DO YOU SUFFER FROM LOCKDOWN MEMORY LOSS?

What have you lost during lockdowns 1, 2 and 3? Apart from such things as evenings with friends or outings to the pub, I mean. You’ve gained the ability to bake sourdough bread but, if you’re like a lot of people, other skills may have gone AWOL.

Take driving. Now that freedom of movement is returning, many find themselves flustered behind the wheel. In a snap poll conducted by CarWow, three-fifths of Brits surveyed felt anxious about post-lockdown driving.  

FreeImages.com/Jeramey Jannene

Motorway driving seems the most challenging, along with parking especially if, like a lot of people, you never quite got the hang of it in the first place. With my living-room window giving directly onto the street, the evidence is right in front of me.

You think driving should be like proverbial bike-riding? Maybe it is. But let me tell you that, when I tried to cycle after some decades, I’d lost all sense of balance and toppled over for no reason on a perfectly smooth road.

Why does that happen? It’s that old use-it-or-lose-it. No wonder going back to normal can feel like an alien world.

Even using your own feet can seem a trial. Neither my friends nor I can tolerate heels any more. It’s as if our feet have someone got wider after slopping around in slippers for months. Who knew?

Waistlines have inexplicably spread out too. I blame jogging bottoms, especially since the only jogging I’ve done is to the kitchen.

To combat post-lockdown sluggishness and avoirdupois, David Lloyd Clubs are running a six-week programme with volunteers working towards their health goals with personal trainers, nutritionists and psychologists. It’s called Team PB. PB for Pot Belly, perhaps?

As for libido, that too seems to have gone south for many. It’s difficult to prioritise intimacy when you’re stressed and the future looks uncertain. Watching the box is far simpler.

Here’s another reason why brain function may have suffered. Research from Johns Hopkins shows that, for those between 30 and 50, every extra hour of TV time daily translates into a 0.5% reduction in the volume of grey matter in the brain – in other words, the volume of nerve cells.

The road back to normal may prove long and winding, and I won’t be making the journey in high heels, but there’s a lot to look forward to. I might even want to travel again. Now where the heck is my passport? Bet it’s expired.

What do you think will prove hardest for you in the weeks and months to come? I’d love to hear.

Ready Pour vos Holibobs? Un Holiday Guide en Franglais

Bonjour, tout le monde. Avec le lockdown, c’est no doubt un très long time since vos last holibobs. But, maintenant que easyJet et other dirt-cheap avions are restarting, vous might be thinking of un nifty getaway.

Problème: vous ne parlez pas any foreign languages, not even français qui est spoken par our nearest neighbours (je ne compte pas Scotland et Wales).

Solution: learnez le Franglais! Also, shoutez beaucoup.

Le Franglais est une langue inventée par Miles Kington, writer extraordinaire et columnist pour Punch magazine pour many years. Très sadly, Punch magazine est now deceased, et Monsieur Kington also, mais son useful invention lives on. En mon opinion, il est due un revival.

Therefore cette week dans mon blog, ici les easy steps pour master le Franglais.

Premier, important de know what vous voulez from votre holiday. Voici quelques raisons pour travel:

  • Obtenir un suntan.
  • Recharger les batteries
  • Impresser vos followers sur Instagram.
  • Acheter un tawdry souvenir or deux.
  • Avoir quelque chose à parler chez le hairdresser later.
  • Drink beaucoup de booze qui est cheap comme les frites.
  • Aller sur le pull.
  • Faire un late-night tattoo ill-advised. Marquez mes mots, après 8 pints de bière foreign, tous les tattoos sont ill-advised.

C’est tout, really. Oh, merde. Je forget soak up la culture!

Les preparations pour le voyage sont très importants surtout après le long lockdown.  Dustez off votre passeport et loadez le Kindle. Achetez un nouveau bikini et loads de sunscreen – ne forgettez pas un soap de travel pour les undies – et paquez tout ça dans une belle suitcase qui va promptly go missing à l’aéroport.

Je sais. Loads à faire. Aussi pour parler avec les natives il faut plenty de practice. Apprendre une language, c’est pas just reading un livre de phrase. Je suis right, ou je suis right? Il faut écouter et parler. Prochaine week, therefore, je launch le app.

Regardez cet espace.

Zoom is a Four-Letter Word

In one morning, no less than three emails hit my inbox asking me to consider my Zoom wardrobe. Covid-19 has made it tough for the fashion industry to shift SS2020 collections but, all the same, I don’t need to spend money on smart new outfits for working from home.

Photo by Pat from Freeimages.com

Not being from the selfie generation, however, I need some help in getting camera-ready. Jewellers insist earrings make the best video conference statement, and incidentally there’s a sale now on and delivery is free (what are the odds?).

Beauty brands, on the other hand, claim that makeup is THE priority now. It’s not quite how I think of the pandemic, but I’ll gladly agree that a bright red nose isn’t a good look on a work video. Even if it’s an incipient boil, most people will assume it’s the cooking sherry.

It’s harder to conceal the WFH weight gain. And what about hair growth? Be they dark or white, roots can often by hidden by rearranging the height of the screen. If that’s not enough, a hat can work, like a colleague of mine who wears a beret to magnificent effect. Beanie hats, on the other hand, can engender mistrust. Can’t imagine why.

Obviously only the upper half needs to be groomed for a Zoom rendez-vous. Spare a thought, though, for those wearing only their worst knickers, or none, when they unexpectedly jump up during a call to deal with a wailing child.  

With image definition almost as good as a CT scan, everything is under scrutiny, piles of ironing and all. Bookshelves as backdrops have emerged as the biggest status symbol for the Zoom era. 

Photo by <a href="/photographer/pygment2-34407">dave gilligan</a> from <a href="https://freeimages.com/">FreeImages</a>

But which books should be on show? There has been a huge media fuss about certain titles which, said some, had no place in any right-thinking person’s home.

Well, now you can create a backdrop of virtual bookshelves with your own books on it. A little too contrived, perhaps, so few people go to such lengths. And why bother, when there are so many other background options, many of them courtesy of Zoom.us? The choice, I’m told, is very revealing. That picture of a palm-fringed beach says you’re not trying too hard.

Such photos have the added bonus of making a large cocktail in your hand seem entirely normal.  

Though I’m not sure what it says about me (Hampstead type, maybe?), this shot of Hampstead Heath is my preferred background for Zoom calls.

I even used it when trying out the new trend of WFB, though the effect was spoiled when an IKEA pillowcase slipped into view.

Once you have everything in place, there’s still no saying who will join your video meeting as an extra, as when your other half decides you need an impromptu kiss on the top of the head.

I pressed mute so I could tell him to bugger off. Unfortunately, I unmuted myself before he replied, ‘Did you finish all the gin?’

Video conferencing is tiring even if without such interruptions. Some days, I spend more time on remote meetings than real work, and Zoom fatigue is genuine. There’s all that sitting up straight and keeping one’s face in view, whereas, in a normal conversation, the vertebral muscles keep moving and don’t stiffen up. 

Still, all meetings end eventually. Memo to self for next time: click on the dinky END button before saying, ‘Thank God that’s over.’ 

***

Also from my inbox, I can tell you that Masturbation Month is coming. I’ve even been offered an expert who can guide me through it, but, all the same, I may not be blogging about it.

Janet and John Do Lockdown

“Gin and tonic?” says John. He points at the clock. “It’s almost six.”

alarm clock

“It’s actually 6am, John,” says Janet. “But make mine a double. We’ll need sustenance to go food shopping.”

When Janet and John get to the supermarket, they find a long queue all round the car park. “Have you seen all these people?” says Janet, fiddling with her mobile.

“I know. This is going to be so boring,” says John.

“You’re telling me. They’re the least Instagrammable people ever.”

“I’m worried about how close some of them are standing,” says John. “That’s much less than two metres apart. More like nine inches, if you ask me.”

“It’s nothing like nine inches, John,” says Janet.

When they get to the entrance, John says, “Where’s the shopping list?”

Janet frowns at him. “You don’t get this lockdown, do you, John? We just buy lots of anything that looks like it’s running low in the shop.”

“Let’s not forget biscuits,” says John.

“I never forget biscuits,” says Janet.

“Or gin,” says John, grabbing two bottles off the shelf.

An hour later, Janet and John are in aisle seven. John is confused about the contents of their trolley. “But you don’t need TENA pads, Janet.”

“I will do by the time we reach the checkout, John.”

They are about to leave the supermarket when Janet shrieks. “Look, John! The food bank donation box has gone!”

“Don’t worry, Janet. I expect we can donate money online.”

“That’s not the point. I was hoping to pick up tinned tomatoes because there aren’t any left on the shelves.”

After they get home, Janet and John wash their hands for 20 seconds and have a nap for two hours.

Janet wakes up with an idea. “Do you fancy a game of Scrabble, John?”

John agrees on one condition. “Only if you promise not to store all the blank tiles and Ss down your bra.”

“But John, stockpiling is what pandemics are all about. If you won’t play properly, then we shall have to sit on our sagging sofa and watch another episode of Poirot instead.”

After three episodes of Poirot, Janet and John are sitting much closer together on their sagging sofa.

“I say, Janet,” says John as he strokes Janet’s rounded belly. “I don’t know how many weeks gone you are, but I’m so looking forward to our baby.”

“Don’t be silly, John. It’s not your baby. It’s McVitie’s.”

***

Don’t be like Janet and John.

With the cancellation of major events such as the London Marathon due to coronavirus, many charities are on the brink of collapse, while at the same time facing increased need for their help. Please give generously where and when you can. If you want to help a hungry family, consider the Trussell Trust which supports a nationwide network of food banks.