Lockdown Diary: Yeah it’s happening

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My mum recommended I write while we’re all in lockdown. So here we find ourselves!

Don’t expect much wit or sense out of me while I do this, alright. I don’t want to be witty or to make sense. It’s hard to do and right now I can’t be bothered; I just want to put words in an order that sounds nice to read inside your head. See? You didn’t even realise it, but these words are flowing quite nicely. It’s like a little ditty inside your brain. Brain ditty. Brain titty. Tit brain. Tits.

Ugh how I loathe myself.

Right. I did my first 5k run this morning – ever ever. My running app is the proof. I’ve had that big shiny 5 come up on running apps before – well, once, in Melbourne – but I cheated because I kept stopping to catch my breath and pausing the timer while doubled over wheezing. This time – this morning – I didn’t cheat. Didn’t stop once, actually. The furthest I’ve ever gone without stopping previously is maybe 3k. So that feels like an achievement.

French learning has gone out the window recently. Duolingo keeps sending me passive aggressive reminders, that blasted guilt-inducing owl.

‘Hmm. You haven’t practised French in a while.’

‘Uh oh! No French today!’

‘These reminders don’t seem to be working. We’ll stop sending them for now.’

‘Ho ho! Too good to log on today are we? Guess you don’t want to speak a BEAUTIFUL NEW LANGUAGE you PHILISTINE.’

But here – let’s see if I can describe my day yesterday in French, without using anything but my brain.

Tous les jours, je me lever a huit heures et demi, et je brosse mes dents et boit un grand café (Du temps en temps, Jeanne fait du café pour moi dans le lit, woohoo). Quelque fois, je fais de l’exercise, mais souvant je suis trop faignant. Apres, je m’assois a le table, et je parle avec mes collegues sur l’ordinateur. Parfois je travaille… mais parfois je joue aux jeux videos, parce ce que je suis triste si je travaille trop.

Le semaine dernier, la meteo c’etait tres beaux, et je voulais aller dans le parc ou le rue (ou le pub), mais non. Je reste chez moi avec Jeanne, et je lis mon livre (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency – c’est super) ou mange cent des pizzas tous le jour. C’est tres difficile, mais j’aime parler Francais. Je pense que je serais trop intelligent dans deux mois. Peut etre.

There you have it. Sub-GSCE standard French. Also I lied I didn’t just use my brain I used Jeanne’s brain as well a bit. I wrote it all down then proudly read it out to her and she corrected a few glaring errors (instead of meteo [weather] I originally wrote metier [job] – I do not have a very beautiful job).

We’ve made our bedroom into a sort of ‘three rooms in one’ bedroom. We’ve rearranged it so I have a little desk in one corner where my computer is. Other things piled on my desk include an IKEA lamp that looks like the PIXAR lamp, a printed and annotated copy of my novel which I’ve deliberately not looked at for months, a weighty tome titled ‘Writers’ and Artists’ Yearbook 2020’ which I’ve not read since maybe November last year, several burned-out candles, a lighter, and a post it note that reads ‘Te amo, from your anonymous lover’ (I’m assuming it was from Jeanne).

There is also a pack of peppermint Rennies for my ever-present heartburn, some Senna tablets (A herbal medicinal product used for the short term relief of occasional constipation), two pens, Jeanne’s hairbrush, my wallet and phone, a sketchbook I bought in a flurry of optimism and inspiration and now use as a mouse mat, and a pair of sequined devil horns I pinched last Halloween while inebriated.

Jeanne’s portion of our quarantine bedroom is quite a lot better, actually. This is down to her just being more naturally creative and productive than I am. We’ve moved the sofa we got for free off Facebook Marketplace to the foot of the bed, facing out the lovely big bay window. She’s stuck glossy old photographs all around the window beams and has set up her work laptop and extra work monitor on a little white IKEA TV stand, which we bought it as a coffee table because it was cheaper than buying an actual coffee table – and really, how much room do you need for a mug of coffee? Yeah, we can’t do jigsaws or shag on it (do people shag on coffee tables? I have never shagged on a coffee table) but we can put coffee and/or tinnies on it, which is fine.

I dumbly bought a pouch of tobacco last week while it was sunny and nice. Something about lounging in the baking (well, 17 degree) sun just makes me want to fucken smoke – feet up, eyes closed, smoke curling away into the breezeless air, wisps of it slowly disappearing into nothing. Of course, I always forget that smoking makes me feel shit unless I’m on a massive sesh. Sober smoking is so bad. I’ll feel fine – maybe I’m writing something or playing video games or whatever – and I’ll think hmm. Yeah… you know what’d go down smooth? A fucking ciggy.

Then I roll one all excited and go outside and sit there and think hehe, nice once Dan – you genius – and I spark the lighter and take a big drag on the cig and I think hmm, ow, that’s a bit harsh, isn’t it? Then I think ah it’s cos I’ve not smoked in a while – it’ll pass. I have another drag or two, and I think ho ho, I’m a little bit dizzy now, and my heart rate seems to have gone up. Oh boy!

Then I have three more drags and I feel like a disaster, I hate myself, oh god what? What? And my good mood is gone because I feel anxious and nauseous, and I stub it out and go inside and wash my hands with fairy liquid to get the musk off me, and drink a glass of orange juice. And I tell myself DAN, you are a TIT – you have been doing the exact same thing on and off for two YEARS get a GRIP. And I vow never again to smoke a cigarette (but I don’t throw the tobacco away because it’s expensive). Then in perhaps five hours’ time I think – cor blimey. I could do wiv a fag.

Anyway one cool thing I did recently was start drawing again. Hence the mouse mat sketchbook. I spent a gorgeous afternoon maybe four weeks ago sitting alone (Jeanne was in France) in the big bay window, with a giant black and white picture of Joe Strummer on my laptop screen. I began to sketch him, and played his albums as I shaded and scribbled and rubbed out. I listened to Global A Go-Go, by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros, plus a few tracks off Streetcore. He mellowed out in his forties (he died at just 50 years old) and tracks like ‘Johnny Appleseed’ and ‘Coma Girl’ and ‘London is Burning’ are joyous, wholesome delights, very suited to sunny afternoons.

I spent three or four hours drawing, and they flew by in the blink of an eye. I’ve never known anything like it. My mind was so peaceful – I thought of nothing but shapes and tones. I’ve not been so lost in a project since I was a little kid. I remember playing with Playmobil knights, and how I’d dream up their backstories and personalities, and they’d have huge battles. I always tried to make them as realistic as possible – my valiant hero, king of the realm, might be crushed by a trebuchet-launched boulder within thirteen seconds of the battle’s start. I’d spend hours and hours.

Drawing Joe made me feel close to him. He’s a hero of mine – his passion, his hunger for learning, his love of diversity and culture, his fire for protecting those who needed it most. He never sold out, never gave up. It’s a cheesy listen, but his tune ‘Bhindi Bhagee’ is so pure – a song all about how much he loves the diverse cuisine around his home in London. I found myself spending the afternoon reading about him – interviews with his kids, about how much he loved Glastonbury Festival, and always used to set up a little area with a fire and hay bails where everybody was welcome to join and chat and sing, little kids running wild and free, and he called it ‘Strummerville’.

The next day I drew Che Guevara, another hero of mine. I drew my favourite photo of him (I think it was taken at the UN), where he’s sitting in a chair looking strong and healthy (in the latter portion of his life before being killed in Bolivia he was very skinny). In the photo, he is listening to somebody speak just out of frame. It’s Che’s expression that I love. His head slightly tilted, his mouth minutely upturned at one corner, only the slightest wrinkle in the corner of his eye. He looks confident and intelligent, sharp, intensely charismatic, and sardonic above all – he is listening to what’s being said with the same patience one might listen to a Wetherspoons drunk spout ‘send em all back’ nonsense. Drawing Che made me feel close to him, too.

I have not drawn anybody else since then, because I can’t think of who to draw. I think in order to want to spend hours and hours focussing on somebody’s features, trying to capture what I see in them, I need to feel very strongly about them. I don’t know whether I have any other heroes at the moment. I think ones’ heroes should be dead. They can’t disappoint you that way. Their stories are already finished; their books are closed.

Almost 1700 words. I think that’s quite enough for today. I’ll see if I feel like writing more tomorrow. I think I will.

Smiley face.

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Joe and Che. And a shopping list, for some reason.

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