Keeping Hope Alive Under Quarantine: The Tools

We are currently living through a very weird time. No one quite knows how to be when living Life in Quarantine. Borders closing, businesses struggling, interactions disappearing - it's a bleak time.

With all this newfound time on our hands with which an opportunity arises to sit and dwell on said grim circumstances, it's important not to let the fear and despair sink in. In an attempt to keep both at bay, here are my personal recommendations for some of the best consumable tools to keep a positive outlook.

FILM: La Vita È Bella

Roberto Benigni's 1997 Oscar winner is the ultimate story of keeping hope and joy alive when it seems all but impossible. It starts as a beautiful love story, as fun-loving Guido (Benigni) uses his wit, creativity and humour to woo a woman far above his station, and from a Christian background despite his being Jewish. Fast forward a few years and the couple have a young son at a time when being Jews in Italy, or indeed anywhere, was incredibly dangerous. The young family are soon caught up in the times and sent to labour camps where, despite being forced apart from his wife and worked to the bone in front of his son, Guido manages to keep beauty alive for his family, against all odds. Now more than ever, he expresses his love for his wife in a way that she might know it from afar, and defies belief as he manages to keep fun and joy at the front and centre of his young son's life, disguising the brutal reality of the world they've been forced into. He manages to do both with grace and impossible humour, and the film leaves a lasting - if emotional - lesson of hope, in the darkest of times. This is a must watch for anyone who hasn't yet seen it, and a must re-watch for anyone who has.

ALBUM: Fine Line (Harry Styles)

Since being in isolation, I've listened to more new music than I have in years. Gone are the days when I listened to radio, thereby staying abreast of the latest tunes. No, for the last several years I have stuck firmly to the same beloved rotation of classics, every now and then getting wild and messaging my sister (who, unlike me, does stay up to date with music) for a new tune reco. Even the most cherished songs can only be listened to on repeat so many times though, and so it is I've been branching out. One such album I have newly discovered is the latest Harry Styles album, Fine Line, released just before Christmas. I listened to the thing in its entirety earlier this week while cooking dinner and suffice to say by the time I served up, I had broken a small sweat from dancing. The beats! The happy vibes! Of particular note: Watermelon Sugar (a banger). Don't ask me who this woman is that gets amped to the dulcet tones of a former One Direction band member, because I don't even know.

NOVEL: The Alchemist (Paulo Coelho)

Talk about the more difficult the journey, the bigger the reward at the end. Amongst the grim thoughts about the current COVID-19 situation, I have had the odd glimmering consideration of how bright life will be after this whole thing blows over. Imagine how much more special everything we once took for granted will seem. The ability to hop on a plane, filing into a packed sports stadium, a drink at your favourite wine bar, you and your friend you're currently missing rammed in together, heads together, moaning in that not-really-a-true-moan kind of way about what a terror of a day at work you had. Coelho's 1988 classic is the ultimate teacher in this; in how going through trials and tribulations is part of a bigger picture that will reap rewards and teach lessons you can't even imagine. How it will show you that it's those hard bits that teach you to appreciate the true beauty and joy in life... a reminder we all need right now! If nothing else, this book provides a wonderful opportunity to escape to balmy Spain and Morocco when we are robbed the chance to travel ourselves.

TV SHOW: Sex Education

Despite copious quantities of sex scenes (it's in the name guys), this TV show is one of the purest things you'll ever behold. With the second season not long on Netflix, there's plenty of content to enjoy, and I promise... enjoy it you shall. Yes, it's a story about teenagers (and their parents) navigating the awkward and uncertain world of sexual encounters, desires and dilemmas, but its beautiful representation of every kind of individual and the meaningful relationships that can exist between them will leave you feeling nothing but love. It's a show I'm so happy young people have to watch as they grow up in 2020, and an indicator of the leaps and bounds we have come in acceptance and representation. Additionally, there has perhaps never been a more fantastic character to fill our screens as Eric Effiong (pictured below - the guy in the loud jacket). Just... just watch it, please.

ONLINE: @Upworthy and @GoodNews_Movement

It's easy when tuning in to social media and online news to get caught up very quickly in the headlines, most of which right now are frightening, mind-blowing and at a certain point just exhausting to read. I'm at the point currently where I think they're best avoided. Trust me, if this all blows over or if there are any massive changes, YOU'LL HEAR ABOUT IT. Use social media and your time online instead to seek out and fill your vision and heart with proper warm and fuzzy feels. Both Upworthy and Good News Movement are social accounts that share explicitly feel-good content. From things to make you laugh to humanity putting it's best foot forward and the hilarious measures people go to to keep themselves entertained while in isolation. Think penguins being let out to roam free at an aquarium and enjoy the other exhibits. Think moments of pure romance between elderly couples on balconies in Italy as music is played by neighbours also in quarantine. Think a man who has installed sinks for homeless people to keep safe from germs. Think of the most wholesome, pure, and encouraging content you could imagine, and you'll find it here.

DRINKABLE: Wine and/or coffee

If all else fails, these two lovable liquids never fail to fill me with a real sense of joy. If I;m honest, I was never concerned about the toilet paper shortage. Me? I was panic buying these truly essential items. I'm not joking.

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