No I bloody don’t want to self-improve during coronavirus lockdown thanks

Sam Harrington-Lowe no thanks to new crafts coronavirus

This Easter I don’t want to learn to make hot cross buns, or bloody Simnel cake. Nor do I want to learn how to craft cutsey little chicks in baskets, or hand paint personalised Easter cards, or even whip up homemade chocolate truffle ‘eggs’.

And whilst I’m at it, I don’t want to learn a new language, get fit and lose weight, make fucking sourdough, write a novel (jury’s maybe out on that one), or meditate every day.

I don’t care about Tiger King – it looks unsavory and not nice for tigers – and as for learning to make my own pasta or learning to bake… I’m 50 years old. Who the hell gets to 50 without knowing how to do that already?

Deepak Chopra’s 21 Days of Abundance. No! Foraging and hedgewitchery? No! Making tofu. Egad. No!

What’s wrong with everyone? Have you all gone mad?

I’m writing today, in case you hadn’t realised it yet, about the hideous, insidious message that if you’re not doing something productive or creative in lockdown you’re somehow failing. Whatever else I’ve learned about Self-Isolation in Covid-19 Times, it’s that there’s expectation out there, and it’s worse than ever.

Fed up with lockdown coronavirus Sam Harrington-Lowe


I watch friends of mine, parents with businesses or jobs, trying desperately to home school and earn a crust at the same time, whilst being locked in together trying not to kill each other. Yet still feeling somehow that if they’re not crocheting a new life or cooking up a virus-beating foraged nettle soup and posting it on Instagram (hastag inittogether), they’re somehow inadequate.

People are trying not to go mad, locked in with The Fear and their ghastly families. That’s challenge enough, frankly

Stop this shit! So many people are literally just trying to rise above the panic of incarceration on a daily basis, and this jolly heartiness is unfathomably icky. They’re trying desperately not to go mad, locked in with The Fear and their ghastly families, or on their own, trying to stay sane. That’s challenge enough, frankly. They don’t need more pressure.

Goalcast is touting a smarmy ‘get better at life’ video on Facey at the moment with the caption, “NOW is the time to conquer the little tasks in life, because this pandemic may open windows of opportunity for long-awaited change… So how are you going to conquer today?”

Um, well actually I’m going to try not to leave my house, for the umpteenth day, and I’m going to work, like I do every other week. And make a meal with whatever shite is in the fridge. And not crack up, thanks. How about you?


For me – and for countless thousands of others – this pandemic is largely business as usual. We work quietly at our desks, breaking out occasionally for calls or meetings, and not only have you now got to try and crack through that, you’ve got to do it at home. With children/pets/other halves whining around your feet, trying to do Down Dogs and fucking PE, whilst you’re preparing a presentation and trying not to look like Jabba the Hut on Zoom.

How to cope working at home coronavirus

And my god I hate online meetings. I know they’re a lifeline for keeping things rolling. But the awkwardness. The glitchy connectivity. The backgrounds of clients’ homes. It’s SO WEIRD!

The things I miss terribly about this whole situation I can probably count on one hand. I miss long drunken lunches with friends probably the most of all. The other things are less of an issue, but it’s the company of my beloved mates that’s the loss here.

Which brings me on to my next ugh. Jesus, the WhatsApp groups, and groups on Facebook. Sorry to those of you who have added me to them – you’ll probably notice I’m conspicuous by my lack of interaction. I find these things terribly uncomfortable, sorry. And I can’t believe it’s just me.

I want to join in, in my head. And I feel like I should make the effort. But then I open the thread and I’m filled with dread. And as for online group events like drinks evenings and so on. Okay, I know these are a salvation for some people, but the idea fills me with a desire to hide behind the sofa. Sorry girls who’ve added me to these things. I love all of you individually but the group stuff makes me feel like I’m at school trying to do House competitions. And being the weakest link.

Speaking personally, I am just trying to get through each day alive. And in the evenings I eat, maybe watch Poirot because it’s safe and cosy and not real. I might even read a book – but I’m knackered from a day’s work. Remember that, those of you furloughed?! I still have to do the do. It’s no different for me right now.

And I talk to people on the phone, but individually. I love a chat, but I don’t want to do it in front of loads of others. That’s just weird – and feels like when you’re made to do a presentation that nobody really wants to hear.

I appreciate that people are just trying to cope, I really do. And if this stuff works for you, and you have the time, then great – I don’t want to take the joy out of making something and learning new things away from you, I really don’t. But I think for a lot of people, this hearty, jolly homespun craft stuff is just something else to stress about. Another pressure. And yes, particularly for women.

Me? I have simple needs. I want to go on holiday, want to have lunch with mates. How I miss inappropriate nights out. And I want not to die of Covid-19. Right now I want to just relax when I’m not working, and not feel like I have to whip up a storm in the kitchen and master new skills. Honestly, I congratulate myself for getting up each day and not giving in to ennui. I don’t need to fight with learning Inuit on top of those challenges.

So for now I’ll just watch you guys making sculptures and learning origami, if that’s okay. And be happy for you.

And wait for this thing to be over.

The truth about punching after 50

Sam Harrington-Lowe punching above your weight

A friend of mine has recently started seeing an ugly guy. I don’t just mean ‘not attractive’. This one is kinda creepy looking. Like, if you saw his mugshot on a police show about serial killers you’d see his face and be like, oh man look at that weird looking guy with his dead eyes.

And yet he’s a lovely bloke. He’s kind and thoughtful with her, really generous with his time and his not inconsiderable money, and proves once again that you can’t judge a book, etc.

How can she have sex with him?! Does she look at him, or do it with the lights off?! Because I know I would have to.

But I look at them and wonder about it. I can’t help it. She’s gorgeous, you see. She’s in her 50s with a glorious head of hair and a bubbly, never-a-dull-moment personality, and she’s clever and successful too – she’s an absolute beaut of a catch. And he’s quiet and weird-looking and a bit introverted – they seem so mismatched. And it made me wonder; is she settling? Could I go out with an ugly guy? How can she have sex with him?! Does she look at him, or do it with the lights off?! Because I know I would have to.

Before you all get bristly about the eye of the beholder, or how shallow I am, let me remind you what it’s like for younger women. We’re judged almost solely on our looks until we’re about 40, when – after breeding age has waved goodbye – we are finally to be considered more for our character. I’ve often felt men really only take me seriously now I’m a bit older, finally loving me for myself, and not my yellow hair. But I’ve had decades of male gaze making me feel like a display product – are the tables turned now I’m knocking 50?

I’ve often felt men really only take me seriously now I’m a bit older, finally loving me for myself, and not my yellow hair

Because the reality is, now that we are all past breeding age, that men generally lag massively behind women of their own age. Personally I take care of myself, I’m pretty fit and successful, and know I look good for my age – and I have tons of absolutely gorgeous female friends who have everything going on. But I also meet plenty of men my age and even younger who I wouldn’t give a second glance to. Why is this? Do men feel like they don’t need to bother?

I’m single for the first time in ten years and I’m finding dating at 50 is very different to dating in your 20s. I feel like it’s my turn in the driving seat. I know my worth, and what’s most important, when it comes to having a relationship or children, I can take it or leave it, which gives me enormous power. I don’t mind being single – in fact I quite like it! At least I get decent sleep. It’s going to take something pretty special for me to give up this freedom.

Dating again

I joined a dating site and good grief it’s grim. Men who would once have been young and handsome are now paunchy and bald, with baggage and weekend children in tow, beaten-down expressions, and poor health from not looking after themselves, and they just don’t float my boat. They wave and wink and I’m just like, no. I couldn’t. Look at yourself man. Are you serious? What kind of denial leads them to act like this? Do they look in the mirror and see their 25 year old selves still staring back?

And if I even get past the photo hurdle (ugh, the photos!) and look at the profile blurbs, so many are poorly written or lazy. Ugly AND stupid? No no no. One guy even had on his profile – in total – ‘If you want to know about me, just ask’. I immediately imagined what a life with him would be like, always having to ask him to do stuff, always having to drive the conversation. He’d be the sort of bloke who’d never know what restaurant to book and would ask you all the time what you wanted. Jesus man, if you were a peach it might be worth the effort. But you’re 58, overweight and bald. Who cares about you and what makes you tick?

Okay so that’s a bit brutal, even I’ll admit. And I digress; I didn’t set out to write a feminist rant (although hey, it’s so easy to find material). But isn’t it interesting, being female in the dating game later in life? I’d be enjoying the schadenfreude if the line-up of potentials weren’t so dismal.

I’ve had two dates so far – after all, I’m not a monster. I will give people a chance. Both the dates had looked okay in their photos, and I’d liked both of them more, once we’d exchanged a few messages. However both were also dead ducks.

One talked incessantly about himself – I can safely say we came away from the experience without him knowing a single, solitary thing about me – and the other was nice but too serious. It was like going out with a solemn, unsmiling headmaster. Plus he had kids under 10 years of age, which is a deal-breaker for me – been there, done that. Not my bag of frogs at all.

So I’m left wondering, should I compromise? Might the ugly ones be a better bet? A male friend told me yonks ago that he went out with ‘dodgy looking birds’ because ‘the ugly ones are more grateful’. I can sort of see where he’s coming from now. Might I get more change out of a minger? Should I punch down?

No. At the end of the day, I’m quite enjoying being shallow about this. I don’t care if I don’t meet someone, or end up with someone. Maybe I will care in ten years’ time when I need someone to come with me to my medical appointments, but right now I’m not bothered. So I’ll just wait and see what comes along. In the meantime I’m not planning on kissing any frogs. Not unless they’re 25, have a hot body, and all their own hair (not too much on the chest) and absolutely no interest in children. After all, isn’t that the dream?!