’M ON MY OWN. YOU’VE GOT YOUR SPOUSE OR YOUR KIDS OR YOUR PARENTS OR YOUR HOUSEMATES AND ALL IVE GOT ARE MY PLANTS AND I’M PROBABLY GOING TO KILL THEM ALL SOON.
But, I am an introvert, and I think I’m going to do a lot better with this than I would with a fictional other half and kids, and I don’t really think it’s worse to be on your own, it’s just different. Then I started thinking about friends who just about get on with their housemates, and friends who love their housemates but, you know, appreciate the evenings they go out A LOT, and I started thinking about those poor extroverted outdoorsy types, and I more or less got round to being back to ‘this time is a gift. Freaking well use it’ when I had a sudden moment of like is my mother okay???
Parents visit my sisters a lot. Not me so much, but that’s because I haven’t produced a grandchild / don’t need any decorating doing. I live close enough to “Awesome Sister” that I nip across when parents are visiting them, and that’s… not going to happen for a while. Started to become concerned that the fact that we didn’t play a family Ticket to Ride Game last night was symbolic of my mother not being okay.
Was on a group call with “Awesome Sister” and dad, so asked how mum was. He called her into the room by saying we were on the phone and she didn’t come for twenty minutes because she was watching a TV program about funerals.
My mother is fine.
I, too, will be fine.
Really, we need to be thinking about the drug dealers and the house breakers.
And —— I found this shed key!!!
Woke up Wednesday, looked at the pile of PJs on my bedroom floor and had a moment of extreme clarity: that I needed to get over myself and do my bloody laundry.
This was very grounding and helpful.
And, shed key was in the little pot hanging off the washing line with the pegs in! Shed key has been missing since my birthday party (September) and now I have an almost memory of someone telling me they put the key there, but I could just be filling in a blank. It hasn’t really been warm enough to dry clothes outside since then, though, so poor keys have mostly been chilling with my pegs in a puddle of rainwater for 6 months.
(Thus the rust conversation, thus my mother’s tips about purchasing lubricants. Hope I never have to write that sentence ever again).
Also, may have tried to break into shed using a screwdriver before using the screwdriver to unscrew the hinges on the door, so there was a hairy moment when I thought I’d broken the lock, but no!
Have access to my shed!! This would never have happened without lockdown!!
(Until I did laundry that I hung on the line, at least).
Also, there is a 83 acre park opposite my house, that I have been in twice before lockdown.
It is B e A u t I F u L
So, new routine is my Allowed Walk after work. Still spending breaks painting and drinking nice, slow, ground coffees in my conservatory. Still starting most days at 9:30 and eating breakfast. Probably feel more relaxed than I ever have in my life (if you ignore the crippling fear that I’ll never be lawfully allowed to hug anyone else again) and am looking forward to spending the weekend reading a book in my garden.
Spent an embarrassing amount of money on more Harry Potter Lego. Don’t really regret it.
Top 5 things about lockdown:
- I have spent so much time in my conservatory that I legitimately have freckles, which is the very pale person’s equivalent of a tan. I’ve never really understood the fascination with tanning because it is an unachievable end goal for me (well, there was that one time I accidentally got after sun with fake tan in and had been dutifully fake tanning my burnt arse and the back of my knees for a full week before I realised what was going on. I thought it was some weird super problematic serious burn and all my skin was about to fall off, but instead I just had v. Strange streaky orange patches. Until, as is the way with bad sunburn, my skin actually did fall off. Anyway), but it seems like the acquisition of skin pigmentation is usually celebrated, so let’s go for it
- Feel better about spending money on things like Lego or potential coffee subscription, as saving money on things like going out for coffee and actually having fun
- Parents ordered me and “awesome sister” a crate of tiny wines, so now I can feel mildly judged by my tiny wine bottles when I drink two in one night
- Have been an advocate of drinking alone for many years, but feels more socially acceptable now my aloneness is government mandated
- It’s really loud when they test the fire alarms at work. I am not legally obligated to test my smoke detector every Monday, so won’t have that awful moment when you jump out of your skin then quickly realise that they do this every week.
Worst 5 things about lockdown:
- Every year my mum organises an Easter egg hunt for us, and I am the undisputed champion of the past decade and a bit. Last year I was sure that I was going to go up against my niece to protect my title, but she’s so small and cute that in the end we teamed up. This was at my house and probably the moment that I actually won her over. She actually likes me now and it’s all because of that Easter egg hunt. Cannot think of a way to do this virtually. We have done this for at least the past twenty years, and I am sad. Don’t care that am in mid twenties, those Easter eggs are the best.
- Low key feel like this is a ploy to get everyone to leave the house once a day to exercise, and I have fallen for it
- The ‘Psych! Outwit your friends app’ keeps crashing because so many people are trying to play it
- Crippling insecurity about what counts as ‘essential’. Tomorrow I’m going to run out of milk and will only own courgettes and cheese (and everything in my freezer and cupboard stuff, such as half a ton of rice), is this an essential trip? Do I need to wait until I have spent the last four days eating only housemate’s frozen gluten free bread with garlic salt on? Unused to critically assessing supermarket purchases.
- Been embracing JOMO for a long time and it’s not as subversive and good at feeding sense of ‘I know who I am, and it’s a person who likes to stay in and build Lego’ superiority when everyone is being forced to do it. Maybe I would have chosen this life anyway, huh? You ever think about that??
Need to put the other twelve screws back in the shed door not that removing hinges isn’t my access route.
Maybe next week. I’m swamped right now.