The night terrors have kicked in again. Last night I found myself trapped in a dystopian male autocracy — the republic of Gilead, perhaps, or some version of Trump’s America, should he swing the Supreme Court. Owing to a non-specific infraction, I had been sentenced to be thrown out of a plane.
So, that’s where I’m at. How about you?
September, once full of promise, has so far been godawful. I feel fearful with every news briefing, and wake with the nauseous swell of dread. When not plagued by thoughts of Covid-19, economic ruin or the mounting spectre of a no-deal Brexit, another nightmare horror looms — the Greenland ice-sheet melt at tipping point, or California being on fire. Nothing has been more dispiriting at this moment than the prospect of David Attenborough’s new documentary A Life On Our Planet, filled with doomsday predictions for Mother Earth. I’m sorry Dave, but I’m too depressed already. Can’t we see you dancing with gorillas, or observing some sweet mating ritual instead?
And all throughout the tom-tom drums of Lockdown 2 are beating just behind us, bringing with them a joyless dirge of new restrictions and the indescribably miserable prospect of a winter spent inside. “Keep spending, stop socialising,” seems to be the government mantra: they would like us to drink without becoming inebriated; go to restaurants but not dine with other people; get new clothes to wear to nowhere; and crush our children into airless classrooms of up to 40 students — but deny them sleepovers and parties at weekends.
Pending six months spent with Netflix, I have looked back at my daily planner, drawn up in March on the advice of Julia Samuel, the first time we were locked up. Back then, the psychotherapist and paediatric counsellor was sure that a sense of daily structure would help mend fractious family relations and protect our mental health.
I regard a yellowing piece of paper now mouldering on the fridge. Over seven months I have maintained my pledge to keep up an 8am slot for exercise, but the reading hour of 9pm swiftly circled down the drain. I wrote the schedule thinking it might cover weeks of quarantine. I didn’t realise it might be an agenda for years to come. My daughter’s schedule looks even sadder, the cheery felt-tip palette all faded. It just seems wretched now.
But this is not a pity party. We must not let ourselves be dragged down. At London Fashion Week (actually a weekend of one-to-one appointments), I enjoy a rare excursion to see some other people and have a poke around in town. London’s designers, mostly independent, mostly tiny businesses — compared with their foreign competition — are right now mostly screwed. The absence of Ascot, weddings, parties and summer holidays has played havoc with their revenues and instead of being creative they’ve been scrutinising inventory and juggling furlough schemes.
But I do not find them weeping into their ball gowns or making tracksuits and sackcloths. In fact, I am delighted to find them feeling bouncy — their brightness turned up to the max. Despite the predictions for fashion retail, they’ve put on their Sunday best.
It’s one of the industry’s great clichés that pandemic, war and apocalyptic forecasts tend to tickle fashion’s more fanciful moods. You should hardly need reminding of Clifford Coffin and his “Renaissance” shoot in Blitz-torn London. Or Christian Dior’s exorbitantly extravagant postwar New Look skirts. Like the late Vogue editor Diana Vreeland’s exhortation to “Think Pink!”, fashion creatives have tended to look on bleakness, shrug and go the other way. And so it was at the majority of my appointments, where the rose-tinted look held sway.
“I felt optimistic,” said designer Molly Goddard, of her decision to jettison a more commercial offering of white dresses and buy a bale of pinkest tulle. Likewise Victoria Beckham, who offered only heels for the next season, and Roksanda Ilincic, who gathered a salon of women to talk politics, the environment and diversity and dressed them all in silky shades of rose.
“When it feels like the end of the world, doesn’t someone need a pink moire hand-embroidered gown?” joked Erdem Moralioglu. And, to be fair, he had a point.
Being around such positivity was just the tonic. Rather like the return of The Great British Bake Off, or watching Zendaya, surrounded by her family, become the youngest leading actress to win an Emmy, frivolity and light relief are really quite a gift.
It was also a reminder of how hard it is to keep a mood up when you’re trying to do it solo. The cruellest part of this pandemic has been the shutdown of any outside interaction. I had forgotten how mood-enhancing it can be to see a stranger smile.
So, I’m going to harness the rose-tinted outlook, turn down the news and keep on soldiering on. I may not wear a ball gown, but next time I’m chucked out of an aeroplane, I demand my subconscious conjure up a cloud of raspberry-coloured tulle.
Email Jo at firstname.lastname@example.org
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