A photo from that one time we tried to go for a bike ride and somebody got a flat tyre... but hey, have you ever seen Tower Bridge that empty?!


This month, I have been...

Since December, I have been optimistically declaring (on an approximately weekly basis) that "my current workload is higher than usual, but once I make it to the end of this week/fortnight/month, things will be manageable again."


The COVID-19 outbreak has catapulted us into the bizarre situation in which Michele's workload evaporated overnight, just as mine accelerated with all the tenacity of a hurricane. He joined the droves of people whose livelihoods disappeared in an instant, the people who now face empty weeks that demand to be filled with increasingly creative pursuits just to stay sane. It seems that there is an international conversation about how on earth we can pass all of this time indoors. This is a shared experience that I can't join. Even though I know I'm far from the only one in that position, and that an increased workload is far from the worst possible outcome of the outbreak, I'm finding it hard to read about the spools of time others are finding on their hands, especially as I've really noticed my mental health suffering from the added pressure this week. So for a while I stayed away from social media completely, only using WhatsApp when I needed to phone my participants for my PhD research. Have been trying to catch up with friends this weekend instead.

Michele has now started volunteering on an almost full-time basis with our local council, who are doing an amazing job of sending 1000s of emergency food parcels out to vulnerable residents on a weekly basis. I joined them at the packing operation this Saturday morning - it really struck me, walking out onto the old games courts of the leisure centre, to see tables and tables of food and crates lined up, like pictures you see in footage from disasters. An ordinary environment turned extraordinary by this crisis. There's a beauty in it, and a horror too.

The streets around home! Most days, I have managed to get out for at least twenty minutes, to stretch my legs, get some fresh air and hear the birdsong - my goodness, how much birdsong there is! I'm certain that the wildlife is flourishing for the lack of human footfall on the streets and tyres on the road. I've seen so many foxes too. It's been wonderful to explore the streets closer to home, even if I am getting slightly bored of not ever being able to truly lose myself. There is so much beauty here. I have loved wondering about in the twilight, seeing front gardens bloom and glow in the sunset, watching the sunlight glint off windows, peering into people's homes as I stroll past, where candles flicker in the shadows, and admiring the skyline of tower blocks and blossom gleaming in the blush of dusk.

Staying home
Of course. We're very lucky in that we live somewhere that's quite pleasant to spend a lot of time in. Our kitchen/living room has a kind of turret on it, which means we get sunlight in most of the day. With the windows open, it's almost like being outside. We've been cooking delicious dinners with our new veg boxes and, on the evenings when I'm not working, watching Tiger King like the rest of the world (which wasn't as light-hearted and hilarious as everyone has been making it out to be... I actually found it quite strikingly disturbing and upsetting). Michele turned into the Easter bunny and has been producing a chocolate mini egg from Konditor once per day, like some excellent magician. Also, I ordered every flavour of Tony's Chocolonely (THANKS Jo, for getting me hooked on the stuff), which had to be imported from the Netherlands, so that's me sorted for Easter weekend.

NOT drinking!!
Can I have a medal please, for actually sticking to Lent and not having a single alcoholic drink since the end of February? Given all the general COVID-19 stress, plus the additional workload and the worst period I've had in a long while, I honestly think I deserve some kind of accolade for these efforts.

Keeping up with friends and family
Right at the beginning of March, before all of this really took off, I had a couple of wonderful weekends hanging out with some of the most wonderful women. Now we have a regular Sunday afternoon Zoom date to catch up and check in, and it's glorious. Around the same time, we also took a walk through the woods with my family. We moved Mother's Day/Easter to the beginning of the month because we had a feeling that the UK would soon move towards social distancing and we didn't know when else we would get the chance to see each other.

Listening to...
All the retro albums. I've been finding comfort in listening to the sounds of my childhood. Ministry of Sound 90s Anthems to remind me of the evenings we'd all bundle into the car and go for our swimming lessons or to pick my Dad up from the station after work. Gabrielle, Simply Red and Billie Holliday to take me straight back to sunny weekends at home, when the house smelled of wood polish and the main event was a family roast dinner. Listening to music from a time when my own life was simpler is an excellent form of escapism.

Reading online...

And offline...
  • Vera by Elizabeth von Armin - brooding, darkly comic, a little slow, and can't work out if I love or hate the ending...
  • A Spot of Bother by Mark Haddon - deliciously easy to gobble down, great characters, laugh out loud funny at many times, but sometimes found the arc of some subplots didn't really work
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante - so disappointed in myself for not reading L'Amica Geniale, but I don't think my Italian skills are quite up to scratch! It took me a little while to get into it, but I am now fully appreciative of why the world loves Elena Ferrante. Immersive, human, wonderfully flawed characters, and soaked in Italy.