The week before March lockdown, I bought a green cocktail dress from Zara. I had been invited as a speaker at a charity dinner. All night, the slip under the dress kept riding up to my waist. By the time I got home at 2am, cold and wet in winter rain, my shoes had given me seeping blisters on my heels. I’ll spare you the gory details.
“Never again,” I cursed, “will I wear these stupid heels.”
And so, it happened. No more heels. Lockdown began one week later.
Since March 2020, I have been working from home in the same happy permutation of clothes every day. In other words, I have found my personal uniform. …
I’ve broken my resolution to stop doom-scrolling on Instagram. I’ve spent two hours scrolling over other people’s perfect worlds. That’s how I stumbled upon this quote that stopped me in my tracks:
There’s no angry way to say bubbles.
Have you ever tried to say bubbles when you are angry? Even the dog laughed at me. The more I tried, the more I failed; the more agitated I became. You got me again, Instagram.
In the name of procrastination, I needed to prove this quote wrong. It’s only an Instagram quote, but then again, it must be possible somehow. …
“So what’s really going on with you?” Paul asked, as we sat under heaters in a cafe across from the Place de la Republique.
I hadn’t heard from him in eight years. Why would he have shown up now, just when I had sequestered myself away in an apartment in Paris for a while?
I looked at him, at the intense way he leaned across the zinc table.
“You want the whole story right now, don’t you?”
“Absolutely”, he said.
“Well, to be honest, I need to take some time for myself. I’ve been working hard. Traveling a lot for work. After one work trip, I just decided to stop here. …
You’ve been there.
You show up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for a meeting with new ideas to present. Before you’re even finished, you get shut down with:
“We don’t do things this way at this company. It hasn’t worked in the past.”
So it’s not before time I can say, today this approach is dead. Dead! The reasons why? The year that has passed.
We’ve seen businesses pivot faster than Mikhail Baryshnikov. Restaurants turned to takeout; retail scrambled online; salespeople became copywriters.
The government is changing the rules every week. And customer behavior is weirder than ever.
Who wants to predict anything? I am willing to bet if you are a business, you have thrown your plan out the window a few times in the past 12 months. …
I wouldn’t say I like writing about love. And I don’t particularly enjoy talking about politics. What I want to do is talk about words. When I turned on the news last night in London, I saw a crowd rushing up the Washington State Capitol stairs. Not long after, the President spoke to his followers on Twitter:
We love you. You are very special.
At that moment, my memory hurtled me back to a different time. I was twenty years old and living in Prague.
Prague is where I hung out for a few months in the 1990s. I read Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being on a top bunk in a backpacker hostel. …
Have you ever thought about bread as much as you did last year? I had to bribe the local bakery for a spoonful of yeast. They put it in a little plastic bag like a contraband substance. Racing home, I couldn’t wait to start baking.
That’s where the problem started.
One thing I’ve learned about baking this year is I’m terrible at letting the bread rest once it’s out of the oven. I like to eat it too hot. And I always burn my tongue.
There are a few minutes where the bread is still cooking. It needs to rest and let the flavors combine. When it’s not yet bread, it’s still half dough. …
When we were in the deepest of darkest lockdown, I listened to a podcast in the bath and looked at the bubbles. I started to cry, thinking about the fragility of life. Needless to say, wine was involved.
There’s been a lot of wine this year. Pinching my thighs, I noticed how much weight I had gained during the lockdown. Dimples around my knees. Another year older. It wasn’t only weight that worried me. Drinking was up. Netflix was up. Exercise time down. The gym was closed. And so on.
Honestly, all of my resolutions for 2020 failed spectacularly. They fizzled like the last firework of the decade, pirouetting through the sky with a weird whirring sound. You may recognize some of my basic new year’s resolutions as your…
Vanity Fair magazine published various public figures’ answers to the Proust Questionnaire on the last page of the magazine. My favourite is by the late and great David Bowie; but for the sake of a beautiful form, here are my answers to mark the end of a strange year.
“The Proust Questionnaire has its origins in a parlor game popularized (though not devised) by Marcel Proust, the French essayist and novelist, who believed that, in answering these questions, an individual reveals his or her true nature.” — Vanity Fair
__1.__What is your idea of perfect happiness? A freshly baked croissant
__2.__What is your greatest fear? …
I’ve reached a point in my life where I have learned to let go of what I can not control. It wasn’t always this way. More often than not, I struggled with the big issues in life, what other people would do, and even politics. (I was a child who wrote to Ronald Reagan to persuade him against nuclear war). In general, I grew up feeling helpless about the state of the world and my place in it.
So how did I learn to stop worrying and enjoy life more? The answer is I turned to philosophers from the second century AD. …
Have you found yourself alone because of the pandemic this year? Many people will not be able to see their family over the holiday period for the first time. I hope it won’t be too much of a shock. If you’ve never done it before, it can be.
When I first moved to the big city, I found myself alone on Christmas Day. My flatmates went back to their own countries. I worked the holiday shifts. But I admit: I struggled.
Now we are in another strict lockdown again (with a new scary variant in London). Millions of people’s plans are scuppered at the last minute. …