Insomniac thoughts on: corona

Evening. Or ‘night’, since it’s gone 10pm? I’ve read a lot lately about how healthy it can be in these Troubling Times™ to stick to a routine, but I’ve also read that the optimum circumstance in which to fall asleep is one in which you are sleepy, so I am writing to you in the hope it sends me to sleep (you’re welcome).

I’m not an insomniac unless something is playing on my mind, so lately bedtime has been more of a vague intention than an actual experience. Will I fall asleep at a quarter to ten, wake up in the middle of the night and doze? Will I be awake at 2am? Who knows! I can’t seem to keep my eyeballs open very well in the day time either, so it’s not like I could embrace this newly night owl-ish me. Also I don’t want to be a night owl. I want my normal life back.

I’ll level with you: when the lockdown lark first started, I didn’t notice any difference. Most of my work is done at home; my final office-based client had just let me go when corona became a real threat. I have a very small circle of friends and an even smaller bank balance. Staying indoors, spending no money, reading a stack of books I’ve been meaning to get to? No problem mate. I’m used to living inside my imagination and spending hours inside my own head, writing or editing or emailing clients fifteen times a day about one paragraph of text and a hyperlink. I thought I’d be all right in isolation, because it’s a fairly normal state for me anyway.

Except it turns out that it isn’t. I can’t pop to the shops and run errands, then come back to my desk refreshed. I can’t take multiple walks a day figuring out a plot device or cooling off when a client has tested my patience. There’s no way to drop in to my nan’s, because I might kill her, and I can’t visit my mum, because it’s illegal. (If this were normal, I wouldn’t be able to visit her anyway because she was supposed to move abroad on Sunday. But if she had moved abroad on Sunday, normal life would be continuing.)

It’s enough to wish I still had a car to pootle about in, because at least it would make getting a change of scene possible. Technically I do still have a car, but I can’t afford to keep one and hate driving anyway, so my mum’s been using it since she sold hers. It’s nice not having to worry about insurance or petrol costs, but ironically the roads are so quiet at the moment that even I might enjoy going over 47 miles per hour on a dry surface.

Point is, I thought I’d do better than this. I have relatively little to worry about because universal credit will, hopefully, prop up my bank balance before that self employed wage thing comes in. There’s a roof over my head and everyone I know who’s had corona-like symptoms has recovered. My part in saving the world is a cushty one; I have internet access and food access, and I live in a safe environment. I reread Anne Frank’s diary a few weeks ago and although I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re feeling really low, it provided me with precisely the perspective I expected and needed. I know, logically, that I’m all right. I didn’t even like my old routine that much anyway.

But I can’t sleep.

I think part of it is the fact we are all living in a SERIOUS CRISIS. The sort not seen since the war, blah etc. There’s no road map, there’s no definite end date, we can’t hug people any more and it turns out way more of us are huggers than we thought. There’s also that sneaking suspicion that since the air is cleaner now, since we’re all managing without haircuts and £12 mojitos, maybe… this is a bit of a wake up call. What’s actually important to us? What do we really want? I think a lot of the time we continue in a mostly forward direction, and then occasionally life chucks something at us that makes us sit down and re-evaluate. Except now the entire planet is having to sit down. Apart from key workers, who we should maybe consider paying a bit more because we’re all feeling guilty that they’re treating covid patients while wearing bin bags, or pulling shifts in manual jobs we never wanted to do for very long. Also shouldn’t we be using this time to start a business and write a book or something?

I’ve done both of those things, and they’re both bloody difficult without the constant worry that venturing outside your house could kill someone.

I am nowhere near where I would like to be mentally. Or physically, come to that. (I can’t believe I miss Southend high street. I’d love the opportunity to hop on a bus or a train and go… anywhere.) But neither is anyone else where they’d like to be. I keep seeing that quote that goes ‘you’re not working from home, you’re trying to work at home during a crisis’ and it sums the whole experience up. We’re living in a weird time, with new conventions and coping mechanisms. I feel like the whole of society is at that point in a film where two highly strung main characters sit in an alleyway and go ‘ugh, aren’t we a pair. Just look at us!’ and then they lose their minds a bit more before coming back to life and normalacy, eventually, by the time the credits roll. Not sure if we’re in a coming of age drama or a dystopian thriller or a horror film. Guess we won’t know until after the credits have rolled. What an ominous thought.

I’m not quite awake enough to edit this with a clear head, and spell check is glitching, so this post probably doesn’t look as shiny as it ought. I definitely don’t have the energy to source an image or some shit for Instagram. I can’t one hundred per cent be sure what I wanted to say when I began writing, except that it feels important to keep communicating. Figuring out this new normal is going to take a while.

I’m about eighty per cent sure I might fall asleep after this. Seventy five per cent? At least I don’t have to be up for anything tomorrow.

In which I revive memories of PE and they are as horrible as you’d expect

Readers, assemble. I need your advice!

I’ve been trying to use all this dead time to do a couple of minor tasks each day, since I have little inclination to do anything really useful (I was chatting to my cousin and we said that being isolated can feel a bit like having a cold – you know your brain cells could stretch that bit further, but they don’t want to).

This afternoon I started organising the drawer in my dresser. A basic case of moving some plasters to live with the other medicine stuff in a cupboard, moving a couple of make up things I don’t use that often to somewhere I can actually see them. It beats thinking about dinner, which let’s be honest is now everyone’s only favourite hobby. Then I came across this monstrosity, which had until a recent tidy-up been hiding in a bag some 10 years after someone gifted it to me:

small aerosol of Impulse Into Glamour Body Fragrance
My nails aren’t nicotine-stained, they were painted yellow last week

I gave it a squirt.

I thought, this is the scent of body odour.

I thought, I am in year nine getting dressed after PE.

I thought, this is the smell of thirty teenage girls who have just been forced to run in circles while a very unfit older lady chats to another unfit older lady on the side line and occasionally shouts at you.

Then I realised: the sweaty smell I notice on myself after a long day in adulthood is anywhere between ‘slightly gross’ and ‘god what did you do.’ But in my head, I’ve always considered it like, oh I guess I’ve done some sweating, good to know my skin works properly, I’m going to carry on with my life. I’d never really associated sweating with the actual term ‘body odour.’ I mean, I’ve inhaled next to some pretty disgusting humans over the years and it’s been a case of ‘oh, that’s a person who doesn’t have access to a home and a shower’ or ‘oh, that’s a person who probably needs prescription deodorant, that must be hard.’

At no point in the last 24.5 years have I inhaled bodily odours and thought holy fuck, someone please saw off my nose.

Until just now when I sprayed Into Glamour into the air and had a proper sniff.

I knew that smell can invoke memories in a way that other senses don’t, and I knew what sweaty human smells like. But I’ve only just realised that deep in my brain, Impulse’s nicely packaged Into Glamour Body Fragrance equals BO.

I’m never spraying it again.

What am I supposed to do with it? It’s still half full (I’m aware this means I probably took it to school in year nine). I know aerosols are flammable – I know a guy who chucked an old can onto a bonfire and it exploded – so is it a good idea to put it into the recycling? Or even the black bin? What if the crushy thing in the collection lorry pierces it and I kill the local bin collectors? No one deserves their last breath to be full of this stuff.

Maybe I should keep it to keep mosquitoes away? Or in case I ever have a date and need the person to leave really quickly? Or maybe I’m the only person who associates Into Glamour with disgusting teenagers and uncomfortable quick changes after PE?

I can’t believe I’m now thinking about PE. I THOUGHT I LEFT YOU IN 2010. I legitimately might have to go for a shower.

Drop me a comment if you have any suggestions for what I can do with this stuff! Let me know if you have any similar smell-memory stories! Oh and if you’re a brand rep from Impulse: it’s not your fault your product has activated some long-forgotten associations. I’m sure some of your other fragrances are lovely. I’m not likely to risk trying them out, though, in case they take me back to year eleven maths or something…