Absurdism in absurd times
By Ella Dorn, BA Chinese and Linguistics
I spent my otherwise peaceful, rural lockdown investigating the discography of German punk icon Nina Hagen. While her bout of technically skilled but incredibly weird records from the ‘70s to ‘90s have been all-but-forgotten by contemporary journalists, her music turned out to be the best possible accompaniment to the entirely random situation of Covid-19. Where else can you hear an operatic aria, an epic guitar solo and a bout of chicken noises on the same track (‘Naturtrane’), a cryptic interpretation of the Cold War with bonus circus music (‘Atomic Flash Deluxe’), a camped-up disco takedown of a Nazi-era hit (‘Zarah’), or an unwise commentary on the Gorbachev regime (‘Michail, Michail’)? The UK government was absurd in their early handling of the pandemic, but not as absurd as Hagen’s vocal range, instrumentation and songwriting. This was an oddly comforting thought.
Travelling beyond my room
By Agustina Villalba, IFCELS ICC
Listening to podcasts and reading books during lockdown has been a great way to travel metaphorically beyond the confines of my quarantine room and broaden my cultural horizons. I’ve particularly enjoyed the podcast, ‘Mythology’ by Parcast Network. Each episode is a dramatisation of a different myth, brought to life by great voice actors. Unlike other mythology podcasts, it doesn’t limit itself to classical mythology. Instead, it includes myths from all over the world.
I’ve spent countless quarantine afternoons curled up with a cup of tea and a good book. Out of these books, I really liked ‘The Gurkha and the Lord of Tuesday’, by Saad Hossain. It’s an inventive novella set in a futuristic Kathmandu ruled by Karma, an impartial intelligent computer. It’s a blend of science fiction with elements of traditional folklore. ‘The Fishermen’ by Chigozie Obioma also deserves a mention. It’s a gripping tragedy set in 1990s Nigeria which blends together descriptions of Igbo and Yoruba culture, political issues, and a family drama.
A short guide to staying in and staying well
By Katherine Brown, MA Chinese Studies
With another lockdown looming, it’s easy to get bogged down by the bleak reality. On days where focusing on work tasks can be difficult, it’s important to take time to do something for yourself. Whether it’s going for a walk or trying a new recipe, here are my top lockdown recommendations:
- Baking: ‘The Pastry Chef’s Guide’ by Ravneet Gill (@ravneeteats on Instagram) is one of my best lockdown purchases, and every recipe contains amazing secrets to success.
- Yoga: I visit Cat Meffan’s YouTube channel (@catmeffan) on a daily basis. Taking a 30 minute yoga break during the day benefits your overall wellbeing and helps reduce stress.
- Books: autobiographies help me feel connected with the outside world: ‘Becoming’ by Michelle Obama, ‘Things I Don’t Want To Know’ by Deborah Levy, ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover, ‘Step by Step’ by Simon Reeve, and ‘What If This Were Enough?’ by Heather Havrilesky.
Cooking through COVID
By Elizabeth Edwards, BA English
What got me through lockdown? Food. I filled my days with a beautifully comforting cycle of recipe research, cooking and the final gratification of sitting down to enjoy a meal with my family. I used the empty months as a way to take my time over everything, discovering the pleasure and sense of achievement that comes with creating something delicious for those you love. The most useful aid in this discovery was Ella Risbridger’s ‘Midnight Chicken (& Other Recipes Worth Living For)’, a recipe book so full of love and comfort that anything you decide to make from it will taste and feel like a hug. She writes in such a way as to make you read the whole book from cover to cover in one sitting, mesmerised by the story of how hope and courage may be found in the simplest of things; like bread, and vegetables and chicken.
In search of Fellini: re-discovering to dream again in the face of uncertainty
By Shanjida Ahmed, BA History
For many people in the UK and around the world, lockdown brought a lot of changes, uncertainty, stress, and even loneliness. During lockdown, I found myself seeking out routes of escapism from reality through the medium of books and movies. I particularly enjoyed ‘In Search of Fellini’, directed by Taron Lexton and released in 2017. This coming of age movie follows 20-year-old Lucy’s departure from her postcode area for the very first time and her adventure of meeting legendary Italian filmmaker, Federico Fellini. The movie explores the idea of dreaming big and self-discovery in a harsh world, all the while keeping an element of fantasy and innocence woven throughout the movie, and evoking a bit of travel bug in the audience. The movie helped me cope with demotivation and feelings of helplessness related to my present and future by re-inspiring me to dream big and list post-lockdown activities in order to stay motivated and not lose sight of my aims, or myself.