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For exciting tax purposes, I’ve been going through old bank statements, because I really know how to carpe diem. It’s been quite amusing (in a relative, tax-based way) to see my patterns of spending. I don’t want to call myself a creature of habit, but you wouldn’t have to be Mystic Meg to predict my weekly trips to the bookshop (followed by lunch at the Greek restaurant around the corner – halloumi skewers and a glass of prosecco, because, as we already established, I know how to live). There’s the annual holiday to Spain; the regular purchasing of patterned dresses, because you can never have too many; the late-night cab rides home, soundtracked by Magic FM; the ludicrous parties I throw every year for Christmas and my birthday, because while the candles on the cake say 42, when it comes to parties I’m actually eight. This is what I think of as the stuff of life, or at least the stuff of my life, and it is very much the stuff of my bank statements from 2000 to 2019.
And now we look at the statements of 2020, which seem to belong to an entirely different person. Instead of the patterned dresses, my occasional big fashion buy is a pair of new pyjamas, to be worn all day, every day. The late-night cabs are now a Sunday morning taxi to take my children to wave to their grandparents, because they can no longer come over for visits, and we can’t take public transport to see them. One expenditure I don’t miss is the weekly trip to the toy shop for birthday presents for my children’s friends. Instead, some of this money has been funnelled into a subscription to Disney+, the mega mouse’s streaming channel, bought five minutes after lockdown was announced (Mother of the Year Award to the usual address, please).
I’d always thought of myself as someone with an unchanging inner core. Some people switch their accent approximately five minutes after landing in a new country, sloughing off old habits with the ease I change out of patterned dresses. But I still speak with the accent of the country I left before my batmitzvah; not having my regular habits leaves me feeling unmoored. Yet it turns out I can survive a year without throwing parties. Not happily, no. But it is possible.
I am no athlete (shocker), but my professional sport is throwing money at the problem (also dying on extremely small hills, usually in arguments about celebrities). While I can’t spend money in my usual ways, I still pump it into our dying economy, which feels like a patriotic duty and also a proactive grasp at living instead of succumbing to inertia. So here is my deeply aspirational guide to surviving winter 2020: what makes life better, what doesn’t and what is possibly proof of Covid brain fog.
Knitwear Forget those Trinny and Susannah-era fitted V-necks. The time to go big is now, ladies – I recommend men’s jumpers for extra heft. In my mind’s eye, I look like Alexa Chung; in reality, I look as if I’m wearing a blanket. In my heart, I don’t care.
Any romcom starring Julia Roberts, Drew Barrymore, Sandra Bullock This shouldn’t work, because these women made some seriously weird films. Never Been Kissed is about a teacher fancying a student, While You Were Sleeping is about a stalker, and I do not have the inner marrow to talk about Pretty Woman any more. But maybe it’s because they demand you turn off your critical judgment that they’re so soothing. Also, there is something very comforting about movies set in the 90s, all those bad jeans and giant mobile phones, in a time when the big news story of the day was Liam saying something mean about Damon. So engage in self-care and watch Runaway Bride.
Books Only nice ones, such as Andrew Sean Greer’s Less, Kiley Reid’s Such A Fun Age, Rae Earl’s My Mad Fat Teenage Diary. It’s fine to catch up on classics, but again, only nice ones by writers such as Barbara Pym and Dodie Smith. Unless you love anxiety-induced insomnia, now is not the time to finally read Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America (she says, from bitter experience).
Food Unlike everyone else who briefly got very excited about baking bread, I do not find cooking therapeutic. I like to put something in the oven, forget about it for two hours, and then eat it and feel nicely full afterwards. That’s right, I’m talking about the jacket potato. At the start of lockdown, I was eating a potato a day, and then my friend, colleague and fellow potato expert, Sali Hughes, suggested mixing a teaspoon of Marmite into one’s cheesy jacket potato, and the daily intake doubled (well, tripled).
In a parallel universe, I’d be booking in the Christmas parties now. Lord knows others have lost more this year, but it still feels poignant that I don’t need a single sparkly dress. Which is why it’s so important to make the weeks ahead less grinding. (And honestly, spending another night in watching Miss Congeniality in your pyjamas isn’t entirely bad.) We will make this winter better, people, one or two (or three), potatoes at a time.
Source: The Guardian
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