I’m a 45-year-old woman. Of course I can recite all the words to Dirty Dancing. Of course every time I buy a watermelon I walk home with “I carried a watermelon” running through my mind.
“Spread a fern frond over a man’s head and worldly cares are cast out and freedom and beauty and peace come in.” John Muir
On Tuesday, Exhibit A and I had a photo adventure in the woods. It was food for my soul. I’m lucky enough that he only lives a couple of miles from me so we’ve been able to see quite a bit of each other over the last few months, through doorstep drops of tasty treats and an occasional wander in a park. There’s been a couple of times where I’ve had a physical pang of missing him, when I wished we could be hanging out on my sofa rather than talking to each other from a garden gate, but on the whole apart from the lack of physical intimacy I don’t think lockdown has been too hard on us. On occasions I’ve probably felt closer to him than in before times.
But getting on a train and spending the afternoon wandering around the woods, taking photos of each other and idle chatting was a dose of ‘normal us’ coming back. Of course, while Liv is still on her current contract we have keep physically distanced so whereas as it would usually be back to mine after an afternoon out this time it was tea and wagon wheels on opposite ends of a big log and then me on the train and him in the car. But I woke up the next morning with the same contented feeling I do after one of our really great date nights.
This week has felt a world away from last week where it suddenly all just got too much and I cried for five hours one evening and then started again the next morning when I woke up. As well as mine and EA’s photo adventure, I was able to hang out with one of the other recipients of my daily photos (hallelujah!) and time has been spent in drizzly gardens and sunny woods with friends. Add to this the fact my hairdresser phoned to book me in for mid-July (almost deserving of another hallelujah!) and my Pilates studio is taking bookings for a few weeks’ time and it’s almost like my life is coming back to me. Things won’t be the same for a long time (if ever) but the things that are creeping in bring joy and hope.
“The filter on that photo is absolutely perfect, btw – looks like an early 20th-century shot of some French prostitute, who’s probably about six months away from dying of TB (but in a good way)” Exhibit A
I started my photo a day project as a way to stay connected to both my partner and to a new friend where I didn’t want lockdown to snuff out that glorious lustful new relationship energy. Then I looped American Chap into my daily missives because even though the chances of us ever being naked together again are wafer thin, our chats always put a smile on my face and his dick pics are hot as fuck.
And I’m so glad I embarked on this endeavour. There have been times where I’ve been a bit grumpy with it but overall it’s been a blast. I’ve had moments of inspiration and snapped an image in seconds, I’ve plotted out some far in advance, and sometimes I’ve wandered aimlessly round my flat trying to work out what the fuck to shoot! But every single one has been met with a positive response from at least one of the recipients. I’ve never been left hanging!
Sometimes one just hits the spot and I get enthusiastic guttural responses from all three. On other occasions I send one into the ether with a fairly good idea of who’ll react most enthusiastically. I don’t know what I expected to get out of it but what I’ve had is consistent creativity which has been energising and a reason for daily contact at a time when it could have been very easy to feel lonely and disconnected from both them and my sexual self.
One thing I’ve done is give away the decision on which of the week’s seven images becomes my Sinful Sunday image to each of them on a rotating basis and I’ve enjoyed guessing who’ll choose which image. This week should have been been Exhibit A’s choice but I decided to make the selection myself. I made it not for the photo but for his comment. I think it maybe my favourite response of the whole three months!
Today my weeks in lockdown reach double figures (I isolated a week early because I was sick). Like almost everybody my experience of time is warped. Things I did last weekend feel like a month ago yet ten weeks seems to have passed in a flash.
While so much of this entire chapter has been truly terrible and it makes me sad and very angry if I think too much about it, personally there have been parts of it I’ve enjoyed. I was chatting to a friend yesterday about my experience of lockdown and he replied: ‘You’re a survivor’. I think survivor is a too grandiose word, but I am very good at adapting and making the most of situations rather than letting them get the better of me. Of course, I haven’t sailed through it completing unscathed – I’ve had two separate days where I felt really sad and lonely and one evening I got myself unnecessarily upset about something I should know better than to dwell on and picked a petty argument. But largely my bubble has been a happy place.
Early on I decided to make food a hobby not just a function and trying new recipes and delivering treats to my neighbours and the friends who live close enough for a doorstep drop has brought hours of pleasure. I’ve loved exploring parts of my neighbourhood that I didn’t know existed, although when I sent my oldest friends a sound recording of birdsong in a wood one of them responded with: ‘Is this your emergency message, have you been kidnapped?’ I’ve had some epic clear outs indoors and in the garden, got through four and a half series of Mad Men, watched stage shows I’d never pay to see and enjoyed them. Still only on part two of my BSL course though!
Perhaps the most satisfying thing has been doing a forensic dive into my finances. I have always lived beyond my means and been too quick to put things on credit cards rather than say no. This situation has forced me to have some honest conversations with myself and the lack of anything to spend money on is a unique opportunity to pay off credit cards in four figure chunks not minimum monthly payments. I’m being explicit about this because one thing I’ve done is attend a seminar about women and finance and one of the key takeaways was women need to talk about money more. It’s one of the very few things we don’t talk to our friends about and we are literally and metaphorically poorer for it.
Related to money is work and that’s been the biggest success for me. At the beginning of this all our shoots and training sessions were abruptly pulled and we had no idea how we’d come through this. Two months on we’ve repurposed the business and it’s blooming. I hope soon it will also be booming! I’ve always loved my work but at the moment it feels new and exciting and the time and effort that we’re ploughing into it makes it feel like we’re just starting out again, but this time with the experience from chapter one to feed into it.
While lockdown has been good for me, I’m ready to come out of my bubble. I want to see my family and hug my friends. I want to go for a swim. I want a haircut and a pedicure. And I don’t want to be physically distanced from partners and lovers anymore. As I come out of the period of business and financial stock taking my libido is shaking off its dust. For a while my daily photos and the messages and photos I’d receive in return were enough. But not anymore. I want to kiss and fuck and cuddle. I want to have my hair pulled and my arse slapped. I want to breathe in the smell of necks and and run my fingers through chest hair. I’ve sorted business, finance, home and garden, I want the rest of my life back now.
I sent this photo with the caption: “I hope I get to wear fancy shoes and flash my cunt in real life before I lose my teeth.” That time will come and while lockdown celibacy may seem endless, I’m pretty confident I’ll still have my teeth when it does! But until that time I’ll just keep putting myself in the frame for my daily photos.
The photo that’s been chosen for today’s Sinful Sunday was photo number 51. I’d briefly toyed with stopping the daily photos at number 50, thinking maybe it was becoming boring for the recipients and because creativity can occasionally go frustratingly MIA when available locations are limited.
But when I woke on Thursday I realised I’d miss it if I stopped so later that day, while enjoying the afternoon light that bathes my room on sunny days, I snapped this shot and sent it with with the caption ‘51: afternoon light and lockdown bush!’ It’s been one of the most well-received photos of the series so I guess it’s a good job I carried on!
Today I left home planning to head to some woods where I think there maybe some bluebells. But for no reason I can explain I suddenly thought: ‘I want to go to a cemetery.’
I love cemeteries. I have no idea why. I first photographed one in 1995 when I was still at university and I’ve visited many in cities around the world since. They even have their own tag on my blog! Today I went to West Norwood, one of London’s Magnificent Seven. This is the fourth I’ve shot nudes in and, of course, I now need to visit the last three.
This is day 45 of my daily lockdown photo endeavour. The days where I resent it are increasing (it’s hard coming up with new ideas to shoot solo in a two bedroom flat!) but I also love it. It’s a little thing that keeps a red thread of creativity in my lockdown experience and I value the daily contact with the recipients. The photo I actually sent them earlier had a slight edit applied – a sepia tone that suited the vine-covered mausoleum. But this is the unedited version, straight out of the camera – complete with the shadow of my glasses on my cheek!