Isolationaversay

Number of days it’s been illegal for me to be in the same room as my best friends: 319 in total, including: one period of self isolation, three national lockdowns, two local lockdowns and two tiers (on three different occasions). 175 consecutive days.

Toilet roll situation (resurrecting this old category for old time’s sake): Still on a pretty solid supply of toilet roll, although if I was to plot a graph of toilet roll stocks we’d have a third-wave style peak-and-drop because last weekend my beloved friend/neighbour/colleague tasked me with the very important task of babysitting her loo rolls. This was not because we have all gone completely insane, but because they were staying at their mum’s (their bubble #CovidDisclaimer) and their loo roll showed up. I happen to be a proud owner of a key to their house. The only time I’ve actually used this was that time I broke into their house to attempt a good dead of delivering flowers and home cooked food after the birth of their son, but sadly managed to break in while Joe was actually there and nearly gave him a heart attack when he came downstairs after hearing the door and found me in his front room (sorry, pal). But, for some reason, they didn’t take the key off me after this point, so I wandered up the road too protect the 48 loo rolls from the elements. Alas, they bolted the door, so I ended up carrying the 48 loo rolls past 20 houses and babysitting them for a while (always nice to have extra company, even if it’s loo roll). Also, someone had left them daffodils on their doorstep! These had somewhat dried out…. And couldn’t stay in my house because they’re toxic to cats, so I delivered these to another friend. So, if you are the ones who left my friend/neighbour/colleague flowers… they did get slightly displaced and slightly dehydrated but it was a happy ending in the end.

Pasta stocks: Completely embarassing amount of pasta. I think my stock piling instincts kicked in too late, because I have:

  • 1 pack of fresh lasagna sheets
  • 1 pack of dr0cv dccxx — whoops, Cat.
  • I pack of dried lasagna sheets
  • 2 packs of penne
  • 2 packs of macaroni
  • 1 pack of those shells
  • 2 packs of spaghetti 
  • Some fusilloni that came with my gousto box 

I am one person (+ cat) so this is probably 570932407302 meals worth of pasta. 

Mum’s top sentiment of the day

It’s perfect that you got the date of Mother’s Day wrong, because now my flowers are all in bloom on the actual day! 

(In my defence, when I looked at my calendar for last Sunday… the next entry was for Mother’s Day because absolutely nothing happens in my life, so I assumed that it was the entry for 7th…. But anyway, enjoy your flowers Mum).

General:

Today’s the day folks! It is an entire year since that fateful day that I started coughing in Sheffield, sheepishly got the train home, maskless (😱) and self-conscious, settling in for my ‘7 days’ of self-isolation with nooooo ideaaaaaaa that a year from now I’d consider going to the garden centre to be the most exciting part of my adult life. I had no clue that my ‘leaving the house average’ would become about 0.42 times a day (for legitimate exercise / bubble or permitted volunteering related reasons #CovidDisclaimer), or that I would not get to see my parents for a full six months, or that I would willingingly sit in the garden in the rain for human contact, or that I would start talking to the cat / plants / toilet roll in increasingly bad accents.

I have learnt that I can do five days without seeing a human being and still be fine, but if we get beyond seven then I start to feel a bit isolated. I have learnt that hope is a bit of a mixed bag and sometimes it’s a lot easier to crawl into your cave and hibernate and not make any plans. I have learnt that wild garlic starts to appear in March and it’s the first thing in the woods that’s really green. I have learnt that wine -no-more, although excellent for getting wine stains out of the carpets / off the ceiling, doesn’t do a great job with cat poo (not off the ceiling, thank god). I have learnt that being alone is really different to being lonely, but the former can be hard just by itself. I have learnt that it’s possible to be bored and still have lots of things you want to do and to technically have no plans but still feel too busy. I have learnt that if you add the catholic cards, our personal custom pack, the COVID pack and the british politics pack, playing all bad cards (online cards against humanity) can be funny enough to make me cry laughing. I have learnt that I am probably never going to have enough time to actually put my clothes fully away, rather than low-key pick things to wear straight off the airer. I have learnt that I have been under-introverting my entire life and I have learnt that it is possible for me to over-introvert. I’ve learnt that you should take the side shoots off tomato plants every week. I’ve learnt that on sims 3 they get the ‘stir crazy’ moodlet after three days of being in the house and that those sims can piss right off, because they don’t know the half of it.

I have learnt how lovely it is to have someone make you a cup of tea, or a cup of coffee, after this crystal-clear memory of the first time someone made me a drink for the first time in weeeeeeks and how that small act of service nearly made me cry. I have learnt that I am much more prone to jealousy than I’ve ever realised and that I still hate all those people who went on holiday (except not really) and I have learnt how much grace we need to have for each other in this weird, polarising experience where some people have been dying for a moment’s peace while I would quite like all this ‘peace’ to piss right off. I have learnt that you can buy a device that means you can apply suncream on your own back. I have learnt that being a twenty-seven year old sat in a paddling pool in a swimming costume is an entirely valid life choice. I have learnt that lockdown holidays on your own in your house are okay, really, if not entirely fulfilling or relaxing, and that they’re much worse in winter. I have learnt to be so desperately excited and ready for the spring that the weather basically dictates my mood.

I have learnt that thinking of food to cook for yourself for the millionth meal alone in a row is very dull. I have learnt that it is possible to overdose on paint by numbers. I have learnt that I spend a terrifying amount of time listening to spotify. I have learnt that you can watch Friends three times in one pandemic. I have learnt that you can play Harry Potter Lego Wii twice in one pandemic. I have learnt that you can spend a terrifying amount of money on gardening and gardening related products. I have learnt that growing things makes my brain quiet. I have learnt that having a cat is the best, best, best lockdown company.

I have learnt that pandemics are slow and long and frustrating, but do have this habit of forcing you to realise the things that are actually important to you. Like wine. Wine is very important to me. 

Lockdown weekend number fifty something:

Friday:

Am taking the day off, because at approximately 9:30 on Tuesday I realised that five day working weeks are the barbaric results of capitalist plots designed to cause pain, misery and disappointment (or, I’m really overdue a proper break, but am attempting to preserve annual leave until I can like… legally see other human beings. Or even like…go somewhere. Wild). Am attempting to create ‘sustainable and healthy rhythms’ in my life so that I can say I gained something out of this pandemic experience, so start the day by listening to me bible-in-fourteen-months (the lesser known spin off of bible in a year. Am 76% of the way through. Will get there), then writing my ‘morning pages’ which I have shameless ripped off northern bestie and is essentially just journaling. I write a very interesting entry about how it’s raining and how that makes me sad and then spend an hour drinking a cup of coffee and doing nothing else.

Go to the shop. Have been avoiding it, but am also baking a cake and need cake-things. Think it will be quiet because it’s the middle of the working day, but it’s apocalyptically busy and horrific. Hate everyone, including myself for this terrible decision. Make it out of there alive and call my mum because last night I dreamt she was dead. She isn’t, which is excellent, and she tells me the daffodils I bought her for not-mother’s day are doing well. She is also intending to bake a cake today. Realise I now know what retirement must be like, given last 12 months.

Bake cake. Make lunch. Spend an hour drinking cup of tea in the conservatory, because the microclimate of the conservatory makes it feel like June and June is a much happier place. Sit some more.

Meet friend!! It’s her birthday and as of Monday it’s legal for us to do a ‘recreational outdoor activity’ — such as drink coffee — so we sit in the picnic bench in the park and drink fake-proescco and I give her cake and a fake candle for her to not-blow out (#CovidDisclaimer). 

It is completely freezing. Weather is a bizarre sunny then rain but cold, with apocalyptic winds. By the time we have finished eating cake, we decide to go for a walk so we don’t turn into giant cubes of ice. It starts to hail. We keep walking. She refuses to take the whole cake home, so I keep some and drop this back off at my house before…. heading straight back to the park for weekly-walk with pal. Now, it’s raining. Cold-rain. Very cold rain. Still, walk is nice and we talk about how virtually nothing has happened since our walk last week which is good, reassuring rhythm.

Get home and collapse on sofa. Watch Drag Race with friend over netflix watch party until sleep time. Read Coronavirus death statistics in bed then dream about people sabotaging my plants.

Saturday

Wake up to cat in my face, because he has managed to open bedroom door and wants attention. Protect my legs by bundling them up in three layers of duvet so that if he hunts my feet I won’t end up actually bleeding, then watch ‘marriage or mortgage’ in bed. Get up. Listen to bible-in-fourteen-or-maybe-fifteen months. Write fascinating entry to my journal about how much I love my cat. Spend an hour drinking coffee. Hoover. Cook lunch.

Receive email about family zoom call, so tune in while eating my lunch. Dad (still) very entertained by zoom filters. His entertainment level is only matched by niece, who is three, and keeps asking for her/his filter to be changed. Sister is trying to do other things at the same time and keeps being beckoned back to change the filter to the reindeer. While on the call, I mop the kitchen (yesterday I dropped a bowl of peanut butter icing on the floor while making the cake, so the mopping is necessary), clean the surfaces, take out the bins etc. Mum is knitting a character from Bing (for niece). Niece is eating her lunch (with the reindeer ears on) / pretending to deliver us presents on her sleigh. We have never shared these combination of experiences before, so it’s nice that COVID is bringing us together.

Leave call to do some conservatory gardening. 

Go for walk with friend. It’s very cold but it doesn’t rain and it’s very nice to see her. Saltaire is pretty.

Come home, cook dinner, have video call with the besties. Sleep.

Sunday

Wake too early due to light (hate light). Spend an hour drinking one cup of coffee. Watch church from sofa in PJs, then write journal entry (another fascinating piece about how I’m sad that it’s raining and I like my cat), before getting onto the exciting gardening! It’s exciting because I am graduating one type of tomatoes away from the heat mats and into their forever growbag homes. Fret over skinny aubergines and accidentally buy more seeds because I have a problem.

Have lunch.

Spend an hour on my Bertie diamond mosaic thing.

Go for a walk with friend. We compare notes about who we’ve walked with for the last few weekends, because nothing else has happened in our lives. It’s raining a lot. It’s also cold. Probably the most grim weather for a while. 

Come home. Spend an hour drinking cup of tea. Write profound and interesting blog post about my lockdown experiences. Post blog and await the adoring reactions and responses from my many fans. 

Bertie & Me

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.

General:

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)

I nod.

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.

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:

  1. Sunday Bubble Dinners! I’m sure that we’ll expand the guest list, but it’s such a great way to end the weekend.
  2. 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.
  3. 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).
  4. My killer time-saving strategy of: jumper over PJs and lipstick to make it look like you’ve made a genuine effort.
  5. Bertrand Hiorns-Russel

Chronicles of lockdown: Always lockdown, never Christmas

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.

Inspirational

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.

Proceeding 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.

Friday:

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. 

Saturday:

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. 

Sunday:

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. 

Monday:

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. 

Tuesday:

Have to work. Being forced to attend meetings on fake boxing day is clearly a violation of my human rights. May join a union. 

Thursday:

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.

Friday:

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.

Saturday:

Housemate still here (love ya girl).

Monday:

Alone again! Am taking the week off to recover.

Wednesday:

Morrisons finally apologise for ruining  fake Christmas and refund me £3.50 for delivery.

Go crash family holiday.

Friday:

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.

FFS.

*

Top 5 things about being around people:

  1. “I’ve popped the kettle on. Do you fancy a brew?”
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.

The Chronicles of Lockdown: the Cat, the Beach and the Hormones

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.

General:

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.

Different ballgame.

*

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.

Sunday:

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. 

Monday:

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.

Tuesday:

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.

Wednesday:

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.

Thursday:

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:

  1. 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. 
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.