Letters from Lockdown: On the changing nature of intimacy during a pandemic

I guess this is a new kind of newsletter that I'm doing now

Hi all,

It was lovely and kind of painful to see the retweets of Robyn Vinter’s tweet, asking for us to share the last picture from our normal lives. I honestly thought mine was from late March, but it can’t have been, as lockdown began on 23rd March, and I was becoming a bit anti-social before then.

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Here’s a picture of The Sunday Times’s front page from that day (no, I wasn’t in a ransom video that day, I had a thing in it).

My last normal picture on my phone camera roll was from… 8th March. And now it’s 21st May.

I was at The Standard Hotel in King’s Cross to help set up for my friend’s baby shower - she now has twin boys, born on 23rd April. They’re nearly a month old now!! I sent a selfie to a couple of friends who were running late… and here it is.

8th March. How has it been so long since I’ve been in the company of more than one friend (I do have a flatmate).

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There’s a sweet intimacy to the pictures shared in response to that tweet. So many of them are fairly mundane, a meal or meet-up with friends, events we wouldn’t have taken pictures of maybe 15 years ago because we didn’t have Insta Stories or Snapchat or decent cameras on our phones.

Lockdown has forced us to stay at home and become comfortable with an even higher level of intimacy with the internet and strangers than we usually give to social media. As a freelancer, I’m not at home this much, and I’ve never, ever had to make this many video calls.

Let us take a moment to think of the famous and the heads of the talking variety, who have no choice but to show off the insides of their homes if they want to keep on being heard during the lockdown.

I wrote about the background and bookshelf judgements of Twitter accounts Room Rater and Bookcase Credibility for Prospect. These two accounts absolutely captured the spirit of the moment, and laid bare our joy at peering through the keyhole and finding out a bit more about what lies behind the persona we see on screens. That is not the briefcase I expected from Hannah Gadsby, but I love it.

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Bookcase Credibility’s bio is simply “What you say is not as important as the bookcase behind you.” When screen stars are reduced to appearing on the same platforms that we’ve all been using to keep in touch and get work done, how do they differentiate themselves from the masses? They show off their knowledge, symbolised by the books, of course. What fun it’s been to see inside properties that probably have more than the three rooms I’ve been ping-ponging between!*

A happy, happy birthday to this wonderful woman! Without Parul, London Writers’ Salon wouldn’t exist.

I’m so grateful to have Parul as a partner to work on this labour of love with. I certainly wouldn’t have stuck with it on my own without her. Thanks for making it fun and rewarding.

Here’s to another year!

And here’s to all the partners and collaborators who’ve helped shaped you, your projects, and your career. -Matt
March 28, 2020

From owning books to writing books: the latest podcast episode is all about the latter, a I interview book editor and co-founder of The London Writers’ Salon, Parul Bavishi. Parul and the co-founder of the salon, Matt Trinetti, are used to putting on live events with authors and publishers at venues like Clean Prose, The Allbright and The Conduit. Since the lockdown, they’ve come up with innovative ways to bring the writing community online, and help those struggling for inspiration.

I joined the The Writers’ Hour Zoom calls every morning for a week, and it helped me with a breakthrough in my own work. Parul, who has worked at Random House and Quercus, joins me on Freelance Pod to talk about the incredible feedback that writers have given her about the Hour; the two hard questions everyone with a book idea must ask themselves; and how publishing has changed in the digital age. Oh, and she was one of the first people to see The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo translated into English.

A great conversation, with loads of advice for aspiring authors!

Pod me up, buttercup

Links links links

  • I think I’ve found all the Easter eggs in the Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt interactive special, have you? Have you stumbled upon the secret ghostly Tina Fey scene above?! If not, this and this will help (warning: spoilers). Did you think that the special was a fitting ending to the series?

  • If the very welcome return of Screen / Newswipe as Charlie Brooker’s Antiviral Wipe made you miss good satire, here’s a brilliant deep-dive into The Thick of It, which first hit our screens 15 years ago, so somewhere between March and April 2020 then?

  • I’ve been listening to Vulture’s Good One: A Podcast About Jokes

  • Clean Prose, London’s first co-working space for writers, is sadly closing, but their Instagram is a great example of saying goodbye well - I only visited a few times, but got so much from the sense of community there. Will miss this space and community <3

  • Stunning writing from The New Yorker’s Lauren Collins on losing her father to leukaemia during the pandemic. This paragraph is heartbreaking:

    Soon, though, it became clear that my father’s condition was deteriorating. The doctors could see it in his blood-cell counts, but I understood that he was dying when, one afternoon, my kids demanded that he do the Funky Chicken, as he often did for them on FaceTime. After a knockout performance—elbows flapping, knees knocking, bent low enough that he could reach down and slap the floor—he collapsed back into his deck chair, and said that he needed to sleep.

  • Katie Hawkins-Gaar writing about turning 35 in her newsletter, My Sweet Dumb Brain, really spoke to me:

    Next, I planned to write about how, really, I am blessed to get another year older. There’s a part of me that will always compare my age to how old Jamie was when he died. I’ve experienced and accomplished a lot with my extra three years on earth, and I wanted to reflect on that fact. Then my dog Henry died, and that idea didn’t feel quite right either.

  • Really enjoyed this interview with social media attorney Ethan Wall, by Jillian Anthony, for her newsletter Cruel Summer Book Club:

    I was really emotionless in a way. I experience mental health issues just like everybody else. Mine is really having narcissistic tendencies. I’ve always been incredibly independent and competitive, and as a result of that I had a very inflated ego, and that carried on in life and in relationships. I really craved achievement, and as part of that my social media was also like, hey, look at all the wonderful things in my life. People would tell me that I was always on or I was putting on a show and I’d feel so insulted by that. The reason was I was disconnected with my emotions.

  • Stanley Tucci is having the best of all quarantines

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What else I’ve been up to

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A gorgeous testimonial for Freelance Pod *heart emoji*

That’s all from me, take care, and hope we all get to wholeheartedly enjoy some freedom soon! x

*I’m including the kitchen but not the bathroom