Jane Stuart – Writer

Writing about real life Up North: football, ale, food and mental health – with a good dash of humour.

The Corona Diaries: Chapter 7 – Lost in Netflix

Dear reader, I can’t remember exactly who recommended a spreadsheet as a cure for anxiety but it bloody works! After more than a week of anxiety and depression, feeling unable to cope, becoming lost in Netflix and having little time or motivation to do anything creative, I realised I needed to somehow snap out of my malaise. I hadn’t looked at my To Do List for weeks, so begrudgingly picked it up and wondered what I could tick off it. Ah, there was a spreadsheet to be worked on. I suppose I could work on that for a bit…


My stomach growled at me and I was shocked to see that four hours had passed since starting work on my spreadsheet. I had been so absorbed in my work I had forgotten to put tea on, let alone get stressed or anxious about work or money or whatever it was I had been fretting about beforehand. Hurrah for the humble spreadsheet!

Am I channeling my inner geek, having spent the last hour (or so) of every day with Sheldon & Co in The Big Bang Theory? I confess we have already purchased a clothes folder seen on the show and are currently eyeing up a Darth Vader toaster:

Mercifully Ozark was only ten episodes long, so we weren’t unduly influenced towards forming ties with a drug cartel. What a great series that is, though. I felt bereaved when the series ended, it has been such a welcome companion over the past week. Give it a watch if you haven’t already.

When I haven’t been working, watching Netflix or sleeping this past week, we have been going out for our daily exercise. This has mainly involved an hour-long walk but one day we did go out on our bikes. Now you may recall that I was finding my bike somewhat uncomfortable to ride, in that I was leaning on the handlebars as I rode. Despite wearing two pairs of gloves to cushion my hands, the problem remained last week, cutting our exploration a little short. Not being in the best of spirits anyway, on the ride home I was huffing and puffing and becoming increasingly short-tempered. We found our path blocked by a woman walking her dog in the middle of the road. Hmm. This called for the clown horn…

Dear reader, the woman and her dog leapt into the air and out of our path in one swift movement. Perhaps a little ‘ding ding’ bell is more appropriate for a bike but it wouldn’t be half as funny. I chuckled the rest of the way home…

The bike has been mothballed now and we are enjoying our daily walks. We usually spot something that makes us chuckle…

…as well as observing changes in behaviour (and a possible drug deal on our walk to the post office last week). We spotted a couple who had called in on their adult offspring, conversing with them from the end of the driveway. We couldn’t figure out whether they weren’t welcome for fear of contagion or because their family had been expecting a welcome break from them, but it was clear that they couldn’t get rid of them quick enough…

We have also noticed the birds have been acting differently. We had already noticed that we were hearing fewer seagulls whilst at home. I speculated that they would likely be out at sea now, hunting for fish, with no children to mug of their chippy teas on Blackpool front. I wondered did the young generation of seagulls even KNOW how to hunt for fish?

Now we have noticed pigeons and magpies on lawns and fields foraging for worms, really close by to where we were walking. They were so focused on the hunt they didn’t seem to notice us. Are they becoming more desperate for food and more tame with fewer people milling about?

We’ve spotted a few cats out and about, too. It was only a matter of time before I finally got close enough (but not too close) to review for The Cat Reviewer:

Now one good thing I have noticed from social interactions over the telephone and video is genuine concern for others. No longer do we have the token:

‘How are you?’

‘Fine, thanks. How are you?’

The question is now asked – and answered – genuinely. People are talking about how they feel and opening up like never before. I am learning more about my colleagues – and complete strangers – than ever before. I am back in contact with friends not heard from in months because I’m genuinely concerned for their wellbeing. It was also touching to be checked in on myself this last week while I’ve been somewhat off the radar.

My mental health really does need actively managing almost constantly. I know that not painting my nails or doing my face, watching too much tv and not writing are not good signs. The football is a funny one because I really didn’t think I was missing that at all…

…until we watched Sunderland Til I Die. What a series THAT is. It really brings home the drama, passion and tension of a football club. We found ourselves becoming attached to the Sunderland players and manager and we don’t even support Sunderland. I’ve never given them a second thought before watching this. We only watched the second series because quite frankly it’s too soon to see Simon Grayson’s face again – and we certainly don’t want him in our living room. Perhaps in a year’s time – or when we’ve had the chance to ENJOY our football again, we might feel strong enough to watch the first series.

We’ve decided to watch something football-related every week (we already have a couple of programmes lined up) to maintain our football fix. It also provides extra material for our Saturday afternoon livestream, as we can discuss the football content with our viewers. Here’s what we found to talk about from the world of football last week:

After our livestream session we headed out to Asda for our weekly shop. We weren’t sure if they were still insisting on only admitting one person per household (online research did not allude to this) but decided on a strategy to manage this just in case. I had split our shopping list down into sections (Fruit & Veg, Frozen, Chilled, Food Cupboard and Toiletries) and we would tackle a few sections each, entering the shop separately and remaining in contact via phone and AirPods. We felt like spies. And it worked rather well. Gone was my supermarket anxiety. The social distancing was adhered to by the customers – and we were all starting to relax into it. It was the new normal and we were ok with it because, let’s face it, the alternative didn’t bear thinking about. Now I know I can relax around the supermarket I will be comfortable going alone in future. I understand why people are encouraged to shop alone. Two of us with two trolleys using two card readers and two checkouts doubles our risk of contracting coronavirus. So next time we will shop alone.

Later that evening, Lee made a shocking announcement:

‘I’m throwing these socks away.’

Dear reader, after Sockgate last week, it was a good job I was sitting down…

Now we are not ruled by the clock, we are finding our bodies are self-regulating. I have been finding myself so tired at the end of the day I can barely summon the strength to go to bed. This has been easing in recent days as I have been more mentally active as opposed to watching tv for hours on end.

My dreams have been so vivid and unusual that I really must resurrect my ‘Morning Pages’ writing technique. This involves writing down dreams immediately upon waking (no checking the phone, listening to music, watching tv, having conversations). I have done this for long periods in the past and find that I don’t stop writing for a good 20 minutes. Those dreams would have been quickly forgotten otherwise, as I busied myself and my head quickly filled with other things throughout the morning…

…such as our haunted bathroom scales. I don’t know WHAT is going on with them at the moment. They turn on as soon as we enter the room and the screen flickers between STEP OFF and THINKING and STEP OFF (I’m not even ON them). And our Sunday morning weigh-in was a disaster this week. They didn’t want to give us a reading at all and, when a weight was eventually reluctantly given, it seemed far heavier than we were expecting. Was the ghost standing on the scales alongside us?

One thing is for sure: the diet could definitely be going better. The constant snackage cannot be a good thing. Which brings me back nicely to the spreadsheet, which keeps me so engrossed that I simply don’t think to eat. Since commencing this blog, however, I have scoffed a burger, a Snickers and half a bag of chocolate raisins. So excuse me, dear reader, while I return to Numbers…


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