The video call conundrum

Like feeling around in the dark

Trying not to step on toes

Fingers in eyes

Teeth glinting, words warbling

Ignored and then repeated

If still ignored then give it up

Wait for the wave to pass

Then plunge into its dark creases

When you think there’s an opening

(But of course you can never tell)

So you’ll probably end up soaked in shame

A blur in their peripherals

Dunk your head under for a third time

Trying not to get wet

Trying to let your words penetrate

The foamy skin

Stopping short of shouting

Like screaming into the void

But you might as well be on mute

I’ll tear my hair out before this is over

A bald, shadow-slurping mess

Is what I’ll be reduced to

Like feeling around in the dark

For dropped keys on a dusky carpet

Clad in dead skin, fingers twitching

Like being blind at a party

Not knowing who you might grope

Like shouting into the void

Might as well be on mute.

I can’t get anything done when the sun’s shining

The sun throws me off scent
It’s a major distraction that colours my skin red and my head cloudy
Prompts paracetamol ingestion
Stops me from working
I can’t write when the sun’s out
It’s like a magnet drawing me away from my desk
Patio porn, the slabs are tinted and sparkling
Sibling reclining on chair, forehead glistening
A sign of heat, akin to holiday
Swap grind for grass
I’m lying on a towel half naked
Singeing my skin
(but consoled in that I’ve got Bondi sands factor 50 on order)
Digital marketing certificate doesn’t get a look in
When I’m grappling with a heated tug of war
And getting a tan is so important
(I’m not entirely sure why)
Another half hour I say, and then I’ll buckle down
Bent over a keyboard
But it rarely happens and by the time inspiration sparks
I’m sprawled on the sofa
The last of the sun dripping through the window
Watching This Country.

Coca Cola fantasy

Beer-soaked bellies tend to bash my chair

as they rumble past, making me jolt,

drink spilling, temper flaring.

Gazing at my caramel concoction,

a tooth-fairy blend of Coke

and sickly-sweet, candy-cane Malibu.

“I’d rather just have the Coke,” I say

And the whole room chuckles

because a spiritless double or gin-less tonic

is just crazy, apparently.

6 interesting foreign phrases to describe your lockdown life

Last month, nobody could stop talking about the Finnish concept of Kalsarikännit, “the feeling when you are going to get drunk home alone in your underwear – with no intention of going out.”

It summed up lockdown perfectly, all the while showcasing the beauty of the Finnish language and making Friday evenings getting peacefully sozzled all the more appealing and accepted.

But the Finns aren’t the only ones with quirky, quarantine-appropriate concepts. The Italians, for example, refer to rekindling an old flame as ‘reheating cabbage’ – not exactly the image you had in mind when contemplating sliding into your ex’s DMs, eh?

And in Hungary, a nagging spouse is, somewhat colourfully, an ‘indoor dragon’. How many of you have your own ‘indoor dragon’ to contend with at the moment?

I can’t guarantee these will come in handy on future backpacking adventures or city breaks, but here are six foreign terms that aptly describe the #lockdownlife.

For when you’re feeling lazy

It’s totally fine to not be doing a lot at the moment. Remember, there is a pandemic going on – so even if you feel like you should be baking enough banana bread to feed the whole of Yorkshire or running a half marathon every day, it’s also fine to be a couch potato – or ‘pantofolaio.’

  1. Pantofolaio

You can use the Italian term ‘pantofolaio’ to describe a couch potato or homebody. A noun first used in the 19th century, it comes from the word ‘pantofola’ meaning ‘slipper’.

An example in action:

“Ho provato a farlo uscire, ma è diventato un tale pantofolaio.”

“I tried to make him come out, but he’s become such a homebody!”

It’s difficult to be anything but a couch potato at the moment – so why not look the part? If you do fancy upping your slipper game in true ‘pantofolaio’ style, apparently >slider slippers are all the rage right now.

pantofolaio

  1. Fiaca

‘Fiaca’ comes from Lunfardo, a slang that originated in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It’s used to talk about “the feeling or state of being bored, idle, slothful of unmotivated” and when we use it to describe a person, we’d translate it as lazybones, layabout or bum.

An example in action:

“Qué fiaca que tengo!”

“Man, I feel like a slug today!”

This is something we’re all experiencing: trudging from bed to desk to fridge and back to desk, flicking through Netflix to find something binge-worthy, all the while ignoring the towering inferno of work, emails and deadlines piling up. ‘Fiaca’ is the ultimate killer of productivity.

For describing relationships

It’s a weird time for relationships – both romantic and non-romantic alike. Some haven’t seen their parents or partners or friends in months; others might find themselves house-sharing with an ‘indoor dragon.’

  1. Házisárkány

This is a Hungarian word literally meaning ‘indoor dragon’ and used to refer to a nagging, restless spouse. If you’re not used to sharing a house with your significant other, tensions might be high during this period. It may be you find yourself (or your partner) morphing into a mythical beast, breathing fire upon seeing plates piling up in the sink or socks strewn across the floor.

An example in action:

“A házisárkány soha nincs megelégedve.”

“A domestic dragon is never satisfied.”

Catch Budapest describes it as “a harmless joke” and strongly recommend that we keep treating it as such.

  1. Cavoli Riscaldati

The Italians use ‘cavoli riscaldati’ (literally meaning reheated cabbage) to talk about “a pointless attempt to revive a former love affair”. According to Christopher Moore, author of In Other Words, it comes from a proverb:

“Cavoli riscaldati né amore ritornato non fu mai buono.”

“Neither reheated cabbage nor revived love is ever any good.”

Interestingly, some parts of Italy use ‘minestra riscaldata’ or ‘zuppa riscaldata’ (reheated soup) instead of ‘cavoli riscaldati’.

Essentially, the idea is that nothing will ever taste as good when reheated. How many of you have thought about reaching out to your exes during lockdown? Snap. But now all I can think about is how I deserve much more than just reheated cabbage. Maybe some Waitrose kale or pretty pink lettuce from Harrods instead.

cabbage

For those early mornings and late nights

Arguably, we’re probably saving a lot more money by not buying as much coffee during lockdown – but that doesn’t mean to say we’re drinking any less.

  1. Tretår

‘Tretår’ comes from Swedish, literally meaning a ‘threefill’ – a second refill of a cup of coffee. Hardly surprising the Swedes have a word for this – according to the Telegraph, they were the sixth biggest coffee drinkers in the world in 2017.

Language Insight says ‘tretår’ is likely to be used on a Monday morning to help kick off the working week.

Despite no longer needing to get up at 6am and commute for two hours, my caffeine intake has sky-rocketed during lockdown. I’ve upped my daily dosage from one to two and sometimes three cups to get me through the day.

This is down to a mixture of boredom, comfort (everything just feels cosier when you’re clutching a hot brew, doesn’t it?) and also because it’s from my own stash and therefore free. Knowing how much I must have saved by not forking out on overpriced lattes on Tottenham Court Road makes my Nescafe taste just that little bit better.

tretar

  1. Nedoperepil (недоперепил)

‘Nedoperepil’ is a past tense verb used by the Russians “to say that someone has drunk more than they should have, but still less than they could have (or wanted to)”, according to Lingua Lift.

Searching for further clarity, I also consulted Wiktionary: “to have too much to drink, but to be unsatisfied and want to drink more; to be drunk, but not blacked out (literally, ‘to underoverdrink’)”.

If you’re out in a bar and the barista refuses to serve you, you can say:

“Но я же недоперепил!”

“But I haven’t yet drunk as much as I can!”

Seems like the perfect balance, right? Merrily sozzled but not sozzled enough to pass out and not remember anything – plus, it doesn’t always result in a hangover. ‘Underoverdrinking’ could very well become the nation’s new pastime.

The fact Russia has a word for this is mind-blowing – and to be honest, not totally surprising.

Sort of a love letter but not really

To myself,

I do not give you permission to message him.

No matter how twinkly Thursday night’s sky is or how uplifting Friday’s morning is, you’re not to reach out. You’re not to slide into his DMs with a flirty quip about how your peach is the same size and does he still live in Notting Hill or has he gone home home.

Are his family fine? You don’t care. Is he working? You don’t care. Has he cut his hair recently? YOU DON’T CARE. (Except if he has cut his hair, that makes him a tenth less attractive so let’s just imagine he has cut his hair and it went horribly wrong and he now looks like Phil Mitchell.)

When loneliness curses your name, yanks your hair, spits in your face, you still don’t have permission to reach for your phone. Oh but we had something special – oh but you didn’t. You had rough and tumble, frothy, hazy delights last summer where you travelled two hours to see him. 

The current situation – you know, the one where you’re sat at home, wondering about boyfriends and getaways and how much you’d need to earn to afford one of those studio flats with the spiral staircase leading up to the bed – does not permit you to punch yourself in the face romantically. It doesn’t mean you need to start treading water after starting to swim again. It doesn’t mean you need to mow the lawn of introspection, not when things are just starting to grow.

Starve yourself of flirtation, make do without a flurry of grade A bullshit “if this is still a thing in March we should go on a bike ride in the countryside” messages and learn to live and love yourself and not the dreamboat, duvet-lipped figure of irrelevance.

The world stands mighty still

the world stands mighty still

like a door swinging off its hinges

bust open like a weeping sore

bare, ready to heal.

balmy evening skies soak crisp lawns

freshly painted, manicured

nails scratching at the jet-sprayed slabs

of suburbia.

morning tones are a mix of silence

and the breathy earth panting

suddenly able to catch its breath

unchoked, unstrangled by smog

sitting pretty

air dripping with peace.

Quarantine

The weirdest time to be alive

Shut off, in concave houses

Dead to the world

Except the delivery man

A shell burning from the inside out

Due to family tiffs and full blown rows

Drifting from one room to another

Like mouldy, unshowered ghosts

Undecided, aimless

Wandering like wicker men.

Eyes darting from screen to screen

Big and bright

Then small and polluting.

Tiktok guzzlers

Stay at home Sally’s

Faux pro medics

Idiots dressed as preachers

Experts waxing lyrical about distancing

Stockpiling

Worrying

Dying.

In amongst all the chaos I sit

Like a bit of pavement in Syria

A bird above an explosion

A witness to a car crash.

Calm, serene

Calmer and serene-r

Than I’ve ever been-er

Fomo kept at bay

At home is where I stay

Drunk on harmony.