After seven years of changing (dodgy) houses in London, the lockdown hit me in a fortunate living situation. I share a house in leafy Queens Road Peckham with a nice couple, we have lots of space (in London terms) and we have Jeff, the couple’s puppy. The situation in the UK has been confusing. If in March, other European countries were setting in place strict lockdowns and were sending their armies on the streets, the UK was mostly preserving its rhythm of life. The UK’s strategy was initially based on herd immunity and the idea that 60% Britons should get infected in order to build immunity to the virus. Eventually, the government changed its mind, shut down every non-essential business and imposed a strict lockdown. Still, I know a lot of people who are creating their own set of rules which is frustrating. I’d say I generally actively refrain from judging people but I find it increasingly hard to do so, given that our individual actions directly impact us as a collective. First of all, I am annoyed at the government for its muddled communication strategy, which has left plenty of room for interpretation. The UK’s tactic seems to be based on social shaming, which turns people into righteous, virtuous warriors, including me right now in this diary. I hear about people who have found graffiti messages on their door accusing them of breaking the lockdown - and that’s sad.
Thursday, 23rd of April
It’s Thursday so in the evening, me and my flatmates clap for the NHS. It was hot today and I spent the day in the garden, where I set up a sort of summer office, of which I am very proud. I haven’t been working at the cinema for about a month now: I am furloughed and get paid 80% of my usual salary so it’s alright. These days, I am working on projects and articles, old and new, in a constant attempt to give myself something to do short-term. Today I did the 10th workout of a workout plan I started with Rada, former highschool basketball teammate, who is now a super personal trainer.
In the evening, me and my housemates ordered Indian food and watched the series High Fidelity. It’s easy to watch rom coms with vinyls and Zoe Krawitz, as it’s distracting me from the helplessness that’s bugging me. It’s the same helplessness that pushes me to want to do a million productive things. I can’t really describe WHAT is consuming me, but I know it has to do with the fear of illness and of death, the fear of losing someone dear. Some days, I worry about wasting precious time, but it’s not like I haven’t been wasting plenty of precious time already, with or without lockdown. Today however, was easy. I didn’t feel like I was suffocating, even though I haven’t left the house at all. Maybe tonight I will watch Gimme Shelter about Rolling Stones and their Altamont gig, basically the bad Woodstock which marked the end of the 60s’ utopia. Tomorrow I’ll read the news.
Friday, 24th of April
Today is Rosa’s birthday so we organised a virtual karaoke with many of our friends. I drank prosecco mixed with Romanian sour cherry liqueur - a personal favourite cocktail - and remembered how much I like my friends. Before the pandemic I often worried about wasting time (including with friends), instead of getting stuff done. What a silly thought-process, I now realise. Everyone sang great tunes, from Enrique Iglesias to Natalia Imbruglia and at the end we all joined in chanting to Cher - Believe, a song we often play at our parties. It has been a while since I went to bed at 1.30 AM, I miss not caring about such things. I’ll send a couple of more cheesy texts, a favourite activity of mine after a couple of sour cherry liqueur servings, and then I’ll go to bed.
Saturday, 25th of April
Today I worked on an article until about 5pm. I have a much more conventional routine than I did before the pandemic, which helps me plan my day and gain some degree of control over my life. In the evening, I went on a socially distanced walk with my friend Fran, who lives nearby. Before leaving my house, I kneaded some dough for pizza, while my housemates were reenacting a scene from the film Jaws for a quiz they are putting together - Jeff, the puppy, is playing the role of the killer shark. We joke about a potential parallel between our government now and the mayor from Jaws, who keeps the beaches open despite overwhelming evidence that a shark is attacking the beach enthusiasts.
On our walk, Fran bought 2 beers for us, while I waited outside the shop. There was loud music popping from the rooftop across the road, where three trendy boys were hanging out under the evening sun. They waved at us as we cheered our bottles from a great distance. The summer is in the air for the young cosmopolitan crowds of this neighbourhood and I feel like a teenager. In moments like this, London feels unchanged, but soon enough I remember what's truly going on in the world and the helplessness kicks in again. Soon enough, having beers and waving at boys feels like an apocalyptic version of Dazed and Confused. We returned to my house so that Fran could get her bike back. She needed the loo urgently and I encouraged her to use my bathroom but it was bizarre that we thought twice whether that’d be an okay thing to do. Later on, I ate pizza and hugged Jeffy, the dog.
Sunday, 26th of April
I try to read at least 50 pages per day, otherwise I get lazy - I find it hard to focus on reading these days. I chat to my parents and my mom laughs about how annoyed she gets at my dad for being capable of reading a book per day. My brother watches Youtube clips of other people playing backgammon and I find it hilarious. I miss them all but I really don’t know when I’ll be able to go back home - what if I have the virus? And even if I don’t, will I get stranded in my hometown for however long the pandemic carries on?
Me and my friend Nico are obsessed with Saturday Night Live and always watch their clips and sketches. The SNL crew released their first quarantine edition, which I downloaded on a torrent website (I’m not proud...), and transferred to Nico on wetransfer. I’ve got a lentil dish in bed, sparkling water - two of my favourite things -and am waiting to press play in sync with my friend Nico. I feel extremely happy. I avoid thinking too much about why I am feeling so happy, because it’ll go away.
Monday, 27th of April
I hear good and bad things about the pandemic and I don’t really know how to feel because my constant reaction is to remain balanced. I like to do sport and to sweat out what I don’t understand.
Tuesday, 28th of April
Today was a stressful day. My elderly neighbour who I shop for thought she might have deep vein thrombosis and we went to the emergency room. I took the train while she drove her car to the nearest hospital. The train was emptier than ever and I struggled to avoid touching anything. At the hospital, the staff wouldn’t let patients’ companions inside so I waited outside listening to podcasts. The mission took about 6 hours (my neighbour had to wait for an hour and a half to get a parking space at the hospital!). In the end, the results came back alright and she did not have deep vein thrombosis. I went on a hunt for frozen pizza, which my neighbour was craving, in order for her to celebrate the victory of this long day. I celebrated at home with two episodes of Rupaul’s drag race and slept like a baby.
Wednesday, 29th of April
I dream of all sorts of annoying things: my work, stressful or boring emails but also totally strange stuff… I even dreamt of a young Mirel Rădoi, a Romanian footballer from the early 2000s at one point? Strange.
Today I spent a big chunk of time researching cosmetics that are not tested on animals, are perfume-free and sold in recyclable packaging. The intention was positive but it became a compulsive preoccupation, way too time-consuming and all in all worrying. Of course I didn’t buy anything in the end.
Thursday, 30th of April
Today was quiet in my mind. I had half of a productive day, working on articles.
I lit a vanilla-scented candle, I’m drinking decaf English Breakfast tea, with milk - this is what England does to people… - and am about to watch All the Jazz. Surprisingly, I’m in the mood for a musical and I think I finally get their charm. If once I used to get annoyed and found it implausible that everyone would start singing randomly, I now appreciate the distance between my reality and musicals. In fact, the first time I understood the appeal of musicals was when I turned 25 last year and Evan, Rosa, Nick and Zoe, my former flatmates, took me out to see Company by Sondheim after a dinner in a fancy restaurant that made us feel like we were dining on a boat. At the musical, we got interval ice-creams and the whole evening was magical.
The cinematic escapes that have helped me during the pandemic included classic romcoms (50 First Dates), films set near a source of water (Blue Crush) and classics I’d been meaning to watch. I am aiming to watch all of Fellini’s films and last time I cried watching Nights of Cabiria, a lyrical film, full of sadness and humour about the quests and longings of Cabiria, a sex worker from Rome in the 50s.
Now, in London
Now, in the UK, the lockdown is still pretty strict (how many people respect it is a different thing). We are allowed to see up to 6 people out in the open, socially distanced, although you’d definitely be unable to hear all 6 people if maintaining the 2-metres-apart rule. It looks like the coronavirus related death rate is decreasing and things are getting better, but who knows? Schools and businesses will reopen in the coming weeks. I’ve been to the park a few times, I got tanned while wearing my backpack and I see much more clearly the beauty of the gardens and the wild flowers that grow over London’s fences in the summer. I have a thorny relationship with this country that I grew to love and that I was planning to leave in September, after almost 8 years. I am sad that this period of my life is coming to an end like this, in this apocalyptic atmosphere. But, like many others, I maybe feel ready for our next collective life, more patient, more easy to please, wiser.