28 April 2020

A peek inside the bubble

How have you found lockdown?

When I wake up in the morning I feel down in the dumps because I remember what has happened. But once my feet hit the floor and I get on with my day, I’m fine.

I’m usually really busy and I really miss my busy life. But because I’m a writer, I’m used to spending a lot of time on my own at home being disciplined - so I don’t really find self-isolation very hard. It’s a bit further than I would like to take it, but I’m not really suffering.

What have you been doing to pass the time?

I write, do online yoga classes, I go for walks and I’m making videos. If you look on my Facebook or Instagram or on my YouTube channel you can see that every three days, I put up a video that I make on my own. Sometimes I do a cooking class; sometimes I sing; sometimes I tell stories from my latest book; sometimes I do Agony Aunt because I used to have an Agony Aunty column in the Dominion Post.

I get all dressed up - the book I’m writing at the moment is about fashion and clothing and I’ve kept a lot of the beautiful clothes that I’ve bought over the years, especially when I was working in television. So I wear these different designer outfits that I’ve dragged out of my shed and I explain to people where the dress comes from and why you should look after your good clothes - because when you’re in lockdown you can still look fabulous! People want to know the details, they say ‘you’ve got to take your earrings off, you’ve got to take your shoes off and hold them up to the camera so we can see them close up’.

People interact - they tell me about their clothes, and they give me suggestions. All this kind of responding to people never happened before because I never had time.

I’ll do my yoga class in the morning and I’m cooking really complicated dishes because I’ve got time to. Writing my book takes up a lot of my day and making my video. Then I’ll go for a long walk in the afternoon.

How are you keeping your spirits up?

Gin is very helpful, and the hour that I’m allowed to start drinking comes forward every day.

When you’re put in a situation like this, you have to keep a routine and I have a routine that I stick to. I wear nice dresses, I put lipstick on, I comb my hair. You’ve got to keep your life as normal as possible. Strangely enough, even though you’re walking around your house on your own, you just feel better with make-up on, even though you know that all you’re going to do is go to bed again. My friends have told me the same thing. We’re not allowed to have our online cocktail parties unless we’re wearing lipstick and earrings. At first, they said, ‘oh, don’t be ridiculous’, and now they’re saying ‘actually, I feel better doing this’.

What have you enjoyed most about lockdown so far?

Talking to my neighbours is one of the good things that has come out of this, because we didn’t really know each other – we just said hello and that’s it. Now we know each other quite well and we talk together, they give me eggs and jam and I make them cakes. They have erected a badminton net in my backyard and it’s lovely because I get to see their children playing. Also, when I go for my walks everyone says hello - nobody has said hello in 10 years.

How are you keeping in touch with others?

My friends (in my bubble) drop in, and I have online cocktail parties. My brothers and sisters and I are calling each other. Everyone is very keen on video talks, they don’t want to just talk, they want to see you.  We’re so dependent on relationships. I am really dependent on phone calls from my family and friends and having a laugh and having a gin at 5pm with my friends.

This is a bit of advice - you only get if you give. If you’re missing connection: pick up the phone and call someone. Don’t wait for people to call you.

What are you missing most?

Physical contact. I miss that I can’t kiss and cuddle my great-nephew, I miss being massaged, I miss hugging my friends. You just have to keep remembering that this is temporary, and this is not your real life.

I also really miss that I’ve lost all my income and that I can’t socialise, I can’t do my work, and I can’t travel. I usually do six or seven (culinary) tours in different parts of the world each year. And I live half my year in Usèz, in the South of France and half my year here. I have a cooking school in the South of France, which disappeared over night. I do public speaking also, so I travel around New Zealand a bit too.

Most of my income comes from my tours, my public speaking, and my cooking school. I have no idea when I’m going to be able to leave New Zealand - France is in very bad shape. I’m looking forward to trying to save some of my business, or maybe create a different form of income. I’ve been having email talks with my agent about guest speaking at conferences online for instance.

You have to keep peaking in life, you can’t ever think ‘I’ve achieved everything I wanted to’. That’s what keeps people going. I’m nowhere near retiring, I still feel I have a lot to offer and a lot to learn and that’s the secret to youth.

What long shelved project are you reviving for the lock-down?

I haven’t got one as I already had a project - writing my book. My excuse to my publisher is always that I haven’t got time to write a book around everything else - but now I haven’t got that excuse. The funny thing is that the less you have to do, the less you do. Everything slows down.

My book is called Shed Couture. I put all of my beautiful designer clothes, packed in plastic boxes, into my shed because I gained weight. Then 20 years later I lost weight and I thought, my god, I’ve got all those beautiful clothes in my shed - maybe I could fit them now? So, I put a post up on Facebook called Shed Couture and every day I put on a different outfit and the shoes and the jewelry and talked about where it came from. Now I’m writing a book about these clothes and all the things that were happening when I bought them. I’m writing chapters on shoes; why we love clothes so much; what the history of clothing is. One of my favourite dresses is the dress I’m wearing today, by Italian designer Marni. It’s a fabulous cut, it’s simple. I’ve had it for 20 years and I’m still wearing it. Most of my dresses I buy in recycle designer shops, or in sales.

I don’t think loving fashion is a superficial pursuit - I think it’s like wearing art and wearing art makes you feel happy.


Learn more about Peta at her website. Her book Shed Couture is due to come out in 2021.