The One Thing

What’s the one thing that’s helped you through lockdown? Now that we’re on our third run at it we decided to ask a few of our friends just what it is that keeps them going. Rather impressively, most people struggled to stick to just one:

Allie Esiri, poetry curator

The One Thing (that has helped me) has been inhaling classic works of fiction that I’ve never read before and that aren’t too dauntingly long.  My top three recent reads are utterly unlike each other, but all brilliant: James Baldwin’s “If Beale Street Could Talk”, Neil Shute’s “A Town called Alice” and Alison Lurie’s “Foreign Affairs”. And for nights when my concentration span can only take on a poem, I am finding Vladimir Nabokov’s “Collected Poems” a perhaps unsurprisingly astonishing companion.

Otegha Uwagba, author and speaker

Choco Leibniz biscuits. I’ve been mainlining them throughout the pandemic and such is my love for them that the company who manufactures them actually stumbled across my tweets about them and sent me an entire boxful – so I suppose this inclusion should really have a #gifted disclosure appended to it.

Alexandra Shulman, former editor of British Vogue

Just before the second lockdown I invested in a wood burning stove in the place of an open fire. It’s been worth every penny.  It’s been lovely to have it burning throughout these gloomy lockdown days without worrying if a log is going to fall out and set fire to the house and having to feed it far less often.  Sitting on the floor beside it with a good book makes lockdown almost bearable.

I’ve also begun listening to Chris Country the country music station as an alternative to 24/7 news. The familiar country tropes of barstool nights and open road days, with all the romance and heartbreak involved has been a great antidote to the gloomy newsfeed.



Francesca Martin, co-founder of A Little Bird 

It’s a lockdown cliché  but I invested in a new pair of Nike running shoes and started to run for 50 minutes every other day.  I had run on and off for years but never consistently.  At first I felt a few aches in my body but as the weeks went by and I watched the seasons pass from winter into spring, I grew to love it.  The feeling of lacing up my shoes, putting my airpods in my ears and literally running away from any tensions or problems as I felt my mind calm, was exhilarating.  A great side-effect was to counter-balance the large amount of chocolate I was consuming too.

Annabel Dover, artist and illustrator

I mostly work from home, often in bed. I’m an introvert so in some ways self-isolation is a state I’m familiar with. I used to live on a small sailing boat on my own and as long as I feel the natural world is nearby I feel ok. I’m at home with my two year old boy Larry and my husband Alex.

The things I’ve enjoyed have been weeding and being in the garden, collecting wildflower seeds, cooking and sending people paintings, cards and packages through the post. I’ve also enjoyed not wearing makeup and not brushing my hair.

When I feel depressed I try to experience nature even though I live in town: the autumn leaves printed on the road, the egret on the river, frost patterns on the weeds in the pavement, spiders webs on the traffic lights.

A few ideas I would share are that the New Yorker short story podcasts are free and brilliant and there’s even a brief analysis afterwards that’s like a relaxing book club where you don’t have to volunteer any opinions and receive intellectual insights. They’re often about half an hour too, so a good length of time if you want to listen in the bath. And have a poetry book by the loo, then you can really quickly read a poem. I like anything by Carol Ann Duffy because she’s so funny. Watch films you love as often as possible-studies suggest watching films has an antidepressant effect – BFI is cheap and brilliant.

Kiki Morris, yoga teacher and founder of Primrose Hill Yoga 

Our family walks on Primrose Hill are definitely the “One Thing” that have helped us get through the last lockdowns. Now these walks have been made even better since our gorgeous friend, Sarine Saba, opened Reenie’s Ice Cream Bar. 10 months ago, Sarine was an actress rehearsing the part of her life at the Royal Court Theatre. Since our theatres are closed, she made a leap of faith and on New Year’s Day opened an ice cream parlour in the little shop below her flat, inspired by 1950s American Soda Shops. Her mission is to spread joy to the neighbourhood and it’s perfect timing as we enter another lockdown and homeschooling phase. Now we can take an ice cream or hot chocolate on our daily walk up the hill and it’s without a doubt helping us stay happy and connected.

Charlie Porter, founder of Tat London

I’ve got a few saviours: Gails Coffee, Hyde Park & Santa Maria Novella Bath Salts.

My boyfriend and I take a walk every morning to try and get out 10,000 steps done. We’re not ‘fit people’ but otherwise you do end up going a little mad. One thing that helps me get out of bed is the knowledge that I can get a Gails coffee on the way. That first sip of coffee never fails to bring me a little happiness.

Hyde park, I’ve always loved it – especially the Italian Gardens. Although it’s not looking it’s best at the moment, it still gives me a jolt of happiness seeing the swans on the pond take off. That and I love dogs. I don’t have a dog, and it’s perfect for perving on other peoples dogs.

Santa Maria Novella bath salts are magic. The smell doesn’t only stay on you for hours but it fills up your home. As a person with a keen sense of smell (brag), this is a bit of a game changer for me.

Luke Edward Hall, artist and designer

I have to say that the previous lockdowns were made so much more enjoyable because of the flowers we grew. In particular, I loved growing sweet peas because the more you pick, the more they grow, meaning we had a constant supply over the summer. I love Chiltern Seeds and bought quite a few packs of seeds from them last year.

Daisy Allsup, editor of A Little Bird

Despite growing up in West London I had never set foot in Brompton Cemetery before the first lockdown. It became my daily oasis; less crowded than the parks, and with a weirdly comforting ambience. I would take a circular route along the east wall where cow parsley came and went, and back up the central avenue with it’s magnificent lime trees that burst into hopeful leaf. For a time it even became the Friday evening meeting place for me and my (socially distanced) parents who might bring along a flask of negroni to toast the end of the week. Having the same walk you do regularly is something I have got into, the repetition is so comforting.

Annie Reid, founder of Lucky Finds and contributor to A Little Bird

Becoming more spiritual has helped to reframe my thinking. Change the things we can change; and leave the ones we cannot. I have crystals, meditation apps and magazine subscriptions to keep me on track. The giant (46cm) Alessi parmesan grater can’t be overlooked though.

Rosi de Ruig, lampshade designer

Two things immediately spring to mind – my insanely gorgeous dog Peggy. Taking her for walks however long or short has been a complete lifeline for me.

Secondly making VERY chocolatey things. I very sadly lost my mother just before Christmas, and a favourite has been making this recipe. Here it is, Mum’s Chocolate Olive Oil Cake:

150ml regular olive oil, plus little for greasing tin
50g good quality cocoa powder
125 ml boiling water
2 tsp vanilla extract
150g Ground almonds or 125g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
Pinch salt
200g caster sugar
3 large organic eggs

1x 22cm or 23cm springform cake tin

Preheat oven to 170C/gas mark 3.   Grease tin with little olive oil and line base with baking parchment.

Sift cocoa powder into bowl or jug and whisk in boiling water until you have smooth, still runny paste.

Whisk in vanilla extract then set aside to cool a little.In another smallish bowl combine ground almonds (or flour) with bicarbonate of soda and pinch of salt.

Put sugar, olive oil and eggs into bowl of freestanding mixer with paddle attachment and beat together vigorously for about 3 minutes until you have a pale-primrose, aerated and thickened cream.
Turn speed down a little and pour in cocoa mixture, beating as you go, and when all is scraped in you can slowly tip in ground almond (or flour) mixture.

Scrape down and stir little with spatula, then pour dark liquid batter into prepared tin.   Bake for 40-45 mins (sometimes a bit longer – M) or until sides are set and centre, on top, looks slightly damp.   A cake tester should come up mainly clean.

Let cake cool for 10 mins on wire rack, still in its tin, and then ease the sides of cake with small metal spatula and spring it out of tin.   Leave to cool completely or eat while still warm with some ice cream or mascarpone.

What has helped you through lockdown? Please let us know. Comment, tag us on instagram or send us an email

— Daisy Allsup
14th January 2021

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