Let me describe the flat in which I will be spending lockdown… it won’t take long

The view from the window is of much nicer houses opposite – or would be if the glass weren’t, in winter, permanently dripping with condensation. 

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And so the new lockdown begins. Once more, the radical change to the lifestyle of your columnist. Staying in all day becoming a virtue again, rather than evidence of idleness and/or depression. I am staying in bed so I can save money on heating. It also saves wear and tear on clothes. I can’t remember if I’ve mentioned this before, but I have only two pairs of trousers I can wear outside. Of my other two, one needs a zip replacing and the other is threadbare to the point of translucency. And I have now noticed a hole in the crotch of my black 501s, which means that either I get a new pair online or buy some black underpants. (I favour white underwear: it keeps you honest.)

A generous Christmas present from my mother means I could afford new Levi’s if I wanted them but I do not like buying daily apparel online. One has to try the trousers on in the real world, in a changing room, and when are we going to see the inside of a changing room again?

I prowl the confines of my flat like a caged panther. I know the word “panther” sounds flattering, so think of a panther with the hair around its muzzle growing white and a belly that almost touches the ground. And yet I can still fit into trousers that measure the same around the waist as they did when I first started buying trousers of my own. What’s that all about?

Anyway, back to my flat. Let me show you round it, in the manner of Xavier de Maistre, author of Voyage Around My Room (1794), and not to be confused with his big brother, Joseph de Maistre. Xavier was much more congenial. (Joseph had a hard-on for the death penalty.) “I might fairly begin the eulogium of my journey by saying it has cost me nothing. This point merits attention,” is how Xavier’s journey begins, and I could say the same thing.

Let me start with the bedroom. About 12ft square, most of it is taken up by a bed. The bed has “bachelor” written all over it. The sheet is cotton and the duvet is filled with goose down, as are the pillows, but banish all thoughts of seductive luxury. I was unable to find any fitted sheets of the correct size in Debenhams, and the sheet has become unmoored from the mattress and is only kept in place underneath the body by half-hearted daily adjustments and a pile of books on the left-hand side. On the plus side, it is the first bed I have had since 2007 that is not jammed against the wall. On the debit side, there’s not much point in walking around it, for the left-hand side has only a small gap between it and the built-in wardrobe, which is unused except for storing the empty wine boxes my books were packed in. (The boxes will be used again for the same purpose when I move out.) There is no point in putting clothes in the wardrobe because I have no hangers.

[see also: If there’s one good thing 2021 has to offer, it’s the return of romance in my life]

There are hooks on the walls from which pictures have clearly been hung, but I am not hanging any pictures from them because I will only have to carry them with me when I move out, and also, all my pictures are in storage at my mother’s.

The view from the window is of much nicer houses opposite – or would be if the glass weren’t, in winter, permanently dripping with condensation. The walls and curtains are grey, and the carpet, throughout the flat, is not exactly grey but of a salt-and-pepper design that is more or less the same as grey, really. I am fairly confident that no sex will ever take place in this bedroom.

The living room is perhaps slightly bigger. I don’t know, I forgot to bring the tape measure with me. I could get one of those clever gadgets that fires a laser beam at the opposite wall and tells you how far away it is, but I don’t like the idea of spending £14.99, or however much they are, to be told that the living room is not much bigger than a shoebox, which I have already worked out for myself. I am very confident that no sex will ever take place in the living room, either.

The kitchen is an unheated icebox about the size of a coffin. When the sun shines it turns into something of a greenhouse, so you have to be pretty careful about leaving food out. It heats up pretty quickly when you’re cooking, in which case it turns into a steam room, and water drips from the ceiling like rain. I am supremely confident that it will be a cold day in hell before any kind of erotic shenanigans take place in that room.

Which leaves us with the bathroom. And, oh dear, I seem to be running out of space. Which seems to be appropriate. I’ll save it for next week, unless I get a lot of letters begging me to write about something else. But what else is there to write about?

[see also: In lockdown, I have become unhealthily obsessed with what my neighbours think of me]

Nicholas Lezard is a literary critic for the Guardian and also writes for the Independent. He writes the Down and Out in London column for the New Statesman.

This article appears in the 15 January 2021 issue of the New Statesman, American civil war

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