For some unfathomable reason I didn’t jump on the BBC’s This Country when it first came out. Three series, several awards and tons of recommendations later and I’ve just got stuck in and can’t believe it’s taken me so long. It is so, so brilliantly funny (in isolation, no-one can hear your snort-laugh), 30 minute episodes are perfectly digestible if you want to spread it out to split up your work-from-home day with guilt-free length breaks and three series to digest makes for perfect binge fodder.
In fact there are tons of HUGE shows I totally missed the boat on that it might be time to remedy: The Wire, Breaking Bad, Game Of Thrones…or is starting GOT now a step too far? Too far.
I also recently binged on Cheer on Netflix, which is incredible. It’s such a poignant documentary about the Navarro Cheerleading squad, which doesn’t necessarily sound like most of our cups of tea, but honestly I promise you’ll laugh, cry and feel the urge to become a tumbler. Compelling stuff.
The soundtrack to my isolation
In isolation, I’m trying to retain as much focus as possible and get lots of work done from home, which I always struggle to concentrate on with so many distractions (and just a general non-worky vibe) in my flat. I find that classical and electronic music with no lyrics are best to get my mind in the right place and keep it there. Electronic Concentration is a brilliant Spotify playlist to aid this, as is Chilled Classical and Global Funk.
In the evenings I’m trying to create a point of difference and set the tone by exploring a new genre each night (so it kind of feels like I’ve headed out to a different concert or bar!): last night was folk, which I found extremely relaxing and beautiful, a real sense of escapism; 90s R&B night got me dancing alone in the kitchen (literally dancing like no one’s watching, it’s cool, we can do that); and there was just such pure joy and nostalgia in spending a night listening to the bands of my teenage years: Athlete, Aqualung, Travis, Snow Patrol, The Futureheads, Maximo Park, The Coral…it’s amazing how much comes flooding back to you.
Read all about it
On Beauty by Zadie Smith has been sitting on my bookshelf for a little while after my ex recommended it to me (things may not have worked out but he had excellent literary taste!), while Smith’s fictional debut White Teeth has been there for a DECADE. I started trying to read it when I was 20 and still at uni, but couldn’t quite get into it, probably because we had to read so many books for our course that I’d fallen out of love a bit with reading novels for pleasure. Since then I’ve enjoyed her novels NW and Swing Time so much that she’s become one of my favourite authors, and I think moving to London and cultivating this special relationship with the city’s character (which so many of her books are centred on) means I can connect with her work much more profoundly than before, so it’s definitely time to get my (white) teeth into them.
As a recommendation from me: Girl, Woman, Other by Bernadine Evaristo is so beautifully written and impossible to put down. It follows the intertwined lives and histories of 12 women of colour in the UK over the course of several decades; it’s funny, emotional and the characters are so insightfully perceived and perfectly depicted.
I’m going to level with you here: a lot of red wine and pork scratchings have been consumed over the last few weeks with friends over the Houseparty app. It can be lonely living on your own at the best of times, so there’s real comfort in a glass of red and a catch-up for a semblance of normality…just in isolation it’s through your laptop. I’ve actually found a huge positive take away from all of this – which is how everyone seems to be more connected and more supportive than usual. There’s solace to be had in our togetherness. The time indoors in the evenings means I’ve been cooking more, playing around with the spices in the back of my cupboard that don’t usually see the light of day, and rubbing into white fish (good to buy on a weekly shop, then freeze) and baking in the oven has become a go-to comfort food that’s also healthy, delicious and still feels fairly fancy.
The exercise industry has stepped things right up! I’ve been so impressed with how many trainers have adapted to everyone being indoors and are hosting instagram lives and making their workouts available online for free. There are tons of brilliant videos on YouTube for easy-to-follow workouts that don’t require any equipment. Dancing is what brings me the most joy in the world, so in particular I am obsessed with dance workout videos (not only great cardio, but so much fun and you feel like you’re having a party in your living room). My favourites I’ve found so far are Selena Watkins’ Socanomics (Caribbean dance-based routines with some Afrobeats and reggaeton in there too, basically it’s Carnival on lockdown), Nicole Steen’s Latin Dance Workout (we’re talking merengue, salsa, samba, cambia, reggaeton, you won’t be able to wipe the smile off your face!) and The Fitness Marshall who breaks down routines to the biggest pop songs so you actually learn choreography while sweating loads. It’s so important to keep moving, both for our physical and mental health. Dancing makes me happy and it’s keeping me sane, as is following the many yoga, pilates, barre, stretching and sculpting exercise videos on YouTube.
Time for a new skill
Not only would I like to become a better cook but I’d like to learn to make food go further. Being able to rustle up something delicious out of whatever is available is a such a valuable skill, not only for bare sustenance and feeding your household (I think living alone doesn’t help as I often am just preparing something very simple for one person), but also as an outlet for creativity, to relax and it’s a valuable asset for helping others. I usually volunteer with the kids group at a local refugee project but because we are unable to gather children together at this time, we’re adapting the project to preparing and delivering cooked meals to their families and members of our community who are in situations of destitution or homelessness. As so many restaurants have had to close, we’ve been very kindly donated a lot of food that would otherwise have gone to waste, and the challenge is to make it go as far as possible in the kitchen. Hopefully we’ll be able to help as many people as possible, it’s at times like this when honing your cooking skills becomes a new type of challenge and one I’m going to give my all in taking on.
Vick Hope hosted CALM’s Friday Night Lock In. Watch on Instagram