Pandemic life: Swatting wasps, sipping cold coffee - the picture of outdoor dining

Sussex student Jenny Bathurst has been writing for us about pandemic life since lockdown began back in March last year.

Jenny Bathurst
Jenny Bathurst

The pandemic robbed her of the chance to sit A levels. But she ended up with three As and is now studying journalism at the University of Brighton (Eastbourne campus).

Here is her latest contribution.

"Swatting wasps, sipping at coffee that went cold minutes after ordering it and shivering in the shade – this is the picture of outdoor dining. The 12th of April was a landmark date for us all, perhaps one we will remember annually for its prevalence in this pandemic. The prospect of food and firepits in the gardens of loved ones was an exciting thought, and it has certainly lived up to its expectations. Even eating fast food in the pouring rain feels like a thrilling alternative to the notion of another home cooked meal. If the past two weeks have proved anything about us Brits, it’s the lengths we’ll go for a pint or a burger or a browse around a clothes store. (But I can’t go back to university until May…maybe I’ll stop bringing it up soon.)

"I have never quite resonated with the classic female stereotype of an obsession with shopping and handbags and shoes. As somebody who wears clothes until they are unwearable and has one staple tote bag I use from food shopping to nights out, the reopening of all non-essential shops wasn’t something that kept me up at night with excitement. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy buying clothing - my bulging wardrobe will testify to this. But there’s one thing that keeps me away: the fitting rooms. Not the actual fitting rooms as such, although the clinical lighting and odours of the one in the boxy space before you are enough to keep you away, but the experience.

"I am the first to admit that trying an item before purchase is often the sensible thing to do. As a 5’10” woman who makes all jeans look cropped and every sleeve a three-quarter-length, I am well-versed in handing a pile of hangers to a dismayed looking shop assistant, uttering the all-too-familiar “I’ll leave those today, thank you.” However sometimes it’s not just a simple desire to “leave those today”. Sometimes I stand in front of the changing-room mirror appalled that jeans in the same size in the shop next door won’t even reach past my thighs in this store. The dress that hung so effortlessly on the mannequin makes me look boxy, and the shorts don’t button up unless I suck in my stomach as long as I am wearing them.

"As women we are constantly told to be proud of our bodies, even the bits that we don’t like. And then you turn on your phone to see photoshopped, tanned, pouting models and the insecurities come flooding back. Even after enduring a national lockdown we remain self-critical, angry for allowing ourselves a chance to relax. I know exactly the feeling of looking in a mirror and not liking everything I see, but I know that I am not the only one. And those influencers who flood our timelines probably do the exact same thing. Why don’t we start loving ourselves as much as we love others? We so often build up one another that we forget to do the same for us. And after whatever just happened in 2020/21, I think we deserve it."