Apparently Shakespeare banged out Macbeth, King Lear and Anthony and Cleopatra during a bubonic plague lockdown. Well bully for him. Since I self-isolated, I’ve managed a few cursory paragraphs of the book I’d apparently been waiting for this opportunity not to write, a couple of short articles and made a feeble, unsatisfactory attempt at finishing Hilary Mantel’s The Mirror and The Light on Audible for God’s sake!
Is it just me or has this pandemic radically shortened our attention spans? I’d like to blame the news, but I have imposed a black-out, because it made me too angry. I’d blame box-set bingeing if I could find anything I liked enough to devote more than about 30 minutes to. And what about the menopause and mental health? Candidly, I had made inroads into both of those afflictions in one way or another before this whole thing began, and I’ll still have them when it ends. So I guess I’m going to have to go with the trite: unprecedented times.
In light of the aforementioned, I have developed a range of displacement and time wasting activities, so honed that they would surely qualify as an art form. And so my fellow time fritterers and challenged attention spanners, I present them to you, in the hope that they might reinforce VH’s sentiment that we are all in this together. I should add that that management and I take no responsibility for you damaging yourselves or your furniture in any way.
- Hair cutting. Number one on the list of top time wasters: A hairdresser would tell you not to, but unless you are trying to cut yourself an entirely new style, or a plumb line straight fringe, I say go ahead. There’s serious satisfaction to be had from snipping away at irritating layers and split ends. Make sure your scissors are sharp. On short hair or fringes, take a piece and pull upwards above your scalp and then snip down into it, rather than straight across. Pull long hair in towards your nose, chin or chest before you snip and constantly check each side as you go, measuring against where the other side falls. Position a hand mirror if you can so that you can see the back view too. Snip gradually. Or you could do what I did last week during my brief 10 minute yoga session, keep your scissors close and chop away at the ends as your hair falls over your head towards your feet. Very satisfying.
- Oiling. Not the car, you. A friend who sailed around the world endorses the use of any form of domestic oil before or after a shower to keep things in good order. Try it. It’s inexpensive – I like Olive or Almond but you can as she says use literally anything – canola anyone? Don’t forget nails and hair, both benefit from an oiling up before showering or bathing. You can of course go the whole hog with your hair and crack an egg on the top and massage in (or whisk it up beforehand for less dramatic effect). It works.
- Makeup kit clearance. Top displacement therapy. I don’t wear much makeup, but I have recently discovered that much of what I do possess is ancient. Surely you too have a few dried mascara brushes, hollowed out blushers and crumbling lipsticks to attend to? The key is their appearance and their smell. If your mascara pongs then chuck it out immediately, if your eyeshadows are crumbly like old Christmas cake icing then do the same. Wash your brushes, sponges and that makeup bag in warm water with a drop of washing up liquid. If you’ve got stuff you have never used then try it out (see 15 minute attention span) but be prepared to jettison. Just because Beyonce can wear gold eye shimmer, doesn’t mean you can.
- Un-Kondo. I’ve read the book. I’ve sorted through and given away. And I regret it bitterly. Nostalgia is sometimes the thing that ‘gives me joy’ . This has led to my buying back items I’ve given to charity shops and lamenting the things that have already been sold by the time I’ve rushed there. If you have passionately loved something, but haven’t worn it in years , now’s the moment to get it out again and flaunt it (who’s going to see you in those sequinned hot pants?) or pack it up and store it – under the bed, in the garden shed (damp proof box naturally) or if you are fortunate in ‘the spare’ wardrobe. Do not under any circumstances waste time by putting it into your ‘charity bag’. That’s for things that you never want to see again, either because they bring back bad memories, or they don’t fit. These are, I believe, the only reasons for you to cleanse yourself of your clothes. Now and in the future.
- Exercise Ambush. I used to be a manic exerciser. These days not so much, in fact these days often not at all. To keep myself somewhat fit I’ve had to develop a kind of exercise via stealth approach. This means that I spring exercise upon myself when I least expect it: star jumps whilst waiting for the kettle to boil, toe touching and sit ups whilst waiting for the washing machine to finish, I’ll often seize my weights whilst on hold via speakerphone, something I seem to do endlessly these days. My neighbour does the same thing with his daughter, suddenly breaking into a jog or sit ups with her, making a competition out of it. What I’m saying here is that if exercise has become a chore (and I know that for some people it’s still the saving grace it used to be for me) then you need to go full Cato. If you don’t know who Cato is, then watching the Pink Panther movies starring Peter Sellars and Herbert Tsangtse Kwouk, will most certainly be a valuable waste of your time.
- Housework. Don’t do it. Kidding, sort of. When the world is falling apart do we really need to care about the dust and debris of everyday living? Far better to develop one particular time wasting mania, on the basis that doing one thing is better (marginally) than doing nothing. My own current fascination is for taps and how best to shine them. Next week it might be for wooden floors and how to clean them. This is what the internet is for people – my taps will never go grubby again. I’m adding that to my CV.
- Children’s TV shows. The stuff of your youth, not your youth’s youth. Think back to what you loved and look it up on what my gran calls ‘The YouTube’. This is also a valuable displacement activity, the satisfaction for which is not to be underestimated – I’ve been humming the theme tune to Flambards for weeks and Pogles’ Wood- well, I want to move there. Speaking of which…
- Property porn. Both you and I know that we are not going anywhere, well certainly not for the foreseeable. But why let that stop us? Think of the place you most fantasise about living, plug it into a property portal and pore over the delicious results. There are still lots of houses out there to fritter away time salivating over. I know this because I check daily. Sometimes twice daily…..