As I am writing this it is 21:49; I have a beer ninety degrees to my left and I am just about to put some water on to boil, to create a very high-brow one-woman banquet of pesto pasta. If it was 2017 and I could see myself now, I’d recoil, fearing I hadn’t outgrown my university habits. But it’s spring 2020 and I don’t think my routine is all that controversial. Especially when you meet me and – at a two metre distance – I let you know that I’m “Kat, I’ve been furloughed,” as I trot off into the distance with my new hula hoop (thanks mum!) spinning around my hips (and, soon enough, my legs).
I have branded my furlough. I have customised my weekly schedules with my very own, hand-picked purple. The RGB code is 153,102,255, in case you’re in need of inspiration. In my first week of furlough, I only used my lilac highlighter and painted my nails with the matching Barry M varnish. I recommend you do the same if you’re lacking structure and identity. Or maybe just watch a TED Talk?
Furlough is weird. It’s a combination of feeling productive after every online course I take part in, with an underlying suspicion that it’s all a bit make believe. It’s knowing I am lucky and also feeling grateful to have a job, whilst over-indulging in that ugly gloop in the pit of my stomach when a loved one says something like, though I’m certain well-intentioned, “I’m so jealous you’re getting paid to do no work!” It’s the closest I will ever be to, as I keep telling people, ‘being paid to write a book’ (I’ve written the first chapter, at least!), but it’s the furthest I’ll ever be to feeling as though I am doing anything meaningful during this horrendous pandemic.
On the first of April, as furlough commenced, I decided to start a journal, with the ingenious title (that I confirmed with both my brother and my best friend was mildly funny), The furloughs and the fur-highs – available in all good bookstores as soon as this is over. The idea was that I would document my furlough experience and, as a result, have written proof of anything I’ve achieved once normal life is resumed. And, you know, if I make millions from my journal in years to come, then it’ll be a happy accident.
In reality, the best entry this journal has seen so far is:
We got drunk lust night.
We drunk rum and watched Camp Rock.
And even though it meant staying up until half one, we watched Camp Rock 2.
And that was written on April 2nd.
Although I am begrudgingly opening my journal every evening (because I, to my own and my work’s detriment, can’t stand failing to complete something I set out to do), it isn’t giving me the satisfaction it did after the first two entries. It’s also not giving me the satisfaction pressing ‘publish’ in the top right hand corner of this page gives me. Alas, I have, probably unsurprisingly with all of the time I have on my hands, decided to revive my blog, yet again. And it’s true that the real reason I have come back to blogging time and time again is because I have visions of one day becoming Hilary Duff, in The Perfect Man, as she blogs so iconically from her bedroom. But it is also true that whilst blogging is the one ‘passion project’ I never get quite right, I can never truly put it to bed either.
More than my pre-teen obsession with Hilary Duff, blogging is an online journal of sorts; a means of documenting. And as a – by the skin of my teeth – millennial, I am all about this.
A perk of being furloughed is that when I’m not trying to better my very basic (essentially non-existent) Excel skills or attempting, again, to write my first novel, I can raid my ‘to be read’ pile, try out a new podcast or watch a whole Netflix series in two evenings.
After four weeks of being furloughed, and therefore something of an authority on the matter, I have compiled a brief list of furloughs and fur-highs; a list of things I beg you not to try out in locky-d and a list of hand-picked recommendations, for anyone else, like me, without any enforceable schedule right now:
Tiger King: Let’s get this one out of the way. I was definitely onboard the Tiger King hype train a few weeks ago and binged it in circa three days. I bought into all of the catchphrases and encouraged all my cool cats and kittens to watch it. Once I finished the final episode, though, I just felt a bit… rank. If I could go back and not watch it I would choose not to and so, if you haven’t been sucked in yet, I wouldn’t bother. Or if you felt a similar feeling of disgust (with yourself and the docuseries), check out The High Low’s recent podcast, An Author Special with Holly Bourne & The Problem With Tiger King, for a very frank discussion whereby Dolly Alderton and Pandora Sykes sum up exactly how I feel about it.
Trying & failing to get a 5k PB: With everyone and their dog taking part in ‘Run 5, donate 5’ (definitely a fur-high; it’s absolutely brilliant), I am seeing some very impressive times on my Strava timeline and on people’s Instagram stories. But, having slowed down significantly over the last year or so, I’ve been burning out a mile in when I set out, trying to keep up an eight minute pace. Although I will, one day, get a sub 23 minute 5k, it won’t be during lockdown. All I really want out of my time running in furlough is to get up early enough to go for a run when no one is about enjoying their one exercise a day, meaning I don’t have to weave between everyone… and their dogs. So unless you want to spend your lockdown becoming somewhat of an amateur athlete, I completely recommend using this time to reboot and refresh regular exercise.
Wine Wednesday… and Thursday, Friday…: My weekend has been shifted to a mutual mid-weekend with the boyfriend (who works in a restaurant and so, naturally, works the weekend). When we video call two of our friends on a Wednesday evening, I’m acutely aware that I’m even pinker than usual and can see in the corner of my eye that we are well and truly on our way to finishing a bottle of prosecco. All before 7PM too. As nice as it’s been to cheers a couple of beers with Aaron more frequently than in our usual day-to-day lives, it’s safe to say it isn’t just on a Wednesday or Thursday that I’m ignoring the concept of units of alcohol. Cracking open a beer on a Tuesday evening has become more of a ritual than washing my hair and I fear, before long, I’ll resort to washing my hair with wine.
How to Fail with Elizabeth Day: I am obsessed with this podcast. After reading Elizabeth Day’s part memoir, part manifesto, of the same name, and realising Spotify has all of the podcasts I’ve ever wanted to give ago, I went on a run at the beginning of lockdown and Day joined me. It’s a podcast about failure; about learning from failure and understanding it’s crucial to future success. In a time when it’s easy to feel like a failure (as you sit in the garden with your boyfriend on a Wednesday, drinking a gin and tonic at 2PM – see previous anti-recommendation), How to Fail has been an absolute fur-high. My favourite episode so far has been episode 5, series 5: How to Fail: Dame Kelly Holmes.
A Field Guide to Getting Lost by Rebecca Solnit: I am only half way through this book so am probably being a tad hasty but I am confident in this fur-high. A Field Guide to Getting Lost is an exploration of losing and being lost. It is a blend of memoir, history and philosophy and it’s one of the most stunning books I have ever read; and actually, like no other book I’ve ever read.
The Great British Bake Off | Isolation Edition: If you are after something wholesome to pass your time, I completely recommend a weekly virtual bake-along session with a loved one. Every Sunday my mum and I have been baking over a video call; Vicky Sponge, munchkin cakes and scones are the home-baked goods we’ve virtually baked together so far. Other than having a batch of bakes to eat following this lockdown activity, this is a complete fur-high as it means my mum and I have at least one scheduled in, proper catch up each week.
These are, as we are reminded five times a day, ‘very weird times’. But they’re actually very devastating times. Whilst I miss my mum like a child, well, misses their mum when they’re at nursery (see Bella Mackie’s, I’m 36 And I’ve Never Needed My Parents More), every day – and particularly on Thursdays at 8PM – I am reminded that these weeks aren’t about me writing a book, finally mastering the downward dog or imagining the day I can give my mum a hug again. It’s about staying in, staying in touch and doing our best.
Even if all that means is waking up and hanging on until 2PM to have your first G&T.