It’s shit basically, isn’t it? Coronavirus, and the subsequent world lockdown – there’s just no painting it pink and looking on the bright side really, no matter how many parents tell me they’re appreciating the time to bond with their families, nor how much businesses get excited about the opportunity to “pivot.” In fact, once lockdown ends I’m making an application to the Oxford English dictionary to ban the word pivot, that’s how sick of it I am. Pivot my arse – this is rubbish for the economy, and no amount of excitement over the variety of things that can be delivered online will convince me otherwise.


Things I’ve learned in quarantine

No. Whilst I’m happy for those of you doing yoga every morning, and using DT lessons to make your kids build an extension, I’m choosing some more basic things to revel in. And what’s more, I’m not giving them up when this is all over. Here’s what I’m keeping, and what I’m binning when Covid-19 is over.


Helen leans through a turquoise heart structure


1. Not wearing a proper bra

Who in their right mind would put metal in a bra? Instruments of torture that have to be whipped off under your top before you can relax in the evening. Why???? I’ve started wearing sleep bras instead – not in my sleep, that’s another idea that will guarantee you a sleepless night. I bought some for a holiday once, thinking no one needed to see the outline of my untethered boobs under a pyjama top as I ate pain au chocolat on my Eurocamp deck. I never wore them again, until lockdown! Turns out they’re super-comfy, and if you face your computer at exactly the right angle no one on Zoom can see that your boobs aren’t angled upwards with a rounded cleavage.

I figure instead of creative pivots, the thing that will revolutionise the business world is working from home, so I’ve thrown out all my structural support, and I’m wearing a sleep bra going forward. Maybe even a Tesco crop top…


2. Drinks on the Driveway

A bit like Friday Drinks in offices, but with neighbours. I reckon taking a deck chair and a G&T to sit at the end of your neighbour’s drive and have a good old gossip will be the new socialising after this pandemic. Remember when the Queen had her Silver Jubilee and all the street made egg sandwiches and jelly and sat out in the sun? Like that, only with Gin. Every Friday after your final Zoom call.


After lockdown I'm getting to know my neighbours better


3. Personal Space

I don’t know about anyone else but I don’t like it when people get too close to me anyway. With their breath and their germs, and their body odour. Ewwwww. Now I have the perfect excuse. Squashing in last minute on the tube? Sorry mate I’m perfectly entitled now to shove you back onto the platform. If you lean over me to reach the oranges my new normal will involve an elbow in the ribs. I can’t wait.


4. Thursday is Quiz Night

Remember when a night in used to mean pizza and Friends. Well not any more! The kids grumbled the first time I suggested the virtual pub quiz, but now they’re the first to remind me that it’s Thursday. Turns out there’s nothing teenagers enjoy more than watching an ordinary bloke sit in his ordinary spare room reading out questions with spelling mistakes and occasional wrong answers with poor sound quality. I should have co-opted Uncle Barry for virtual babysitting when I had the chance!

No, the new perfect night in involves clapping and waving at your neighbours, followed by Jay’s so average it’s incredible pub quiz, finished off with Friday Night Dinner. Tell me you don’t see yourself in one of those characters?

And while we’re at it, I think the Brits ought to refuse to sell Swiss cheese from now on until they rebrand it Emma Mental. After all, if they can do it to Jif and Snickers…

You might also enjoy this list of things for teens to do in lockdown to keep them busy and entertained.


5. Curtain-twitching

When I was young I couldn’t go anywhere without my Auntie Margaret knowing. She wasn’t really my Auntie, but she knew all our business because she lived over the road and chatted to my mum every day. My mum also chatted to Pep next door, over the fence as they hung out laundry. They relied on each other, swapped eggs for carrots when they’d run out. It was nice.

Since lockdown my conversations with neighbours have increased at least three-fold. Mostly in WhatsApp groups, but over fences too, and when we bang pans for the NHS every Thursday night. People know which food bin was scavenged by who’s cat, and who got missed out on a newspaper delivery. It’s a nice feeling, like someone’s got your back next door. It’s bloody brilliant and I’m keeping it.


6. Not having to “squeeze” someone in

Want to go out for drinks? Need me to chat with you on your podcast? Fancy a quick catch-up on the phone? No problem, how does this afternoon sound? I’m free as a bird. I can’t believe I used to have to give people 6 weeks notice for a meeting and I’m not doing it any more. I’m not booking anything in until I wake up in the morning.


After lockdown I'm seeing my friends more often


7. Feeling camaraderie about putting on weight

Everywhere I look on social media people say they’re gaining weight. It’s the sitting around, the not bustling about, no long walks from the Jubilee to the Metropolitan Line. And the extra wine, obviously. But the really great thing is that they’re laughing together over it. There’s a kind of conspiracy now, rather than a judgement or self-castigation. Even my teenage daughter (who is beautiful, has a tiny waist – I hate her – and is absolutely not putting on any weight) is in on it. I complained as we walked recently “Oh my god I feel so fat right now.” And she was quick in her reply. “Oh we all are, don’t worry about it. We’re going to end this lockdown enormous but it doesn’t really matter, does it?” (I love her.)


8. Kids making dinner

One night a week. Both of them. 2 nights off for me. No negotiation.


9. Washing our own cars

I made a big fuss about how washing the car was something to keep teenagers busy during lockdown, only to be told that it’s just what everyone used to do most Sunday afternoons. So that’s what we’re/they’re doing from now on. On sunny days only, obviously. I’m not that cruel.


Washing your own car - the new normal after lockdown


10. Shopping Local

If quarantine has taught me anything it’s that a big supermarket shop is not only unnecessary, it’s also not as good as buying from local shops I had no idea existed before this lockdown. The inability to get a delivery forced me to turn to local grocers, butchers and off-licenses who all were prepared to deliver. There’s even a Peddling Pizza man who comes round once a week, and a wine shop who for £29 will send you 3 bottles of wine with tasting notes, and host a Zoom wine tasting every now and then. I’m totally down for that kind of business pivot!



What else has changed for you that you’re going to keep after Coronavirus?

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