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A list of everything I thought I’d do while isolating, compared to what I’ve actually done

I have made multiple daily attempts to break the world record for the longest time spent in the bath.

By Jonn Elledge

For nine days now, eight of them before the Prime Minister announced such measures were compulsory, I have barely left my home. I have gazed longingly at the pictures of the general public flouting the social distancing measures by crowding the beer gardens or beaches of Britain, momentarily jealous of their complete lack of concern for either their own or other people’s health. But I have been a good and compliant citizen. I have not left my one-bedroom flat, aside from a couple of trips to the shop for supplies. I have not spent time with anyone except for my partner, who – though I haven’t confirmed this – I can only assume believes herself to be the luckiest woman alive. 

You’d think I’d be ready for this – that, having left the New Statesman to go freelance at the end of January, I’d be used to a life of minimal social contact and staring at a computer on my own. And yet, no.

Here is a complete list of all the things I genuinely believed that I would use this time to do:

1. Polyfill the series of small holes in my bedroom wall that mark the spot where, until last April, I used to have a blind.

2. Clean.

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3. Work my way through some of those great box sets from that golden age of TV we’re always being told we’re in, or some of the classic movies I really ought to have seen, to plug some gaps in my cultural education.

4. Shower. 

5. Learn how to read books again, by sitting in a chair by a window at least one door away from my phone.

6. Cook, now that I finally have all the time necessary, and no excuse whatsoever not to do so.

7. Have long phone calls to catch up with some of my oldest friends who I don’t see enough any more, and who are similarly confined for the duration.

8. The laundry.

9. Re-jig that novel I wrote some years ago in a fit of enthusiasm and/or terror about the arrival of my 30s (God, I was scared of turning 30! LOL), on the grounds that it’s just sitting there on my hard drive and really, I might as well, right?

10. Sort through that stack of important looking papers that have been gradually accumulating on my desk since last summer, and check that none of them require payment.

11. Make serious in-roads into the major project which is meant to be the defining feature of my year.

12. Wear clothes.


Here, by contrast, is what I have actually done:


1. Reverted, slowly but inexorably, to the sleeping pattern of my undergraduate years.

2. Made multiple daily attempts to break the world record for the longest time spent in the bath.

3. Lost hours to wondering if every slight itch in my throat was the first symptom of the oncoming plague.

4. Wasted hours wishing I’d hoovered while not, in fact, hoovering.

5. Eaten what I confidently believed at point of purchase to be a week’s worth of junk food in two days.

6. Replaced my concerning but broadly socially acceptable alcohol problem with an altogether more embarrassing Monster Munch problem.

7. Watched 27 episodes of Star Trek: Voyager, in order to confirm my pre-existing prejudice that it’s the worst Star Trek series.

8. Wondered what would happen if I just stopped shaving one side of my face for a bit.

9. Seriously considered watching Cats.

10. Spent hours every night gazing at the skyline, wondering why so many lights are still left on all night at Canary Wharf. (Seriously, anyone?)

11. Remembered that the unpublished novel is about someone who fabricates a global pandemic, and decided that this probably isn’t the time.

12. Cut all the puzzle pages out of every newspaper in my flat, “just in case”.

13. Worked out the size of the observable universe in miles (it’s approximately 541 billion trillion, or, if you prefer, 541,000,000,000,000,000,000,000).

14. Meditated on the ontological differences between the phrases “locked up” and “locked down”.

15. Spent two hours learning what a “parsec” is.

16. Begun talking to my pot plants, who have names.

17. Wished intensely that I had taken those family members who warned me that I would regret moving to a flat with no garden more seriously.

18. Wondered whether day drinking is really that bad an idea?

19. Carefully pored over every single mistake I have made in every aspect of my life since the end of June 1999.

20. Twitter.

This is day nine. There are, in the most optimistic estimates, 20 more days to go.

But I’m going to stop there. The next one has the Borg in it.