Quarantine Diaries with Helen Tunnicliffe

Helen Tunnicliffe shares her life under lockdown in the UK. Helen started last month as the Deputy Editor on Tank Storage Magazine.

What are your top tips for staying home?

I live by myself and a long way from family and close friends, so the last couple of months have been pretty lonely. For me, the most important thing has been always making sure that I have something to look forward to – whether that’s a phone call with a close friend, a video call with my two-year-old niece, a Zoom party, the Thursday night pub quiz, a long, planned out hike or bike ride, or just cooking something fancy for my tea. I even had a solo barbecue a couple of weekends ago!

As for working, I’ve been strict about keeping to a routine and making sure I get out for some fresh air every lunchtime. I also bought a bird feeder to stick on the window that my desk (dining table!) faces. It’s nice seeing the birds, they’re the closest thing I’ve got to company!

How are you helping the community?

Mostly just by staying away from people! I’ve swapped numbers with a few neighbours in case anybody needs help, but nobody has asked yet.

Are you doing any exercise?

I’ve always done a lot of walking so that has continued. I live on the edge of Oxford, really close to some pretty countryside, and armed with an OS 1:25000 map I’ve explored a lot! When I moved to Oxford, I retrieved my 24-year-old, unused mountain bike from my brother’s shed where it has been languishing, so I could start cycling to work. Since the lockdown, I have begun to cycle solely for pleasure again, all around the country lanes near me. It’s made me wonder why I ever stopped! My friend Jo is a yoga teacher and she has bullied me and a couple of other mutual friends into doing a session with her once a week. I’m rubbish! It’s good fun though.

What have you been baking?

I’m sorry to admit that I jumped on the sourdough bandwagon. It started just before Easter. I make hot cross buns every year, but I couldn’t get yeast for love nor money and I didn’t want to miss out on making my home-made buns, so, sourdough it was! My sourdough is called Dawn (can you work out why? I was told they have to have names so I tried to be clever…), and I now make bread regularly and have started to experiment with other things like pikelets. I’ve been treating myself to biscuits too, some cakes, pies, quiches… I bake quite a lot!

What are you currently watching?

I just discovered Vienna Blood on iPlayer, which was filmed on location in Vienna where I used to live, and it’s been fun spotting the places I know! Also What We Do in the Shadows, one of my favourite comedies, has just started again on BBC2. I enjoyed Van Der Valk that was on recently, and The Mash Report, though the series was over too soon I think! I love cookery programmes, so I enjoyed Great British Menu that just finished. In fact I’m enjoying a lot of cookery programmes, especially travel-related ones, in lieu of actually being able to travel.
 

What are you reading?

I read prolifically and my flat is full of books. I’d love to tell you that those books are all spectacularly intelligent. Actually, I can’t be bothered with anything remotely challenging, especially at the moment, when a lot of things feel like an effort. Lately, I’ve been taking refuge in comforting old favourites, like Agatha Christie, Jill Mansell, and even some of my childhood pony stories! I re-read the big, classic series every few years, and I think Lord of the Rings might be due soon. I’ve asked for the new Ransom Riggs book for my birthday though!

What are you most looking forward to?

I am most looking forward to just seeing my family and friends, and having actual physical human contact! I never knew it was possible to miss a simple hug so much. I’m also looking forward to being able to go away. So far, a long weekend in Vienna (where I used to live) to see my friends, Easter with my family, a bank holiday trip to Devon to see my Dad, my summer holiday in France, Glastonbury Festival and my cousin’s wedding have all been cancelled or postponed because of COVID-19. Next up is a seaside camping trip with friends in August. Here’s hoping lockdown has been lifted by then!

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