Approximately two weeks into our lockdown – thus now almost 756,000 million years ago – middle sister introduced us to TikTok. By ‘us’, I mean myself and my parents because every other family member – including our cats – was aware of this phenomenon and I am now within their generational bandwidth in terms of capacity to imbibe new technological developments. I cannot tell who is more offended by this shared categorisation.
It was during the time a particular TikTok was doing the rounds of daughters and their fathers re-enacting the Angel Eyes sequence – bathrobes, sunglasses, champagne, I know you know the one – from Mamma Mia II. And so, naturally, I have had this song stuck in my head ever since and am suffering from a severe case of PMMS (Psychotic Mamma Mia Soundtrack-listening).
Things have gotten progressively worse, as the entire soundtrack from what is genuinely one of the most gloriously catastrophic movies of recent years – CHER, LIKE – has become my motivational work music. Finding it hard to access my mojo? I turn to Mamma Mia. In a funk and unwilling to work? I turn to Mamma Mia. Looking to turn my frown upside down and rock out in some platform shoes? You guessed it, folks. I cannot get enough of bloody Mamma Mia and their delectable harmonies.
I write prolific emails to the dulcet tones of Andante, Andante, I proof-read grant proposals with a fervour otherwise impossible to the incorrigible beat of When I Kissed the Teacher, I hang up a Zoom call to shimmy my way to achieving my mandated 250 steps per hour (Fitbit’s rules) to the classically underrated Why Did it Have to Be Me? Except, of course, as I am in lockdown and very unfairly not on a boat with a stunning – if sleazy, #consent – Scandinavian, I have rewritten it to Why the Fuck Can’t it Be Me?
Forget wailing at terribly-written supermarket slogans, forget the puzzle obsession and complete disregard for personal appearance, this is truly the worst and most shameful phase of my lockdown regression yet. For some unfathomable reason, I even found myself releasing a few wistful tears onto my keyboard on my seventh consecutive listen last week. I know what you’re thinking.
Holly, ABBA have some poignant ballads conveying deep and raw human emotion, it is perfectly legitimate to experience an occasional and involuntary eye leak when overcome by the rousing chorus of The Winner Takes it All. Yes. Fair. We’ve all been there and I’m not ashamed of the breast-beating passion that song evokes in me. But can we really say the same of Super Trouper ? Is that a socially acceptable track to fall apart to? And yet, regardless of social dictates and without a rat’s arse given for self-respect, there I was: just a girl, sitting in front of a Spotify playlist, asking it to judge her. Whether it was the poor quality of the singing, the mourning for a time when lights are going to blind me while I’m shining like the sun/ smiling having fun/ feeling like a number one; or if it’s just one of those pandemic quirks I’ve developed, like a stress-induced Tourettes, I have no idea.
All I know is my condition is worsening to the point where I practically begged my family to watch it en masse over pizza on Monday night – those who weren’t disgusted with me were simply bemused – and I’m now running my fastest kilometre times to the honking palaver of good old Bjorn and Benny.
Jesus, I am so sick of the sound of my own voice. Even on paper.
Today was supposed to be focused and productive because yesterday was my day-off in the new four day week I’m trialing. Ahh, yesterday. I wrote in my journal over a leisurely breakfast in the garden, I ran 16km and almost shifted myself with euphoria (I am not a natural runner and never believed it physically possible to achieve such a feat), went sea-swimming, started three books simultaneously and then ate pizza while tanning and sipping an Aperol spritz at 3pm. I was supposed to be using the day for creative endeavours and generally furthering my life goal of being a Man Booker Prize recipient and generally-revered author in style of Salman Rushdie, Chimamanda Adiche, Margaret Atwood but I guess exercise that is then cancelled out by smug food-eating and sunbathing equally counts in the way of self-improvement? Anyway, because of this holiday, today was supposed to be a triumph of belligerent, persistent, positively dogmatic productivity.
I love the phrase ‘supposed to’. Nothing conveys intention – that sweetest of hopes – and the subsequent impossibility of its execution quite so daintily as ‘supposed to’.
So today, back at the desk that rests not three feet from my bed and determined TO DO and then DO MORE and then KEEP DOING UNTIL ALL OF THE THINGS ARE DONE AND THERE ARE NO TO-DOS LEFT, while taking an unwarranted break from my “real job”, I sent my editor a detailed, unasked for, unnecessarily verbose pitch for an article titled, ‘I’M NOT FAT’. Sometimes, I mystify even myself. But I personally cannot wait to see how she gently coaxes me down from that particular ledge.
Has anything else happened? Apart from my father figuring out the best way to get his steps in (we all have Fitbits now and we are OBNOXIOUS in comparing heart rates, calories burned, etc) is by doing laps of the garden picking up dog poo. I don’t think my dad has had a hobby since 1989 but, if pushed to give him one, I feel like this would be it: his weekly jaunt across our lawn – like a slow-moving Snake in the old NOKIA game – collecting animal faeces in an activity he lovingly and completely unironically calls ‘Poop Patrol.’
He has counted 90 strides to the swings. Despite him being a tall man, and me a measly five foot something-less-than-six, we figure, between my stubby legs and his hip replacements, we’re probably equal in the stride front. I love having things in common.
I was writing the word ‘jointly’ today while editing a tree planting proposal and instead wrote ‘joust’. What a wonderful word. Joust. Had a lovely ten minutes thinking about how much I love Shrek. Honestly, what a delight of a movie. Then had a lovelier fifteen minutes fantasising over what kind of jouster I might be, what chain mail would best suit my figure, what I could name my horse.
Having lunch outside today, I conclusively decided that the most romantic thing that can ever happen to me is somebody watching me devour an open egg mayonnaise sandwich (sans serviettes) and afterwards still find it in their heart to love me/want to bone me. Don’t get me wrong, the sandwich was fucking sensational but even I can admit its consumption left a lot to be desired and nothing at all to the imagination. Lettuce schlopping off the bottom causing an avalanche of cuctard-coloured egg mayo to slide from the peninsula of sourdough to the outcrop of my greedy fingers, I had that out-of-body experience, as I maneuvered my mouth directly underneath the sandwich to trap any falling debris, where I was suddenly both ecstatic participant and horrified onlooker, watching this sad and bestial lady flick unknowingly flick egg salad into her hair. In that instant, I saw myself revealed as the Neanderthalic monster I truly am. Sitting outside, I became very aware of the unblinking judgement of the windows surrounding me in my frescoed interrogation room, the gawking horror of the glass doors, behind which could be any number of despairing, disparaging, disgusting eyes could be looking on in nauseated disbelief.
‘There she goes again,’ they are saying. ‘The Food Monster on another rampage, leaving no sharing-size bag of crisps or slab of buttered bread unturned.’ Even the dog turned away, disgusted. The dog who has been known to eat live rabbits whole, now too traumatised by my open mastication to touch the fallen debris of my leftovers.
The egg mayo shards, shaken loose by the chew of my incisors and lost forever to the floor, were like melting icecaps at my feet. I opened another bag of crisps and made a mental list of all the people who would have broken up with me had they witnessed this one-woman massacre of what is generally accepted to be the most unattractive and unbearable sandwich fillings known to humankind (trumped only, of course, by the even more odours and odioius tuna-may-sweetcorn combo).
I then retreated upstairs to the safe invisibility of my bedroom, where I could listen once more to Mamma Mia, unwatched and uninhibited, and maybe just a little emotional too.
- A potato accompaniment to any and every sandwich. I don’t care how entrenched in my notions I get, I will never think it acceptable to serve a sandwich without a side of chips, wedges, crisps, fried potatoes, potato salad at an absolute stretch. I’d Keogh’s cheese and onion alongside my egg-mayo masterpiece and it was an occasion of true, unadulterated joy.
- Returning to my desk after lunch, I found my friend had sent me a picture of HER sandwich and HER Keogh’s crisps combo, completely unprovoked and unaware I’d just had ALMOST EXACTLY THE SAME MEAL. I honestly live for this shit – these random coincidences that convince me we’re all connecting on some other frequency, man. Last night, I was talking to a different friend – hi Cat! – and when I asked her what she was doing for the weekend, she said all she wanted to do was make eclairs. After hanging up, I went to go make myself a snack and opened the fridge to find…..a tray of fresh and anonymous eclairs sitting innocently between the yoghurt and some chicken breasts. We are not a family who eats eclairs. EVER. I mean, WHAT IS THAT ABOUT LIKE?
- Egg-mayo. I don’t care what you pretentious monsters say.