2020 End of Year Review: the Covid months, pt.10

Aaahhh, remember the Dolly Parton Challenge 160 years ago? That was fun.

I posted —>>>> on the 1st January on Instagram and, as they say over on the Twitter, ‘this aged well’.

It was the year I bought a beautiful pair of Mary Janes that will never see the light of day now that my formally size 35 feet are 42 – sideways. There is an upside to the giant feet though; they now perfectly support my also newly giant, not leaving the house body. Swings and roundabouts. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle announced their shock retirement from Royal Family life and right about now, it feels like we should be looking at photos of Archie graduating with a master’s and reading about him being groomed to take over the family media empire.

Time has changed shape.

Really though, the apocalyptic Australian bushfires should have been a sign of what was to come. There was the almost war between the USA and Iraq after the US took out their second in command, a Ukrainian passenger plane was downed by the Iranian military, Trump was impeached, the worst plague of locusts in 70 years descended on East Africa, Taal Volcano in the Philippines began erupting, there was an earthquake in Turkey, an avalanche in Kashmir and floods hit Jakarta. In a parallel universe, Gwyneth Paltrow invited us to sniff her bits. That was just January. ‘You’re welcome’, said 2020. It also said, ‘you ain’t seen nothing yet.’

I went to London for the Lucien Freud exhibition, Sevilla with girlfriends and saw Caitlin Moran in conversation. These five weeks (five weeks!) feel like they happened a hundred years ago.

Then came the plague. We clapped, we cried (more of this later), we were glued to the horror unfolding worldwide. We were equally horrified as we looked on the public killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis in May, a tragedy that provoked a worldwide outcry and saw millions march in solidarity for equality. It really shouldn’t take this level of devastation to bring us together.

We were confined to life indoors, got furloughed, lost work, but we were joined together in an overwhelming appreciation of those on the frontline, incredulity at the celebrity rendition of Lennon’s Imagine, Houseparty’s fifteen minutes of fame, Zoom quizzes and Tiger King. I firmly believe the only thing Carole Baskin was guilty of was partaking of some heavy duty happy pills, because absolutely no one is that chill about a rumoured murder plot against them. While others were setting up side hustles, I watched the entire Sopranos back catalogue and learned how to play poker.

We adapted quickly to new ways of working and kicked ourselves for not buying shares in Zoom and TikTok. Some of us kicked ourselves for not taking future financial security seriously at any point in their life up to that moment (Me. I did that). While economies crashed and families struggled to feed themselves, the super rich were having a smashing time of it. Kim Kardashian couldn’t put off her 40th birthday celebrations for a minute and spent an estimated $2 million on a private island getaway, where her and 30 friends could, ‘… pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time’, Jeff Bezos busily capitalised on the tragedy of the pandemic to become the world’s first quajillionaire and Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched four astronauts into orbit in what seemed to say, ‘I see your superhuman science efforts to develop a vaccine to counter the current world health crisis and raise you a futile and needlessly extravagant rocket launch’. The latter also became a father to little X Æ A-12. Don’t ask.

The conspiracy theorists veritably exploded with joy at the ensuing chaos. I’ve never seen a collective ejaculation before, but there it was right in front of our eyes on the news. They were so excited. Finally, it was their moment, their most fruitful year to date. I mean, it literally all had to be a deep state operation of a magnitude none of us could even begin to imagine, to brainwash us with magic bat juice made in a lab and distributed via 5G megawaves through our phones and the forthcoming microscopic control chip vaccine, fed to us by cannibal politicians (and George Soros), right? …Right? The Whitehouse was leaking like a tap without a washer (yeah, I know stuff). However, all the above, yeah that, that was successfully kept under wraps. That’s one hell of an NDA.


Talking of questionable male behaviour (this will make sense when you read the footnote), reformed sex addict Russell Brand was quick to jump on Cardi B’s somewhat controversial record (but was it, was it really?) to offer his opinion, and literally everyone could see the hypocrisy of that except him. He was in great company (!), as the alt-right came out in droves to denounce it, sounding off about the inappropriateness of a woman talking about her sexuality so explicitly. Some might say that the lyrics simply mirror the overtly sexual lyrics uttered by male rappers for decades. Some might say.

MURDER HORNETS. That is all.

The last quarter seemed reluctant to relent in the year that just kept on giving (us palpitations) and November gifted us an epic find of more than 100 well-preserved Egyptian coffins dating back 2,500 years, discovered in Saqqara Necropolis. In any normal year this would be pretty exciting stuff, but we were all so disastered out, and had become so suspicious and jumpy that, in unison, we cried, ‘NOT NOW ANCIENT EGYPTIAN CURSE!’ I don’t think any one of us would have been surprised if they had unleashed some ancient evil into the world. 2020 innit. Continuing on the never ending rollercoaster journey from hell that had been this year’s events, we came out of the potential curse trough to climb to another Dolly Parton peak with the revelation that she had donated to Moderna’s vaccine research; and it was finally confirmed that angels really do walk among us. I don’t think anyone could have foreseen they’d be masquerading as brassy country music stars.

DONALD TRUMP WAS VOTED OUT and the circle was complete. Even if Joe Biden, who at the age of 2,102 is the oldest President elect ever, he successfully ousted the angry orange lunatic. More exciting than that though, is history making Kamala Harris, who will be the first female Black and South Asian American to become (Vice) President. As Julia Louis-Dreyfus said, ‘Make sure to wear shoes, ladies. There’s glass everywhere’.

So, what has 2020 left me with, apart from mysophobia, giant feet and a fat arse? Well, it appears that I have very much lost the ability, as I suspect have many others, to control my tears. The rocky road that is this year has opened a portal to a never ending reservoir of saltwater. It’s a wonder I’m not dangerously dehydrated. I mean, I watched the Christmas Chronicles (1 and 2), one of which I paused while I made a coffee, because I really wanted to see how it ended, and I cried. Happy/sad/good/evil/puppy/BLM protest rescue hero/sleepy/no Quality Streets – it all makes me cry. I fear the portal will never close and I’ll be that woman you approach in the street to see if she’s OK because she’s alone and sobbing, only to discover she simply saw a particularly beautiful golden autumn leaf fall to the ground. Never. Happened.

As the weirdest year in our history (I hope) comes to a close, a tiny glimmer of light can be seen as vaccine programmes are rolled out around the globe. However, I am being cautious with my optimism. I’ve vowed to never say, ‘this is it, this is the year!’ ever again. I’m just going to let it roll over quietly, a seamless transition from ’20 to ’21 without recognition or celebration and keep my head down. I hope it’s going to be better. That’s as much as I’m willing to proffer.

I think it’s enough.

**There was a paragraph here about the Prince Andrew interview. As this year has been so long and the concept of time and space distorted so much, I genuinely thought it was in November 2020! ^adds accomplishment badge for fake news to Scout collection^.

Bailey’s podcast PJs sleep: the Covid months, pt. 9

I am ready for the Christmas break.

I feel like I need to sleep for a week. Bearing in mind I’ve spent the best part of this year in pyjamas, this seems strange. I’ve become obsessed with pjs. The only clothing I’m interested in is pyjamas, the only thing I am vaguely stoked to look for in the sales in the new year is pyjamas. Oh, and maybe trainers. Can’t get enough pyjamas. New pyjamas are my new (jim) jam. I may never wear anything else again. Pyjamas, pyjamas, pyjamas. And trainers.

I think I’m borderline hysterical…

December began with a few lovely things coming in the post including cards and a bottle of the Christmas staple, Bailey’s. Thanks, bro. They’re all under the tree; except the Bailey’s, obvs. That’s been routinely ingested in its base form, in coffee, hot chocolate, on ice cream and cornflakes. That’s okay, right? Because: Christmas. I may not be going to the U.K. this year for the holidays, but there are some Brit traditions I’ll be absolutely maintaining – the snacking and the boozing. Chocolate peanuts for breakfast anyone? I’ll be honest, I am quite surprised (proud) I haven’t ripped into the presents, given I lasted to only the 9th December in the advent calendar. I’d like to say, ‘See Santa, I am a good girl!’, but the Christmas dessert drink I poured in my afternoon coffee on my break before the last class on Friday put paid to that.

December also began with a couple of non-dates and being featured on the marvellously funny Don’t Take Bullsh*t from F*ckers podcast, which was recommended to me recently by a friend. I wrote in about my Facebook vigilante date after they requested weird first date stories and there it was, the next week. And the next. And the one after that, when they asked me to phone in with more details after I told them, ‘…the vigilante story is just the tip of that date iceberg’. They really got a hold of it. Let me tell you though, chaps, this one date is just the tip of my whole dating iceberg. I was delighted they thought it was worthy of inclusion.

The fruitless dating has contributed to my fatigue for sure. In my intensive search for someone to hug, the emotional investment of the monotony of the first date hamster wheel is immeasurable and I’m tired. Damn you all the way to hell Covid, for making me crave human contact after a year of not dating. I could write a book just about my first dates that would rival War and Peace. If you laid all my first dates end to end they’d circle a fully formed relationship 100 times. I used to think that if you threw enough shit, some of it would eventually stick, but it turns out that if my life was actually backed up behind a fatberg, there still wouldn’t be enough of it to find a decent, compatible human. When does a first date become a second? I mean that’s what gets me excited. Not imagining a future together, just the idea of seeing the same cool person one other time. And, if dreams really do come true, once more after that. Simply one foot in front of the other. That’s a challenge in itself. Can you even imagine? Meeting someone worthy of a second date, who also wants to see you too, is as rare as rocking horse shit.

Quite a poo-heavy post, isn’t it? Apologies.

And the only guy I really clicked with, the funny, interesting one did some weird freak out shit and disappeared, after telling me we needed to curb our enthusiasm. What the hell is that?! I mean, WHY? I haven’t been enthusiastic about anyone since 1913, let me have this moment. And remember the unit with cute crow’s feet? Don’t worry if not, there have been a lot of men and nicknames, to be fair. Well, he text to say he wanted to chat. You know, the one who said he’d be in touch if his tempestuous relationship definitively ended? Well, he called to propose that we just hook up for sex while he maintained his on-off relationship. I mean, it was hard to resist, you know? But refuse is what I did, like this, ‘yeah, I can’t meet you tomorrow as I’m busy doing nothing and enjoying my own company’.

So, Christmas Eve I’m off to my friend’s for dinner with two other friends, well within the six maximum, home just after midnight before I turn into a pumpkin and the temporarily extended Christmas Eve curfew kicks in, wake up Christmas morning, Zoom the shit outta the day, cook a trad British Christmas lunch for me and my furry buddy and fall asleep in front of a Christmas movie. Then it’s a traditional local cannelloni dish on the 26th with the leftovers. I’m fully embracing what I’ve got to work with, and I’m actually really looking forward to it.

Under the circumstances, it’s not all bad…

Rollercoaster ID Hug: the Covid months, pt. 8

SOMEBODY FUCKING HUG ME already! For the love of sweet baby Jesus (topical) and all that is holy in the world, including mother Mary, and the universe, HUG ME! I’m imagining that this intense desire, deep within a place I didn’t know existed in me, is akin to the craving women get for babies. Am I in the right area? Even vaguely? Ballpark? No?? It’s literally eating at me. I don’t think I’ve experienced anything like it in my life. Ever.

While carefully navigating the overwhelming urge to hurl myself under the nearest armpit and throw my arms around random waists in the street, I’ve also navigated the final stages of the whole sorry Brexit shit show. After four and a half years of nagging worry that haunted my dreams, I went to the immigration office this week and applied for the TIE (Tarjeta de Identificación de Extranjeros). I can expect to pick it up after Christmas. It’s almost always an anticlimax, isn’t it, major stuff like this. Like when my divorce lawyer called me up twenty years ago to say my decree absolute had arrived, there was no chorus of angels. The least I expected was a majorette band outside on the grass, when I emerged triumphant with the confirmation letter in my hot little hand.

It’s only down to the goodwill of the Spanish government that we don’t have a more arduous application process, like that the British government has demanded of our counterparts over in the U.K. Or like the one in France. What a sad, sad and completely unnecessary state of affairs. Really. Personally sorted or not, it’s still utterly heartbreaking.

HUG ME! I don’t actually know what to do with myself now, truth be told. I wanted (want) to cry, laugh like a hyena, sleep for a year, hug someone and have someone hug me back (and mean it), kiss the top of my head and say how happy they are for me that it’s done and dusted. I’m sure I’m not alone in that. I’m also sure there are people who just breezed through these last years without a care and I applaud them. I don’t expect anyone to try and understand why it affected me quite as much as it did, you just have to accept. This is my home. From that invitation nine years ago to come and give it a shot, I chose it. My work is here. My home is here. My life is here. I want this life that I started to build at forty to be forever. It’s a huge relief.

So, I can finally relax and start enjoying the little things again, and where better to start than with the holiday season. The timing couldn’t be better. Christmas is coming and the Pank is getting fat. But honestly, that’s got more to do with peri-menopause and my 40,000 calorie/day lockdown diet than the festive run up.

As COVID-19 has well and truly pissed on everyone’s festive chips this year, I’ll be spending my first Christmas in Barcelona and honestly, I’m really looking forward to it. HUG ME!

My tree is up. I mean, fuck it, why not? This year sucks enough and a little bit of sparkle can really lift the spirits. I’ve started sitting in my Christmas jumper watching Christmas movies and drinking mulled wine on the reg. I bought myself a liddle treat from Sephora on Black Friday. HUG ME! When I say liddle, I mean liddle. Touche Eclat was on offer and I hadn’t bought anything for myself all year and Zoom is a bitch, so, you know. I’m looking forward to getting my Christmas shopping done this weekend as that always puts me in the mood and I popped into town just to see the lights.

This year has been an epic rollercoaster of emotions for everyone (probably except Trump and Johnson and any other cold-blooded people with stone hearts) that I hope to say is a once in a lifetime occurrence. I’m not religious, but I pray it is a once in a lifetime occurrence. I’ve cried a lot. More often when nothing sad was happening, like when looking at tubs of Ben & Jerry’s in the supermarket and in the passport photo place. OK, that one was absolutely justified. Seeing my moon face gracing a big screen, visible to everyone, was pretty upsetting actually. I imagine that for the next few festive weeks, there are going to be a lot more tears. Covid numbers, poverty, families separated during the holidays, cute puppies, utter stupidity, lovers in the street, Christmas songs, friends’ new babies and everything in between. I’m just going to try and ride it.

The pandemic has been seismic, enough trauma for any one year, but it isn’t unique in terms of monumental happenings. There has been so much more. It’s been a year of absolute emotional contradictions: I have felt at times, both profoundly connected and painfully lonely, impotent, scared, euphoric and desperate, high, manic and hysterical and useless all at once.

I know I’m not the only one, and it is there that we find our universal humanity and are most intrinsically connected.

NIE TIE Sexy Flu: the Covid months, pt. 7

I have a mild dose of the flu after getting the jab this week. I figure that, combined with COVID antibodies, my superpowers should be kicking in right…about…now. I’m really stoked to see what I have. Eye lasers? Would love those. Invisibility? Could be fun. Ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound? Meh. Knowing my luck, it’ll just be a very slightly enhanced ability to underwhelm. Probably. Underwhelm, but in a cape. obvs.

While I’ve been eagerly awaiting my powers to reveal themselves, I’ve also been languishing in the notion that the Spanish government had granted us the right to remain and languishing in the notion that they said our current residence card, the NIE, will continue to be valid until such time we decide to change it to the TIE. Of course, I don’t know anyone who isn’t mildly irritated by bureaucracy, but I find it massively overwhelming, so the languishing and lack of urgency suited me… until I read a Twitter thread that explained that none of the above was strictly the case. There’s a deadline. Of course there is. I hadn’t bothered to check.

Cue sleepless nights, panic Spanish blindness (an inability to understand anything I am reading due to the buzzing in my brain and palpitations in my chest), hot flushes and panic attacks. The end of November is here and I am frantically organising all the paperwork and the appointment to get said card in a global pandemic with reduced dates and times available and printers closed so no access to the paperwork to take with me. And Christmas is coming.

Fuck me and my laurel resting. Really.

In amongst the superpowers speculation and mild meltdowns, dating has well and truly ground to a halt. It got to the point where the only remaining options were abject lunatics or ghosts.

The ‘shall I come round right now?!’ guys, ‘…or you could come HERE!!’. Umm, no thanks murdery Joe. And the guy who makes you question if they were actually real or an apparition, because they disappear for weeks after the initial sighting, only revealing themselves when they haunt your WhatsApp every couple of weeks, thinking that’s enough to get them laid.

The last phone number has been dated, the most interesting (funny and sexy) guy I’ve chatted to in months. Maybe years. Maybe *decades. And even though it was great fun, honestly – apathy was the only vibe I got from him. And that, my friends, is a big ol’ kick in the slats ego. Let me tell you. The ‘I’d like to see you again, but I won’t say when’ guy. Seriously, what’s a girl gotta do to make an impact? Seriously, I’m asking.

As time ticks on and nothing transpires from any dating endeavour, I am honestly beginning to believe that men are scared of words and love. (This might be the title of the novel I’ll never write.) On a serious note though, I sincerely hope we never have to go to war again – you know, with like, actual bullets and bombs and stuff that can really kill you dead – coz I got news for ya people, we got problems if we do.

So what’s next in the longest year that never was? Well, the bars and restaurants are opening again on Monday so I expect I’ll be gorging myself on food and booze until such time it all shuts down again. (Reader, I won’t).

But, the light is beautiful right now as the nights draw in and the temperature drops, my little adventures up hills are keeping me out of trouble, for the most part, I’ve been to a couple of great exhibitions and my furry partner in crime is getting snuggly for hibernation season. And I want to paint. Man, do I want to paint. The need for that is almost as deep as my urgent need for hugs.

Let’s see what lands on the canvas. Could be interesting.

*Relax. This is a humour blog. I exaggerate and elaborate. ^insert wink gif here^

Apps Walks Possibility Hope: the Covid months, pt. 6

Dating apps deactivated.

I mean, what is the actual point? Without even factoring in the tedium and predictability of 90% of the matches’ chat; with new Covid measures in place here, it’s impossible to simply meet for a coffee in the middle of the day, let alone go for tapas and drink wine into the night.

Two weeks ago an absolute unit of an older guy with a gorgeous smile and beautiful crows feet suggested flasks and a walk on the beach. As dates go, I’ll admit it seemed kind of inventive and spontaneous and something I know my 30-year old self would have absolutely dismissed out of hand. I said ‘let’s do it’ and took a moment to applaud myself for my impressive personal growth. If I were still in therapy, I’d totally blow that trumpet. Two days later, the unit called to explain he had actually only had an argument with his girlfriend and pissed-offedly opened an account. But you know, ‘if he definitively broke up with her, I should be in no doubt he’d be in touch’. Why, monsieur, you are really spoiling us. ^blushes coyly, grabs fistful of Ferrero Rocher^. I wished him all the best and took a moment to applaud his chutzpah; and myself, yet again, for my impressive personal growth in doing so.

I’d also got to a place where I was repeating over and over the same lines like a robot to the same uninventive questions, to the point where I actually copied them into notes so I could paste them later when I had to inevitably answer the interview style barrage of predictable enquiries of another ‘match’. I mean, what do you say to the tenth (twentieth) guy who asks, ‘so, what are you looking for here?’ (Read: I’m here for the sexual japes, don’t get too excited.) Eventually, something along these exasperated lines was my response:

‘I’m interested in possibilities. I’d like to go out for drinks, or whatever, with men without the pressure of that question looming over me. Like in the old days, remember? When, before you even arrived in the restaurant/bar/wherever, the person hadn’t asked to see your tits, if you are looking for a serious relationship or demanded a guarantee of sex otherwise “what’s the point of me meeting you”. I’d like to chat about art and movies and life and jazz and see what transpires. That’s what I’m looking for. Ok?’

I think actual speed records were achieved by some of the disconnections. What do you think it was? Probably the jazz.

God bless a charming man who doesn’t mention his penis/sex within ten words. With whom conversations flow and hours pass with no effort at all. Who makes me laugh. Those are the guys who excite me. Sadly they are few and very, very, very far between. As rare as rocking horse shit, some might say.

I thought I should fill the ‘dating’ void by sticking pins in my eyes. I mean fuck it, why not, it’s 2020. News. That’ll do it: a constant stream of news. I went to bed on Tuesday 3rd November grasping on to a tiny sliver of hope. I woke up on Wednesday 4th with a nagging sense of doom in the pit of my stomach but the sliver was also still in tact. I’m writing this on Wednesday night no closer to knowing the outcome of the US election, worrying along with the rest of the sane world. Yet still, somehow, I am feeling minutely hopeful. What? It’s a thing. *Minute Hope™ might be all we have left.

Let’s just see how that turned out by the time you read this.

The other thing I’m currently addicted to filling my spare time with, which is a much healthier way to spend it than dating, the attempt thereof or waiting for the tyrant wotsit to be ousted, is hiking (gently strolling). It’s taken me the promise of a permanent home from the Spanish government after the uncertainty of Brexit and the prospect of being in one place for a long time to get up at the crack of dawn to go up Collserola or Montjuic. Seeing the entire city, the mountains and the sea from such a peaceful perspective while the sun comes up is breathtaking. It’s almost as if, in all the time I didn’t do this, I was disallowing myself to fall any more in love with this place in order to prevent another broken heart when I had to leave it.

Not as if; that’s exactly what it was.

*watch Etsy et al. for future ‘Minute Hope™‘ merch.

I’m an avatar, Steve: the Covid months, pt. 5

You know how, like, everyone has been starting a side hustle or a business or redecorated or got a new hobby or, like, whatever? Well, I’ve decided to learn how to play poker. #smugface #lifeskills

I’ve been threatening to do it since Victoria Coren Mitchell won a major prize a few years back and then my good friend sent me her memoir, For Richer, For Poorer and I thought, ‘I mean, when better than in the middle of a global pandemic, in which I nearly lost every penny and my job, to take up a sharky game of risk?’

I’ll tell you one thing I have learnt these last couple of weeks in the fake casino – hetero men will literally have a crack at anything. I’m an avatar. I’m an average looking avatar at that. Can you believe I actually policed my fake appearance to deter unwanted attention?

It’s a free app with free chips, which you can earn by watching promo videos and accumulating ‘friends’ etc. as well as winning. But apparently that means immediate sex chat or attempts thereof. Marc Maron said it best in his last Netflix special End Times Fun – just take it back a notch, chaps. Push vagina to between number three and five after, ‘hey, how you doing?’ ‘Man alive, what a year!’ or, ‘I’m reading this great book at the moment.’……… ‘VAGINA’. Dudes, you’re horny for a cartoon character in a *funny money fake casino. ‘Ave a word, will ya.

In other news, I met my never-would-sext-an-avatar-in-an-app **ex last week in order to sign my apartment lease for the next few years. Having been vehemently opposed to Crocs, Birkenstock’s and trainers-as-not-gym-shoes for as long as I can remember, I took a teeny bit of pleasure in the fact that I was wearing my scabby trainers with a cute jumpsuit. He happened to very much like me in heels, as I recall, and I definitely saw his gaze drift to my feet a couple times – was it mild disgust or horror I detected? It wasn’t an act of protest, honest guv, I’ve quite simply forgotten how to wear real shoes on my actual feet. It is my honest intention to never wear them ever again if I can help it. How have I survived this long without realising that comfort trumps style every time? My ex and I parted ways with the now customary Covid times, two-metre air kisses; he with a bottle of wine I gifted him by way of a thank you for co-signing, me with a little spring in my step.

The contract was a big deal. It means that I will actually be in the same place for a whole ten years by the end of the current contract (because let’s face it, nothing radical will change in my personal life any time soon. See recent blog posts), and that seems bloody incredible to me. It actually feels like a home and not simply somewhere I’ll exist until the next big pack up.

After signing the contract, I wrote a list. I wrote a list of all the addresses I’d inhabited since I was nineteen years old. They numbered fourteen. That’s a change of address approximately every 2.142 years. I was supposed to be doing work admin, which will account for my enthusiasm for the list, and honestly – certain other aspects of my life started to very much add up on the back of it.

Enjoying the thought of actually having a home rather than simply four walls couldn’t come at a better time as the Spanish and Catalan governments impose new measures including curfews and potential full-on lockdowns again. Making my ‘new’ home cosy is at the top of my priority list. Hunker down folks, me thinks it’s going to be a long winter.

What is it they say, ‘be careful what you wish for’…?

*I might actually give the real thing a go – current winnings total 1.9million on the 20,000 initial chips.

**My ex’s signature was necessary at the start of the first contract (and for the renewal) I had in this flat, as apparently a freelance woman who presents a six-year work history, two references and offers to pay six months of deposit isn’t quite trustworthy enough.

Chat maths equestrian dick: the Covid months, pt. 4

‘Uff, yes, this year has been terrible. Especially for a man like me, who is very sexual.’

In the words of Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, ^Big sigh. Huge^. I may be paraphrasing.

Yes. Yes, I’m absolutely sure it’s been an awful time for *checks notes* your penis.

Just remind me, this is 2020, right? The year isn’t over yet and a million people have died so far, no? Yep, thought so. I’d hazard a guess, it’s probably been pretty bad for the families of those guys. Maybe medical professionals too. And those who have lost their jobs. But, you know, poor you.

‘I like sex.’ Well, yes, I suppose you do. There’s probably some statistics somewhere that verify a really high percentage of people do. And let’s face it, we ‘met’ on Tinder, so I pretty much had that all figured out. Come on dude, you’re an academic, you could probably quote sex statistics at me. (You probably will at some point.) Also, you could possibly tell me something more interesting, maybe about why you are standing in front of a whiteboard with an incomprehensible equation on it and what it means. Por ejemplo. This guy told me he couldn’t believe how many women actually said in their profiles that they weren’t interested in sex. I proffered that maybe, if they were anything like me, they were just absolutely fucking exhausted by second sentence sex chat. And also like me they do like sex and just want it to happen organically. One night, one date, whatever, whenever – just organically.

Just in case you were wondering, the not so subtle sex mentions came in response to such things as, ‘Hey! Nice to connect. How you doing?’, ‘What a batshit crazy year this is’ and, ‘so, where were you in Russia? I’ve never been, but it’s on my list’.

I connected with this guy because he seemed interesting; travel, martial arts, maths equations and a twinkle in his eye. That is attractive. This is the outstanding date guy from my last blog post. When I say outstanding, I don’t mean ‘exceptionally good’ (information extracted from Oxford Dictionary on 10/10/2020). He is the second man in as many months to say, ‘…I’m going to seduce you.’

Uh oh, Simon Cowell just called and he wants his ❌ back.

If you warn me about it, you are not doing it! Seduction, by definition, is subtle. Not bludgeoning someone over the head. Someone do workshops with these guys. Please. In fact, I’m going to call up the hot French boy and give him that million dollar idea. Again. Now he seduced me. I just did a big swoon. Five years later and thinking about it still has that effect.

Don’t. tell. me. about. it. Just do it already!

You’re really attractive – ok.

I bet you’re really dangerous ^purple face horny emoji^ – not ok.

If by dangerous you mean so clumsy that I could trip over my own feet on the way back to the table with two glasses of wine and accidentally stab you in the jugular with one of them, then yeah, I guess I am.

In fact, it just dawned on me, maybe it’s not trying to steer a conversation that way that annoys the shit out of me per se, but the cheesy freakin’ lines. Thinking back to that night in the Born, the French boy said, really close to my ear while we were standing at the noisy bar after chatting for a couple of hours, ‘I’d like to spend the night with you.’ He was direct and his delivery sexy and he immediately held my gaze so intensely that I’m sure I felt my ovaries try to rip themselves free of me right there and then and attach themselves to his face, like Alien.

So, maybe it is the cheesy bullshit that gets my goat.

Science guy tried to steer it towards sexy chat approximately every two messages. I batted it away like a lardy cricketer from the seventies – with not enough force to make any real impact. So ineffective were my efforts that I finally had to literally say, ‘if you want to get on me, stop hinting you want to get on me. Not once in my life has great sex happened as a result of someone telling me that.’ Don’t make me type and actually send that message.

Annoyed, I logged in to an app again last night, in sheer frustration. There must be someone out there who can have an interesting conversation without mentioning their dick. Surely.

Ooh, hello Madrileño in breeches…

Breeches? Yeah, yeah, I’m a sad cliché, I know. But I’m happy being a cliché if I can just get a NORMAL CONVERSATION without a ‘cock’ being mentioned or a 😈. Seriously, just tell me about your tiny pony.

But you know what, sexy as this guy is, in his shiny, knee-high boots, and as much as I am fantasising about the possibility of him actually wearing this exact same outfit to meet me and what might happen as a result, I think I can manage to have a brief text conversation without actually saying that or telling him how sad my vagina has been during confinement.

Wine mask antibodies kiss: the Covid months, pt. 3

‘I’m in a Facebook organised vigilante group that hunts down pickpockets on the Metro.’

So began my latest foray into dating.

It’s been more than a year since I last mustered even a hint of enthusiasm for it. Goddam you all the way to Hell, Covid-19 ^shakes tiny fist at the heavens^. I finally arrived at a point, six months in to this crazy situation, where even I, a huge fan of solitude, was deeply craving an enormous bear hug. Like, an all-encompassing, totally-enveloping, buried-under-the-armpit, squeeze-the-life-outta-ya, kiss-the-top-of-your-head hug. I knew something was up when, sitting with a friend chatting over brunch, I couldn’t stop staring over her shoulder at a guy in the doorway of the bar. He had beautiful arms. Big, beautiful, perfect-for-hugging arms. The rest of him? Oh yeah, that was good too. But those arms. I signed up that afternoon.

I quite surprised myself this time by trying a couple of different, recommended apps and hanging in there for a whopping five weeks.

But trying to unearth that elusive creature, the tolerable other that you could potentially have around on the day-to-day, like most things in life, requires discipline. I admire hugely, those who look at dating as a project and work through the endless chaff methodically to arrive at the wheat. One lung full of chaff dust and I am usually outta there. Five weeks felt like a lifetime.

After the vigilante, who, by the way, also likes to go to conspiracy theory conferences for sport, I had a date with a guy who seemed chunky in his photos. When he arrived, it was evident he weighed half of me, but the chat was pretty good, so you know, we had a couple of glasses of wine. We moved to a different place for one last glass and as we arrived at the terrace table, I sat opposite-not-next-to him. Bearing in mind it was a *first date, there was little spark and we are in the middle of a GLOBAL PANDEMIC, I was more than a little surprised when he asked without a hint of irony, ‘Why the distance?’. It suddenly felt like we were a couple of several years having some problems. Thank all the Gods for government-sanctioned social distancing requirements. No inventive excuses needed. He wanted to kiss me. I wondered if he had the same daredevil attitude to condoms. I hadn’t even told him about my **dubious immunity.

I’ll be honest, it hasn’t been so different to dating any other time. Apart from the masks, endless apocalypse chat and the antibodies certificates. There were some familiar faces online, some new ones (apparently due to increased separations caused by a forced sharing of space for six months) and the inevitable gaggle of weirdos.

A profile picture of a guy bound and gagged on the floor of a wooded area. A still from a movie, granted, but Jesus Christ… Talking of which, a priest (apparently). Timothy, well, Timothy you can see above. A guy whose blurb read, ‘allergic to frivolity and consumerism. I keep 32 dental pieces. Able to fly underwater. No criminal record.’, a photo of a guy pointing a rifle directly into the camera and lovely, naked Eric (pictured); a man who seemed to have a serious problem keeping his clothes on.

There were a few, professional looking, black and white photos of Eric in various states of undress. In this one, he’d wandered into the forest where his pants exploded off, leaving him in only a mangled jockstrap and in the ensuing chaos, he’d got tangled up in his shirt. My personal favourite was the one where poor Eric must have been so dirty after work one day that he couldn’t even be bothered to take his shirt and tie off before getting in the shower, where his trousers fell down, he got the horn and decided to gently touch the tiles with the tip of his semi-erect penis, visible through his wet dad pants. Eric had written nothing in his bio. Maybe he was explaining his life through the medium of mime. One thing I did know, is that I could never date Eric, HELL no. I imagined the horror of popping to the bathroom and coming back to find him starkers, straddling an ornamental potted bush.

But, it’s not been all bad. I have one last contact to meet; and the absolutely best thing? Meeting a guy who was on the periphery of my social circle during my London days. We are absolutely certain that we bumped into each other back then, because apparently, this small world is the size of a golf ball. He’s totally adorable and we are in touch as friends. And I got my hug.

We both have antibodies.

*I don’t have any strict rules about first dates, I really don’t, but there has to be at least some chispas.

**dubious, only because no one knows if antibodies are forever.

Book film butterfly moth: the Covid months, pt. 2

I didn’t really want lock down to end. There. I said it. I kind of liked it. Except for the poverty and desperation.

I want to do the things I should have done the first time round. I had plans. Big plans. (Loathe to admit it as I am, the Twitter, discipline millionaire dude was kind of right – we might not be gifted this time again). Damn him. I was going to write, set up a website, blah, blah. Of course, I didn’t expect the lockdown to last quite so long. I don’t think any of us saw that coming. I took out a small, cheap loan to see me through a month. Two months later, I was getting creative with dried pasta and a stock cube and looking at the *cat funny.

When I started to feel better, I thought, ‘Right! Time to emerge like a beautiful butterfly.’ I planned to exercise daily. I came out the other side like a moth. One of those massive, hairy-ass ones that scares the living bejeezus outta ya. Never mind the Llandudno goats, nature has well and truly returned – on me. Razor, scissors, nail varnish? Do me a favour. I’ve gone feral.

I lost, I’d guess, three/four kilos during the five weeks I had and was recovering from the virus. I don’t have scales, because I never want to see the numbers. I’ve gained god knows how much in the time since. I mean, sweet, bouncy Joe Wicks was leading seven million people around the globe, daily, in his PE with Joe. Free.

I wasn’t one of them.

The sense of optimism was buoying. People kept bandying around words like ‘reset’, ‘reboot’ and ‘restart’. All the REs. We showed love and appreciation for really important people. The daily clap for healthcare workers was the highlight of my days. I cried almost every night. I felt connected. It was beautiful. Damn! I even got to meet neighbours across our balconies and across the street during those moments, I hadn’t seen or spoken to before.

I liked the idea of finding other ways to communicate. There was the elbow bump, some suggested a polite bow, as the Japanese. I have pretty much embraced the curtsy. To be fair, it’s something I’ve been trialing for some time, along with formal greetings such as ‘Miss T’, ‘Sir’ and ‘Lady F’. Now I had the perfect excuse to roll it out formally.

I did a lot of one things. I:

– watched one movie. Concentration didn’t (doesn’t) even extend to a paltry 90 minutes. World War Z might not have been my best decision given that 2020 could literally present anything and I probably wouldn’t blink. ‘Zombies?! ^throws up arms^ Of course, it’s 2020.’ It could have been worse, it could have been Contagion. I mean, there’s a poor choice when you’re actually living a global pandemic. #1 on Netflix. Human beings are very weird.

– read one book. I took Adults to the hospital with me as I’d been warned it could take some time. By the time I was discharged 30 hours later, between the jabs and wires and swabs, I’d read 90% of it. It kept me sane and distracted. That was the end of March. I finished it on Saturday this week.

– did one stretch.

– did one sketch. I saw a lovely black and white photo of a dancer. I liked his lines. I thought, ‘that’s nice’, got my pencils out, sketched it, popped everything away and posted it on Instagram. It got 30 likes. It’s not surprising really. Looking at it now, it’s clear to see, it was very much half-arsed.

Hours. We…. Had….. Hours…. And……. Hours.

– attended one protest. A peaceful gathering with a talk, taking the knee and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech. I cried. Again. We were one.

– attended one online chat with a comedian and a writer.

– attended one online short film presentation.

– watched one series from the pilot to the finale.

– attended one local government webinar.

Although this list is more extensive than I thought it would be when I started writing it, when you add up the actual hours (with the exception of the series) it pretty much equates to the time it takes to blink.

I discovered that PEOPLE HAVE STUFF IN THEIR HOUSES THAT THEY DON’T EVEN IMMEDIATELY NEED. Like flour and **baking powder and saucepans.

Mind. Blown.

I want us to have more time. It feels like the inspiration we found in our shared humanity is already slipping away. Our appreciation of glimpses of nature, a life less rushed, more peaceful, more valued, an opportunity to make changes. Things are returning too quickly to the way they were; even quicker than I thought they might. In the time it’s taken Edward Enninful to turn around his ‘Reset’ August edition of Vogue, people have already forgotten to what he refers. My anxious self is bracing for no longer having lockdown as a valid reason to take it easy.

In one of the first returning classes I had online, I hazarded a guess that it would be six months before it was a hazy memory for most. One of my students said I was an idiot.

It seems he was right.

*I was not looking at the cat funny. Of course I wasn’t. I fed him before myself. I was the more likely of the two of us to be discovered with a half-eaten face. (Not restricted to global pandemics).

** I have this now to accompany the thermometer, glass water bottle and iodine in the cupboard marked ‘adult’.

Jobless Sleepless Pantless Cake: the Covid months, pt.1

Well, I don’t think any of us can deny, it’s been a wild ride.

Sitting with two friends in a cafe in London, back in January, there was much talk of new clients, new contracts and full diaries. Even after many, many years of saying, ‘let’s never say again, “this is going to be the year”‘ after literally all of those years fell flat; we said it.

Well, here we are. Three and a half months later, the global economy is bust, unemployment has skyrocketed and the vast majority of us have forgotten how to wear shoes.

A year from fifty, I had committed to not wearing pants and found myself without freelance work within a twenty-four-hour turnaround. With a newly approved consolidation loan, no savings, a lone ball of mozzarella in the fridge and a dry, scratchy cough; it wasn’t looking good.

A few days later, I casually text the WhatsApp group that had planned a Houseparty that I wouldn’t be able to make it, as I was in the hospital waiting for a Covid-19 test. I did a ring round of the inner circle to let them all know. I was all very matter-of-fact. If anything, I was mildly irritated. There’s a lot to unpack about my approach to serious illness that’s best broached with a professional.

Thirty hours later I was sent home with the drugs and an instruction pack about COVID pneumonia treatment and aftercare after battling against admission to the hospital on the grounds that I was already three weeks in to feeling ropey, past the worst, had got myself to the hospital and there were others more deserving of any beds that should become available any time soon.

I also cried about my cat being left in the house alone. I’m that woman now. I had slept for only two of the thirty hours and was so hysterical, a kindly medic, forever known as ‘Doctor Cat’, even offered to get a friend of hers to collect my keys and pop in to feed him. I was too ashamed of the mess to permit that to happen.

Well, it had been two weeks of only enough energy to shuffle from bed to sofa and receive Glovo takeaways.

There was a great sense of camaraderie as we all rallied. Online seminars, music and comedy gigs, covideo parties, series recommendations and art classes. We were connected through our shared cake efforts. Marie Antionette would have been proud, we were all bloody eating it. Group chats a-go-go with folk you might not chew the fat with on the reg and hadn’t spoken to since that disastrous school reunion in 2010. That happened once. There’s a reason we don’t maintain contact.

Weirdly, I hadn’t felt this calm since 1957. Jon Ronson mentioned in a tweet that maybe it was because those of us with anxiety had been preparing for this our whole lives. We were ready. I quote tweeted him. He liked it.

Then the fear set in. I was jobless.

Until I started to feel the knot of dread creeping in again, I realised that I hadn’t felt it for four whole weeks; and it had been blissful. They do say, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. It was a beautiful, calm stomach, clear head, peaceful night positive in the craziness. But here we were again. Sleepless.

I baked. I did not:

write a novel

start a side hustle

sign up for a masters

find a cure for Coronavirus

or donate any organs…

…or whatever the hell else the millionaire with no financial worries told us we should all do, over on the Twitter. He said we had no discipline. I said, ‘kiss my arse’.

The ex that I lived with in Liverpool text and asked if I was home. Eeerrrmm, aren’t we all? (Except the half a million people on Bournemouth beach, of course). Once that had been established, he told me he’s going to be a dad. So that’s two of my exes straight outta the Pank finishing school and into the arms of their baby mamas. ^curtsies^

Work picked up again in May, thank all the gods for that small mercy, although it brings with it a raft of other concerns. I keep my jade eye roller to hand at all times because: Zoom. I’ll be recovering financially for the foreseeable future. I’m already bracing myself for a lean August and I’ve written the rest of this year well and truly off. I’ve made my peace with no trips and no visitors…. no drinks with the girls, dinners, sale shopping, house trinkets. Na. Da.

I am pretty gutted that I didn’t have the foresight to buy shares in zoom. I do, however, have an appointment with a new accountant and now own a thermometer, iodine and a corked glass bottle to decant my own filter water, so I guess that means I’m some kind of grown-up.

Thank you global crisis.