They’re curious old things, lockdowns. The first one, in particular, was high-impact. Very disorienting. Nothing made sense at first. All energy was diverted into vaguely getting used to the word and then the concept. Lockdown.
Like everyone, I was just getting on with things. I was about to film a TV show. Acting opposite the great Daisy May Cooper (This Country), it was a big gig for me. A six-week shoot. Well, we did that for a day and then we had to go home. It got put on ice for, well, 11 months so far. There followed a period of walking around the flat and phoning various adults who confirmed it was actually happening: the world was stopping.
There was now a chance to write, but how do you write when your brain is busy processing the lockdown? In the end, there was nothing else for it, and since last March I’ve written only about lockdown. It’s either a smart way of processing what’s happening in the universe, or a terrible idea that will turn me into a husk, unable to operate in the outside world once the keys jangle and we finally unlock. You pays your money, you takes your choice.
After three months of scribbling I noticed there was quite a lot of it and I sent it to my medium-term collaborator, artist and bookbinder Emily Juniper. Addled by her own (Cornish) lockdown, she reacted favourably to the material and turned it into something that looked beautiful on the page. And so, for the rest of last year, our “thing” was to make a book.
I guess, when I look through it, I was writing about lockdown, rather than the terrible virus itself. Maybe there’s more humour to be found there. There’s not a ton of stuff about Covid-19, which feels more of a stretch to have a giggle with. I went in circles, as most of us did, and so did the book. It’s repetitive, it’s mundane, it just goes on and on. Romance gets touched upon a lot. There’s a love story at the heart of the book and several love poems, often bittersweet. In the book, the character very loosely based on me writes a love poem and gives it to a girl in the dying embers of lockdown one. I guess that’s the beauty of semi-autobiographical literature, you can make the guy do stuff you’d never have the courage to do in real life.
Meanwhile I wait, I write. I dream of the cameras rolling. Of asking Daisy how her lockdown was. Her one looked fun from where I was sat …
Two poems by Tim Key
Like most instalments of the first lockdown, innocuous elements of British life suddenly had a light shone on them for a brief moment. I was as pumped as anyone when the garden centres reopened. I must also have been preoccupied with the idea of any human contact whatsoever at the time, so this romantic piece emerged:
I went up the garden centre.Finally!I bought a cactus and some mint thingsand asked the cashier out.After work, we went up the park.I couldn’t kiss her because my tongue wasless than two metres long.Also, she kept pointing at all the treesand saying what make they were, and a chopperbuzzed above us and a chap with a loud hailerkept yelling at us, saying we weren’t essential, and also mean stuff about my goatee.
and also mean stuff about my goatee.
I think this next poem is relatable. The idea of people being separated by this unexpected situation, like people being pulled away from one another in a war from a century ago, was an absolute reality for a lot of people. This grubby vignette is an unfortunate take on it:
Two lovers, exiled from one another.They started doing the same things at alltimes.He would post her a bagel for breakfastand they would eat “together”.For lunch they would cook linguine,slinging it into the pan at twelve forty-five onthe dot.They’d run at five and stop in front oftheir respective oak trees, and in the eveningthey’d start their movie at the exact same timeand watch it with the same red wine inmatching glasses, and it was beautiful.At night they screwed their respective flatmates, and all four had a WhatsApp group
and it was an absolute disgrace.
flatmates, and all four had a WhatsApp group
He Used Thought As a Wife is available on 18 Feb from timkey.co.uk