Podcast Editor Matthew Seaman shares his cultural recommendations for the remaining days of lockdown.

This last year has been undeniably arduous for us all. Whether or not we have suffered the direct effects of Covid-19, we have all experienced the monotonous and perpetual frustration of lockdown-life. And whilst the coping strategies seemed to be handed to us on a plate last year, the interminable nature of this third lockdown has really limited the novelty of Zooms. So I have decided to let you in, with a snapshot of how I have been keeping myself entertained during what we are told to be the last stretch of lockdown. I’m sure you have all got your personal favourites, but I thought I would share some of the media I have been consuming (and re-consuming) lately.

TV and Film

According to the psychologist Pamela Rutledge, rewatching films or TV shows is a good “controller of emotions” when everything feels out of control in the world. She said: “It can become really therapeutic, especially if you are feeling anxious.” I certainly agree that a sense of familiarity amongst these extraordinary circumstances can be a perfect source of comfort. Some of my personal go-to comfort watches (on Netflix) are: Ricky Gervais’ “Afterlife” and “Extras,” along with “13 Reasons Why,” “You,” “The End of the F**king World,” “Black Mirror” and (rather embarrassingly) “Emily in Paris”.

When it comes to BBC iPlayer, it’s got to be the heartwarming, sassy and effervescent “Ru Paul’s Drag Race UK,” “Fleabag,” “Killing Eve,” “Inside No. 9” and Lee Mack’s comedy genius manifested in the form of “Not Going Out” and “Would I Lie To You?”. I’m also a sucker for “The Masked Singer” franchise, whether that be streaming it from America – despite some unfamiliar celebrities’ appearances – or ITV One‘s successful adaptation.

Pixar’s “Ratatouille” – Creative Commons License

As for films, I can’t get enough of the “Back To The Future” trilogy; it’s just so thrilling, even after all of these years. “Coraline,” “Gone Girl” and “Whiplash” are three of my personal favourites too, with their dark yet comforting tone and twisted protagonists. You can’t beat a Richard Curtis classic either (“About Time,” “Notting Hill,” “Love Actually”). Finally, Disney+ has a lot to offer, with Pixar’s latest release, “Soul,” being a welcome contender for my personal dearest: “Ratatouille.” “Home Alone 2”, available from the same streaming service, never fails to make me feel warm inside, transporting me to Christmas in beautiful New York.

Billie Eilish: Wikipedia CCL

However, sometimes it’s good to try something completely new, and so if you happen to have an Apple TV+ subscription, I would highly recommend giving the Billie Eilish documentary, “The World’s A Little Blurry,” a go. Even Cher spoke out saying “many people sing, few make magic,” with regards to Eilish. Whether you’re a fan or not, it’s a magical watch.

Maintaining Relationships

For me, this is one of the hardest parts of this third lockdown, but it’s so indisputably critical. There is a risk that, having been physically forced apart, we naturally lose touch with our distant loved ones. Social distancing shouldn’t necessarily mean emotional distancing. You never know how much a friend might be craving that call, but just assumes that you are too busy to talk. This is a difficult time for us all, and without the everyday conversations that may have kept us motivated in our normal routines, it is easy to feel a little lost and alone. I’m certainly a culprit of being distant from my friends when we don’t have active plans to see each other – so my advice to myself (and to you) would be to make active plans wherever legally possible.

We are now allowed to meet others outdoors on a 1-to-1 basis for non-essential reasons (i.e. a coffee in the park), which can make all the difference if life is feeling tedious. Similarly, lockdown dates – whether that be with your friends or partner – are very underrated. Just the act of having a date in the diary to set aside for it helps to bring us closer together. “Teleparty” and “Scener” are two Chrome extensions that allow for shared watch-parties via the streaming service of your choice.

The Apollo Theatre during the lockdown
Photo: Lucy Gray
Food and Cookery

I’m a disappointment when it comes to this area, I will admit that, but I’ve found a spark of inspiration from the soul singer Joss Stone in recent months. Stone presents her “Cooking With Joss” live streams every Sunday evening on her Facebook page. Whether it be a healthy vegetarian sausage and bacon casserole or a surprisingly rich and oily artichoke and tomato pasta, I have definitely felt encouraged to try some new flavours. As a meat-eater, cooking with some substitutes has been a new and welcome experience for me.

Lent

I had an internal battle before committing to doing Lent (40 days of abstention from a luxury) this year, as my thinking was “we’ve given enough up as it is,” but eventually reasoned it was the right thing to do. I’m not religious, but I find it a helpful break from routine once a year, to prove to myself that I have some level of self-control. It may not feel amazing at the time, but having a goal to work towards can feel extremely rewarding in the end. I chose to give up chocolate, sweets, biscuits, cake, ice cream, fizzy drinks and alcohol. It’s a slightly gruelling forty days, but it’s worth doing, just to break bad habits and test ourselves.

Projects and Opportunities 

There is a surprising amount of opportunities out there on social media, especially as a King’s Student. Whether it be writing for Roar, presenting for King’s TV or hosting on KCL Radio, there is an array of clubs and societies still somehow operating during lockdown. It really does demonstrate the sheer power of collective passion and hard work. Being a part of the Roar team is something I’m so proud and grateful for. Even if it’s just attending a weekly Zoom for the comedy club, having something in the diary to break up your week and add something non-academic to the semester is so valuable.

For musicians and performers, there is a myriad of opportunities available online. I came across an open casting call for a new project, “Mia: The Musical,” and was somehow cast as their male lead for a Zoom table-read. I find there is a new level of confidence obtained through being behind a screen, a new kind of protective barrier. It affords me the spur to contribute more vocally in seminars, and my involvement with “Mia” was absolutely down to that too.

Making Future Plans

The “roadmap” set out by Boris Johnson may be flexible, but I find it really assuring to make plans based on the easing of lockdown restrictions, despite the risk of disappointment and cancellations. My partner and I have a trip to Disneyland Paris booked for the summer (fingers crossed), and have chosen a week when she will come and stay with me once overnight stays are once again permitted in June. I’m also buzzing for the non-essential shops and restaurants to start reopening their doors from 12th April. It’s going to be so important to patronise our favourite small businesses when they start operating again.

I look forward to nothing more than experiencing the tastes and smells of Soho again next month; there’s a world of culture we’ve all been locked away from, so we have a lot of making up to do. Additionally, I’ve made sure to book for the upcoming reopening of “Everybody’s Talking About Jamie” on 20th May, when the Apollo (and other theatres) aim to reopen with social distancing measures in place.

Engaging in Debates on Social Media

Finally, and more importantly, lockdown has afforded me the time to engage in some crucial conversations online. Whether it be the debate over the unusual new ‘super-straight’ sexuality trending on TikTok, or the important discussions that have arisen from the horrible news regarding Sarah Everard, this moment of pause in our lives has allowed a lot of introspection, and it’s certainly enabled me to reflect and develop my personal worldview. Whilst I do pride myself on being fairly unshakeable in my (sometimes controversial) opinions, social media is such a powerful tool when it comes to educating ourselves and others. Sometimes, this is simply in the form of playful interactions on my TikTok live streams, where I have a chat with strangers that join from all over the world. Somehow, this time of isolation has permitted me to discover a diverse range of individuals both alike and unlike myself.

Whilst all of the above can be helpful, enriching and on occasion life-changing, it is important to acknowledge that we are in a pandemic. The world is putting enough pressure on us as it is, there are still deaths and we are still being forced away from the things and people we love. Keeping busy and maintaining a sense of purpose suits me best, but being productive shouldn’t feel like a requirement right now. We all have our downfalls – one of mine is my awful sleep schedule – but don’t feel the need to put extra pressure on yourself, coping is more than enough for now. Oh and please, don’t forget to smile!

Podcast Editor and Culture Writer for Roar News.

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