Becky says things about … going back to work

Greetings isolators / key workers / gone-back-to workers / reluctant commuters / working-from-homers / sunbathers / exercising 29-times-a-dayers / whatever the hell we’re supposed to be doing or calling ourselves these days.

This has been a funny old business, hasn’t it? The world has been infected with the same virus, as countries and nations we’ve been given the same “instructions” by our respective governments (or just told to use our common sense), and yet our individual experiences of this pandemic will vary gigantically: some of us will have never worked harder or under more stressful or demanding circumstances; some of us will have knowingly risked our health and our lives every single day; and some of us will have descaled the kettle.

I’m a kettle descaler. My work was wiped out back in mid March and has yet to resurface. As a result of not working for nine weeks, I have made an important decision: I am never going to work again.

I have decided that not working is just better than working. Especially when the weather is amazing and that nice man Rishi Sunak has given me some money under the self-employment grant scheme, so I’ve decided that I’m going to write to Rishi Sunak and ask him if he’ll keep it coming.

For those of us who have been kettle descalers throughout this pandemic, this will likely be the longest time since we were about three years-old that we have not had anything to do. When was the last time you had a nine week holiday?? Are there any studies to show whether a human being can even do work after a nine week holiday? Because I feel pretty certain that if I was asked right now to look at a document or write a paper or do anything that I was doing before the pandemic, I wouldn’t be very good at it.

Also, if I go back to work I won’t have time to do anything important, like go for long directionless walks, or bake cookies, or put a load of clothes in a binbag then change my mind and take half of them out again, or sit down at my desk on a sunny afternoon with a sharing bag of Twiglets and write a blog, or do my Painting by Numbers. Painting by Numbers has become a very important part of my life. Before Covid-19, I hadn’t done a Painting by Numbers for about 20 years because I was a grown-up and I went to the pub instead, but since lockdown I have done two and I’m on my third. I cannot imagine life without Painting by Numbers. I do my painting and I listen to podcasts. It is lovely. If I am forced to go to a meeting, all I will do is think about Painting by Numbers.

And anyway, due to a cunning time-filling tactic practised throughout lockdown, things now take far too long for me to fit in work. Showering and brushing my teeth takes at least an hour. Breakfast isn’t until 11am and is barely over by 1pm. Thinking about going to Sainsbury’s, preparing to go to Sainsbury’s, walking to Sainsbury’s, being in Sainsbury’s and walking back from Sainsbury’s is a good four hour process. That’s already an entire day filled, and did you spot any time in that schedule to fit in some work? Didn’t think so.

I mean, I do realise that in order to rescue our crippled economy and prevent a devastating recession we do all need to get our arses in gear and start doing some work, but does the economy really want the help of a load of braindead layabouts like us who have spent the last two months watching Pointless and clearing out the loft?

So, it really does all make sense, you see, and once Rishi Sunak agrees to keep paying me not to work, things will just be great because there’s so much stuff I’ve yet to do that isn’t work: there’s a patch of grass outside my window that I want to go and stand in, I  still haven’t hoovered behind the radiators, and the Sky Crime channel won’t watch itself, so I’ll have a pretty full life.

And for those of you who haven’t had a nine week holiday, you are absolute heroes and legends and we salute you. We’re all legends for getting through this, except some of us are actual legends and some of us are kettle legends.

Becky says things about … a life in loungewear

Greetings isolators!

What beautiful weather we’re having! Isn’t it just so fantastically nice of Mother Nature to gift us with day after day of wall to wall sunshine when we’re only allowed to go out in it for TWENTY-EIGHT SECONDS.

So, a month into the Universe having an absolute freak-out, and I admit I am settling very easily into a life in loungewear. The other day I went for my daily walk and I didn’t want to take a bag with me, and the particular leggings I was wearing didn’t have any pockets, so I was forced to hold my keys and my phone, which really annoyed me (no one wants to hold things) – and it was only halfway into my walk that it occurred to me that I could have put on my jeans. My jeans, which not only have sufficient pockets, but some would say plentiful pockets. But there had been no part of my brain that had tapped on the inside of my skull and whispered ‘Excuse me, Becky, you have other trousers you can wear that aren’t leggings.’

So when I got back I put on my jeans, just to see what it was like.

I quickly took them off again.

Let’s face it, we’re living the dream! This is what we’ve always wanted! How many times have we sweated to death on public transport in an uncomfortable suit, or been bum-sliced by evilly tight trousers, or wished that our skirt wouldn’t ride up our legs with every miniscule movement: we spend our lives wishing we were at home in our loungewear, and now here we are! Jackpot!

And gone is that concept that so often makes people late to social occasions: ‘I just need to pop home to get changed’. Get changed? ‘Oh, here’s me spending the whole day loping about in my loungewear, and oh dear it’s half seven I’d better get changed for my Zoom call with my chums.’ Don’t be ridiculous! You may as well put on shoes for your Zoom call. The very idea!

And not only can we justifiably spend 24 hours a day, 7 days a week in the most comfortable clothing known to mankind, we can really let ourselves go! One of my favourite things about lockdown is having absolutely zip diddly reason to blow dry my hair. I loathe blow drying my hair; it is SUCH a boring use of time, and the return I get for my investment is always shite, but now, just hop out of the shower, give it a quick brush and shove it up in a bun! Heaven! And anyway, I’ve not had a haircut since November so blow-drying it would be as pointless as handing a plaster to Anne Boleyn.

I don’t have to paint my nails! I am rubbish at painting my nails, and I am fed up of spending minutes carefully and lovingly brush-stroking them of an evening, to then have to spend an entire meeting the next day trying to hide my nails under tables and in paperwork because in the cold light of day they look like they’ve been attacked by a varnish-wielding hippo with the use of sight in only one eye.

I’m not so keen on the eyebrow situation, because having been swept into the moderately painful but extremely effective world of eyebrow threading over the past couple of years, the concept of plucking my own eyebrows is one I’ve tried to ignore, but the passing of time is rendering it increasingly hard to gloss over, so that’s one thing I might actually look into.

But hey, a life in loungewear and of relaxing our grooming routines is a luxury that won’t be around forever, so make the most of it. And anyway, we shouldn’t look too presentable, as this might raise suspicion when we go outside.

 

Stay healthy, stay home and look after each other, and endless thank yous and a million claps for the heroes that can’t stay at home in their loungewear. You are wonderful. xx

Becky says things about … losing it in lockdown

Greetings isolators!

IT’S FRIDAY!!! Quick, get out the party poppers and the party hats woooooo.

Put your hands up if you lost it to the Week 3 Wobble last week?

MEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

The Week 3 Wobble was borne from the following factors:

  •  By Week 3 I realised I’d completed most of the time-consuming activities I’d planned to keep myself busy (cleaned the blinds with a toothbrush, arranged my tinned food alphabetically, took all my books out of the bookcase, set aside one for the charity shop, put them all back in a slightly different order etc.)
  • By Week 3 the last dribs and drabs of work had fallen away completely
  • By Week 3 the novelty of having all this time and of being able to hear the birds and smell the flowers and see the sky bla bla bla had worn off
  • I suddenly remembered why we’re in lockdown.

And all of these factors clicked into place at exactly the same time, setting off an uncontrolled snowballing of doomish truths: suddenly my friends and family seemed very far away and I realised I was utterly desperate for human contact of any form –

– the prospect of another evening in my tiny flat was suddenly grim; the pressure of relying solely on my own motivation to keep myself occupied became suddenly overwhelming, and the fear of this virus as the deaths ceaselessly climbed to eye-watering and devastating numbers became suddenly acute and terrifying, and all of the above exploded in the Week 3 Wobble that manifested itself in a brief but fairly intense meltdown on the floor of my flat.

But having spoken to several chums, it would appear that many of them also lost it to the Week 3 Wobble, as the adrenaline of the novelty of the first two weeks subsided and stored-up feelings of frustration, despair and fear managed to break through the sunshine and blue skies and remind us all that

THIS IS DEFINITELY NOT NORMAL.

And whilst I feel much better this week, this lockdown is definitely starting to take its toll.

For example, I appear to be losing my ability to communicate with real-life human beings in a face-to-face manner. A few days ago I approached Sainsbury’s, and there was no one queuing outside but it looked fairly busy inside, so I stood behind the queueing barrier like a responsible socially-distanced-aware citizen and waited to be admitted.

Whereupon a woman strode right past me and through the doors.

Now, in my head the words that subsequently came out of my mouth – ‘Excuse me, I’m queuing here’ – were supposed to be uttered in a polite and gentle tone, something that sounded like:

Instead, due perhaps to this strange and unpractised form of face-to-face communication with a human being who isn’t on the other end of Zoom or Skype or WhatsApp, the words ‘Excuse me, I’m queueing here’ actually came out in a tone that may as well have said:

I immediately felt AWFUL about my aggressive tone, made worse by the fact that the woman immediately and profusely and so incredibly politely apologised and hurried to stand behind me, and explained so apologetically that this was the first time she’d been out in four weeks and she didn’t know the rules of shopping and she was terribly sorry, and I felt SO bad at my unwarranted outburst that I spent the next five minutes orchestrating a desperately friendly conversation, and by the time I was admitted into the sanctuary of Sainsbury’s I knew where she’d met her husband, the middle names of her four children, and her bra size.

This was not the only queue-related momentary loss of civility I have had.

Is anyone else noticing that, whilst there are many examples of some first-class queues forming outside supermarkets, there are also plenty of examples of absolute queuing abominations?

An example, for your delectation: outside the post office earlier this week, there was a smattering of people loitering on the pavement in a manner that can only be described as willy-nilly.

This is a bird’s-eye demonstration of what they should have looked like:

This is a bird’s eye view of what they actually looked like:

It’s as though the social distancing measures are weakening the gravitational pull of the person in front, and queuers are going spinning off into the Deep Space of the pavement like wayward space badgers – and because this ‘queue’ looked so slapdash, shoddy and slipshod, I asked one of the dawdlers, ‘Excuse me, is this the queue?’

His response was an unfriendly ‘Well we’re not standing here for the fun of it.’

At which point I again forgot the fact that I am actually a very placid person, and drew my sword, drove it through his heart and screamed in his face:

Well, I didn’t actually slay him, but I did say most of those words in an extremely murderous tone, the ignorant queue-disrespecting dick.

Happily, I’m not the only one who has had instances of losing it in lockdown.

A very good friend of mine told me the heart-warming story of her pushing her baby through a park the other day when, and I quote, ‘an egg-faced ham of a man and his smug-nosed pierced twat of a daughter’ approached up the path behind her, encroaching on the sacred two-metre realm around my chum, and she was forced to move the buggy out of the way while they heinously brushed past her, causing her to experience a solid gold loss of all decorum and scream after them:

After which she burst into tears.

So I don’t feel so bad about my public outbursts, I’m sure we’ll all lose it during lockdown and say and do things we don’t mean at some point, won’t we? You snivelling bunch of toads.

 

Stay healthy, stay home and look after each other xx

Becky says things about … home workouts

Greetings isolators!

So, the sun’s out, the air is warm, it’s bank holiday weekend – do you fancy meeting for a few drinks in a pub gard –

– oh.

No.

Forget that.

I don’t mind telling you, I’m annoyed. Until recently, I was enjoying my most successful relationship with a gym in all my 35 years: we were seeing each other regularly, for the most part we enjoyed each other’s company, and I was leaving it aching and sweaty, all good signs of a healthy relationship. I was even starting to see results – you know, those nebulous and much-coveted results that only happen to other people, well they were starting to happen to me! Our relationship was flourishing!

And then we broke up. Not because we had an argument, or I got bored, or the gym started making unreasonable demands about wanting to see me every day, none of that. We broke up because there was a sodding pandemic.

So now I’m locked up in lockdown, but it’s okay, because according to quite a lot of people on the Internet, lockdown doesn’t have to mean my newly cultivated muscles need to melt to sludgy pockets of Malteasers and Cool Original Doritos-oomska, because I can turn my home into a luxury premium workout studio.

Except that I can’t.

Now look, I live in a studio flat. I can reach all parts of my flat in three strides – and I’m talking modest strides, I’m not talking I-just-paid-£8.99-for-an-item-labelled-£15.99 sort of victory strides – and therefore it is not possible to execute the sort of gallopy I’ve-got-so-much-energy-and-the-space-to-accommodate-it exercise routes that are springing up online, because this happens:

And whilst I admire people’s dedication to keeping fit, I’m not sold on the increasingly inventive ways that they are suggesting we use our household items as gym equipment, such as deadlifting the piano, or doing 800 squats with the washing machine strapped to our backs – I mean, as if the emergency services don’t have enough on their plate right now?

What happened to the old ‘if you don’t have any weights at home, a couple of tins of beans will do’? We appear to have donkey-kicked our way straight past that to ‘if you don’t have any weights at home, the kitchen table will do’.

If I were to do the sort of home workout that these crazy cats are encouraging me to do, I cannot begin to imagine the carnage that would ensue from using three chairs to do push ups –

– or from using the radiator to do pull ups –

– or from using the toilet to do step-ups.

And there is another school of thought that encourages us to replace gym equipment with family members; you know, those cute videos of buff dads bench pressing their three year-olds. Well, that’s all very heartwarming – you’re working out really effectively and spending quality time with your child, you absolute winner – but what if you don’t have a three year-old?

And what if you live alone? With social distancing it’s not even acceptable to take measures that would otherwise be perfectly 100% acceptable.

 

SEVEN MINUTES LATER 

 

I suppose as I don’t have any small children lying around, I could use Billy Bear and Huggy Bear as weights.

Sod all this, I’m going to turn my flat into a premium luxury Easter egg haven instead.

Stay healthy, stay home, and look after each other xx

Becky says things about … whatever happened to the panic buyers?

Greetings isolators!

So, done anything exciting in the last few days? Been anywhere nice, done some socialising with a massive group of mates, been down the pub for good old knees up, taken in a show, been to the cinema?

No of course you haven’t.

So as we reach the end of Week 2, it would appear that those industrious folk who spent the last few weeks buying enough provisions to allow a team of Arctic explorers to live like Kings for at least a decade, have either all realised it is possible to eat and exist normally during a pandemic if they just shopped and behaved normally, or they have exploded.

So now the rest of us who briefly subsisted on the nutrients gleaned from licking the moss that grows round our doorstep can now eat food again! Hurrah!

I even got eggs yesterday. Eggs! Clearly all those people who felt they simply had to buy all the eggs have now registered their Guinness Book of Records entry for ‘Largest Omelette Ever Made Using Unnecessarily Purchased Eggs’, or realised they had enough eggs to do whatever they needed all the eggs to do.

And the loo roll is back, mostly. The people who felt they had no choice but to buy it all have obviously realised that their expectation of how 847 toilet rolls would help them during a pandemic didn’t quite match the reality.

EXPECTATION: 

 

 

REALITY:

And drugs! I can buy paracetamol again for those pesky virus-induced hangovers, and one can only assume that the people who previously took the difficult decision to buy all of the paracetamol have now either developed a solid addiction to painkillers, or are having a lovely time in a drugged-up haze where there is no such thing as a virus and where things are actually quite delightful.

Baked beans are back, thank God, although they seemed to make a relatively quick recovery from the panic buying, presumably because the people who bought and ate 329 tins of beans realised they didn’t actually need to buy and eat 329 tins of beans, and they realised this the first time they shat themselves.

There are still some items that are clearly much coveted, and whilst people may not be panicking so much, there still remain those slightly perspiring folk who head straight for the pasta in a calm and controlled manner, but who would slice open your throat if you took the last packet of macaroni, and this is either because they are ardently carb-loading for all this home exercise they’re now doing, or they have other uses for it.

Flour is also still an elusive luxury. This is presumably because all the people who didn’t feel compelled to buy all the bread have been forced into a ghastly Victorian purgatory of baking their own, while all the people who did buy all the bread have now put on 6 stone, given themselves buttered toast-induced diabetes, and have spent every night for the past week trying to discreetly dispose of 17 tons of mouldy bread.

And one fascinating little anthropological titbit has revealed itself down one aisle of the supermarkets: there is only a small and extremely exclusive number of humans who like Heinz Oxtail soup. Fortunately, I am one of them.

Stay healthy, stay home, and look after each other xx

 

Becky says things about … acceptance

Greetings, isolators!

How’s it going? Broken into that bottle of traquelizers yet? Punched a hole through the oven door yet? Covered an entire wall with pictures of Jet from Gladiators yet? (And if not, why not?)

Well, it’s been an interesting week or so, hasn’t it? Each day has brought a new treat for us to try to comprehend, treats which would be utterly mind-blowing if we had even one of them to deal with, but to be given all of them at once really takes the biscuit.

So whilst it’s impossible to comprehend everything that is happening, we must try to accept what is happening – because if we don’t accept it, we will try to fight against it, and that’s when this happens:

So I thought it might be helpful if I shared with you a few of the things I’ve accepted over the past few days, and if it’s not helpful, then at least it gives you something to do for five minutes that isn’t dusting the ceiling (again) or building a small cage out of pipe cleaners in which to keep your bemused and hyperactive home-schooled children.

1 – I have accepted that life as we know it has changed for the foreseeable future, and that simple everyday things we take for granted, like popping to the pub or seeing friends or using toilet roll to wipe our bums, are temporarily off the cards.

2 – I have accepted that I cannot physically visit my friends and family, even if none of us are sweating or hacking into our arms, but that social lives can continue and even flourish thanks to the wonders of modern technology; and, moreover, I have accepted that this form of socialising brings its own benefits.

3 – I have accepted that it may be several months before I wear normal clothes like jeans, or dresses, or shirts, and that by the time I have a reason to get out of my leggings and hoodies, there is a real possibility that I may have forgotten how to wear other clothes.

4 – I have accepted that – as is the case for every single one of us – hopes and plans have been unceremoniously lobbed out the window, and that my much longed-for plan of finally getting on the housing ladder this year is now as likely as Donald Trump suddenly apologising for being a psychopathic turnip; but I have accepted this with surprising ease because there is absolutely n o t h i n g I can do about it, and I am only one of millions of people who have had to cancel plans like holidays, parties, weddings and important life events, to much heartache and ballache.

5 – I have accepted that I will have to visit at least 18 shops in order to find basic essentials, and also accepted that I will have to ration what I eat when I can’t find them – but I have readily accepted this fact, because it means that I am not a heinous bellend who has stockpiled 1,573 eggs and 30,921 ready meals over the past couple of weeks, and I would rather ration what I eat than be a bellend.

6 – I have accepted that, due to my work all but drying up, I will have to be incredibly responsible and careful with my time over the coming weeks and months, because the time-consuming concept of ‘busyness’ has evaporated. I have accepted that it is no one’s responsibility but my own to ensure that I forge structure and productivity through these sudden limitless plains of time, and not plummet into a personal quest to see if it’s possible to watch every true crime documentary ever made.

7 – I have accepted that there will be good days – those days when living alone in an isolating world with time on my hands won’t seem so bad –

– and that there will be bad days, when news from the outside world is particularly grim, or personal news is worrying, or devastating; or the magnitude of what is happening, and the unknown of when it will end, becomes simply too much – and I have accepted this, because it will be humanly impossible to endure this with unwavering smiles and good cheer, even if you are secretly enjoying life in isolation.

8 – I have accepted that my experience of this – trying to fill time, trying to cope with being alone – will be very different to the experience of thousands of others who have incredible demands on their time and have to leave their homes every day to keep the world turning, and that I am not worthy in the face of people who look after others in these unprecedentedly hard times and who, at some point, may look after me and those I love.

9 – I have accepted that the way I feel now – which is quite positive, and productive, and defiant – may not be the way I feel in a week’s time, or three weeks’ time, or two months’ time, when I may feel scared, or depressed, or terrified, or lonely, or hopeless; and I have accepted that I will feel all those things, and that it is okay to feel those things.

10. And finally, I have accepted that it is only be a matter of time before I go and buy a melon.

 

Stay healthy, stay home, and look after each other xx

Becky says things about … work emails

Ah, the work email. A minefield of misinterpretation, ambiguity and passive aggression. I once received an email that was so laden with classic passive aggressive venom that I’m surprised it managed to waddle into my inbox:

Hideous, yes? No. Being a happily passive aggressive person myself, this gruesome missive in fact provided me with the holy grail: the Smug Passive Aggressive Email Counter Attack. I swiftly responded with:

Listeners, that gem of an email encounter kept me going for weeks. 

Aren’t work emails fantastic? Oh, the multitudinous ways you can imply that you consider the email recipient to be a moron! The unabashed glee of being able to write ‘For clarity…’, knowing full well that the email recipient will, quite correctly, translate that short phrase to mean ‘To hammer home this point that has been made literally millions of times before and which you seem incapable of grasping and which is screamingly obvious to the other 3,407 people who are copied in to this email, who now also see that you are a monumental luddite…’

The giddy revelry of beginning an email with ‘Thank you for your email’, being completely aware that the recipient will – again, correctly – translate it as ‘I am about to launch into the most scathing attack on the pitiful incompetence you have displayed in your previous email and I will do it under the guise of polite professionalism so there’s no way you can complain that the obvious subtext is YOU’RE A MASSIVE DICK’.

And, if you’re very lucky, the perfect beauty of being able to end an email with ‘Happy to discuss’, which basically means:

But emailing is not all glee and smugness.

You must deal with non-responders.

There are various levels of non-responders, dependent upon their previous experience of not responding, their incompetence, and their inherent knobbishness. They all deserve a lifetime of misery.

The softcore non-responder will be embarrassed into submission after a couple of ‘I look forward to hearing from you’s, and may well display some contrition in their eventual response, however unfeeling:

The hardcore non-responder is a different beast. The hardcore non-responder will retreat into a mire of silence, sit back in their chair and simply watch as your emails get more and more desperate and less veiled with professionalism.

The hardcore-non responder is not even flustered by the dynamite of passive-aggressive email tools: the Read Receipt. A hardcore non-responder simply will not accept your Read Receipt, and therefore you have no way of knowing whether you are emailing a rude person or a dead person.

But there is a level above that: the extreme hardcore non-responder. This Dr Evil of the workplace will accept your Read Receipt, knowing that this will trick you into thinking that, as they have definitely seen your email, they will, at some point, respond.

So after 2 years and 437 increasingly demonic emails from you, it becomes patently clear that this extreme non-responder saw your email and made the conscious decision that you are not worthy of a response, and, they not only do not care that you know this but they want you to know this. 

This warrants only one response.


Then there are the email typos.

Unless you have actually made this mistake yourself, you won’t necessarily appreciate how perilous the innocuous phrase ‘Kind regards’ is, and how the proximity of certain letters to other letters can result in a potentially catastrophic email sign-off:

Fortunately, in the half-second before I pressed ‘Send’, my eyes fell on my terrible error, and my left hand was able to stop my right hand from committing a potential disciplinary.

And as for email greetings and sign-offs – well. Just look what a difference it makes.

This is okay, isn’t it?

Then this. This is not okay.

What about the accidental kisses? A strongly worded email to your local MP advising them that you think they are a useless sack of balls is slightly undermined by:

Equally, a misplaced ‘xx’ at the end of an email attaching a job application may as well scream ‘I WILL SUCK YOUR TOES IF YOU GIVE ME THIS JOB’.

I look forward to your comments.

Best wishes

Becky xx

SHAMELESS PLUG:

I publish greetings cards! If you fancy one (or two, or three, or ten), check out my shop on Etsy here! 

A few lovely examples…