Five ways to pass the time during post-travel quarantine

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Since UK travel restrictions have started to ease, there has been a lacklustre wave of foreign travel, with some hardy tourists taking advantage of cheap flights and accommodation and empty sites in places like Italy and France. Others have returned to the UK from longer stays away; those who have been trapped in foreign countries for the duration of the pandemic are filtering back into the country, finally able to see relatives and friends again – after 14 days, of course. While the thought of a trip abroad may make you shudder, there are other reasons you might need to self-isolate, including contact with an infected person or even an infection yourself. Here are a few ways to pass the time during enforced isolation that won’t drive you crazy.

Get crafty

If your house isn’t full to bursting with watercolours, homemade pincushions and unwearable crocheted garments by this point in the year, you definitely haven’t been doing lockdown properly. Fear not – others’ efforts will give you a starting boost. There are countless examples on YouTube and Instagram of the kind of craft efforts that only the terminally determined would embark on. Online, there are pages of easy knitting patterns for beginners to sift through. Maybe the 2020s will see the great folk art revival we’ve all been wishing for.


Told people you’ve read War and Peace, Lolita or 1984? Worried you might eventually meet someone who’s actually read them? Post-travel isolation might be a good time to knock off a few of the classics. Although it might not be possible to tackle the longest of the bunch in 14 days of quarantine – at 1300 pages, Tolstoy’s epic would require nearly 100 pages a day of reading, which, depending on your speed, might be too daunting – there are worse ways to occupy yourself during isolation than amassing a little cultural capital.

Binge watches

If you’re not an avid reader – or even if you are, and just need a break from time to time – you’re in luck. There are seemingly infinite numbers of acclaimed shows on streaming and VOD to catch during isolation.

Mad Men

According to my brother, Mad Men is easily binged within 14 days of self-isolation. It’s one of those shows that you’ll be urged to watch repeatedly for the rest of your life, so now might be the time to get through it. Not that it’s a task – the struggles and dramas of work at a Madison Avenue advertising agency in the 1960s soon become surprisingly engrossing. Throw in Jon Hamm’s nasty charm, a stellar supporting cast, and a mise en scène replete with as many Danish Modern sofas as you could ever wish to see, and you’re set for the duration of quarantine.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

All seven seasons of Buffy are currently available to stream free on All4, so now’s the time to catch this iconic show in its entirety. Part friendship-focused teen drama, part high school series, all fantasy adventure, Buffy is rightly hailed as one of the most important cultural products of 1990s America. You can’t help but admire Sarah Michelle Gellar’s audacious heroine as she battles demons both within and outside herself. Creator Joss Whedon’s “high school as hell” concept has set the tone for innumerable other shows. Catch it at the source.

Parks and Recreation

If you’re looking for something lighter than Mad Men or Buffy, you can’t go wrong with Parks and Recreation. Greg Daniels and Michael Schur’s local-government sitcom never deals with subject matter more serious than a failed election campaign, so it’s an ideal binge for those of us wracked with pandemic anxiety. Perennially hardworking Leslie Knope (played to perfection by Amy Poehler) is a heartwarming tribute to the officials who keep our cities and towns running smoothly, often with little in the way of pay or thanks. It’s also ludicrously funny: this scene alone would make the whole seven seasons worth it.

Malin Hay


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