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A Lockdown Diary

… In which I have not founded a new religion, built a 3D printer or mastered my inner chi.

 

Day -7

(7 days before lockdown)

It is my last shift as a lighting designer.  Venues are closing their doors everywhere because it’s the right thing to do.  The government hasn’t ordered them to – just told people to stay away at their own discretion.  Which is a disaster, both medically and commercially.  Until an order is issued, no venue can claim insurance, support or relief, and hundreds will go out of business.  My technical colleagues are looking at their savings in dread.  Freelancers are terrified.  There’s no sick leave or holiday pay.  When the work stops, it stops – and the work was never that well paid to begin with.

For my final night on the job, I am sat at the back of a film festival next to a dog called Gerald.  Gerald is very well behaved, and adored universally by every single person who meets him.  I suspect that epidemiologically speaking, he is The Apocalypse In Fur.  He’s got very soft fluffy ears.

The festival is all about overcoming great odds and learning lessons about yourself, and vulnerability, and courage, and skiing.  Lots of skiing.  It feels like a surreal way to say goodbye to lighting for… I don’t how long.

 

Day -6

(6 days before lockdown)

As the last gigs are officially cancelled, I make the decision to start socially isolating on the principle that even if I’m a low-risk category, it’d suck if I infect other people.

And besides!  In this new world of seeing no one and staying home I can a) finish writing this novel and b) do all the stuff that’s been on my to-do list since the dawn of time!  From disaster: opportunity!  Go-get-‘em gumption!  Inspirational quotes about… I dunno… positivity and things!  Yeah!

 

Day -5

(5 days before lockdown)

You know what would really help me be a go-getting positivity inspirational inspiring… you know… that person?

Napping.  If I could learn how to nap, then I could get my energy levels high through the day.  That’d be great.  Napping is absolutely, a 100% productive skill.  I can’t yet physically do it – something in my body rebels – but wouldn’t it be great to try?

 

Day -4

(4 days before lockdown)

The realisation dawns that I’m not gonna see my Mum for months.  She is over 70, lives alone, and recently had pneumonia.  With the city already shutting down, we meet for one last take-out burrito, sat 2m apart on a park bench.  We do not hug when we part ways, just in case, but do a very British “see you on the other side, trooper” sorta chin-wag.

After, I go to the big supermarket round the corner.  The pasta and rice shelves are already scraped bare, but there’s loads of fresh fruit and veg.  I buy a butternut squash which turns out to be the staple ingredient for the next week, and which my partner politely refuses to be bored by.

 

Day -3

(3 days before lockdown)

This is the stuff that’s been on the to-do list for a time period ranging from fairly recent to the dawn of time:

  • Read all those books by the side of the bed I haven’t read yet.
  • Make a new weapons bag for my escrima sticks. (My last one had a charming bees and flowers motif, but the knife pocket wasn’t really big enough.)
  • Mend my pants. Only the ones where the seam was a bit rubbish of course – I’m a girl of standards.
  • Sort my socks
  • Oil all the bookshelves and doors in the flat (most of which we installed ourselves, with a cry of ‘we’ll do the finish later’)
  • De-mould the bathroom grout and re-mastic the bath and sink
  • Paint the bathroom ceiling with anti-fungal paint
  • Finish writing this novel
  • Tidy up my lighting CV
  • Tidy up my blog
  • Unsubscribe from everything digital that annoys me, including Facebook
  • Do the filing, because I have a folder labelled ‘misc’ that is bigger than my arm
  • Learn to make more vegetarian food, not because I particularly love vegetables, but because… climate change… sigh….
  • Practice the piano more, or at all, even slightly
  • Get my Duolingo Mandarin course to the point where every single lesson is in a gold ‘you nailed it’ state of erudite perfection
  • Sort my tax spreadsheet into the work of colour-coded beauty it was always meant to be
  • Clear out all the email I’ve been ignoring
  • Re-wax my raincoat
  • Repair the living room lamp (x2) and the kitchen light
  • Sort my author copies from boxes labelled ‘books’ to boxes actually labelled with whatever the hell is actually in them
  • Paint the front door
  • Plant lots of house plants
  • Sort through the remainder of the boxes from my Gran
  • Do a spring clean
  • Keep training for the Hackney Half Marathon, even though it’s gonna be postponed
  • Learn to do a push-up
  • Read more about environmental politics
  • Meditate
  • Repair the door handle that fell off the door to the study
  • Sort the mystery boxes under the desk full of mystery items
  • Find my comb
  • Find my seam un-picker
  • Learn to appreciate tea

 

Instead, I start playing Assassins Creed: Odyssey.

 

Day -3

(3 days before lockdown)

Is this… shortness of breath…

… did I cough?

Once?

Twice?

Does a slight sore throat presage the end of the world?

Am I hot, or just wearing a really warm jumper?  What even is this?!

 

What this is, upon a moment of reflection, is hayfever.  And a sensitive imagination.

 

Day -2

(2 days before lockdown)

Sure I am writing a novel.  It’s a tonne of fun and very close to being finished, and every morning I sit down and write until I realise I should eat something, and afterwards I contemplate doing… you know… righteous things.

But it is also lovely that the sea-shanties from Assassins Creed Black Flag are back for Odyssey, albeit in Greek.  Yo-ho-ho a mithios’ life for me….

My only gripe is that I’m pretty sure I’ve met at least three villains already, and taken jobs from them, and there wasn’t a dialogue option that read “Hold on a minute… you seem dodgy to me….”  As with so many games, the narrative seems dependent on my character being a terrible judge of people.

 

Day -1

(1 day to go to lockdown)

Sooooo is the secret with vegetarian food that you need to cook most of it for 4 hours?  That’s fine in a pandemic, but what are you meant to do when Real Life Strikes Back?  Or when the cheese runs out?

In novel-writing land, I am that stage where I’m forced to back-track to insert all the things that will make the end actually make sense.  Like a pro.

 

Day 0

The government has finally announced an actual, official lockdown.  The owners of Wetherspoons and Sports Direct object.  Preventative medicine is much less exciting than murderous calamity.

I see that people are rushing to buy toilet paper, and feel very smug that we’ve already stocked up on a decent supply, not because we’re hoarders but because we try to minimise packaging by bulk-buying and keeping rolls in the bottom of the tool cupboard and oh we’ve only got one roll left well now I feel like an idiot.

 

Day 1

The city is deserted.

There is a kind of magic to the silence.  The air smells different.  Spring is coming, a cold breeze and hot sun.  Little buds on the ends of the trees; empty pavements and quiet nooks.  The shops are all shut; the buses are empty.  None of the apocalypse fiction I’ve read talked about how easy it would be to find humus, when all you wanted was a box of eggs.

 

Day 2

I’m about 95% through writing this novel, which means most of it was written Before Covid and thus isn’t going to resemble anything like King Lear.  Apart from the stillness of the city outside, my routines are still pretty normal, except for the large number of video apps I’m suddenly being informed I need to download.  What even is ‘Zoom’?

 

Day 5

(Perhaps?  Weekdays and weekends are already beginning to lose meaning.)

I go out once a day for my allotted bit of exercise.  I’ve found a bunch of stores south of the flat that no one else seems to be using, and walk the extra distance to avoid a) empty shelves b) people and c) the Great Toilet Paper Crisis 2020.  My Mum, though ordered by the government to stay home as a vulnerable elder, is not considered vulnerable enough to merit priority deliveries from any of the shops.  This seems like a cock-arsed screw-up.

 

Day 6

With fewer cars on the street, it’s very easy as a runner to leave 2m distance between yourself and anyone you’re overtaking.  I figure that if you’re gonna commit running – itself a bizarre life choice – the responsibility is on you to avoid walkers, rather than the other way round.  Which makes the dickheads who can’t be bothered and just slam into people from behind, proper pillocks of the highest degree.

I ran to a park a few days ago, but though everyone was keeping a sensible social distance, the concentration involved in avoiding people made running harder.  So now I run into the centre of London instead.  The commercial areas are deserted.  Shopping streets are empty.  Roads I would never run down for being too busy or too grim, are suddenly open.  It feels strange to be enjoying this new geographical experience.

On one run I stop to catch my breath, and a couple of cops start chatting, clearly instructed to check up on people and maintain a friendly yet obvious presence on the streets.  Rather than tell me not to exercise, we talk about all the roads we’re now running or – in the cop’s case – cycling down, that we never would before.

“You gotta enjoy what you can, don’t you?” muses the constable, as she ambles on with a smile.

 

Day 7

(I mean.  I think.)

So it turns out that my keyboard is filthy.

I’ve had it for twenty years, and it’s missing a lot of letters, but so long as I’m not looking while I type it’s fine, and feels like an extension of my body.  Turns out it might actually be an extension of my body, as an organic slough of genetic material is gently furring up between the keys.  This is pointed out to me by Twitter, resulting in two hours of scrubbing with a toothbrush as people kindly yet firmly explain that what I actually need is a dishwasher.

 

Day 8

I amble smugly south only to discover that they’ve shut the shops I was using because not enough people were using them.  Sigh.  Back to queuing.  I find the one-way system confusing in some of the shops.  What if you don’t know where to find the thing you’re looking for, and have to back-track?  To keep the queues moving along you should be doing a targeted, speedy strike.  But to keep the queues moving you should also be buying as much as you can for the coming week to minimize going to the shops, and thus reduce your contact with people.  But if you buy as much as you can, are you a hoarder?

This is a classically British social minefield.

 

Day 9

Still haven’t mastered napping.  Nor are any of the pots of soil I planted things in showing any signs of life.  I have, however, discovered mealy bugs on a plant in the living room, and am engaged in a war of brutal attrition that even I think does not bode well for my long-term mental wellbeing.

 

Day 10

On my permitted exercise-strolls, I find myself stopping and staring at flowers.  The birds are singing.  Did they always sing like this; couldn’t I hear them over the cars?  The cherry blossom is white and pink across the city, a rainfall of petals in the morning sun.  It’s been months since I felt warmth on my skin, or smelt green grass after rain.  It is wonderful.  Dear lord, I hope I don’t end up writing poetry about the oneness of nature and beauty of spring.  That’d be excruciating for everyone.

 

Day 11

(I’m guessing at what day it is.  Who even knows?)

Novel – finished!  It is a rip-roaring tale of spies, spirits and forest fires.  Boom!  The.  End.

Well.

I suppose.

Now that’s done.

I’d better do something on my to-do list.  Hum….

What’s that you say?  The National Theatre has put up One Man Two Guv’nors on their youtube channel?  That’s a great show, where’s my slippers….

 

Day 12

I was raised to believe that wearing makeup was an act of sinful vanity.  Eventually I realised this was gobshite.  Conforming to some destructive desire of what people should be and how we should look – yeah, that’s daft.  But using your appearance to express something fundamental about who you are and how you feel?  Ain’t no shame in that.

However, what little makeup I own is sat in the bathroom cabinet looking deeply unused.  Will I remember what bare scrapings I’d just learned about using it, when this is done?  Should I dress up just for me?  I put on Real Clothes every day, even though I could sit around editing in my pyjamas.  Wonder how long that habit will last….

 

Day 13

(Or 14?  Or 40?)

To give myself space from the book before doing preliminary edits, I am embarking on Righteous Activity.

I turn on the TV, sit in the middle of the floor and start cleaning and proofing my shoes, jacket and bag.  In my head, this was an all-day task, a mammoth exploit requiring sweat and tears.  In reality it took about an episode and a half of Dr Who.  I’d forgotten how good the Agatha Christie one is, and feel like I’m definitely starting to achieve things hell yeah.

In the evening, I attempt yoga.  I have been attempting yoga on a fairly regular basis, and can almost, practically, if I really, really try, nearly perhaps do one push-up.  Fear me, world.

 

Day 15

The Hackney Half Marathon has been postponed.  This is correct.  However, no one has said when it’s been postponed to.  July?  If it’s July, I kinda gotta keep training, or at the very least maintain my form.  October?  I could definitely dial it back, but having worked so hard to get to this place, it sorta feels like a waste to just back away from running?

The thought dawns on me that I’m gonna be training for this thing forever, and in the evening, I bake my first and only ever successful batch of cookies.

 

Day 17

(I’m totally guessing numbers.  Time is an illusion.)

Ok.  It’s time to get serious about actually doing some of my to-do list.

I reactivate my Habitica account, because if I know one thing about myself, it’s that gameifying works.  I am currently a Level 29 Healer, with more pets than sense.  If I do a certain number of tasks a day, I will perhaps be rewarded with a magic potion!  This matters to me more, it turns out, than positive psychological reinforcement of any other kind.

One of the things I want to work on is Mandarin.  I’m pants at speaking it, but am finally starting to get through some kids books without needing a dictionary all the time, which feels nice.  I’m currently reading one about a wolf who is sad because he isn’t scary.  I have a feeling he’s about to have a radical edit of his world-view.

On Duolingo I’m only a few lessons away from getting all my Mandarin courses to at least level 4 of 5, and then I reckon it’ll only be a few weeks after that before I can complete the course.  However, the lockdown has clearly kicked in because the competition within the app is fierce.  I resign myself to being merely an average language learner for the duration of the pandemic.  It is ok, I conclude, grudgingly, to be fine, and for that to be enough.

 

Day 18

How do people even do ‘crow pose’ in yoga?  When I try and stick my elbows into my arms, they just wiggle around in all the soft squishy fleshy bits.  It’s like trying to pile-drive your kneecap into a bar of soap.  What the actual?

 

Day 19

Edits on the book are finished, and it is dispatched, just in time for edits to arrive on a novella I wrote so long ago that, as I re-read it, I’m genuinely astonished by some of the shit that goes down.  Ah yes, the haggis orgy.  I do remember writing that… vaguely….

One of my ambitions is at least a few minutes of piano practice every day.  I have a good second-hand keyboard we picked up from a restorer in Harringay several years ago, but am discovering now that I have forgotten everything I knew.  Why is the key of F minor?

My house plants still haven’t grown, but my war with the mealy-bugs in the living room remains ferocious, with casualties on all sides.

 

Day 20

(Is it a weekend?  A weekday?  I JUST DON’T KNOW.)

Edits are officially over.

It’s been weeks since I last lit a gig.

I chat with friends at least every other day by one of the ten-zillion video apps, and that’s nice, but still.  I am now officially bored.  I have very little purpose.  I want to help – somehow, anyhow.  Fundamentally, there’s very little I can do.  I can stay at home.  I can be very careful not to go near people when I exercise or shop.  I can give what I can to charity.  I am not a scientist, a doctor, a key worker, a delivery woman.  The disconnect between a beautiful, gorgeous spring blooming across the city – quiet streets and clean air – and the reality of a pandemic raging behind hospital walls and in care homes across the UK – is utterly jarring.  I feel embarrassed at how much I’m enjoying the smell of spring, or the longer, warmer days.  I feel embarrassed at feeling anything other than stressed or anxious.

I’ve signed up for a mutual aid group, but to be honest the outpouring of compassion and support within the community is so magnificent that by the time I’m even close to typing ‘can I help?’ someone else is already helping.

I stay home, and commence the spring clean.

I feel like the villain in Terry Pratchett’s Carpet People as darkened corners of the flat are finally exposed.  Whole civilizations of dust are swept away; behind the bed and under the shoe rack.  And yet, when it’s all done, I still haven’t found the comb I put in a Very Sensible Place almost five months ago.

 

Day 22

I work as a lighting engineer at the Union Chapel.  When there were venues, and gigs, that is.  As well as a beautiful space, it is also a fully-functioning church, and they invited a bunch of their casual staff to sign up for volunteering, in an effort to help during the pandemic.

I sign up, and a few days later, the email comes through from a local charity, assigning me to picking up shopping and prescriptions for people who can’t leave their homes.

First I gotta go and get some PPE from the organiser.  To avoid public transport, I walk several miles to collect a box of gloves and a lot of paperwork.  To try and make the most of being out of the house, this trip is also a quest for cheese.  Easter is coming, and my partner prefers cheese to chocolate.  I love Easter – the annual egg hunt is one of the highlights of the season for me.  Yet I feel guilt at the idea of seeking out pleasure, and know this guilt is self-defeating bullshit, an attempt to give meaning to this strange new world.  If I can find cheese – in a socially distant way – and bring a bit of Easter joy into the flat, I goddamn will.

The PPE I have to collect is near Crouch Hill, an area I only faintly know.  But the map shows a cheese shop that might still be open, and lo and behold I arrive to find a cheerful man behind a counter who reports that the pandemic, far from destroying his deli business, has finally forced local people to recognise that he sells great cheese on their doorstep at reasonable prices.  “It’s not exactly an opportunity,” he explains, “But I hope when this is over people remember.”

In the news, the Tory government has discovered that society does exist; that labour, not the stock market, is the engine of the economy; that key workers are often the poorest in our society, carrying the greatest risk for the lowest rewards; and that migrant labour is the backbone of agriculture and care.  In the hospitals, the first doctors and nurses have started dying, and every Thursday evening London roars to life with applause for the NHS.  We stand out in the communal corridor cheering with the rest of the block.  There is a lot we must remember, when all this is done.

 

Day 23

(I’m guessing the numbers by now.  Who even knows?)

I quite like meditating.  It is nice.  I don’t believe in magic, I don’t believe in chi.  I do think that sitting still for ten minutes a day calming the crap down is very useful.  I am also increasingly having to avoid my usual comfort place – podcasts – because so many are just about Covid.

In Hungary, a political coup is underway that undermines the essence of democracy.  In Poland, they’re debating whether to make abortion illegal, and to reinforce laws that deny the role of Poles in the Holocaust.  As for the US… bloody hell.  The US.

Domestically, to maintain a sense of something nice, every now and then we get take-out from somewhere local.  Even though my partner has now officially been furloughed, we find it needful to schedule time to do stuff together, because it’s so easy in this timeless, endless staying-at-home nothingness to just sorta… drift?

So we write in the occasional romantic dinner, and start re-watching Daredevil Season 1.  Which… bloody hell… is so good.  We also try practicing a bit of escrima together down in the communal garden by the bins, but when the wind is cold my fingers lose feeling, so we have to wait for some spring sunshine.  Like proper warriors.

 

Day 24

The first challenge as a volunteer is getting through locked front doors of council blocks to actually get to the door you need to get to do the actual volunteering.  Then you do a dance of standing as far away as you reasonably can while someone puts an envelope with a shopping list or instructions in the plastic bag you brought… then you retrieve it while they stand far away… and so the tango of hand-sanitizing and fumbling hands in latex gloves commences.

On a good day, this means going to the pharmacy to pick up medicines from a pharmacist who knows exactly who you’re talking about, and precisely what they need.  On a less wonderful day, this means queuing for 45 minutes outside Aldi, because they’re the only shop that sells Maris Piper potatoes and the resident has made it absolutely clear that no other potatoes will do.  I walk miles to avoid public transport.  One of my residents requests a copy of the Daily Mail.  As a squelchy leftie I consider it tabloid rag of bile and propaganda.  The resident I purchase it for is charming, friendly, bubbly and kind, and asks that I put any leftover change into the charity box to help the local community.

 

Day 25

For the second time in my life, I have taken in a shirt.

My Gran was firmly of the conviction that I am fat.  This is an unhelpful belief for a beloved relative to have, especially given it’s not true, and it manifested in her lovingly buying me clothes several sizes too big.  Since I didn’t want my Gran to feel like her presents weren’t appreciated, I kept them and swum around like an otter in duvet cover.  Finally, now that the pandemic is upon us, I am deploying my minimal wardrobe training, and seeing if I can make them fit.

I was a dresser more than any other show role I ever did at RADA, despite having zero interest in wardrobe whatsoever and being the purveyor, during training, of a quick change so slow the teacher supervising it had time to get a cup of tea before I’d finished with the wig.

 

Day 26

Alright.

It’s time to oil a bookshelf.

There’s no room in the flat to do this, so we set up a trestle table in the communal corridor outside, lay out plastic sheeting like we’re about to commit murder, and get to it.  The actual process takes several days, as there’s only enough room to do one section at a time, and we have to divide the job up into different parts.  I manage to keep my surroundings pretty clean, mostly through the contrivance of getting everything on myself.  By the end of day 1, some faint inkling of carpentry training is coming back to me, and I am much more willing to slather stuff on with a cry of ‘meh, let’s just get the job done!’, which seems, frankly, to work better.

 

Day 27

There are signs of seedlings growing my plants THERE ARE SEEDLINGS I am the queen of the universe!!!!!!

I don’t know how I’ll cope if they die now.  I don’t think I’m in an emotionally stable enough place to handle it.

 

Day 28

My partner has repaired the door to the study, and has re-masticked round the bathroom in a sudden flurry of activity.

I guess this means I should do something productive too, but when I get the anti-fungal paint out of the cupboard, it turns out we don’t have any paint brushes except a small one for edging, so off to the hardware store I go, in my painting clothes, before remembering that my painting clothes are my painting clothes because they have a giant hole in the bum.

 

Day 29

Painting white paint onto a white ceiling in a bathroom lit with a white light is precisely as annoying as you’d imagine it to be.

After, I sit and read comics.  The Barbican Library has an online catalogue available for download through it’s ebook lending app.  However, though it has thousands of titles, they’re almost entirely Marvel and DC.  I don’t object to this, but the absence of things like Sandman, Lucifer, Ex Machina, Hellblazer, the Unwritten or Fables is one hell of a fail.

Fun fact: the ebook catalogue also shows which titles are trending, which largely seem to be variations on a theme of Erotica For Women.  Which… frankly, yeah.  If you’re stuck at home…

 

Day 30

As an atheist with a sweet tooth, for me Easter is all about silliness.  One year my friends hollowed out a copy of Harry August to hide a clue inside it, then hid that one copy in a pile of author copies in the book-nook, then glued a white box to the white wall above it to hide the actual eggs in and… well, you had to be there, but it was pretty epic.  And what’s more, they even bought their own copy of Harry, with actual money, rather than steal one of mine, which is real dedication.

 

Day 31

A friend of my Mum’s has died from Covid.  He died at home, rather than in the hospital.  Of my circle of friends, I know five who’ve had it, and my downstairs neighbour, a nurse, is a suspected case.  None of them have been tested; there wasn’t any testing available.  We take our neighbour’s dog for a walk, having done our required socially distant dance of gloves and sanitizers.

The human brain is not wired for people to disappear.  As children we play peek-aboo, and learn that when we open our eyes again, the face of the person we love will still be there.  We learn that object permanence is real, that the world is solid and carries on even when we close our eyes.  It is this bit of wiring that allows us to interact with reality at the level of complexity we do.  Sometimes it also makes reality hard.

 

Day 32

As part of operation Practice the Piano, I am trying to learn a bit of jazz.  The fingering feels a like trying to mime a camel performing Swan Lake, but after weeks of effort, there are genuine signs of improvement.  Which… I’m 100% thrilled by.  Just properly ecstatic.

I have also finally sorted the author copies into various different boxes that are properly labelled, only to discover that I don’t seem to have a single copy of the Neon Court or Waywalkers/Timekeepers, and am gonna have to go begging to my Mum to see if she’s got something, when this pandemic is over.

Thinking of my Mum…

 

Day 33

The crisis.

Mum’s email isn’t working.

This was always going to happen.

She has attempted to fix it herself, in every way possible.  But the reality is that technology isn’t her greatest strength, though she has many others, and so finally, here we are.

On the phone.

Trying to work out how to fix it by remote control.

“Do you see the button that looks like a cog?”

“Where?”

“Bottom left.”

“There’s something that looks a bit like a Tudor fort.”

“Yes!  That one.  Click on that.”

“Left mouse button?”

“Yes.  Yes please.”

“It’s all very badly designed, isn’t it?  Oh crap, now it’s asking me to do something.  Should I press ‘ok’?”

“Please do.”

“What’s it doing now?”

“You tell me….”

After forty minutes, we fix it.  There is whooping.  We come as close to tears of joy as either of us will ever be.  If I drank alcohol, it would be champagne o’clock.  Mum, being under a stricter lockdown than me, might see if she has some budget rose wine later, but it’s not very likely.  Either way, this is a moment of triumph that surpasses anything that would ever be on my to-do list.

 

Day 34

(Or 44.  Or 54.  Don’t even know.)

My birthday is lovely.  Friends text, call, email.  We find cake, and my partner cooks a feast.  One year, we celebrated by getting all my mates round to play basketball in the communal court behind the flats.  We were terrible at it, which was basically the point.  The basketball court will still be there next year.

I need to start writing something else.  There’s a thing I’m sorta dancing round, but it’s a bit hazy.  Meanwhile, the hair is getting significantly more floppy, and the dilemma is whether to just shave it all off, or let it grow out.  Hearing this, my partner rejoices – an opportunity to learn about hairdressing!  Scissors are just like chisels, right?  It’s all subtraction, at the end of the day.

 

Day 35

So many people I know are working from home, or just working because the job needs to be done.  Many are finding their work utterly disrupted, all the old rules gone.  Many are struggling to make ends meet.  Lighting designers are becoming delivery drivers.  I admire that.  I am constantly blown away with gratitude for all the people who are getting stuff done in this crazy world.

Me – I’m planning another book.  It’s not glamorous, it doesn’t make for an interesting life statement.  “What did you do in the pandemic?”  I did DIY, I read, I wrote.  I tried to learn to nap.  I tried to pick up some of the ropey old skills I’ve lost down the years.  I am safe, financially, for the moment.  How long that will last, I don’t know – but fretting won’t do anything about it.

I believe passionately that we need to take this moment to change.  That we need to acknowledge that doctors, teachers, binmen, farmers, shopkeepers, carers and social workers earn a fraction of the salary of bankers, politicians, financiers – and take so many more risks.  Social inequality is a poison; the state has to take an active role in fixing it.  And we have to take a role in shaping our state, and constantly question why our politicians do the things they do, and for whom.

The internet is full of memes about getting stuff done and staying positive.  I have spent my whole life valuing getting shit done.  It is incredibly important.  And by doing shit, I have managed most of my adult life to run away from how I feel.  I would rather organise a funeral than attend it; rather pick up prescriptions than talk about feeling pain.  I have pushed myself into clinical burnout because doing things was the only thing I valued – more than friendship, family or my own wellbeing.  I’m recovering well now, but it’s a trap so many people teeter over.

And staying positive?  I love the smell of spring in this city and will absolutely stand up for things I believe will bring about positive change – proper funding for the NHS, wealth tax, a green new deal – but pretending to feel anything other than what you feel is bullshit.  It is honest to be afraid.  It is honest to be angry, anxious, to feel guilt and worry for the future and your loved ones.  Sometimes people think – and I’ve thought this too – that if you sit and meditate it’s in order to get a warm, cosy glow.  Sometimes it is.  But honestly, I find it’s mostly about working out what the hell I feel, and a lot of the time I feel a bewildered cry of “aaaahhhhggghhh??”  The next step is being honest about that.  Being honest about being not-ok.

 

It’s ok to be not-ok.  It’s ok to stop, and be kind to yourself.  Once you’ve got that bit nailed, it’s easier to be kind to others too.  And then it’s possible to actually, for real, be ok.