Michaelmas 2019 in Durham vs Michaelmas 2020

Phone? Check. Keys? Check. Mask? Check.


Gosh what a year it’s been. If you’d told me this time twelve months ago that I’d have to incorporate a mask into my daily wardrobe, or that “Panny D” would become an actual slang term in my vocabulary, I’d have laughed in your face and told you to stop being so ridiculous.

Yet here we are, seven months on from the start of the first lockdown, frantically booking slots in the Billy B as though we’re 13 year olds trying to bag One Direction tickets, and having our evening curfew brought back a further four hours from the already ridiculous time of 2am. Tricky though it might be right now to recall that a pre-pandemic world ever even existed, it goes without saying that things have changed just ever so slightly since this time last year…

Going to the Billy B in 2019: I dress up for the occasion in a deliberately distinctive outfit, in the blind hope that a stranger will write a Tindur about the girl on Level 3 with the oversized orange jumper, red and yellow eyeshadow and wide leg zebra print trousers. No such luck yet, sadly.

Going to the Billy B in 2020: I need to give several hours’ notice if I want to so much as borrow a book, and am expected to have worked out in advance exactly which hour I intend to be there. Well how am I supposed to know what time I want to wake up tomorrow? What if it chucks it down with rain at the time I’m meant to be walking there? I like to think I’m a woman with a little more spontaneity, so I’m sorry but this system stresses me out.

Drinking in 2019: The house chunder chart has five separate entries before Freshers’ Week even ends. The recycling bin contains nothing but empty cans and the living room is starting to have that stale pub smell.

Drinking in 2020: I opened a bottle of prosecco two weeks ago and still have half of it left. There is absolutely nothing to celebrate.

Relationships in 2019: To be fair I didn’t actually have a boyfriend this time last year, but at least I can say I tried.

Relationships in 2020: Boris will fine me if I so much as high five a guy I don’t live with.

Friday nights in 2019: I head straight to the pub as soon as my last lecture ends, convincing myself I do indeed deserve a pint despite only doing the absolute bare minimum in terms of work all week. I briefly head home to change into the classic jeans and a nice top, before heading off to Klute for a night of utter disappointment (which I secretly enjoy just a little bit).

Friday nights in 2020: I have completely exhausted the whole of Netflix, the ITV Hub and All 4. I spend the night making myself useful, cleaning my bathroom and then taking another hour or so to simply admire my handiwork. Wow does the place sparkle.

Trips to Tesco in 2019: I see ten people I know, including at least two old chirpses I don’t plan on engaging with ever again. I pretend I’m on the phone so that nobody tries to make conversation with me.

Trips to Tesco in 2020: The social event of the week. I chit chat with the cashier as much as possible in a desperate bid for human interaction.

Getting ready for lectures in 2019: I’ll be awake at least a couple of hours before the class starts, making sure my laptop is charged, my preparatory reading is (at least partially) done, and that I’m dressed and presented neatly enough that people will think I’ve made some sort of effort.

Getting ready for lectures in 2020: I check my emails from bed to see the class has been moved online. I slump into my desk chair where I remain in my pyjamas for the next hour, nursing an extra strong coffee and praying I’m not asked to turn my webcam on.

Clubbing in 2019: I make my grand entrance into Jimmy’s by falling down the stairs. I am about twelve rums deep and beginning to see double.

Clubbing in 2020: In what I can only assume is some sort of elaborate practical joke, clubs genuinely expect me to pay to sit on a chair all evening. That chair might well be on the dance floor, but if I’m not going to be cutting the worst shapes you’ve ever seen in your life, what’s the point?

Self-care in 2019: My hair is always washed and curled, my fake tan always maintained, my legs always shaved and silky smooth, and I don’t dare leave the house without a full face of make up. I even take the time to have a bubble bath once a week, and if I’m feeling extra boujee, I’ll whack a sheet mask on my face for when I’m watching a film in the evening.

Self-care in 2020: I showered, and quite frankly you’re lucky I even bothered to do that.

My diet in 2019: I go to Pizza King so often that the staff know my order by heart. I’m mortifyingly embarrassed by this, but I think I hide it well.

My diet in 2020: I spend hours labouring over new recipes for elaborate meals I’d never have bothered with before. A part of me now truly believes I am the Nigella of the DH1. I do this in part because it’s fun, but more crucially it kills a lot of time, and frankly I don’t have much else to get excited by right now.

Seminars in 2019: I deliberately play devil’s advocate with the real keen bean of the group, in a bid to provide myself a spot of afternoon entertainment.

Seminars in 2020: My only form of communication is nodding my head on Zoom when the tutor asks a yes or no question.

Texting your friends in 2019: “Hey, are you still coming out tonight?”

Texting your friends in 2020: “Hey, are you still isolating?”