I Need Direction to I Wanna Destroy You

SO what have you got up to in the 56 days since Boris Johnson flapped his paws around above a big desk and introduced unprecedented restrictions on our life?

By law, in an unprecedented move, the word unprecedented has to be repeated an unprecedented number of times in the opening few paragraphs.

Risked breaching restrictions by not using the word coronavirus before this point – managed it for an entire article for the first time the other day which was a pleasant change, but was fretting over being picked up for not using the correct number of unprecedenteds.

Hope you have been getting further down that list of long-planned jobs than me.

Have you learned a language? Upped your sourdough production level to that of a cottage industry? Watched every programme that someone has recommended on Netflix, Amazon Prime and iPlayer? Or made a scale model of Chris Whitty fashioned out of the clippings from the family’s lockdown haircuts?

Good luck if you have. Or if you have managed to get anything extra done.

Even one word of Spanish, half an artisan crumpet or the opening credits to Tiger King would be one up on me.

As would a haircut, although lucked out by having one in Cartagena days before being forced to flee Colombia (well, find an earlier flight home, but flee adds an element of drama sadly lacking in the rest of my lockdown existence) and have the advantage of there not being that much hair there to start with.

Have bucked the trend a bit by staying largely clean shaven (well, once a week) for the first time in at least six years, but good intentions don’t survive here.

Been too busy.

When Boris Johnson – and please, it is full name, the Prime Minister, Johnson or… well, sure you can come up with something, never just Boris – announced the restrictions on March 23, had been home for five days and was heading for a third night spent on my sister’s sofa (still there) having given up my flat to head to South America.

And a day away from my first Government-sanctioned bit of exercise – what has become the daily walk round the local roads, via one of a couple of shops, which are starting to be a bit repetitive – and sending out a raft of job applications.

Jobs anywhere are pretty thin on the ground, certainly in journalism with former colleagues furloughed or taking pay cuts, and most of the applications came back pretty quickly with a message saying the vacancy and recruitment had been put on hold.

Was steeling myself by the weekend to going back to my teenage years and getting a job stacking shelves, collecting trolleys or whatever the essential supermarkets needed doing.

Anything to earn a few quid until something else turned up and allow me to find somewhere to live and bid farewell to the sofa and my new roommate. More of him later.

And then, on the Sunday evening, came a message from one of those job applications. A quick exchange and a morning phone call later and before you could explain the R number to somebody, was sat at the dining room table writing a story about the impact of the coronavirus (see, impossible not to mention it) on school fees.

What started as one story, became a couple a day, then more and before any of us really knew what had happened, was working full-time as a freelance, writing about business.

Try not to tell anyone (think have got away with it up to this point) but it is not my specialist subject and have leaned heavily on some advice gleaned early in my career – there is no such thing as a stupid question.

Not all advice stands up to scrutiny, as someone who tried to talk me through some economic figures will gladly attest.

But it is amazing what you can learn in a short time when the rest of the world is on Duolingo, nursing a sourdough starter or binge-watching The Stranger (did actually watch that, but had seen half of it with subtitles on the iPad in a hammock next to me on a Brazilian ferry, while its owner kept kicking me).

So my day has fallen into a routine far tighter than the one discarded in August in favour of living out of a bag on the road.

My commute is somehow even shorter than the couple of hundred yards it was, this one taking in the metres from sofa to dining room table (via the kitchen) for 8am and a morning tapping away at the laptop before the lunchtime newsletter goes out.

A quick break for lunch – and clearing storage on a crammed laptop which was painfully low until a couple of weekends of back-ups and reboots – and it is more of the same, if without a looming deadline, logging my hours for the invoice and off on my daily bit of exercise cum escape from the confines of the office/living space which has made up most of my world for the last nine weeks.

And with a nightly call to Australia (see recent posts if you are wondering about that one) before bed, that leaves just a few hours for food, language learning, bread making and box set addiction.

In my case, replace those with sorting through, stealing and ordering thousands of pictures from South America and turning my trip notes into a lasting chronicle of the previous six monhs.

Or, to be more accurate, getting distracted by something on my laptop and finding a myriad of ways to avoid doing whatever had been allocated for that night’s lockdown task.

All this to a soundtrack of a few fresh musical arrivals, a new fondness for podcasts, those 15 albums on Facebook which shaped my musical tastes, Tim Burgess’ Twitter listening parties – one of the great plusses of this whole crisis and something worth covering in a future post – and the latest trawl through the A-Z of my iPod.

That, usually listened to on the daily walk, took us from Teenage Fanclub to The Soft Boys (a sort of tribute to a musical Facebook group) via an occasionally diverting, if hardly headline-grabbing, collection of tracks as the lengthy trawl through I songs continues.

The Stone Roses wanna be adored so much they told us three times, perhaps why The Ramones wanna be sedated with The Smiths probably summing it up best with I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish.

REM popped up with I Remember California and I Took Your Name (twice) and there was also repeat appearances from Sufjan Stevens (I Saw Three Ships and I Walked) with notable outings from Stornoway (I Saw You Blink), I Am Kloot (I Still Do) and a decent discovery from The Orielles with I Only Bought It For The Bottle.

Could have said that a few times in recent months.

One last thing.

My lockdown bed – just need to remind my roomie of that

Mentioned my roommate earlier on, usually to be found on the sofa across the other side of the room, occasionally in his bed in front of the television and, far too often, trying to get up on my sofa or just being disruptive in the middle of the night.

Harry is a, very nearly, eight-year-old chunky black Labrador and the fact he is here to keep me awake through the night is something of a miracle.

Certainly various vets thought otherwise when he suddenly lost the use of his back legs at the start of last year.

But he is very much still with us, scooting around propelled with his immensely powerful front legs and, when the mood takes him, with his wobbly back ones playing an increasing part.

When they can keep up with his front ones.

Last night he slept through until 8am, the night before we got as far as 2am. And then 4.30am, before finally gave up any hope of a lie-in sometime around 6.30am.

Hoping the snoring coming from the other side of the room is a sign he is settling in for another long night asleep – after a final whizz/drag round the block, depending on how helpful he is feeling.

Maybe my lockdown existence is not quite so predictable after all.

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