This year has been psychologically challenging, terrifying and deeply humbling – and there’s a sense there are plenty more hard lessons on their way. But as we sit in brace position on the turbulent aircraft that is Flight 2020, there are moments when you have to stop screaming, put some headphones on and zone out with some brainless in-flight entertainment. When my brain is as full as it can possibly get and the red anger warning light is on, I like to grab my remote and a small bag of complimentary peanuts and watch a channel I couldn’t really defend watching in Normal Times – Hochanda.
For the uninitiated, Hochanda is not a Zen greeting like ‘namaste’, nor an ancient city in South America, but a tedious acronym meaning Home Of Crafts, Hobbies And Arts (yes, I know, I was disappointed too, as my dreams of being mayor of Hochanda are now dashed). This is a shopping channel mostly dedicated to a very specific realm of crafting involving extremely unattractive greetings cards that involve layer upon layer of decals, stamps and ham-fisted decoupage applied by ‘expert crafters’, LIVE. When you step beyond the city walls into Hochanda – I mean, the windowless attic where it’s filmed – you agree to abandon any aesthetic standards and be prepared to spend two hours watching a woman called Jean make a sheep-riddled card with ‘I love EWE’ written on it.
One of my favourite lockdown activities is to drink wine and watch Hochanda with a critical eye – it’s my version of Joe Wicks, but with less sweating and more stamping. I find it compelling in the way that many high-budget TV productions are not. Who needs Devs when you’ve got someone with shaky hands embossing an ugly metallic flower on top of three squares of mismatched wrapping paper? What are they going to glue on to it next? An ice-cream cone? A pair of Y-fronts? Who knows? Which pointless machine could possibly assist in this process? Could it be the hot foil stamper (just £119,999) or maybe the die-cutting machine, which can be yours for 457 weekly instalments of £30?
Mostly populated by middle-aged women who may or may not also collect dolls, their mysterious processes defy comprehension and it’s impossible to know whether their creations have ever been seen in the wild. Have you ever received a greetings card that involved £200 worth of complex equipment? Me neither. As well as drama and intrigue, there’s plenty of shock value, too. The other day someone was making a card and coloured in the background with some felt tips that cost, I kid you not, £300 for a pack of 90. I’m telling you, if I hadn’t already been lying around with dribble coming out of my mouth I would have fallen over. Honestly, is there anything about 2020 that isn’t outrageous?