Five Skills To Learn in Lockdown

by Harry

By Harry Loney.

Lockdown is here, and as I write this, it’s not going away any time soon. So instead of flopping around the house and looking at all the stuff I should be doing, like paint the wall and weed the garden, I thought it would be much more useful to learn lockdown skills that will make me look cool in front of my kids. And by kids I mean mirror. And by mirror I mean strangers in the pub.

A man holding his glass balls

I’m at various points in the learning ladder on the skills below. Let me explain what I’m up to.

So buckle up and let me inspire you to become as good at this stuff as I have. Perhaps, one day, if you work hard enough, you might be better than me! That day will probably come as soon as Tuesday. 

5. Juggling

Who here doesn’t enjoy fondling some balls? I do. And my favourite part is throwing them up in the air before flapping my hands at them as they fall without grace to the floor. Yup, juggling can make you look cool in an instant, and it’s my current aim. 

However it’s not as easy as Mr. Tumble makes it look. This is annoying, as it means I have to put some time and effort into it. 

Dear reader, I have not yet reached this goal. I can offer you no real guidance on this issue of juggling balls, other than practise over your bed so you don’t do your back in picking up your balls all the time. Furthermore, make sure your balls are firm and suitable for the job. Lastly, make it a point to make as many jokes about your balls as possible. 

4. Write a book

Everyone has an idea for a book or a movie in their head. Sometimes, it’s best kept there, let’s be honest. But this is also a good time to start typing out that novel. It doesn’t have to be a bestseller – in fact, it doesn’t have to be published at all. But wouldn’t it be great to be able to say you’ve written something? It’s not easy to do, and your first draft will be, I guarantee, awful. But they all are, even Stephen King’s. Even JK Rowling’s. Even mine. 

Just start writing, and see where your imagination takes you. It might be a short story, a poem, some song lyrics. Start small and work up and, most importantly, don’t give up!

I’ve got 60,000 words of, possibly, complete tosh written and I’m not stopping there! There are loads of great people who can support you out there online. One of my favourites is Writers’ HQ who don’t take your crap and are all about getting words on a page.

3. Become a master bread baker

Most people during lockdown have probably tried their hands at breadmaking. The remarkable lack of flour on the shop shelves is testament to this. And that’s a good thing, as it’s a great way to stay creative and have something to show at the end of it. 

A simple loaf of bread is pretty easy to make – becoming a master, however, takes a long time and plenty of patience. And if you want to be able to walk smugly around your kitchen, why not progress to making a sourdough loaf? It means making a sourdough starter which takes a few days before you make anything, but it should all be worth it in the end with some gorgeous sourdough bread.

River Cottage have an excellent recipe for a simple white loaf, and many other websites have great insights into sourdough. I found this video particularly useful:

2. Learn a language

Learning a foreign language used to be a right rigmarole of going to classes and – gasp! – interacting with other people! Well, thank the gods for technology, fo we no longer need to do that. Thanks to apps like Duolingo, you can start to learn the basics of a language which can be useful if you are planning on visiting the country soon. It won’t make you into a public speaker, but you can very quickly pick up the basics of thank you, please and I’ve never seen that gun before in my life. 

I’ve so far learned a few words of Italian with the little helpful and passive-aggressive owl that comes with Duolingo. I’m sure there are plenty of other apps that are just as good – let us know in the comments! In the meantime, please enjoy this really weird Duolingo video:

1. Whistling by using your fingers

You know in movies and TV shows when someone needs to call for someone’s attention, they whistle? Well you never see them whistling like they are chirpily walking home from a takeaway with a curry. It’s not a whistle you might see in a Disney cartoon where birds land on your shoulder for a chat. It’s a proper ear-popping echo-creating whistle that somehow magically comes forth from fingers in the mouth. 

When I first saw someone do this, as a young nipper, I thought it was Holywood trickery. Then I realised people that I knew IN REAL LIFE could do it! Fast forward thirty or so years until I realised that people who could whistle with their fingers are unbelievably cool, and I wanted to get in on that. 

It’s not about just sticking them in your mouth and blowing around them, as I first believed. There’s a bit of tonguing action required too. If you are going to learn lockdown skills, this is the one to learn!

Here’s how you whistle with your fingers

  1. Give your lips a jolly good licking. Make them nice and wet, as if you are a grandparent preparing to kiss a small child. 
  2. Make an “OK” sign with your thumb and forefinger. Get this all nice and wet, especially the pads of your thumb and forefinger. The idea is to make a seal between your fingers and your mouth so air can only escape where you want it. 
  3. Insert your “OK” sign into your mouth like the Millenium Falcon.
  4. This bit is crucial. Lift the tip of your tongue up and use your fingers to curl it back on itself. Like folding your tongue over. Use your fingers to hold the tip of your tongue down on the rest of your tongue. 
  5. Now, imagine focussing all your breath into a tiny hole made with your lips and directing a whistle out of it like a weapon. 

It will take a while to learn the size of whole, where to place everything and how hard to blow. But keep practicing every day – perhaps on your Daily Alloted Exercise – and you’ll start to get there. One day, you’ll give it a go and a watery whistle will shoot forth. And that’s it! You’ve done it! Keep going and you’ll be able to whistle for taxis in New York like a local.

Here’s a video of me doing it. Well, I say doing it…

So there’s some quick ideas on how you could spend this extra time and make yourself that little bit better. If you want to learn lockdown skills, then pick an idea and stay focussed until you get there. If you need anyone to cheer you on, just imagine me shouting your name at full volume as you fondle your balls. And with that final ball-related joke, I bid you adieu.