The Quarantine Diaries, Week One

Saturday 14 – Friday 20 March

Watching:

Is there a more perfect couple than Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys? I sense not. And I sense this is a predominant part of the reason I am currently (recurrently) obsessed with The Americans, the TV show in which the real-life couple play on-screen couple The Jennings; KGB spies who infiltrate Cold War era America by posing as, or rather being an all-American family. I can’t take my eyes off of them.

Well, I can. And I did. I watched Season One about four years ago and then forgot all about The Jennings . But now I’m 100% back in the game, and fully intent on finishing all five remaining seasons before my Amazon Prime free trial is up. It reminds me of The Good Wife in its enthralling blend of sex and politics, except with added anguish, pain, betrayal and murder.

Film highlights: It Felt Like Love, I Wish, The Wild Goose Lake

Listening to:

Halsey’s Manic, which manages to feel both angst-ridden and soothing. The Daily podcast, which can be a little bit Corona-centric, but the two special episodes they released this week on solace and Tom Hanks, provided welcome respite. As did the Ghibliotheque‘s first three episodes from their expedition to Japan. It’s an ambient sojourn through Tokyo, with segments on souvenirs, museums and cream puffs. A.k.a. pure joy.

Reading:

Two of my favourite literary Olivia’s have been writing about the coronavirus. First up is Laing on the consolations to be found amidst loneliness for The New York Times, picking up on the themes she first touched upon in her book The Lonely City

One of the hardest things to grasp about loneliness is that it’s a shared state, inhabited by a multitude at any time. Whatever anxiety you’re experiencing right now, you’re not alone... During a long spell of loneliness, I found that art was among the richest consolations, and that voyaging into other people’s worlds by way of novels, paintings and films had a magical capacity for making me feel connected, seen, met.

The second Olivia (Sudjic) has a new column for Buro (never heard of them before), in which she details her experience of contracting coronavirus and how to stay calm in a crisis. These are her abbreviated tips:

  1. write things down with pen and paper
  2. draw
  3. cook
  4. learn a language
  5. if you can’t concentrate on reading listen to an audio book
  6. move around
  7. call people
  8. sing or play music

It is perhaps, optimistic to expect to maintain a sense of zen 24/7, but the Creative Independent’s Toolkit for staying calm & centred is useful to return to in those moments when you’re feeling more off-kilter. Particularly this one on recession-proofing your creative practice, and trying as much as possible to define this as an opportunity to be meditative rather than productive.

I picked up the sequel to Call Me By Your Name in a pub that had books going for free on their piano, remembering how ravishing and romantic it had been. And André Aciman’s Find Me, more than delivers on continuing that thread. It’s less intense, and more contemplative, less sizzle, more wistful, but was nevertheless a welcome retreat. I particularly enjoyed this passage about meaningful people in your life not disappearing or forgetting, despite not actively being in touch with them, which is something we can probably all relate to at the moment…

he had forgotten nothing and didn’t want to forget, and that even if he couldn’t write or call to see whether I too had forgotten nothing, still, he knew that though neither of us sought out the other it was only because we had never really parted and that, regardless of where we were, who we were with, and whatever stood in our way, all he needed when the time was right was simply to come and find me.

I’ll admit, I’ve been fetishizing the apocalypse and predominantly eating canned goods and comfort food (with a healthy amount of veg thrown in for good measure to keep my immune system on virus-busting form), but I haven’t really been cooking. That impetus changed with this article in The Atlantic on the comfort of cooking a risotto in these anxiety-inducing times and so next time I venture out to a supermarket, I may just stray into a more adventurous aisle.

Speaking of comfort, I find it in coffee. I am part human, part caffeine. If you sliced me open, I suspect coffee granules or that hot, dense sludge you find compressed at the bottom of a cafetière would ooze out as much as blood or insides or whatever else entertains our entrails. I tend not to poeticise or romanticise the necessity of having a cup of coffee in the morning. It’s functional. I feel my brain fog clear and my organs stand to attention. I drink to think. That being said, I did enjoy this piece on LitHub on the metaphorical power of a good cup of coffee, especially the fact that the writer isn’t above microwaving coffee, adding milk or drinking instant, which I go through obscene amounts of.

the reason for that very first cup? The grounding, not the grind. To get a grip on the day. If ever there were a symbol of here and now, it’s coffee; standing in for every coffee that came before, preparing a person to get on with whatever comes next; holding her in between, suspending the present, whenever it is. Coffee lets us start, and start again, and start over—however old a person feels, however stunned to have gotten so old, fortified with coffee, she can carry on.

Doing:

Bedroom yoga. Bedroom everything, actually. Meditation with my housemate in our lounge to shake things up a bit. Bird-watching. Or more accurately, spying on the movements of one particular robin that frequents our garden. Running in the park. Teaching my parents how to use Zoom. Wandering about the house in a daze wondering what this all means.

I’ve also decided to treat this like an extended University reading week and will be trying to devote some time to learning new things; not for a qualification or a grade, but just for knowledge, enrichment and to focus my brain on something that isn’t the news. I stumbled on this list of free courses hosted by Ivy League colleges in the US via Twitter, and have promptly signed up to one on ‘The Ethics of Memory’ and another on ‘The Architectural Imagination.’ Also I’m planning to rinse the Sundance Collab site for their free filmmaking resources, masterclasses and webinars.

N. x

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