6 ways to create summer holiday vibes in your living room during lockdown

I recently applied for a role with a brand that I love. I went above and beyond in making myself stand out at the application stage and I’m pleased to say that my efforts didn’t go unnoticed. I was one of 13 people chosen to attend an interview – of over 1,100 applicants – and although I made it through to the second round of interviews; unfortunately, I wasn’t successful this time around.

One of my interview pre-tasks was to write a short blog post about ‘How to create summer holiday vibes in your living room during lockdown.’ The blog post had to be 300 words or less and as I was writing for the brand’s website, I had to keep in mind their aesthetic and tone of voice. I’d like to share my final version with you here:

It’s November; we’re eight months into a global pandemic, the nights are pulling in, and if you’re like us, you haven’t had a summer holiday since what feels like 1992.

There’s nothing better, or more awesome than travelling. While we can’t travel (without a negative coronavirus test) for the foreseeable future, we can pop a brightly coloured, stripy and sand resistant towel over our shoulder and head into the living room. That’s right; we’re here to tell you how to create summer holiday vibes in the comfort of your own home!

  1. Create your own cabana – it’s like fort building, but for adults. Use your favourite towels to turn your sofa into something that looks like it wouldn’t look out of place on a beach in Bali.

  2. Listen to our Summer Holi-stay playlist – we’ve created the ultimate playlist for you to jam out too. Dance like you’re in Ibiza or, like no-ones watching. Listen here.
  3. Put together a fruit platter – is there anything better than fresh fruit on a beach in 30°C heat? Fresh pineapple, coconut, watermelon. DROOL!
  4. Cocktail making – we can’t promise unlimited alcohol or  even a bar, but making your own cocktails can be fun! Margaritas anyone? And if you don’t drink alcohol, there’s always Fanta Lemon.

  5. Transport yourself with flavour – why not re-create a meal from your favourite holiday, or try cooking something new. All else fails, there’s always a takeaway!
  6. Watch the perfect sunset – on YouTube, that is. Transport yourself to anywhere in the world and watch some of the best sunsets, from your sofa/newly built cabana. Santorini, South Africa, Australia – the (virtual) world is your oyster!

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28 things to do at home during lockdown 2.0

When the UK Prime Minister announced over the weekend that England would enter a second nationwide lockdown later this week, a collective sigh could be heard across the UK. ‘Not again.’

The previous lockdown impacted everyone in some way, shape or form and mentally, it was tough on a lot of people. 

My friends and family are somewhat divided on whether or not they’re for or against this second lockdown, but regardless, it is happening. However, something that I have noticed to be different than the previous lockdown is the sense of community on social media. We’ve acknowledged that yes, we have done this before and that yes we are more prepared than the first time around, but that yes, it will be tough.

So, with the help of my Instagram community, I have put together a list of 28 things that you can do by yourself, as a couple or with your family over the next 28 days:

  1. Couch to 5K – this running plan for absolute beginners involves three runs a week and is a great way to get you outside and active. Remember: fresh air is so important!
  2. Scrapbooking – scrapbook your previous adventures or make an online photo book. Not only do you get to re-live some great memories, but you’ll have something you can look back at again and again.
  3. Upcycle furniture – set yourself a limit, for example, £10, and use your free time to turn an old piece of furniture into a masterpiece.
  4. Host a games night – it doesn’t have to be a quiz. You can host charades, bingo and even drinking games virtually.
  5. Bake beyond banana bread – I think we can all admit to baking banana bread at least once during the last lockdown. Why not try a new recipe this time around?
  6. Learn to play an instrument – one friend of mine learned how to play the ukulele last lockdown – using YouTube!
  7. Host a virtual wine/cheese tasting – my friends and I did this during the last lockdown, and I have to say it was one of my highlights – and I don’t drink alcohol! Our fabulous friend arranged for us all to receive a tasting box and became a connoisseur of all things wine and cheese for the evening. I tasted cheeses I’ve never heard of before and learnt the difference between old world and new world wines.
  8. Edit your home – watch The Home Edit on Netflix, and the rest is history.
  9. Host a Pizza making night Jus-Rol Pizza Dough Thin Crust with Tomato Sauce is currently on offer for $2 in Sainsbury’s. Arrange a night for you and your friends to virtually make pizzas together – and of course, enjoy them afterwards.
  10. Learn calligraphy – I did this during the last lockdown and found it so therapeutic.
  11. Learn a language – this is your chance to actually learn a language with the spare time that you have. There is a wide selection of apps and youtube channels to choose from.
  12. Make s’mores – bring the outdoors, inside and toast your marshmallows using your grill!
  13. Paint with numbers – it’s like what we did as kids, except way more intense!
  14. Secret Santa – re-named Lockdown Lovers by my friends and I, we used an online platform to randomly allocate everyone a name and gifted each other something that we would enjoy doing at home during the lockdown.
  15. Christmas shopping – wrapping, decorating and planning. 
  16. Learn a TikTok dance – or the tango?
  17. Visit the ‘spa’ – otherwise known as your living room. I’m talking a face mask, manicures, pedicures and a luxurious bubble bath.
  18. Massage Night – a fun date night could be learning and practising massage on each other. It’s fun (tick), it’s romantic (tick), you learn a new skill (tick), and you get a massage out of it (HUGE TICK).
  19. Macrame – make your own macrame rainbow or wall hanging.
  20. A night at the cinema – download a movie poster, create tickets and set up a little a concession stand.
  21. Watch the Marvel films in order – my boyfriend and I did this during the last lockdown, and I have to say, I loved it. Maybe I’ll convince him to watch all the Harry Potter movies in order this time around!
  22. Host a Netflix watching party – an app extension of the famous streaming platform is available to download, allowing you and your friends to watch the same movie, at the exact same time! While it does not support video chat, it does offer synchronised video playback and a chat box so that you can interact with those watching the movie.
  23.  Design your own doughnuts – that’s right, Doughnut Time are now delivering countrywide and have seven different DIY kits, including one vegan kit, for you to choose from.
  24. Make pasta – if you still have a ready supply of flour, it might be time to start making your own pasta from scratch.
  25. Draw portraits of one another – and share the results to social media because we will all need a laugh!
  26. Participate in a challenge – there are several challenges that you can get involved in; 30-day squat challenge, the pull-up challenge and the plank challenge, for example.
  27. Educate yourself on race – you may have posted a black square to your Instagram grid back in June, but do you know why you did it? And what have you done since? By reading, listening and watching, we’re coming to terms with our own privilege, sitting with our discomfort and our anger and our guilt, and using it to support black communities. We may not always get it right, and we certainly won’t ever properly understand how it feels. But what we can do is use this time is to listen, learn, and start our long-term strategy of anti-racism and non-optical solidarity and this time is the perfect opportunity. Here are the best books, podcasts and films to help educate yourself about race and anti-racism.
  28. Watch the Northern Lights – because we can still see the world from our living room. This webcam is set up to capture the Northern Lights under the aurora oval – one of the best places on the planets to see the stunning display.

Furlough or fur-low

It’s always been shit to lose your job, but to be made redundant via a zoom call scheduled 30 minutes prior, it feels even worse.

Like many, I’ve suffered at the hands of the coronavirus epidemic. I lost my dream job, one that took four interviews and a lot of hard work to achieve, within the space of 7 minutes and 30 seconds, the length of my redundancy call.

I can’t say that I wasn’t expecting it, I had been in my role less than one year and worked in one of the hardest-hit industries, travel and tourism. My employer, a small-group adventure travel company, was no exception to the impact of COVID-19 and had to make some difficult decisions to survive.

My redundancy call happened five days before the UK government announced their plans for a coronavirus job retention scheme. Unfortunately, my initial request to be furloughed was denied, however after three weeks and some divine intervention, I was placed on furlough and was so, up until August 31st.

So what’s it like to be furloughed? In short, not all that it’s cracked up to be.

I’ve never been without a job. At the age of 14, I had a paper round. Each morning before school, I would cycle around my neighbourhood, delivering news hot off the press. I worked weekends in retail up until the age of 17, when I got my first full-time job. Now, suddenly, and for the first time, I was without a job. In the time that it takes to load a dishwasher, I not only lost my job, but I lost my routine, my community and a bit of myself.

I knew keeping busy would help and so I threw myself into reinventing my CV. Within two days of being made redundant, I had a CV that I was proud to call my own. I then began the tedious task of looking for a job, but unfortunately, I wasn’t the only one. As the UK entered a full-scale lockdown, companies unsure of their future began to make large scale redundancies. The few companies that were recruiting started to receive hundreds of applications for just one role. The quality of applicants was high, and so employers could afford to be picky.

The new reality of staying home, with no set routine, and the radio silence that I was receiving from potential employers had a real impact on my mental health. I found myself waking up late, not wanting to get out of bed. I napped regularly, even though I wasn’t tired. It was just a way of passing the time. I was worried about money, how would I pay my bills? I hated not knowing what each day would bring, but I had no motivation to do anything. When I look back now, I know that I was depressed. I felt like a failure; I felt that there must have been something more or something better I could have done. In reality, there wasn’t. I wasn’t made redundant because of something I had done wrong. It wasn’t me or my work ethic. It was a virus.

At this time, my request for furlough status was denied. The hours turned into days and days turned into weeks. I had already completed an online course in digital marketing, and although I felt some sort of accomplishment at this, I needed something more structured. I reached out to my network of friends and family and asked if anyone knew of any jobs locally. Two weeks later, I had given up on the possibility of finding anything when I found a note under my door. My neighbour, manager of a local Sainsbury’s, let me know that he had an opening for an Online Assistant. Twelve hours a week, 2 am – 6 am. Although the hours were ungodly, I jumped at the chance of having a purpose – helping to feed the nation – as well as a routine.

To start, it wasn’t easy. Although I was only working four hours a day three days a week, (a stark contrast to 12 hours day, five days a week), it took a while for me to find a good work/life balance, let alone a manageable sleeping pattern. I persisted, and I found a routine that worked for me. Five months and approximately 40,000 items picked later; I’ve been offered a permanent, 16-hour contract at Sainsbury’s. To say that this job saved my life is a little dramatic, however, to an extent, it’s true. Sainsbury’s gave me a purpose when I didn’t have one, and for that, I’m so grateful.

I’ve seen many meme’s and posts on social media poking fun at those on furlough, and in theory, yes it sounds great. You get paid 80% of your wage to stay home, but people face other challenges, and it’s important that we, as friends and family members, recognise this and support those that we love.

If you’re struggling with your mental health, you’re not alone. Mind, the mental health charity is there to make sure no one has to face a mental health problem alone. If you need non-urgent information about mental health support and services that may be available to you, you can call their infoline on 0300 123 3393 or email info@mind.org.uk.