To all the lockdowns I could’ve known before

This series of short vignettes are re-imaginings of what lockdown could have looked like in my previous homes, in other times. They were inspired by an Instagram post I saw from writer and illustrator Mari Andrew. Although these are pretty personal paintings of my imagined experiences and feelings, I hope you enjoy them. The illustrations were done by my husband, Dwayne Blee.

The series was originally posted to my Instagram stories. At the end of the story there is a link to donate to Refuge, a charity supporting women living in settings of domestic abuse.

2008: Seymour Street, Liverpool

The two-bed flat in central Liverpool with my best friend, in which mornings bleed into afternoons as we watch reruns of The Hills, Sex and the City and J’s back-catalogue of Johnny Depp films. Each morning I pick the raisins out of my muesli while J scrapes peanut butter onto her toast. The smell makes me hungry even though I’ve just eaten, so I make us a coffee. It creates an existential limbo, making me fizz with the injustice of my paused degree and delayed move to Australia to live with D. We have 12-hour Skypes, with me in front of a clichéd curtain of fairy lights. In the evenings J and I drink Argentinian red wine and gin & tonic. I forever curse the walk back up the hill carrying the shopping back from Tesco.

2009: Norwood, Adelaide

The sharehouse with three guys and me. The old Victorian-style house is roomy, but the common areas lay quiet as we stay in our rooms listening to music under the aircon. At first we pass only in the kitchen. The other guys are usually always out, but we’ve got more time to hang out. We drag chairs into the yard and sit in the sun. The depth of our conversations brings a knot to my stomach which says, I wish we’d hung out more, sooner. The sun reminds me of iced coffee, a pavlovian response I’ve developed since living here. My mouth waters.

2010: Brooklyn Park, Adelaide

This apartment I share with D next to the airport quickly loses its window rattling quirk as  daily flights subside. What’s left are other quirks, like the blue kitchen with low cupboards, otherwise known as the playground for our resident mice. They eat the flour we managed to buy from the supermarket, putting a pin in our plans for cupcakes. We didn’t buy a TV when we moved in because of our plan to go back to the UK in a few months. We’re left to watch a short selection of DVDs on the laptop, like Wonderfalls and 2001: A Space Odyssey. In the twilight I stand at the front door waiting for the scent of the nearby tree to waft over. Despite adoring it, I never find out what kind of tree it is, and I’ll never be able to recall the scent.

2010: Riffel Road, London

The bedsit with a view of six wheelie bins outside our window. I regret moving here and wish this had all happened whilst we were still between jobs and living with my dad in Liverpool. A change of scenery means moving from the bed to the small table by the window. We play lots of Scrabble on the iPad. I pot up seeds for the window box whilst kneeling on the scratchy blue carpet that leaves indents in my shins. The black and white cat still comes to stand against the window, smudging its paws all over it. We long to escape, and live for our daily allowance of exercise in Gladstone Park. In time our jogs develop an increasing ease. We get back and find the boiler, shared between the six flats, has broken again. Another cold shower awaits.

2012: Osborne Road, London

There’s a calming quality to this flat. Probably something to do with the sunlight that streams through the bedroom window most of the day. I acknowledge the irony that I want to spend a lot of time sitting on my bed, given the fact that was the only option in my previous flat. It’s gratifying to finally live somewhere homely, with a separate living room that looks onto a garden. It’s a place where pots, pans and pillows no longer compete for space. We now cook in a room that isn’t also our bedroom. It’s a place where we know our neighbour (that’s Susie. She lives upstairs with her cat, Charlie). She knocks, croaking through the door to check she’s not being too loud (she never is). I ask if she’s still going to work at the hospital. She’s a nurse, but also elderly. I hope she’ll say no.