Tenaya Tells It
THE LOST LOCKDOWN
Ello Auntie. I have been isolating since the 9th of March about two weeks before the official lockdown, my little sister had contracted the virus & I saw her a couple days before she developed any symptoms, I was sat next to her for a couple of hours & she made me a brew at the old dears before she had developed any symptoms so when it was discovered that she had the virus my workplace told me to gel on for the time being in case I had caught it. Although I was concerned about my sister (who is now sound) I thought to myself ‘Happy days’. Six weeks down the line & if I wasn’t mental enough already, I feel I am now. Since a young teen I have had a lot of vices but having to work forty hours a week gives me some routine & helps to keep me on the rails... however now that I am a free but locked up man, I have all the time in the world to overthink & to vice away the day. For the first week or two I was loving it, I didn’t have to wake up at 6am for a job that I’m not massively passionate about (although grateful to have), I spent all day listening to tunes in the nude & I was consuming hash like it was one of my five a day but as the time has gone on it has become a little more challenging, by the fourth week I had began drinking from near enough the morning & when looking at the makeshift tinny museum in my kitchen, I began to think I am really wasting my life. I made a plan of action & I go to bed with an abundance of ideas on how to better myself, things I want to do & things I want to tell people but when I wake up the following day or a few hours later & sit on the doorstep with my morning coffee & cig, I find it hard to motivate myself to work towards them. On one hand I want to cut out all of the vices & become a real person but on the other I hand feel stressed to be making so many changes & I just want to bury my head in the sand. What do I do!? x
My name is Barney Gumble. I’m 40, I’m single, and I drink. So begins that black and white film made by Barney for the Springfield Film Festival, 1995. You know it - we ALL know it. The one that ends with him saying “Don’t cry for me, I’m already dead” as he puts a rose in a bottle of Duff before it immediately dies. Barney is (literally) the cartoonish idea many minds dream up when they think of A DRINKER. But the reality is that, just like you, most of us work 40 hour weeks and have relationships and well organised Spotify playlists and don’t wake up on Monday mornings lying in gutters, but are still running on booze or fags or coffee or sugar or dRuGs (but mostly booze) behind these scenes. A girl I know recently sat on her porch roof wearing a giant, paper mache Carling pint over her head. If this surreal rooftop tribute doesn’t sum up the lonely longing we Brits now have for the pubs and clubs that shaped us before Covid-19, I dunno what does.
My friend, it’s a given that you will almost definitely have the best night of your life and the worst night of your life at a drinking venue, if you haven’t already. You will most likely meet the person you’re gonna marry out there. You’ll snog someone in the smoking area who you’ve fancied for years but been too scared to talk to sober. You’ll have a row with your best mate. Dance until your feet are killing but keep at it anyway. Chat someone up. Get punched for knocking someone’s drink over. Sweet talk someone into buying you shots. Say something you don’t mean and can’t take back. Get chucked out. Get invited back. Wake up covered in puke or smudged in mascara or with dicks drawn all over your face. Best night or worst night, doesn’t really matter: free houses and crap night clubs are brimming with life and connection whether you like it or not. Without them, and without that 40 hour working week, it’s understandable that you’ve unintentionally converted your kitchen into a 24 hour boozer.
Tinman, you talk of wanting to be A Real Person. I really feel ya - who among us hasn’t shrunk right down after being asked what we are doing with our lives by a well-meaning Nan? We are so used to a system that rewards those with office desks, company cars and at least one good suit. With a mortgage. A marriage. A garden of their very own. This has been made depressingly clear by those who have a job waiting for them after lockdown, and those who don’t. Those who got furloughed, and those who got Universal Credit. Those who get a mortgage break, and those who still have to pay their rent. Those who live in flats with kids, and those who shame these people for visiting parks, finger wagging from their sizable back gardens, basked in sun. Real people are also those who got pregnant young or those who sing on stage or who work outside with their hands in thick protective gloves or drink and vice even more than you do. There are sweet wrapper galleries, used condom travelling shows, pizza box towers. You think you got a tinny museum? A man from Hartepool once turned his whole house into a beer can-decorated masterpiece; the council tore it down in 2015. Please know that however lost you get in your vices, you’re still as real as it gets.
Little Tin, I want you to know that ever since we lost my stepdad in August, my mum keeps saying the same thing; nothing helps like having a drink. And sometimes it really feels true, it’s the only thing that will do it, that hits the spot. When Ted Hawkins sings you can be sure you won’t suffer no more after a trip to the liquor store in Sorry You’re Sick, you believe it. Me and my mum have been drinking Sainsburys own brand red wine - it comes in a giant plastic bottle reminiscent of Robinsons squash - (we drink it out of fancy engraved wine glasses to mask this shady vibe). A few days ago, she decided not to buy any more Robinson's Wine. It sounds like you’ve reached the same point she did, where it doesn’t feel all good anymore. Lack of routine and apocalyptic dread are leading you to crave your vices earlier on in the day, so try drinking or smoking something weaker than you’re used to. Put down that Special Brew honey and choose a light pale ale. Get your hands on some alcohol-free beer and make a rule to only drink that before 4pm. Test yourself to alternate your hash days so that you can actually look forward to it instead of using it to quickly kill off boredom. The main thing is to pace yourself to avoid feeling anxious and hungover and exhausted every single morning, obliterating any motivation you might otherwise have had to give some energy to what matters to you.
Wanna know something? Barney Gumble’s beloved “Pukahontas” was inspired by a film from the 40s called The Lost Weekend, about the alcohol troubles of a writer called Don. When they first played Lost Weekend to a test audience it was laughed at. It had an upbeat jazz soundtrack and viewers mistook it for a comedy. They changed the music to a dramatic, serious score and before ya know it it's an Academy Award winner, celebrated by critics and lauded a gritty work of art. We are all just one jazz test track vs one emotional film score away from letting our vices turn us into a joke or a tragedy. Choose neither. You aint a Simpsons character. You ain’t Don Birman. You are A Real Person. Right now you’re a Kitchen Tinny Museum owner with a sound little sister. You will still be this nude singing tinny man with an old dear when you’re having your morning cig on the front porch tomorrow. You don’t have to stop being that to tap into those things you wanna do or say. Nobody is asking you to become Ned Flanders. Don’t wait for the council to come tear down your tinny museum, crush the cans yourself right now with your bare hands and then do your go-to kitchen dance and put them in the recycling and have something weird and non-alcoholic instead like cherryade and try being as alive as you can then just go to bed one step further away from the vices you got lost in.
Tenaya, tell me... how can you maintain some personal space while in lockdown?!
I recognise I’m incredibly lucky to be isolating with my lush boyfriend in our lush flat (I’m still working and we are healthy and well etc( so this is an incredibly indulgent, privileged rant, which I hate myself for.
But I’m going a bit out of my mind having zero personal time... we live in a one bed flat so my only actual alone time is in the bathroom so I’ve taken to showering twice a day. Recently however, my boyfriend has learnt to pick the lock to the bathroom (apparently in a state of desperation, needing a wee at the time)... since then, almost every shower is interrupted with his smelly urination, a relaxing bath is interluded with a read-out of some mildly funny WhatsApp conversation, or a face wash pamper sesh is interrupted with an beard trim with the clippers, tiny little hairs flying every. Sometimes I’ve also got to do real personal shit that I really don’t want an audience for, but low and behold that lock starts rattling and the door springs open. There are NO personal boundaries!
I’ve tried saying something, but he thinks I’m being a moody nark and thinks it should be sweet we have no secrets or separation, it’s a strength of our relationship.
Tenaya, what do I do? Barricade myself into the bathroom?! Set up a Home Alone style booby trap? Write passive aggressive notes?
Bathroom dweller xx
Dear Bathroom Dweller,
This lock-picking maniac needs a serious talking to, if only your one bed flat came installed with a chokey so you could teach him a Trunchbullian lesson - London landlords are so stingy! The idea of the basic Whatsapp messages of a lacklustre Town Crier interrupting a bath - literally a sacred spiritual experience that has reached holy levels as one of the last small pleasures left in the lockdown - honestly fills me with Tesco Value soapy sorrow and fancy M&S bath-salts-to-the-eyes rage. I swear nearly every single argument between Those Who Bang (Originally wrote ‘lovers’ but ew) can be shut down by this ‘but it’s romantiiiic’ bullshit. Starting on someone who is innocently talking to your girlfriend cos you’re ‘fending off creeps from your princess’ aint romantic. Casually reading each other's messages on an everyday basis cos there are ‘no secrets between us’ ain’t romantic. And - I can’t believe I even have to say this - UNPICKING THE LOCK WHILST YOU ARE IN THE SHOWER SO HE CAN COME IN AND DO HIS BUSINESS WHICH IS COOL COS U 2 R LIKE PEAS IN A POD AND U SHARE EVERYTHING - nope, not romantic babe.
You describe your boyfriend as ‘lush’, and the sincerity in which you say this leads me to believe it to be true. I’m inclined to guess that this lockpicking honey is more of a loveable buffoon who really needs to piss, as opposed to a Here’s Johnny psycho hiding an axe in your nail polish basket. My advice is to get real fabulous about it - show how serious your luxury bath time is. Scrap showers completely, have two baths a day instead. Ensure you use cartoon-levels of bubble bath in every soak (com’onnn what better way to spend the pub money you’re not spending than on a lifetime supply of bubbles). Buy a floor length silk bathrobe, something eBay affordable will do the trick - the loveable buffoon will think it’s luxury all the same. Announce your bath time wordlessly, by taking one lap around the flat in said gown and ringing an old-school bell (yeah, you’re gonna need to find one of these on Ebay too). Once in the bath, put a sign on the door that says something like: Relaxation In Progress. For full passive aggressiveness, add a smiley face to said sign. Light candles around the bath so that a miraculous glow radiates from the door. If he’s as lush as you say he is, he’ll start to see that this alone time means something to you and he’ll honour your privacy. Failing this, I just googled ‘How to make a chokey’ and, whilst there are no eHow pages like i’d hoped, really how hard can it be to bang some nails through a shit driftwood cupboard?
Dear Tenaya, is it true that what happens in quarantine stays in quarantine?
In a few obvious ways, yeah. If you’ve always wanted to give yourself a zany makeover but only if you could go into hiding after the inevitable disaster, then like, now’s your time ya lunatic. But honestly, I’d guess there have been more nudes sent and sexy zoom calls hacked than ever before right now. People are more online than ever, meaning most of our day to day lives are most definitely not gonna stay in lockdown. If you are keen to keep yourself to yourself, that zany makeover you’ve been dreaming of might just come in handy. You could try wearing a disguise around the home at all times to fool any pesky webcam hackers. Nerds behind computers (especially the pervy ones) will almost definitely be the death of humankind, probs best to outsmart them using the least techy means possible so as to confuse their microchip souls.