The Handbook
The Handbook

How’s isolation going? Have you got to the point where you come down in the morning hoping to meet Man Friday sitting at the breakfast bar? Have you learnt all the E-numbers in a pack of Smarties? Have you decided to go all Steve Jobs and learn to code so you can fulfil your life’s calling and write a billion dollar computer program? ‘It’s like MS Paint meets Goldeneye’. Only to discover that coding is even more boring than staring at the sparrows on someone else’s balcony? Which you then do for the next three days.

If this is you, we’ve re-watched all the best isolation movies and distilled their advice into seven pithy (coz we’re on a deadline and/or lazy) take-homes….

127 Hours: However bad it gets, you’ve still not gotten to the point where you want to cut off your own arm…

Yeah, isolation sucks. You live in a basement flat which catches the sun for approx 24 minutes every morning before plunging you back into darkness and the sound of everyone else’s sewage pipes for the following 23 hours and 36 minutes, that is until the next window of heaven-sent sunbeams hit.

But have you thought of cutting off your own arm? Possibly not. Isolation movie 127 Hours tells the grisly story of Aron Ralston, retelling at length that anecdote where he got stuck with his arm under a boulder for (spoiler alert) 127 hours before deciding to CHOP IT OFF. Actually chop it off.

Full disclosure, I’ve not watched it, I’m seriously squeamish, but I can guarantee you I’m not going to be drone-followed by Derbyshire Police in the Peak District any time soon…

The Martian: Perhaps you could grow cress on your flannel?

My 1990s prep school was basically set in about the ’50s; corporal punishment, cold showers and abusive geography teachers galore (okay, not the last bit, Mr Groves was just misunderstood), but one thing we all did was supplement our laughable daily intake of actual vitamins with cress, harvested from our own school-issue flannels.

Which is a tip we all picked up from The Martian, although it wouldn’t be released for another 25 years. In it Matt you’ll-always-find-him-in-the-kitchen-at-parties Damon plays an astronaut stranded on Mars, applying all his botany skills to survive after an explosive dust storm.

That’s all that happens.

Oh, and the cress.

The Shining: Put the axe away

How’s your productivity? Started on that book yet? Gotten snowed into that Colorado hotel yet? If you’ve not seen the word RERUM in the mirror, maybe it’s time to hide the axe from your partner while you can.

Just an idea.

The last thing you want to discover is ghosts, telepathy and stark raving madness as you WFH. But just in case, ditch the axe. You can keep the bread knife, that might come in handy.

Amélie: Maybe you should add an e-acute to your name?

Let’s not beat around the bush: being called just plain old ‘Charlotte’ is pretty boring. No offence, but it’s no Ottilie or Henrietta, is it? It’s just plain old Charlotte. But not any more…

Sure, you’ve watched the whimsical film about Amélie, the Montmatre waitress (she’d totally be on furlough right now). You could’ve taken away a new passion for collecting discarded passport photos, a desire to learn a foreign language, albeit French, or to track down former residents of your flat, but instead you’re going to stick with the film’s main theme. And add an e-aute to your name.

Bonjour Charlotté…

Castaway – Trade in your partner for a volley ball. You won’t regret it

Tom Hanks in Castaway has many lessons to teach us, run if your dentist brandishes an ice skate, don’t fly, like ever, and Helen Hunt you should’ve absolutely waited.

Add to that, that if this self-isolation malarky is starting to grate and your girlfriend, husband or partner isn’t exactly giving you the support you need, then there’s an alternative. Wilson…

It’s a travesty that Wilson didn’t receive an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, but he nevertheless showed how affectionate, attractive and downright sexy a volleyball might be in the place of your actual lover right now…

Shawshank Redemption: Does burrowing into the London sewer system count as daily exercise?

It feels like Boris left a gaping loophole when he laid down the lockdown guidelines. Sure, you can’t go waltzing up Ben Nevis if you happen to live in Walthamstow, but can you descend into the sewers like a latter-day Teenage Mutant Ninja Marketing Manager? Well, sort of maybe…

Shawshank Redemption, one of the best prison films ever made, and the film I watched pretty much every single weekend at school between the ages of 13 and 18, tells the tale of wrongly imprisoned Andy (Tim Robbins), admirably side-kicked by Morgan Freeman; who long-story-short eventually escapes jail by tunnelling out of the prison sewer system.

Which kinda gets you thinking. What’s under that manhole cover in the back yard? Could you discover a fatberg?

Gravity: Apply the rule that in space no one can hear you dry cough

2013 film Gravity tracks Sandra Bullock and George Clooney as they career through space as astronauts cast adrift after their shuttle disintegrates.

A bit like how your job and pre-coronavirus social life hit space debis and fell entirely apart leaving you sat at your kitchen table reading this nonsense rather than getting on with replying to emails, updating your spreadsheet or looking up amusing coronavirus articles. Like this one.

The great thing about being in isolation at least is that nobody can hear you coughing. The accusatory stares when you clear your throat in public are just too much, but how about if you don an astronaut suit and wander round Morrison’s wearing that.

In space(suit) no one can hear you dry cough…


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