Tuesday, 31 March 2020

March 2020

Uh well, that was a month.

March 2020 started ADORABLY. My old friend Hannah came over and I introduced her to Spen. We had a lovely long stroll with Charlie in the sun. It was delightful.

Had some interesting and helpful conversations about queerness this month too.

This is my CERVIX!
Sorry, the blog got x-rated. I had a colposcopy, I have had many, and I will doubtless have many more. It's no big deal. But this was the first time they shoved a CAMERA up there! My cervix is really shiny and my pelvic floor muscles are really hench and I am no closer to finding a cure for a relatively minor but persistent lifelong issue. Sigh.

At the hospital, the two nurses on the reception of the tiny colposcopy waiting room are muttering, but not very quietly. 'There's one in Norbiton now.'
As I leave, I walk past 'the pod'. There are a lot of new posters up.

I enjoyed the exhibition about the art of fungi at Somerset House! I went with Sarah and then dragged her excitedly round Wholefoods, and she took me to buy some fancy mochi. It was a nice time.

It becomes apparent that this thing is not going to go away.

I get the train down to Worthing with Rosie, to visit Heidi and her new house! Exciting! I eat a massive burger then feel really sick and make everyone sit in Heidi's living room while I sadly drink tea. It was still a nice time though. We try not to dwell on the scary thing.

A formal accouncement is made. I opt for 'hands clasped over heart and smiling nod', but appreciate everyone else's approaches.

Everything is still just about normal. Harriet comes up for the afternoon and we take her son Max around Tate Modern to look at some big shapes and colours. It's charming and soothing.

Suddenly, on the afternoon of the 10th, I become aware that my throat is EXTREMELY painful. I am not coughing, but the ache is sharp and intense, and as the evening progreses, I find myself increasingly fatigued and stressed. My friend Lucy is over, to share dinner and work on a little project together, but after she leaves, I am basically hopeless. I feel feverish (but repeatedly measure my temperature, and it's not technically above the normal limits). My throat is agonising. I have a horrendous night's sleep, tossing and turning and sweating and hurting. And I'm SCARED. Is this the thing?

I wake up feeling drained but fractionally better. I take a sick day. Someone else walks Charlie. I sleep a bunch and though my throat still hurts, I am no longer feverish-feeling and I am not coughing. At that point, all the public messaging emphasis was on dry cough AND fever, and given that I'd technically had neither, I figure it's just a random bug. I hope.

The panic buying has started. I go to Tesco and I still manage to get most of the things I want, but many areas are stripped bare. Everything feels like it's accelerating. I feel scared and weak.

My housemate Beatrice commences working from home, for the forseeable future. All the gigs I was going to be attending seem to get cancelled in fairly rapid succession. Including Alfred's. I should have been with him in Ireland that weekend. But he has not left Boston. All/enough of his Europe dates have been cancelled. I am deeply sad not to be seeing him, but my sadness is outweighed by fear, which is... helpful?! I get on a tube train to visit Spen instead. A middle aged man keeps coughing. Everyone hates him.

I hide in Spen's tiny room and don't think about it for 24 hours.

I fluctuate between fear and frustration. I had SO MUCH FUN STUFF THIS MONTH and it's ALL CANCELLED

It was at this point that the government started pushing the whole 'social isolation' thing. I'm... not very good at that. It's strange, because I am an only child and I grew up in the middle of nowhere. I was so contented in my own company. Even through my teens and early twenties, though I enjoyed socialising, ultimately I could would always retreat to my own space, and be happy. But when I moved in with Ava, it was my first time living in shared housing (albeit with a partner). We lived with one of my best friends from school for a couple of years, and then with Justin, for the more recent five or six years. I got so used to living with two of my favourite people, and having a near constant stream of other friends and aquaintances visiting and spending time with us. I became the me I am now... That me is more confident, more welcoming, more considerate of others (I hope), but also waaaaaay less self sufficient.

I wallow in gloom. I clean the entire house. I feel very alone.

I find a bunch of flowers in the park. They have been left with a note, saying that they're a gift to whoever finds them from a local florist, from a cancelled event. They're beautiful and I take them home and they make me happy for a moment.

Spen comes to stay, and we and Tabitha are a cool 'work from home gang' in the living room. I'm always a work-from-homer, so it's kind of nice to have company.

Fran comes over for boardgames. Is this okay? It's getting to the point where it's probably not going to be okay soon. We have a lovely time, but it all feels like it's sliding away.

Charlie's into the whole 'people being home all the time' thing though

I see Spen again. They couldn't get the groceries they needed, so we do a trawl of nearby small local shops. We still don't really find what they need, but I insist on stuffing their bike panniers full of instant noodles and frozen potato waffles. Saying goodbye feels scary and hard.

I start getting aggro about going to the park. People are out there with their hampers and their wine having a jolly old time and I'm just scared. Sure, I've broken the rules in my own ways. Probably shouldn't have seen Fran and Spen. Probably should have isolated after that not-fever. Probably bought one too many bags of pasta. But these people are GLEEFUL in their rule breaking. Maybe I shouldn't go to the park any more.

At 20.30, Boris tells us all we have to stay home now. I am scared and I cry a bit and then I do a silly drawing of Blue instead of anything more meaningful. Me and Spen discuss whether they should come and quarantine here with me. We are both people who value our own space, and at this relatively early stage in our relationship, would three weeks sharing a room break us? Luckily (ish?) the decision is kind of made for us, as one of my housemates expresses that she's uncomfortable with us breaking the rules IMMEDIATELY, so we decide against it.

And then it all gets really real really fast?

I work in the international education sector. Clearly, a sector that is basically decimated by the current world events. In order to access the government's support, the company has to furlough all non-essential staff. At this point, that includes me. My senior designer James will remain as part of the skeleton staff, but, understandably, a lot of our workload had dried up, so... here we all are. I'm promised 80% salary, so this is not catastrophic, but it's emotionally devastating. I have worked for Kings for nearly a decade. Who could ever have imagined it would end* (*but hopefully not) like this...

My freelance work has also, to a great extent (though not entirely) dried up, and at this point the government had not announced any support for freelancers. I only work in my main job 2.5 days a week, and 80% of a 2.5 day a week salary... ain't enough to live on.


Taking the boy on his once daily state sanctioned walk (in practice, this is not realistic. Either I go out multiple times a day, or other people are coming and taking him. We have perfected the contactless handover!), I see the gorse flowers.

Did you know gorse flowers smell like coconut? I pick one and smell it and close my eyes, and for a moment I can almost place myself, as a child, stood on the cliffs high above Benllech beach, summer sun shining down, running and playing along the coastal path with friends. I love being an adult, I love living in London, but for a moment I fantasise about all the current worries and stresses lifting away, and I'm 11 again, and all this is still to come.

It's my birthday, isn't that weird. Considering all that's just been, I have a surprisingly nice day. A shadow of my former plans, before this all begun, but still. I take my one (1) daily exercise by walking a lonnnnng way to Wandsworth big Sainsburys. I buy myself some freezer treats and ingredients for a cake. I come home and Beatrice and Tabitha help me bake a cake. (As an aside, I didn't know either of them six months ago. They're both lovely in their own ways. It's been a strange thing to find myself so isolated with these two people I barely know, having, as I previously said, been living with my partner and one of my best friends, but... They're sweet. And we're getting to know each other in ways we probably wouldn't have done otherwise. It's nice.)

In the afternoon I have a fun (video chat) game of The Resistance: Avalon, with Spen, Heidi, Jess and Elly. Then me and Beatrice and Tabitha get takeaway and play rummikub (one of my all time favs).

Lots of people send me cards and messages. They mean a huge amount.
It's the nicest possible day that could be expected, under the circumstances.

I did this painting about how it feels to stand in a park after dark, watching the trains rush past on the raised viaduct, bright against the night sky, completely empty, knowing that I cannot get on, though I long to with my whole heart. Technically mediocre but I was pleased with mood captured. It's a BIG, STRANGE MOOD

I host a second game of the Resistance with TEN PEOPLE: Sarah, Sarah, Harriet, Spen, Alfred, Heidi, Ellis, Dan and Hannah. It's a LOT (maybe too much), but loads of fun and I'm so happy everyone could make it.

I get HAILED ON, which frankly feels insulting given everything else that's going on, but I guess we had a good run of sunshine back there.

Here's a drawing about how much I miss Spen, while I sit, alone in my room at night, reflected in the darkened window, drawing about how much I miss Spen.

And with that... my last day at Kings, until... We don't know.

James is great. We've worked together, as a tight team of two, for over 9 years. That's longer than any romantic relationship I've ever had. That's most of my twenties. It's weird because we're not really social outside work at all, but even since I've been remote working, we talk every day, about all sorts, not just work. And we work well together, we share ideas, we make good art. It feels very strange to just... stop. We're going to keep having twice weekly catchups, for both of our mental health's sake. I hope it won't be too long before I can go back.

And now, the vast, quiet expanse of April looms before me. All engagements cancelled. Most work gone. How will this be? For all of us? I hope you're okay. I miss you.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

February 2020

February has been sweet, and cosy (albeit rainy, but I have not done one single drawing about that fact, because I don't feel like I get to rant about rain now I'm not in Yorkshire any more, especially while Hebden Bridge experiences ACTUAL FLOODING and I'm just over here getting grumpy that my wellies have holes in)

Anyway, look, I'm doing that thing, I'm falling... in... something? In many ways things feel a little too sweet to be true (and I spend a lot of time worrying about how it all might fall apart) — I am living in the city I always dreamed off, I am (mostly) working hard enough to afford it, and I get to take Sundays off and lie on my bed while my dog softly snoozes against me, staring at this beautiful human who I get to hang out with and even [whispers] KISS a lot of the time. It's real nice you guys. Sorry for being a bit saccharine.

And there's wonderful friends in this city too, old and new. Nat came over and I made enchiladas, because I am really trying to actually get back into making an effort with cooking and not just eating ready meals or bowls of rice with vegetables on top. It's easier when there's someone else to make the effort for, I find.

I say 'mostly working hard enough', because actually this month has been another not great one in the world of freelancing. Things picked up a little towards the end, but one of my main clients hasn't sent me any substantial work for nearly three months, which is starting to make me a little anxious (I haven't raised this with them yet, but gently will at some point...) Anyway, not enough work means time to wander, and I enjoyed wandering over to the Nam June Paik exhibition at Tate Modern very much. (Note to self tho, stop going to paid exhibitions when you're not making any money...)

And sometimes the worries tend to overwhelm. I have both more and less to worry about these days. More practical worries but less emotional worries, perhaps. Work being one of the main ones.

Oh and it's fun to throw in some low-level hypochondria too (though actually that's probably a bit of an exaggeration. This year I have actually coped surprisingly well with my usual winter 'noro-noia', as I call it — the constant, pervasive fear of getting the norovirus that usually has me obsessively handwashing, anxiously avoiding touching surfaces/avoiding eating anything without handwashing etc has been a little less pronounced this year, and I'm not really sure why. Maybe just years of trying to be better. Funny really, as given the current climate I'd probably be wise to sustain a few of these obsessive germ-avoidant behaviours...)

Spen invited me to the charity they volunteer for's Ceilidh fundraiser. We both hate ceilidh dancing. It was fun to not have to dance at a ceilidh and just watch everyone else (why I have been to so many ceilidhs when I dislike them so much is somewhat inexplicable). It was fun to meet some of their friends/colleagues, and being introduced as a partner made things feel a lot more official somehow. Like, I guess we're doing this thing?

We're doing this thing and I'm being DISGUSTING, SORRY

In another 'I don't have enough work today' outing, I got the bus to Japan House (free!) to see their exhibitions and use their fancy Japanese toilets, and then I went to the big Wholefoods, ate their free samples, bought myself a VERY LIMITED quantity of treats and then got the bus home, and it was a fun time.

It is EXTREMELY COLD and I have been feeling the winter blues quite a bit this month (though hopefully things will pick up a bit weather wise next month, and not getting the winter blues until February is pretty good going really). Anyway, I bought myself a down jacket for Boston (and ironically, didn't need it there). It's really puffy and unflattering but super cosy, I like to wear it under this amazing red vintage swing coat, but when I do I look GIANT, like my head is way too tiny for my body.

I got a haircut and it's kind of... bad? I probably need another one to fix it but haven't quite been able to steel myself to do it yet because haircuts in London are really expensive (if you know a place that is good and will cut my hair for £50 or less, please let me know)...

I had a fun Saturday evening. My friend Hannah was hosting a rowdy valentines themed house party where everyone was supposed to wear pink or red, there were red lightbulbs in every room, and drinks mixing galore. I felt extremely old (though even in my youth I never enjoyed these kinds of parties), but I like Hannah, and I wanted to go say hi, so I went REALLY EARLY (well, like 9) to hang out with her and her friend before everyone else arrived while they were getting dressed and putting their makeup on, and it was really nice. She lives up in Turnpike Lane, so I went through Finsbury Park to get there. On the Piccadilly line platform at Finsbury Park there are beautiful mosaiced hot air balloons. The last time I saw them was probably over a decade ago, when I was seeing Martin. His gran lived in Wood Green and we would often visit her via this route. I remember how intoxicated I felt by life back then, just BEING IN LONDON! BEING IN LOVE! It's fun to feel that way again, and I love how places and spaces can have such evocative memory-feelings tied to them.

Anyway, I left the party at like 10.30, right when it was all getting going, got on a nice short bus to Muswell Hill, bought some chips and took them to Spen's, where we happily ate them and fell asleep curled up together.

Spen lives in a tiny bedsit, their stated goal of which is to find the cheapest possible rent in London while still having a private kitchen. Kitchen is a stretch really, this glorified cupboard at the foot of their bed with a microwave/oven and a couple of hob rings, and no real surfaces apart from the draining board. But they have made it a cosy home with lots of clever organisational tactics and lovely plants and nice bedlinen, and I feel very cosy and safe there.

A couple of friends who have now seen/met them said 'they look nothing like your drawings of them in the blog'. Ah, the challenges of getting good likenesses of new people. Trying AGAIN. (Because they're hot, and any excuse) (but this still isn't very good)

In many ways I've been struggling with motivation when it comes to work and various other tasks, but I've been trying to continue to gain small victories where I can. I've been trying to teach myself some basic musical skills/rythym with Melodics tutorials — it's funny, I'll be finding one impossibly hard one day, and then I'll come back to it fresh the next day and ace it, immediately. BRAINS! Also, at the ceilidh earlier in the month, there was a raffle, and I was lucky enough to win a signed copy of Meera Sodha's wonderful cookbook East (I really highly recommend it!). This further spurred me on in my 'do better at cooking', and I made a great curry (and just for myself, not even to share!)

Then the next night I made her incredible mushroom bao recipe for my friend Lucy, and they were GREAT! Emma can COOK! (I made the kimchi pancakes today and they were also incredible!)

Anyway look. Falling in like is weird. For a while there, I started to get kind of scared. Scared of how emotionally reliant I have become on Spen. Although I have lots of friends, the friends I go to most for emotional support (Justin, Dav and Davey) are at the other end of the country/world, and in London, although I have lots of friends here, they are widely distributed, and busy (we are all busy).

In a moment of anxious soul-seeking, I for some reason decided that the best possible thing to do would be to... log back into OkCupid?! I swiped through about three people and was like 'why am I doing this', but one of those people was Fran. And Fran is... lovely. Fran is funny and sweet and cute and all the things that would make me swipe right on a person. We start talking, and I felt really conflicted. I was wrong to go on a dating site when, despite being poly, I really am probably not in an emotional place to be looking for new partners right now.

But... this is a really nice person who I hit it off with in a way that, with the exception of Spen, I haven't done with any other online dating encounter?! It would seem foolish not to meet someone who seems so great. And we meet, and it's fun, and we eat Ethiopean food (my new fav), and stain our fingers yellow, and giggle, and gossip, and I like them a lot. I hope that we can be friends. Let's see.

I have a lovely fun train ride (I love the weird lil Waterloo and City Line) over to Spitalfields to hang out and play boardgames with my friends Ellis and Dan. I MISSED BOARDGAMES! We played Dead of Winter and this was my first boardgame since Ava moved out last April, and I am so happy to have people to play with again.

A Saturday of completing small, easy, fun tasks.

A Sunday of contentedly lying on Spen's bed listening to the storm outside, watching them work, and reading a book about insect parts.

I was really excited to see that cool-lady-from-the-internet Sarah Brin was in London, so I decided to try and make her cool-friend-in-real-life by inviting her over for dinner with mutual friends Nat, Wes and Aidan. I made a medicore lasagne but Wes bought some WILD vegan cheeses from France (including an utterly ridiculous blue cheese), Nat bought cupcakes, and we all had a fun time playing 'interactive shouting game' Space Team. SPACE TEAM!

One of the bad things about seeing Spen is that they live so far awaaaaay. A rare passing through South London treat surprise!

Look I'm not dating, I'm done dating for now BUT?! This wasn't a date. Me and Assim started chatting on Tinder before Christmas, he's also an illustrator (and a bloody good one) and we followed each other on instagram and would chat shop occasionally. I want more friends in the creative industries in London, so I asked if he'd like to meet up and see an art, but just as friends. He agreed and we had a fun not-date looking round the Cartoon Museum (though it was a little too limited in scope to call itself that I thought, more like the 'political cartoons of the last century' museum, which is still cool but not exactly what I'd hoped for). We were meant to grab some food afterwards, but my Charlie-sitter let me down, so I had to dash home to give the boy his dinner. But that was okay. Hopefully sometime we'll hang out again, next time either of us want to have a really over excitable chat about our favourite pens...

Did I tell you about my one true love tho?

What did you do with your extra day? I spent nearly two hours on a bus in traffic because I wanted one of those new vegan burger kings but wanted to eat it in the comfort of my own home, and could have probably got there and back in under an hour if I'd got a train but I've been feeling guilty about my excessive train spends so I decided to get the bus but it was a BAD IDEA because ROADWORKS (burger was great though)

Happy leap day!
Now, let's get on with spring...