Time for me to admit I won’t spend Lockdown 2.0 learning Mandarin or reading Hilary Mantel


ack when I used to go to barre exercise classes, before they were Covid-cancelled, the instructor claimed that you can do anything for 30 seconds. I don’t have the mental energy to calculate how many seconds of lockdown are remaining after today, and even if I could I would probably be proved wrong if it is extended.  

There was an end-of-term feeling in London yesterday, on lockdown eve. The barista in Pret asked when she would next see me, friends are making plans for where they want to spend the next month and who with. A single friend who is generally averse to human contact gave me a long hug goodbye. She doesn’t know when she will next hug someone, she said, as we made promises to meet up for our government-permitted “recreation outdoors with one other person” soon (we have never used the word recreation before but are understanding it to mean drinking in the park). Another friend, who lives in a studio flat, says she can’t bear the thought of going back to working in the same room she has sex in. I’m not sure what the solution is: sex in the bathroom?

In the heady days of the lockdown mark one, friends and I made grand plans to spend the next one in a commune by the sea. It wouldn’t matter that cinemas, swimming pools and nightclubs were closed, we would recreate them — and maybe we would install a hot tub too. Unfortunately none of us has won the lottery so we are making do in our rented flats. We may not have hot tubs but we do have the benefit of hindsight, so what should we do differently, other than not stockpile loo roll?

This isn’t a smug sermon dictating how to upgrade your lockdown with aspirational life hacks. I have accepted there are certain things that if you didn’t do when the rest of life was on hold for three months you are never going to get around to. It is more likely that scientists will find a cure for Covid than that I will finish The Mirror and The Light by Hilary Mantel, learn Mandarin or clear out my wardrobe. And surely the joy of living in London is that you don’t have to spend hours making your own sourdough, even in a pandemic there is plenty of it around.  

It is about marginal gains, like wearing a bra at home. I feel that is what AOC would do

Instead, it is about marginal gains. I am going to start by wearing a bra. I feel like it is what people I admire, like AOC, would do and it might give my life some semblance of order. It’s the Make your Bed theory — in the US Navy they say if you start the day by succeeding in that simple task it will make you feel like you can do anything. I am not going to drink less but I am going to drink better — no more corner shop Soave, for Lockdown Take Two, it’s event drinks like margaritas, beautifully presented and drunk while wearing nice clothes (which it is ok to buy because I will have saved so much by not commuting every day).

Finally, I am not going to mention the pandemic. Or at least not too much. Nothing good comes of mono-topic conversation. You might be doomscrolling and despairing that there is no end in sight but boring on about it doesn’t achieve anything. We have just spent 24 hours talking about the US election and however anxious we were about Trump wasn’t it a refreshing break from the C word? The weather might not be as cheering as it was during the last lockdown but winter TV is better, so talk about that instead. I am grudgingly trying to lean in and accept Zoom (trying Carla Bruni’s trick of lighting a candle for flattering light), but if you’re calling me on it I only want to hear about one thing beginning with C, The Crown.

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