A Journal of the Plague Week 44

Monday, January 18th, 2021

Some bloggers I know (my husband included) have written about their typical days, so I thought I’d jump on that bandwagon and describe a regular day in the life of this particular freelance translator.

To be honest, my typical day during the pandemic looks very much like my typical day in the Before Times, which I know is a tremendous privilege. I’m not having to navigate job upheaval or loss, or having kids stuck at home, or having to worry about getting out to shop or do anything else. I worked from home on my own before the pandemic, and now I still work from home while Jeremy works in the other room. And this is how that goes:

8 to 9 a.m.: l like a lot of sleep, I am very much not a “morning person,” I hate waking up to an alarm clock, and I hate having to climb out of bed before I’m good and ready to. Luckily, I have managed to structure my life in such a way that I can pretty much get up whenever I want—one of the many perks of being self-employed and working from home. Jeremy sets an alarm for 8:30 but often gets up a bit earlier than that. Sometimes I get up at the same time, but sometimes I laze around for a while, or I roll over and actually doze off again (which I don’t really like doing because I inevitably have bizarre dreams and wake up for the second time feeling even groggier and more disoriented than the first). When I do finally drag myself out of bed, I shuffle to the living room/Jeremy’s office to say good morning to Jeremy at his “desk,” shuffle to the kitchen to put the portafilter in the espresso machine so it heats up, shuffle to the bathroom, and then shuffle to my home office and sit down at my desk.

9—9:30 a.m.: I wake up my computer and check my work email to get the lay of the land and see if anyone has sent anything requiring an urgent response. Then I check my personal mail, deleting any spam or promotional stuff I’m not interested in and scanning the news headlines. I might open Twitter and scan through that, too—before closing it again to prevent myself from getting pointlessly sucked in. But before really diving into anything, I make lattes and breakfast for Jeremy and me. Breakfast for the past few weeks has been toasted panettone, but before we became obsessed with panettone, we’d usually have regular toast, or maybe cereal, or yogurt with fruit. I leave Jeremy in his office and head back to my office with my food and coffee.

9:30—10 a.m.: If there’s a LearnedLeague season under way, I’ll open the day’s trivia questions and work through them over breakfast. Otherwise, I’ll read the news and whatever other sites/articles capture my attention. Once I’ve finished eating breakfast, I’ll get down to work. Sometimes I just have one long thing to work on—like a book—but sometimes I’ll have to respond to emails from clients, prioritize a variety of shorter translations, send invoices, etc. I find it almost impossible to work without an internet connection, and I always have at least two browser windows open with multiple tabs in each of them. One is my “work” window, with tabs for the online dictionaries I use most often, a Google search tab, and usually various tabs with sites relevant to whatever topic I happen to be working on at the moment. The other window is my “catch-all” with completely random stuff: articles I haven’t yet read, videos I haven’t yet watched, exercise guides I haven’t been following, the New York Times Spelling Bee puzzle, etc. I dip into my catch-all window whenever my attention for work starts to wander. This isn’t always a good thing.

1 p.m.: Lunchtime! In the Before Times I would eat lunch alone, usually at my desk (terrible, I know), but now that Jeremy’s working from home, too, we have lunch together at the dining room table, or out in the garden in the summer. Lunch may be leftovers from dinner the night before (soup, stew), but more often it’s ramen-type noodles or a toasted sandwich (tuna melt or ham and cheese), or something salad-y when the weather’s warmer (tuna and white beans, Greek salad). I usually quiz Jeremy on LearnedLeague questions over lunch (we are SUCH nerds). We’ve been making a point of trying to go out for a walk every day unless it’s pouring rain, and the walks usually happen right after lunch. We used to head up the hill to the racecourse, but it’s been so muddy lately that we’ve gone down the road to the park instead, where we do a circuit and watch the good doggos running around. Then we head back home, make a cup a tea if we didn’t have one with lunch, and retreat to our respective offices for the afternoon.

3 p.m.: The Dead Zone, when my concentration often flags and I have to make a real effort to stop randomly surfing around the internet and focus on work instead.

5 p.m.: Work winds down and I start to enter “evening mode”. I might pick up my fiddle and mess around on it a bit, and Jeremy will sometimes come in with his mandolin or I’ll join him in the living room to play a few tunes together. If it’s a ballet night, I’ll prep our dinner—usually something straightforward like soup or pasta—so we can just heat it up after class is over. Otherwise, I’ll start cooking in earnest, maybe with a cocktail in hand (G&T or Negroni). I love to cook, so even our weeknight dinners tend to be on the more elaborate end of the scale, with a variety of dishes that take a while to prepare. I count this as downtime because, for the most part, I really enjoy the work of creating delicious food.

7 p.m. on a Tuesday or Thursday: Jeremy retreats to the living room, while I put on my leotard and tights, drag my portable ballet barre, mirror and yoga mat into the kitchen, and do a ballet class over Zoom from 7 to 8:30. Class will sometimes involve costume changes, because I will not pass up the chance to wear a tutu whenever the opportunity arises. Afterwards, I’ll clear my stuff from the kitchen and we’ll eat a late dinner in front of the TV.

7 p.m. on a Monday/WednesdayFriday: This is around the time we’d usually have dinner on a non-ballet-night. Dinner is often the highlight of the day, and we give it due ceremony. Jeremy sets the dining room table, we switch on the “cozy light” (a little yellow tabletop globe light I got from Habitat years and years ago which takes the place of a candle), I bring out the food (often served “family style” rather than just piled on the plate), we “cheers” each other, usually with wine, and then we tuck in. Depending on what we’re having, dinner can stretch on a long time.

9 p.m.: After dinner, Jeremy cleans up the kitchen and makes tea while I settle in on the sofa. And that’s were we spend our evenings, often nibbling on a bit of dark chocolate or a Digestive while we drink our tea and watch streaming TV. If it’s a Monday, we catch up on University Challenge. Otherwise, we might watch a movie or episodes of whatever series we’re currently into. Over the winter, this has been my knitting time as well.

11-12: I usually head to bed sometime around midnight. A few years ago I bought a normal bedside clock in an attempt to ban my phone from the bedroom, but I go through long phases of regularly doing the New York Times crossword online, and when I’m in one of those phases (like I am now), the phone comes into the room after all—but only for the crossword app, not for social media or anything else. If it’s a Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday I can usually finish the crossword in good time and then read until I get sleepy, but from Thursday onwards I often have to just abandon the crossword at some point and pick up my book or Kindle instead. I’ll read until I realize I’m falling asleep with the book still in my hands, and then it’s time to turn out the light, roll over, and sleep. Tomorrow is another day.

Even in the Before Times, I could go for days on end without leaving the house. But in my memory, those past times seem filled with outside activity: trips into town—on foot or by bus—to have coffee or lunch with friends, or meet Jeremy for lunch, or go shopping, or go to appointments, or go to ballet class. And that’s not even taking into account all the traveling we did, the times when we weren’t here at all, when the little flat that has been our safe haven and sole living environment for almost a year now would stand empty for weeks on end as we gallivanted around elsewhere.

For the most part, I’ve settled into our quiet, stationary pandemic life, with its grocery deliveries and walks to the park and no other human interaction or changes of scene. I try to imagine a time when this is all over and we can do whatever we want, go wherever we fancy, and sometimes it kind of stresses me out. I wonder how I’ll find the energy to regularly interact with people, how I’ll cope with being jostled in a crowded place, how I’ll get back into the swing of navigating train stations and airports, how I’ll feel when life expands beyond these four walls again and I no longer really have a “typical day”. But it’s not something I have to worry about anytime soon.

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