Pandemic Moments

There’s a small park near to our flat. It contains only four trees, but they’re quite large and their intermingled leaf canopy teems with life. Pausing there today, with no car noise thanks to the lockdown, it feels like being in a real wood.

We hear birds tweeting above us and twigs snap softly underfoot. The sun shines through the branches, casting patterns onto the earth. I feel a brief, welcome connection to nature. I could live in the woods, I think, insanely.

Suddenly a piece of dust violently blows into my eyeball even though there isn’t any wind. As I’m trying to extract it, a sharp piece of tree bark falls from above and hits the back of my neck. “Ow!” I say, when it surprisingly stings.

Nature. They should cordon the whole thing off.


Our through-the-wall neighbours, whom we never meet and do not know, are very excitable. They sometimes burst into blissful hysterics that can only be attached to some wonderful near miss. It’s probably a computer game or something, but I like to imagine they’re training a dog to catch treats thrown from zany angles.


Samara unintentionally reveals at breakfast that she thinks the song, “Popcorn,” is called “Greensleeves.”

I don’t tease her because I’ve made similar mistakes myself, and to illustrate what “Popcorn” is, I sing it: “pip-pap-pap-pip-pippy-pap / pip-pap-pap-pip-pippy-pap / pip-pap-pip-pop-pipperty, pip-pop-pipperty-pip-pip-pip-pap-pop.”

“Oh,” she says, “What’s Greensleeves then?”

“Does the phrase ‘Hey Nonny Nonny’ mean anything to a Canadian?” I ask.

“No,” she says.

“Well,” I say, “it’s like something Tom Hodgkinson would play on a lute. I think it’s Medieval or something. It makes me think of minstrels trying to see who can play it the longest before the king finally snaps and orders their hands lopped off.”

I hum it for her.

“I’ve heard that on Call Waiting,” she says.

“That’s the one.”


Culture in lockdown, since the pubs and cafes are still closed, happens in take-out queues. Today I talk to a man two metres away about my renewed enthusiasm for Reggae.

I like how residential areas are more happening places now that everyone stays close to home. A common sight in our neighborhood is that of bare feet sticking out of windows, wriggling in the sun.


Our living room is bathed in sunshine in the mornings, while our neighbours across the street get theirs in the late afternoon. Sometimes, I’ll be crashed out on the chaise with a book or something when I get a sense of being watched.

Invariably, it’s Deep Roy, an older woman who lives opposite and makes a point of opening her window to fully bask in this 4pm light. I think it’s her daily mindfulness moment or something.

Her eyes are closed in peaceful contemplation whenever I look, but she faces squarely into our flat and it’s a little disconcerting when you’re concentrating on the fourth level of your precariously-balanced playing card tower or putting some science into getting your porn site search terms just right.

Yes, Deep Roy is my name for her. She’s not a little person in case you’re wondering. She just looks like Deep Roy. What’s wrong with that? I like Deep Roy.


On a walk this afternoon, I pass the small local cinema I used to go to pre-lockdown. All closed up now, it was my sometimes treat to attend the £7 matinee of whatever’s on, a great way to avoid doing anything useful.

It’s not a very good cinema. It’s too small to enjoy anything Star Wars-y and once, when I saw It, it smelled like wee.

It crosses my mind today though, that it’s such a small cinema, the bosses might be amenable to my calling up and asking for a private screening. Just me, eating popcorn (not greensleeves), in the centre seat of the otherwise empty auditorium. That wouldn’t contravene lockdown rules, would it?

“What would you like to see, sir?” a solicitous manager would ask on my theatrical fanning out of a hundred quid in notes.

“Just put something violent on and leave me alone,” I’d say.

I do wish I had some money.


I read somewhere that a certain sign of dehydration is “if your urine has a bit of colour to it.”

It’s one of those lines that will change a life forever if you’re not careful. I spend the rest of the day systematically drinking water and monitoring the tinge of my whizz.

My urine always “has a bit of colour to it.” Doesn’t everyone’s? That colour is yellow. Everyone knows that urine is yellow. Don’t they? Isn’t it?

Idea for a project. Piss Diary. Or, The Yellow Book.


Another life-changing phrase entered my lug hole 242 days ago (you’ll see in a moment how I know this).

It was Laura, in a bar one night, when she bragged about reaching “enlightened” status in the productivity app we both use.

“I am enlightened,” she said, dementedly.

I was impressed. To reach enlightened status–the very last status after passing through the ranks of “guru” and “genius” and so on–she must have completed something like 100,000 tasks.

I hadn’t ever cared about my productivity status but that was because I’d never thought it possible to end it. And here was Laura, claiming to have done so. “I am enlightened.” It wasn’t her fault, but she’d sewn a seed of madness in me.


The productivity app allows you to set a goal of a daily number of tasks. I set mine to a modest three tasks, a task being something in the scale of “mention Deep Roy in your blog” or “buy more tea.”

Doing three things of that ilk did not seem to be troublesome or overly ambitious, but I still ended up somewhat in thrall to the streak. Before going to bed each night, if I hadn’t done three proper things, I’d try to remember if I’d done something unscheduled, add it to the app, and cross it off immediately to make up the shortcoming. Occasionally, I’d cheat outright and put “skive” on it and tick that off.

Yesterday, I forgot do a third task and the app was kind enough to point it out to me this morning. “You have completed your goal ZERO days in a row,” it said. “Your longest streak is 241 days: 12 October 2019-June 9 2020.”

The dream is over. It’s like the end of a game of Jenga. I feel oddly at ease.

When I mention this on Twitter, Todd replies that streaks are bad for him and make him anxious.

I realise now that it’s the same for me and that I’d been waiting ages for an accident like yesterday to happen. Free at last.


It rained quite heavily last night. We live on the top floor and a drip has made itself known in the spare room.

This is going to be a lockdown saga, of course, but I’m glad the problem is in the spare room and not dripping onto my actual sleeping head like last time.

I email the letting agency for directions and I put a “drip” emoji in the subject line, just to show that I’m a friendly guy and that I’m not angry with them.

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