One month into lockdown, I’m ready to share some of my strategies for coping with isolation. I meant to do it after a week but while for most writers, a period of uninterrupted time at home might be beneficial to productivity, it turns out I’m not that sort of writer.
In the introduction to our breakout international bestseller (not my words, the words of my co-author, Dirty South), Today South London, Tomorrow South London, we implore people to minimise the spreadsheets and be inspired by what’s out in the world, or at least up the road. That simple pleasure may now be denied us, but in other ways, many more of us are Deserters than ever before, working from home in our pants or, in optimal cases, not working from home in our pants. Yes, the work furlough offers the long-demanded Deserter dream: We ain’t doing no more of your work, man, just give us the money.
When I was a teenager I was envious of my dog, lying about contentedly, doing just what he wanted to do. I wanted to be him. Now I understand his life a bit more: One walk a day, constantly thinking about food and sleeping for 18 hours. Fine for an animal, perhaps, but as a theoretically superior intelligence this is insufficient to sustain us humans.
What, then, should we be doing with ourselves?
It’s a common misconception that parties require more than one person. Sure, conventional usage of the term suggests a social gathering of some sort, but it’s a good time to remember that one person is also a party. I am a party. You are a party. And even better, you’re invited.
With this in mind, I have revived the forgotten art of opening my front door and sitting on a chair. With the sun shining, this is comfortable – warm, even – in as little as 12 degrees celsius, though if the wind is nor-north-easterly you may need to erect a makeshift wind-break. I find the children’s outsized artwork saved from Year 9 ideal for such purposes.
In the course of my partying, I have concluded that the camping chair with a netted hole in the arm for inserting a drink into, may be the single greatest human invention since the camping chair itself. It’s easy to imagine the inventor of the camping chair feeling pretty darn pleased with himself, as he got comfy in a field for the first time, but some lazy Jesus took it one step further. We salute you, netted arm hole dreamer.
For some reason, jogging is allowed while sitting in the park with a tinnie isn’t, despite its proven benefits to mental health. Yes, it’s fine to vomit disease ridden sputum into the heavens but we’re apparently unable to sit quietly on the grass, exercising our livers. Insane.
I have written in the strongest possible terms demanding that joggers are obliged to stay home every other day and that on those days, park drinking is to be allowed, even encouraged. Next up is to decide to whom to send the letter because, like most of us, I have no idea who is running this shitshow.
On days inside joggers can, like me, enjoy an array of homesports such as House Golf, devising marble runs or ping pong pan play.
I seem to be in a minority on this, but when I’m out on the porch, sipping my drink and dreaming my dreams, the last thing I think to myself is, ‘I know what’s missing – videoconferencing!’
People are great, don’t get me wrong. I like people. Just not enough to have to watch them remotely, and have them watch me. I mean, telephone calls are bad enough, but now I have to dress as well?
Steer clear, would be my advice on this one, before you’re drawn into a world of quizzes, document sharing and the whiff of meetings. I’ve taken to saying that I’ll be unable to join in the fun as I’ve been banned by Zoom for repeatedly and horrifically violating their terms and conditions of use.
Before lockdown I was off the sauce four days a week and feeling good on it. I’d hit my target weight classification (pre-obese) and we had actually made a start on a TV script that was to be delivered in June (albeit June 2019). My non-drinking has now been reduced to two days a week, a rational response to any national emergency, I’m sure you’ll agree.
Nevertheless, I’ve found that even taking Monday and Tuesday off booze imbues Wednesday with scintillating purpose. As well as porch parties I have also enjoyed recreating a pub crawl by having a drink in each room of the house. Try it. See the bathroom anew! That plug-socket in the hall, could it be used for a mini-fridge?
I got so pissed last night I can’t remember getting home from the kitchen
The bottom may have fallen out of the psychogeography market, but that doesn’t mean you can’t go on virtual excursions from the comfort of your sofa.
I’ve been going ‘out’ a lot using video games, enjoying the beautiful scenery in games like Journey, Brothers and Zelda: Breath of the Wild. With Grand Theft Auto V I find myself routinely booting up the PS3 just to go for a drive in the hills. Last night I found a helicopter and was free as a bird until I crashed it looking for a bar on the roof of a skyscraper.
You don’t get that with Guy Debord and co. Although, to be fair, you do get a bar.
Nurturing plants reduces stress and improves your mood, studies have shown.
Mrs Raider has been busy potting nasturtiums, tomatoes and poppies. While I have focused on the humble hop, for obvious reasons. And in time I hope to exchange the juicy fruits of my labour for a pipe of Mrs Raider’s opium.
Stay up late
Let’s face it, if you want to get anything important done (writing, recording, completing that tricky mission in GTAV), do it at night. But that’s a rule for all times, not just lockdown, so probably doesn’t count.
And some things are just better at night. Films, music, Frazzles, Whittaker’s Creamy Milk Chocolate Block. Remember, it’s incumbent upon us all to fatten the curve.
In conclusion, I realise I am fortunate in being good at amusing myself. Indeed you could say I have been training for it all my life. A Deserter is always likely to be in mid-season form when it comes to idling.
But there is a lot to be happy about in this period. Out on the streets it feels friendlier, for example, and safer, and certainly cleaner. Maybe we can get rid of cars for good and reclaim the streets for promenading and leaning on lamp posts.
But I do miss the serendipitousness of going out without a plan. Pubs, lolz with friends, cranks, football, cask ale, a spliff in a graveyard, chip shop chips, being out at night… 2020 may be cancelled but if we can hang on in there, fuck me 2021 is going to be a cracker. We might even have finished that TV script.