We’re all (not) going on a summer holiday

Aaaaand last Sunday’s column below. I honestly cannot recommend the BirdNET app enough. Although I can also clarify that it doesn’t work on foxes. I stood at my bedroom window the other night recording the blood-curdling screaming of a vixen, but the app wasn’t sure what sort of bird it was. The clue is probably in its name, tbf.


If you’re sick of puzzles and Uno, here’s a fun new lockdown game: pick a holiday spot in Europe, Tuscany or Majorca perhaps, and spend a few hours working out how you might travel there this summer. In my sister’s house we’ve devoted the past week to increasingly elaborate discussions about how to reach my father and step-mother’s place in Spain. Shall we drive? Take a ferry to Bilbao? Kayak across the Channel and tunnel through Normandy? Should we walk as if pilgrims heading for the Camino de Santiago, cloth sacks on our backs? Shall I get a bicep tattoo and pretend to be a lorry driver since they’re expected to be exempt from the 14 days’ quarantine? I suspect less planning went into the Hatton Garden heist and it all might be for naught anyway as who can tell where we’ll be by August? Certainly not Matt Hancock.

No need for gloom and despair, however, because I’ve come up with a few top tips for those of us who may be holidaying at home but want to pretend we’re sunbathing in the Algarve or eating souvlaki in Corfu. Why let a little thing like lockdown spoil the fun, eh?

1)    Morrisons announced this week that they’re opening ‘Speedy Shopping’ lanes outside their branches for those wanting to do a ‘quick basket shop’ which is perfect timing. Pack a wheely bag bursting with outfits to last you for six months, join the queue and shout ‘I’ve got speedy boarding!’ at anybody who looks at you with narrowed eyes.

2)    Get up extremely early to put a towel over one of the kitchen chairs. Do not let any other member of your family sit on that chair.

3)    Demand 93 croissants for breakfast and then ask ‘Anyone for a game of tennis?’ even if you don’t have a tennis court.

4)    Run a cold bath and spend 20 minutes gingerly lowering yourself in. Shout ‘it’s lovely once you’re in’ at everyone else downstairs.

5)    Buy 11 books and fail to read a single one.

6)    Turn off the internet router and watch the teenagers become increasingly agitated.

7)    Tell everyone that there will be a family outing one afternoon to a local site of historical interest. Ignore subsequent groaning. Spend half an hour marshalling everyone into the car, drive slowly and cautiously to somewhere very dull nearby – a big roundabout? The local sewage works? – and talk about it for at least an hour. When one of the children starts crying, shout ‘Who wants an ice cream?’ Fail to find any ice cream vans on the way home so small child is really quite close to hysteria by the time you pull into your drive. Say ‘that was nice, wasn’t it?’ unconvincingly to any family members still talking to you.

8)    Complain about the teabags.

9)    Pour sand into your own underwear.

10) Talk English very slowly and loudly to the newsagent when you pick up your copy of The Sunday Telegraph, even though you’ve known him for years and are, in fact, godparent to one of his children.

11) Rub a bottle of Ambre Solaire into your own eyes.

12) Visit the local chemist to buy something embarrassing and instead of explaining what you need, act out an unfortunate charade of symptoms as a queue of bewildered locals builds steadily behind you.


I’ve long suspected I was prematurely middle-aged because I like going to bed early and, even as a teenager, preferred Radio 4 to Radio 1. But this week I reached a new low by downloading a bird app. It’s called BirdNET and it’s essentially Shazam for birds – download it, record any twittering in the trees and you’re instantly told what it is with a link to Wikipedia so you can read more about said bird. Forget dating apps, this is all I need, so if you spot a wild-haired woman staggering through the Crystal Palace woods in the morning, holding her phone aloft as if she’s trying to get reception, do not approach her. That’s just me trying to record anything other than a parakeet or a wood pigeon.


Is one allowed to admit they’ve had a private coronavirus test now, then? Various friends have announced this in the past two months and I was scornful. Pay for a private test and leapfrog over the doctors? Why not buy a private ventilator why you’re at it? Plus, what private tests were worth having? But as Superdrug jumps on the bandwagon, offering a £69 version, there’s talk of a private test bonanza and I find my moral compass swinging back and forth like a Labrador’s tail. We’ve got to test as many people as possible to climb out of this thing, yet certain frontline workers are still waiting for theirs. Perhaps do it but don’t boast about your antibodies as if they went to Eton. Another class war frontier is the very last thing we need.