When a 1993 Take That cover featuring Lulu becomes a unified, desperate plea from the general public, you know you're in trouble.
I've been living in Manchester since the beginning of June. Changing cities is often challenging, not least in this day and age where a lot of what we do exists virtually. Jobs, communication, and a fair few hobbies require little more than a stable internet connection, which in turn dissuades a lot of the general public (read: me) from crossing the threshold into the outside world any more than they have to.
So, Manchester. Stockport, to be precise. A one-bed flat plus remote working three days a week equals not a whole lot of face time* with other real human people. Thus, one is required to generate one's own entertainment.
On Fridays, things 'at work' tend to wind down about an hour early because "that's just what everyone does really". Not one to question it, I play ball and use this time to plan my evening or weekend: a trip to the chippy, followed by two days of flat and life admin, grocery shopping, and a run somewhere in between.
Recently, though, I've been trying my best to surprise myself in the run-up to the weekend. I'll try to do a deep clean of the flat every couple of Saturdays, but have found myself 'spontaneously' doing half of the flat in the wind-down period on the Friday instead.
I say 'surprise myself'. What actually happens is this: well in advance of the weekend, I'll have decided that I'll do the flat in two stages as described above. However, I tell myself for the entire day on the Friday that I'm 'just going to have the night off, no cleaning required', and then BAM, I play myself... by doing exactly what I had decided I was going to do several days prior.
It's this ridiculous farce that has become part of my bi-weekly routine. In reality, no one wins anything from this internal exchange, and often it acts as a reminder to myself that I am, in actual fact, an utter loser**. Stop finding solace in this paradoxically regulated spontaneity and go find a hobby.
I, and I presume a fair few others from my cohort, stumbled blindly out of lockdown a shell of my former self. Gone were the university days of being invited to socials down the road at least once a week, of frequent rehearsals, of sharing a mutual hatred for that one module taught by that one lecturer who reminded everyone of the tortoise from Kung Fu Panda.
Looking back, the gradual relaxation of restrictions played a key part in murdering the tattered remains of my social life. If you didn't correct your mindset on a weekly basis to be more, you know, outside-y, then you got left behind whilst the rest of the world moved on. To this day, I wear a face mask on most public transport and in supermarkets (more out of habit than anything else).
One thing often said by the generation above me - and even alumni who were just a few years older - was that finding new people and making friends in your twenties can be an uphill battle. Losing the (admittedly brief) transition period between graduating and pretending to be a fully-functioning adult has undeniably made this process more challenging; my old uni social circle is far more geographically spread out than anticipated, for example.
This in turn means it's far more difficult to expand your social circles by infiltrating adjacent ones if that existing structure is no longer there. So, what, you expect me to go to some sort of club as a substitute for that? A club that finds a shared joy in a mutual pastime, like reading or badminton? How universities made Societies Fair in Freshers Week sound in any way appealing is beyond me.
Clubs it is, I suppose. And guess what? There's an app for that. Platforms like Meetup aggregate all (most) of the opportunities in your area into one handy list, which saves you having to trawl through Facebook groups or take poorly-made flyers from community noticeboards. Is it any good? Haven't the foggiest. But if I rock up to the next blog post carrying a jigsaw puzzle and speaking Flemish, then you'll know where I've been.
I spoke to someone the other day who said that they had an intense hatred for ladybirds.
"They're gross and creepy, I hate them."
"What if," I countered, "they were all voiced by Ben Whishaw?"
"Yes, that would be spot on-"
I find Ben Whishaw solves most probl-
"-so long as we're talking about his character from This Is Going To Hurt."
Ah. I guess Paddington was a bit of a long shot, then.
* Not to be confused with FaceTime.
** To be delivered like Greg Davies.