How are you getting on in these extraordinary times? During this period of lockdown and isolation, I’m concentrating – sometimes until I sweat – on the positives. For instance, I’m grateful for the enforced holiday from public transport. In fact, I fear that when this is all over, I will experience raging resentment any time I need to use the London Underground again. I’m grateful for my exercise bike. Who knew my February birthday present would turn out to be the godsend it is, keeping me fit and sane in otherwise idle hours? I’m grateful for Harry Styles – his is the one album of my daughter’s that doesn’t make me want to rip my own ears off. Of course, more than ever before, I am grateful for my health, and I sincerely want that for all of you, too.
And so, with all those positives stated on record, allow me one tiny gripe about something I’ve noticed happening. I think this extended time in isolation has revived one of the weirdest trends of yesteryear: the chain letter. I remember, in the 1970s, my grandmother periodically received letters warning she’d be cursed with seven years of bad luck if she didn’t write her own copies of the letter and send on to a dozen or so of her friends. They used to really spook her, often arriving with no name attached, yet from someone who knew hers, and her address. She would shake on opening them, and diligently – yet angrily – keep the chain going.
Lately – and I’m sure it’s because suddenly some people have more time to fill – my emails, WhatsApp and social media have been flooded with the 21st-century version of chain letters. Several people have sent me a ‘game’ called Table of 8, which instructs me to read a lengthy, sort-of-spiritual quote that I must then faithfully cut and paste and send to eight further women I admire, urging them to pass on to more people. Then I was ordered, via Instagram, to post some positive news, and demand the same of ten women I admire. I would like the women I admire to keep on liking me and returning my calls, rather than swear at me for adding to their to-do list. So the chain always ends with ol’ buzzkill here, me. My punishment is not the ‘seven years of bad luck’ that used to terrify my nan; today’s chains instead pile on passive-aggressive pressure with phrases such as, ‘I know you won’t disappoint me!’ So I feel an unwarranted sense of guilt, which irritates me all over again.
I’ve also noticed that no one sends these things to my husband or any of my male friends. In this lockdown, I’m going to stick my neck out and say it’s women generally bearing the heavier brunt of juggling their own jobs with supervising home-schooling and putting on yet another wash. So let’s not add to each other’s mental load with this nonsense. Instead let’s stay in contact, cheer each other up, clink our glasses over a Friday night FaceTime catch-up – but not give each other more work to do. Especially work dressed up as some sort of game.
Let me know how you’re getting on, what you’ve learnt about the world and yourself in lockdown. I want to connect/laugh/vent with as many of you as possible in this strange time. Oh, and Happy Easter – gosh, I almost lost track of the date!
Enjoy the issue.
I’m dedicating this week’s picks to my niece Francesca and her fellow NHS nurses who are working so hard during the Covid-19 crisis. Please consider supporting some of these amazing organisations if you can.