THE LOCKDOWN DIARIES OF A FREELANCER
WORDS & IMAGES BY CHARLIE NEWMAN
F Word magazine’s contributing writer Charlie Newman shares with us her quarantine diary. And as cases of Covid-19 increase, and we start to face uncertain times again, we hope that Charlie’s witty narrative provides some comic relief, along with reminding us all of some of the positives that the pandemic has produced.
FIRST DAY OF QUARANTINE: FRIDAY THE 20TH OF MARCH 2020
Diary writing feels self indulgent, if a little mad and whilst I’m by no stretch of the imagination Anne Frank in World War 2, never before has it felt so important to find your voice and express yourself. It’s also a brilliant excuse to remove oneself from your fellow inmates, sorry family/ flatmates, and vent on their peculiar and disgusting habits. Who needs therapy when you have a paper and a pen? Scrap that, a laptop and a charger.
SATURDAY THE 21ST OF MARCH
Whilst listlessly scrolling the internet and its web of news something keeps cropping up again and again- what celebrities are up to during the lockdown. Guess what Sherlock? The exact same as us, that is sweating over the small stuff whilst feigning busyness. Putting celebrities on a pedestal isn’t exactly a topical stance, but really now? It’s all in the name guys, we’re in LOCKDOWN, we’re all LOCKED-UP, doing exactly the same things. Here are at a stretch the greatest differences between celeb and muggle life right now:
1) Celebrity goes for a dog walk and gets papped. Muggle goes for a dog walk and picks up/ stands in celebrity dogs poop.
2) Celebrity attempts self-care and dons a facemask for a selfie. Muggle spends hours slowly peeling off facemask whilst simultaneously undergoing a full facial wax. The only picture they take is to a friend asking for help.
3) Celebrity presses a button to make a fine cup of coffee. Muggle spends 15 minutes heating up milk, frothing and wiping coffee granules off of every kitchen surface.
4) Celebrity looks at wardrobe and longs for an occasion to wear their couture Valentino gown again. Muggle looks at wardrobe and longs to wear jeans again.
5) Celebrity shares thoughts and musings on self-isolation to millions of muggles. Muggles shares thoughts and musings to fellow muggles, tops 3.
All jokes aside, celebrities are not doing anything more exciting than us right now. For once, we’re on the same mind numbingly boring schedule. Don’t put them on a pedestal, put yourself on one instead.
SUNDAY THE 22ND OF MARCH
Feeling #blessed for two reasons today. Firstly, I’m with my Mum on Mothers Day whilst the majority of the world aren’t. Secondly, tonight I was supposed to go to a works drinks and obviously now don’t even need to make an excuse as to why I can’t go. Who organises a work party on a Sunday evening anyway?
MONDAY THE 23RD OF MARCH
I got a call from work this morning asking whether I would like to travel on a train (at Off Peak times) for a job up in Manchester for a high street retailer. As a self employed freelancer, saying no to work feels unnatural and downright idiotic, but I know this is an exception. I must say no as fashion is not ‘essential’ work. Besides, we all have enough clothes to dress the worlds population a thousand times over, there’s no need to be promoting more right now.
WEDNESDAY THE 25TH OF MARCH
Everyone made an enormous fuss about hitting 2020 on New Years Eve. A new century was supposed to bring new beginnings, opportunities, adventures, not a pandemic; now that is worth creating a fuss over. I recently had to Google the difference between 'pandemic' and 'epidemic', it was that far out of my vocabulary and universe having been spoilt growing up in the Western world where drugs and doctors are on tap. The first image that pops into my head when the word ‘pandemic’ is muttered is embarrassingly romantic. I can’t help but have visions of scuttling rats, scurrying along creaky ship floorboards and stinking alleyways, carrying and spreading the Plague. Todays pandemic isn’t so ‘Stuart Little’ more ‘Contagion’ (I recommend the former not the latter for quarantine viewing), it’s invisible, it’s real and it spares no one. If our future King and current Prime Minister have both tested positive then there isn’t much hope for the rest of us.
Here lies part of our problem with Covid19. At the beginning of this century I believe we were all feeling a little too sure of ourselves. We were eating better, drinking less, exercising more, talking about our feelings more, tracking our sleep, steps etc. Covid-19 is a massive slap in the face, it’s an enormous wake up call reminding us that we are in fact not the most sophisticated beings on the planet, we are indeed infallible and simply cannot control absolutely everything. There is a reason why we are spending more than ever before on: food supplies, fitness gear, books, films and the rest. We are filling our lives with ‘stuff’ disguised as order in order to satisfy our micro managing, control freak selves. We’ve transformed into real life Bridezillas, replacing wedding cake tastings for online tutorials on how to make banana bread with two ingredients (nigh on impossible and also, who the hell is waiting for bananas to over ripen?) Losing control feels perverse and frightening but right now there is simply no other choice.
Just think, if Alice didn’t fall down the rabbit hole she would never have experienced one of our favourite tales. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t all fairytales and fantasy, this is real life and it’s terrifying, but it certainly puts things into perspective. That job role we were gutted for not getting, cursing over the fact we have to wait four minutes for a tube, hating ourselves on a hangover etc. Now literally who cares? Of course everything is relative, but without getting too mushy, all we really care about right now is that our loved ones and ourselves are ok. As long as there are enough
cheese crackers kicking about we’ll be alright.
THURSDAY THE 26TH OF MARCH
I had a ‘Houseparty’ with eight girlfriends this evening. Thank goodness real house parties aren’t that stressful, it was like plunging into an empty pool. We’d all dive into a conversation only to receive eight delayed responses, ten seconds later, and all at the same time. Bring back the old fashioned phone call I say.
FRIDAY THE 27TH OF MARCH
If I hear the word ‘unprecedented’ or ‘draconian’ one more time I shall end up in prison.
SATURDAY THE 28TH OF MARCH
Excited because my boyfriend is arriving today to self=isolate with my Mum and I for the foreseeable future. Nervous because this cottage isn’t built for three people, especially when one of them is 6ft 4, another is in the heated grips of the menopause, and the other is a raging bull of a Taurus, aka stubborn as fuck (the latter is me.) Perhaps I should take up smoking again. I joke, obviously not.
SUNDAY THE 29TH OF MARCH
I don’t know who’s needier, my Mum, my puking dog or my split ends.
MONDAY THE 30TH OF MARCH
It’s feels like we’re all on Easter Holidays circa GCSE/O level period, convincing ourselves that we’re being extremely productive whilst quietly hoovering up strange combinations of food pre and post meal times, and staring aimlessly out the window- bird watching has now reached a whole new level of entertainment. Despite the overwhelming anxieties that currently consume us, there is undoubtedly something special about the world joining as one. Of course, ideally this newfound unity wouldn’t haven sprung from a pandemic, but it’s strangely comforting knowing that we’re all, every single one of us, from world leader to cleaner, in an identical situation. We are all trying our best and doing our bit, lending a hand and singing along to the same tune, “stay home, stay safe.” I’m surprised no one has made a number one hit from this yet. You heard it here first…
TUESDAY THE 31ST OF MARCH
Covid-19 has flared up a strange conundrum. In the age of mental health awareness (and I couldn’t be any more supportive of this) we’re having to prioritise our physical health over our mental. Lets be honest, many of the things that make us happy have been removed from us: going to the pub, shopping, a workout class, treating ourselves to a dinner with our loved ones, dancing with our friends etc. Right now we have to shove all of these pleasures to one side and prioritise ours and others physical health by staying in. In a way we’re like professional athletes, minus the exercise part; we’re so focused on an end goal and getting better. Never before have we as a collective lived in such primal conditions but primal doesn’t have to mean prim and proper. Just because we’re now permanently placed at home doesn’t transform us into Jane Austen characters quietly sewing, reading, painting etc. Who are we kidding? Did we really think we were going to utilise the time normally reserved for commuting to and from work to better use? Do we paint, or sew, or pick up the guitar at the weekends or on our precious holidays? Hell no, so don’t beat yourself up for not doing it now. We can still dance, we can still drink, we can still eat with our loved ones, albeit in a more familiar setting. Carpe Diem and all that. Make quarantine what you will. Moping and moaning will only get us so far.
WEDNESDAY THE 1ST OF APRIL 2020 AKA APRIL FOOLS DAY
I performed the classic trick of placing water glasses on the back of my Mum's hands for April Fools. She just shouted at me and tipped the glass over. Note: when you’re the one wiping away spilt water, you feel like the fool.
THURSDAY THE 2ND OF APRIL 2020
Mum is losing the plot. Whilst on our daily dog walk, she is now ordering my boyfriend and I to carry bricks or chunks of tree trunk home like some strange Brownies leader, guiding us on a different route home in case we bump into any of our neighbours with our newfound supplies. She’s disguising this as some sort of earth mother come Hygge foraging trend, when really she’s preparing her bunker for Armageddon. On another note, tonight I was supposed to see the ‘Table Manner’s’ podcast live with a friend for my birthday present, instead I’ll be FaceTiming my friend in the bath with a glass of wine.
FRIDAY THE 3RD OF APRIL 2020
Just when we were beginning to get into the swing of things, my poor Grandma has had a nasty fall and ended up in hospital. She of course isn’t allowed any visitors which whilst this is logical, familial love doesn’t always fall into logical boundaries. I have visions of recreating the ‘Little Miss Sunshine’ scene where they escape hospital, but then Mum reminds me that Gran will love having people to natter away to in hospital, which otherwise wouldn’t be available if she was at home.
MONDAY THE 6TH OF APRIL 2020
In London I’m the A typical buzzy bee irritating c*** in the morning. All “how did you sleep?”, “would you like a coffee I prepared two hours ago”, “must dash, I’m on my way to the gym!” Now I’m waking up every morning as if I’m hungover when it’s impossible for me to be so. I’m desperately holding out for an enormous piss-up one night but I don’t know how to do it both in a dignified manner and in disguise from my mum. Is this new found sluggishness to do with the fact I don’t have definitive ‘stuff’ punctuating my days? Is it because I see home as holiday and just want to lie in and have long, lazy breakfasts? Or is it simply because I don’t have blinds? Whatever it is, it’s becoming a bit of a drag. However ‘much’ I may be in the mornings in London, I miss that drive, that sense of achievement. Aha! That’s it, I miss being busy.
TUESDAY THE 7TH OF APRIL 2020
Researching endlessly for pieces that often feel like they’re more likely to be burnt at Donald Trumps stake than be published. Sending out follow up emails to Editor's like Hogwarts letters to Harry Potter feels a little indulgent in comparison to my Mum’s valiant steering of the jet washer, hosing our patio down as furiously as a hygienist. She is a highly efficient woman cramming cleaning in between her Zoom lessons, will I, or could I, ever be this accomplished?
WEDNESTDAY THE 8TH OF APRIL 2020
I lost one of my favourite earrings today and spent two hours retracing my steps on a dog walk. Whilst strolling the glowing sunset lit fields, I found myself humming to Dario Marianelli’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ soundtrack, as if I was Jane herself, romping the countryside in a corset ruminating on Mr. Darcy, when in fact I had my oversized flares tucked into my bamboo socks Mum kindly ‘gifted me’ (aka got free in a magazine, but I do actually love them)-not so chic, not so flushed. As you’ve probably guessed my trip was unsuccessful, carpets of gravel and leaves do not conduce focused eyes.
It seems as though I can no longer write in coherent sentences so list making will have to do.
20 THINGS I'VE LEARNT SINCE COVID-19
1) I’m a bouji bitch who misses oat milk flat whites and “cafe culture.” Shut up and grow up.
2) My Mother (who turns 60 this August) is more addicted to social media than me.
3) Middle aged Instagram is so unbelievably dry e.g. “Check out my new plates from Tesco!”, “Had a successful day edging/clipping/weeding in the garden today!”, “My dog is cuter than yours!” whilst balanced artfully on a collection of curated crap before it tumbles and breaks the poor dogs leg. No one gives a fuck, don’t bother sharing and save a trip to the vet.
4) Mankind lives a paradoxical existence- we all crave order and routine but are essentially lazy.
5) More on this theme, we worship at the alter of self improvement but also at the alter of the biscuit tin.
6) Even more on this theme, we are inherently social beings that need to be together in order to survive, yet at the same time we find each other excruciatingly annoying/ hate everyone.
7) This one is as an enormous admission to swallow and feels like therapy whilst writing this. Here goes: thou shalt never read all the books you want to. Probably not even half.
8) Emergency stockpiling is a disguise for eating all the food we truly adore: pasta, baked beans, jam, spaghetti hoops, bread, more pasta etc.
9) Adults know fuck all, even the ones on the telly. Aged 9 to 99 we are all essentially clueless.
10) We don’t ever give enough credit to animals. They are life and sanity saving.
11) ‘This Country’ is one of the greatest series ever written.
12) I wish I knew how to thread my face/ I am unhealthily obsessed with my complexion.
13) Cheese is in fact a protein, excellent.
14) I should call my Gran more often
15) Garden furniture is strangely expensive. Why spend hundreds on something that will inevitably be visibly shat on by a pigeon?
16) Either the British press or Boris Johnson himself cannot clarify how many children he has fathered.
17) I have a desperate craving to read children's books over adult books right now. Freud tell me more.
18) I have no reason to check the weather everyday but still do.
19) If I could wear Crocs everyday I would.
20) The One Show made the impossible possible and made viewing even more uncomfortable by sitting their presenters two meters apart.
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