Will coming out of lockdown feel like freshers’ week?
What is the quickest way to stump a writer? Tell them they can write whatever they want.
My first thought: write about oneself. But what on earth can I say for myself after 12 months indoors?
I'm lucky to live with my partner. Our conversations, once filled with news, the office, families, events and plans, have become weirder. We veer from talking about the banal – what is the ultimate vegetable? – to the existential – what is freedom? – to analysing our TV boxsets with a forensic-like eye – do Americans love conspiracy theories more than the British?
We both refrain from talking about social media. I know it is often for a good cause, but Twitter does feel like being kettled in a protest you didn’t ask to join.
In comparison to my early twenties – when every night would find me stomping my way out of the house, a carrier bag of clattering bottles in hand – lockdown is like living in a nursing home. Life was the sound of slamming doors closed en route to the next thing.
In the third year of university, my three best friends and I would sit on the floor with mountains of takeaway pizza comparing diet plans and exercise regimes but never losing weight. In the second year, we all had a crack at relationships. But it was in the first year, spent in halls of residence, that I had my most noteworthy experience.
Our flat of 10 was supposedly expertly matched by members of the student union. We were not. We made Animal Farm look like an Enid Blyton novel.
There was one girl who insisted on inscribing her initials on to everything. She sat the week before term with a compass and a bottle of nail varnish marking a three-letter moniker on anything that was hers. I joked once that she used to write her name on her tea bags in biro.
She was also vegan (not a problem) but her belongings could not even share cupboard space with animal-product-stained utensils (a problem). She had learned to cook lentils, pulses, beans and little else. Every week would see her produce some blitzed but lumpy, lurid mush to top a rice cracker or couscous.
She lived next door to a boy who would receive weekly Ocado deliveries. He'd shove the bags of produce in the fridge to slowly decay until one of us (with a tea towel wrapped around our face) removed it. He lived on takeaways. In a rambunctious and drunken mood, Loadsamoney decided to eat some of the vegan's slow-cooked, turmeric-infused luminous curry. She may have objected to hurting animals, but Vegan flew into a rage and almost mauled his ear off.
First-year was the year of tagging along to see what all the fuss was about. It was like being on an exchange scheme with people from other social classes. Not before or since have I been invited to a posh student party guarded by doormen, to be offered red, white or drugs at the makeshift bar by some doe-eyed girl by the name of Candice Botherington-Bother. Overhearing conversations about the rugby team initiations, which involved cucumbers and a lot of nerve. Like watching an appalling reality TV show, I couldn't drag my eyes off this social car crash.
Maybe the end of lockdown will be like the first year of university. We'll all be keen to tag along to see what all the fuss is about. I certainly will accept any invitation I receive. My partner and I can't agree on what the ultimate veg is – we should get out and get some perspective.
PS It's broccoli, surely?