Modernist Brutalism. I love this house on our street.
Together apart. Tuesday night, I have a Hangouts chat with my three old flatmates from Swanfield Street in Shoreditch, one calling in from Islington, one from Copenhagen, one from Stockholm. Wednesday night, a Zoom chat with two old colleagues from my first years in London, one calling in from Walthamstow, the other from Isle of Dogs. Wednesday night, a FB Messenger video chat with a friend from Singapore, calling in from Copenhagen, where she’s cooking dinner with her boyfriend. I join them. We all have red wine. Saturday afternoon is Zoom game time with two of Sanoop’s friends; we play Remote Insensitivities, which has such a neat interface for such ridiculously profane phrases. We message and call our family on a daily or twice-thrice a week basis. Everyone’s location: their — in all these cases, thankfully, lovely — homes. Overriding topic: COVID-19 and its consequences. Frequent companion: an alcoholic beverage. General vibe: spirited, accepting, caring, lemonade; while being worried and anxious for other people and the world in general, everyone is grateful and happy for themselves and their loved ones to be safe and dealing well with all of this.
Singapore in the time of corona — the country of the future launched a contact-tracing app to allow authorities to identify those who have been exposed to people infected with COVID-19. I can’t find information about what the authorities will do with this information — how they’ll convey results back to people, what the consequences might be, etc, but it’s definitely one of many super interesting examples of tech used to curb the spread of the virus.
Netflix. Have you seen Unorthodox — loosely based upon Deborah Feldman’s book, Unorthodox: The Scandalous Rejection of My Hasidic Roots? Just finished the beautiful miniseries, the first tv we’ve watched in a while, and loved so many things about it, its precise, economical, and very reliable storyline, its poignant dialogues, its portrayal of a community I knew nothing about, its very real and down-to-earth yet thrilling and touching hunts, arcs, and complex characters, its striking contrasts between the dark, stuffy, tradition-filled, old-fashioned, and suuuper insular Williamsburg life, and the light, breezy, airy, idyllic, modern Berlin — and the inherent paradox in this contrast, given that the latter is the source of a lot of the trauma trapped in the former. It gives Esty, the main character, immense peace of mind to face that. She’s played by Shira Haas, who is a pure joy to experience — such a talented actress.
Delivery. I’ve never been much of an online shopper. Extremely rarely buy clothes, books, groceries, anything online. Much prefer tactile shopping experiences. I don’t know … for some reason, shopping on the internet just feels extra indulgent and sort of surreal to me. Normally. You can probably sense where this is going, and that there’s a big ‘BUT’ coming … hm, in fact, even with spending my self-isolated days reading accounts of my American colleagues’ tips and hacks for circumnavigating Whole Foods’ cap on / frequent sudden cancellations of delivery orders (apparently they all fill their carts in the evening and get up at 3am to hit buy for it to go through successfully) and only going to the germ-containing, queue-lined physical stores when it’s absolutely necessary, I don’t click home that many orders as a result of this strange situation. But a few, yes. Mainly in support of small-to-medium-sized businesses, like Colonna and Small’s, my favourite coffee shop in the UK, based in Bath, which ships its freshly roasted beans to London — I order two, very nicely designed, divinely fragrant bags. And the classic Bialetti manual coffee maker I’ve always wanted, but never thought I’d have a sufficient amount of home-time to actually use — I get it off Borough Kitchen’s web shop. And 8 bottles of an organic French wine that Sanoop and I took a liking to when tasting it at our local bottle shop a few weeks (months?) ago. That’s it. Oh, and one weekly round of takeout food from nearby favourites, such as the lovely Indian place down on the corner, where we can easily pick up the treats ourselves. I like to cook almost all of our food, the feeling that we know exactly what goes into it, but once a week it feels like a welcome treat to have someone else, much more skilled, cook for us. This week, because my phone suddenly, with NO warning (such as a gradually weaker battery or slower processing), stops working, simply just shuts down and won’t be revived, I also make an online purchase from one of the richest companies in the world that’s doing just fine these days — the iPhone 11 Pro, in ‘midnight green’ with a ‘cactus green’ silicone case. It feels super indulgent, yes. I’m excited to try its camera.
Health. It’s a time of an unprecedented (can somebody please come up with a synonym for this?) sort of of uncertainty. We’re worried about people’s health and crumbling health systems. On top of that, we worry about the global economy and negative/devastating social implications of lockdowns. On top of that, we’re unable to meet our loved ones physically, something that’s normally what we’d do to get through tough times. We’re working from home, but not in a normal sense: we’re at home during a crisis, and then we have to work — while practicing a healthy dose of gratitude, because it means we’ve got a paid job to do, unlike the millions of people who’ve been furloughed or let go or lost their businesses. We feel guilty if the constantly breaking news distract us from being productive, or, if, on the other hand, we find too much joy in self-isolation. I firmly believe, however, that we have to be easy on ourselves. Kind to ourselves and each other. We can’t sit around paralysed and worry all the time. It’s ok to worry. If we can’t directly help cure people, it’s great to occupy ourselves with volunteering tasks (bring medicine and groceries to vulnerable folks on your street, donate food to health workers or money to charities, give lonely people a call …) or other helpful things. It’s ok to find joy in little things. It’s also ok to grief relatively little things (I can’t go home to Denmark on holiday next week as planned, which really, really sucks), because otherwise we’ll just end up storing up those sad emotions, which is not particularly helpful either. Just … take deep breaths. Practice empathy. And try to stay healthy. That’s what I tell myself, at least. So this is health in the time of corona:
- Exercise: a (super sunny, thank you, spring weather😍) daily run alone or walk with Sanoop on the Heath (sticking to the once-a-day outdoor activity allowance), supplemented by yoga (we keep returning to our all-time favourite, Yoga with Adriene, and do yin yoga every Sunday with the founder of my barre studio in Singalore, Mylène, who now resides in Amsterdam), pilates, and meditation live streams or free-styling at home. Weekly flat cleaning, Sanoop vacuuming and cleaning the floors, I doing the other stuff, making sure our space is as germ-free and comfy as possible. On Saturday morning, I wake up at 5:45am like all the other mornings, because spring is shouting to me from all of the windows. Glorious sunshine, blue sky, budding branches, fresh smells. I head out and, for the first time ever, rather than opting for the inclines and navigating the shrubs and winding paths of the trails on the Heath itself, jump over the fence to the temptingly smooth and even red surface of the Parliament Hill Athletic Track and do rounds for an hour and 20 minutes, or in a time warp, it feels so good … for the first hour, I’m on the phone with my pal in Sydney (who’s out for a walk along the eerily empty length of the closed Bondi Beach), and after that, I listen to new soothing singles by Oh Land, Pernille Rosendahl, Lukas Graham, and other of my favourite Danish artists. The sunlight is magical. The exercise feels addictively easy and good. Before heading home for Sanoop’s chai, I stop by the narrow bleachers and run up and down 10-15 times, promising myself to start many days like this, and as such, I’m out there again on Sunday morning, now tuning into the most recent episode of the sweet, clever, kind, wonderfully grounding and inspiring Culture Call, which features an interview with This American Life host Ira Glass on storytelling in the time of COVID-19.
- Good, stable facial skin cleansing and other skincare, hair treatment, and teeth cleaning routines
- Homemade brekkie: green smoothie (kale, cucumber, and/or frozen peas blended with berries, banana, ginger, turmeric, pepper, lemon juice, and water) topped with beetroot quinoa muesli, or instant bircher muesli (a dollop of coconut yoghurt and a splash of oat milk stirred into rolled oats, topped with fresh fruit). On Sunday, we make pancakes from a pancake mix composed of coconut flour, buckwheat flour, tapioca flour, baobab flour, gluten-free baking powder, coconut sugar, and cinnamon … listen to Harry Styles while we flip them, mixing a few cacao nibs in a few of them, and eventually eating them with fresh berries and strong black coffee (me) and Pukka’s Cleanse tea (Sanoop), looking out at the eternally (all through the Corona period, so far, at least!) blue, blue, blue, blue sky.
- Homemade lunch: Biona rye bread covered in a layer of marmite or hummus (depending on topping), topped with tuna, avocado, tomato, spinach, and/or scrambled eggs
- Homemade dinner: veggie stir frys, veggie curries with rice noodles, tomato and spinach omelettes, prawn tacos with guac and salsa, and all sorts of salads, sometimes with lentils, chickpeas, and/or roast vegetables added, with a side of falafel (me), lamb (Sanoop), or marinated and sautéed seafood (both), and then, on Sunday this week, we’re making these veggie burgers, recommended by a friend
- Snacks: chestnuts, fresh fruit, dried dates (trying to limit my intake of the latter)
- Drinks: a cup of Sanoop’s homemade chai every morning, enjoyed slowly while looking out the window or downed quickly in front of my laptop, water, occasionally with a drop of apple cider vinegar in it, coffee (1-2 cups), litres of Pukka tea, a glass of red wine in the evening (circa every evening)
- Sanoop’s tea-free masala chai recipe:
- vibe: have your favourite spiritual / high vibration music playing in the background during the entire process
- ingredients: dried / ground peppercorn, cardamon, fennel, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, brown coriander seeds
- lots and lots of raw ginger
- freshest, most natural water
- concoction method:wash, peel, and chop the ginger
- boil the ginger and all the spices for 25 mins in a large pot
- bring to a low heat and let the concoction gently simmer for one hour
- turn off the heat and let the tea concentrate cool for 8-10 hours in the same container
- strain to isolate the tea concentrate
- store the concentrate in glass bottles (good for 2 weeks)
- to make your personal cup of chai: steam your favourite milk — I prefer Alpro’s unsweetened almond, Oatly’s barista edition, or Minor Figures’ ditto
- add a pinch of ground ginger / turmeric / black pepper to your milk before turning it into frothy foam, if you’re feeling it
- in a separate cup, add two shots of the reheated spice concentrate
- pour foam into concentrate or vice versa
- garnish the chai with dried rose petals — don’t forget to smell the rose after twisting off the petals
Travel. This week, my Google Maps Timeline shows that I left my home once a day to go for a run or walk around Hampstead Heath, with the occasional sprint down to Marks & Spencer, the organic store, or Gail’s. Last year, my Timeline shows that I travelled 5.2 times around the world: I went to Denmark 8 times, America 7 times (California twice, New York four times, Seattle once), India 4 times, France twice, Germany once, Sweden once. I’m sure there will be lots of behavioural changes as a consequence of this pandemic; curious to see how it’s going to affect people’s travel patterns, generally, and my own and my colleagues’ and friends’ in particular.
#StayHome. All around the world, health workers are working hard to tackle COVID-19. Horrifying stories abound. People are doing what they can to stay safe and support the situation in whichever way they can. Some supermarkets ask that only one person in a household enter at a time, and that people only do the most essential shopping. Police cars drive across park lawns to break up picnics. Playgrounds are closed. If you want to search the internet, this is what you get:
Eager to find a way to enjoy some escapism in a safe way, we climb up the slightly dodgy ladder that’s normally folded away in the attic on top of the little landing between our kitchen and bedrooms, and enter the flat roof of our Victorian (or Edwardian?) semi-detached. Overlooking the Royal Free Hospital and all of London on one side, and one of the ponds framed by the vast expanse of the Heath on the other side, it’s a pretty neat spot. We feel like two teenagers on a slightly clandestine adventure, but it’s totally legal and fine for us to be up here, we think. We’ve brought a speaker, so we can listen to music. We dance around, elated, feeling free. Sit still and meditate. Put our faces towards the warming, soothing sun. Drink coffee, first. Later, wine. Stay till the golden hour sees the temperature drop from its 16 degrees’ height to about half. Feel certain we’ve found our spot for this year’s English summer.
Look-back: Cyclone, Flooding, Sleeping in a petrol station
3 years ago, on 31 March 31, I flew into Gold Coast with all these plans and expectations for my first trip to Australia. Sanoop picked me up at the airport, just as excited. A few kilometres down the highway, however, we had to stop. With a few other cars. To watch the flooding caused by a cyclone come washing in from all sides and eventually land us on a small island, just big enough to keep all cars relatively dry for 8 hours or so. When it started to get really narrow, and dark, a fire truck came and picked us up and dropped us off at a nearby petrol station. Where we spent the night. Sleeping under a neon McDonald’s sign. On a stack of newspapers on the floor. People and animals had lost their possessions and homes, some even got lost in the flooded outdoors, some missed out on big events. We were just headed for an idyllic beach date night of yoga, oysters, and wine in Byron Bay… Instead we got to play UNO with new friends somewhere in no man’s land, trying to comfort the kids in the group, appreciating the guided meditation led by someone headed for Byron as well, hoping to be reunited with our car sometime soon. We were safe and enjoying a a rare moment of plain, unplanned life in the present — and didn’t run out of excellent coffee or bright lights at any point during the night. And we eventually made it, 36 hours later than planned. Read more about that experience if you’d like.