Guest post by Alia Malik
Or, ‘what it’s like to start living alone during a lockdown.’
We’re all aware of the significance of timing. The exact point at which to pull the spaghetti from the water to avoid it being over-done. My time was the 14th March 2020, moving day. I’d needed to move for a while, I needed the independence, the solitude and the space not afforded by a bedsit.
Coronavirus was migrating westward from China, through Italy, to the very heart of England. The Government were debating whether to cancel flights, and stockpiling had begun to rear its ugly head.
My destination was only a few minutes away by foot, but philosophically it was much, much further…I was heading into the unknown. As I walked my boxes across slowly over a few days, stuffed full of two years of accumulated goodies, I deliberately delayed the inevitable. Every night I returned to fewer creature comforts at the bedsit, and the new apartment became a smorgasbord – familiar but alien.
I breathed a sigh of relief as I laid down the last box. I was in my own place, the place where I could hang my hat and it felt absolutely…. underwhelming. There was a thin layer of dust which certainly was not there when I signed the agreement. This was definitely going to be a dust trap. Luckily I had ordered some cleaning supplies from a supermarket to be delivered on Tuesday, as well as a few essential groceries. Job done – or so I thought.
Tuesday came, and I got a call from the supermarket to say that my order wasn’t going to be arriving that day and they wouldn’t rearrange because all delivery slots were gone. Cheers Covid. Eventually I managed to find some cleaning products in a corner shop, but this still postponed my unpacking.
The weekend before lockdown, I caught the train up north for Mother’s day weekend. After the festivities, I travelled back on Monday night with an assortment of home-cooked meals and an even larger volume of isopropyl alcohol. Ready to eat, sleep, work, repeat, until the weekend.
I was stopped at the gate on lockdown day. Work was closed – we were allowed to collect our effects, and told to go home until we were invited back. I grabbed the essentials, my milk and porridge. After all, (wo)man cannot live on pasta* alone.
I got back to my place and I realised I had to stay put. This was my prison. It was unseasonably warm on the third floor, uncomfortably so. It was as if I was the pasta in a pot of hot water. I slumped onto the bed, overcome by the humidity. (The pasta would’ve been a stodgy mess beyond belief if this metaphor was real). The ceiling light hanging over the bed was coated with dust and criss-crossed with cobwebs.
Making a place a home is a bit like cooking pasta – people will tell how long you have to boil it for, but sometimes you can only tell if it’s cooked if you throw it against a wall and see if it sticks!
I eventually vacuumed. Now when I lay in bed, I let myself get mesmerised by the clean-cut outline of the now pristine ceiling light. I realised my flat was my blank canvas – my bowl of cooked pasta ready to be combined with every and any ingredient I deemed appropriate. Once I realised that it was something that I could mould within the limitations of the tenancy agreement, I rediscovered the reasons I loved it. My galley kitchen with its huge window overlooking the neighbour’s garden. Houses at the back with tall trees in the distance, reminiscent of the little Parisian abode of a chef I saw on TV when I was little.
At the end of the day, who cares, as long as you remember to be kind to yourself and your environment. It’s your bowl, have fun!
*Pasta is to be enjoyed as part of a varied and balanced diet.
By Alia Malik (Guest Blogger)
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