Banana bread. Connell's chain. Sourdough starters. Joe Wicks. There was just something about lockdown that encouraged us to become utterly obsessed with random things. And some of our obsessions were a little more random than others. Here, four Irish Independent writers reflect on the fixations that have helped them pass the time:
Columnist Katie Byrne: The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills
I had big plans for lockdown. I was going to compose a song, learn a language, memorise the periodic table and somehow find time to do a 30-day squat challenge. I thought I was going to finally realise the full potential of my brain power. Then I discovered The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills and experienced what felt more like a full frontal lobotomy.
I don't know what compelled me to start watching Netflix's reality TV juggernaut about the hideously rich and fame-starved denizens of Beverly Hills. All I know is that I couldn't stop. One explosive episode would melt into another and another until it was time for bed. I didn't just watch the show, I devoured it with obsessive curiosity. Who were these women? What was their net worth? How much were they paid? What happened to Taylor's lips? How is Kyle's hair so shiny? I'd watch the show on my laptop while using my phone to scroll through Reddit discussions on Kim's alcoholism and Lisa's behind-the-scenes machinations. I stopped playing piano.
What made it even more addictive was the ability to skip back and forward in time. The series on Netflix are almost 10 years old, so it's almost obligatory to find out where the characters are now and how their cosmetic surgery is holding up.
I wanted to cultivate an enriching lockdown obsession, I really did. What I needed, however, was something reassuringly, comfortingly, awful.
Feature writer Tanya Sweeney: Property porn
Like all decent obsessions, it got out of control quickly. Originally, it began as a genuine search for a home in Dublin to buy; the odd perusal on Daft here, a scan of the property pages there. Yet as with most things during the pandemic, plans to buy a house were soon shelved.
Far from giving up my property hunt, I doubled down. With the walls in my two-up, two-down in Stoneybatter closing in, I sought escapism in dual-aspect bedrooms, south-facing gardens, architecturally-designed extensions, roll-top baths, walk-in wardrobes and (drool) a BER rating of A.
It's easy to see why this particular obsession took hold. In lockdown, the nation turned its attentions towards the domestic in a big way. We were focusing on our surroundings, and thanks to the performative sourdough & sundowners brigade, many of us didn't like what we saw. A mix of boredom, restlessness and low-grade despair saw me take a seriously deep dive into property porn. I gave up looking at houses within my own price range, and started the 'six numbers on the Euromillions' searches instead. I'd picture myself living in these palatial seven-figure palaces. I'd slobber over sea views, and get seduced by property-agent speak about sought-after roads.
I knew I was in over my head when I started watching any property show I could rest my eyes on. The Great House Revival. Your Home Made Perfect. Home Of The Year. I'd watch them all with a mixture of avarice, lust and simmering fury. "She has HOW MUCH for a refurb? She's younger than me!" I'd say to no one. "I hate anyone with a lovely house," I'd say to my partner, as he did his best to ignore me. It was then I knew: I'd have to cut this obsession off at the knees, shut down the Daft and return to the real world.
Columnist Ian O'Doherty: 1980s music
Since March, we've all struggled to get on top of this whole 'new normal' lark. Well, not me. I've been wallowing in the old normal, when things weren't quite as insane as they are now. By that, I mean I have retreated to the music and books that I loved growing up.
I've spent the last few months greedily tracking down all the bands that I used to love with the kind of passion that only a teenager can ever muster.
I've rediscovered my love for The Psychedelic Furs, one of the most underrated bands of all time. Whether it's been playing Mirror Moves on endless repeat or constantly listening to their 1989 compilation All Of This And Nothing, I've been asking myself the same question - why the hell did I stop listening to them?
Similarly, the greatest Irish band of all time, A House, have been blaring out the back garden for much of the lockdown and it was brilliant to go back and listen to their finest album, No More Apologies, and realise that it still sounds as good today as when it was released.
Public Enemy's It'll Take A Nation Of Millions? Ice T's OG? That album still sounds as angry and brilliant as it did in 1991. KRS-One and Sound Of Da Police is a brilliant reminder of the time when rap was the new punk, before it turned into boasting about bling and booties.
When in a more reflective ode, what better comfort music is there than Paul Simon's Graceland? That album would, of course, be accused of cultural appropriation if it were released today - but there's not a bad song there and that's all that counts.
I've remembered my adoration for Hope Sandoval and Mazzy Star, while The Sundays have become a daily joy as I potter around in social isolation. Yes, we may be have been stuck in a global pandemic and I reckon I've gone slightly mad in isolation. But if you're going to lose your marbles, you might as well have a cracking playlist at the same time...
Fashion writer Meadhbh McGrath: Marilyn Monroe
Shortly before lockdown, I read Joyce Carol Oates's epic fictionalised biography of Marilyn Monroe, Blonde. Suddenly finding myself with a lot more time on my hands, I resolved to fill in the gaps of my Marilyn knowledge, working my way through the 'Dead Blondes' season of Hollywood history podcast You Must Remember This and a 17-disc DVD collection of her films.
Up to that point, I only really recalled the iconic moments: a lavishly bejewelled Lorelei Lee singing Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend; the white dress billowing around her thighs over a subway grate; Sugar Kane crooning I Wanna Be Loved By You in Some Like It Hot.
Those moments began to look a little different as I learned more about the mystery of Norma Jeane's life - how she tired of the bombshell roles, how those famous photos prompted a brutal beating and the end of her marriage to Joe DiMaggio, how her depression and drug-use disrupted filming and made her so unpopular on set that she wasn't even invited to Billy Wilder's wrap party.
There's still escapism to be found in her films, particularly the raucous comedy and sensational costumes of Monkey Business and How to Marry a Millionaire, but her performances in noirs such as Niagara and Don't Bother to Knock reveal a far more complex actress and person than her legacy would suggest. She has kept me entertained in lockdown, but it's more clear to me than ever how limited she is by the enduring caricatures of the dumb blonde, the sexpot, the tragic victim. She changed how we think about women, sex and fame, and 58 years on from her death, I can switch on any of her films and feel utterly starstruck.