U (still) Can’t Touch This

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). 

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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. 

The shade

(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:

  1. 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). 
  2.  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.
  3.  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.
  4. The amount of time I spend with an oversized teddy called Boris. No elaboration needed, I feel. 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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).
  8.  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.
  9. 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. 
  10. 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. 

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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. 

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