Ailin Quinlan: Covid weary, fed up and feeling down... but I found just the tonic

Feeling down about Covid, Ailin Quinlan found some escapism on her TV screen
Ailin Quinlan: Covid weary, fed up and feeling down... but I found just the tonic

Lily Collins as Emily in Emily in Paris. Picture: Netflix

NO, I said. No. No. No. No. They wanted to talk about Christmas. Christmas? I said.

No more Christmas. I never want to do Christmas again. Christmas, I declared, was nothing but one gigantic bloody chore. And I was exhausted. The mere thought of it was anathema to me.

They stopped what they were doing.

The room held its breath.

Nobody spoke.

The sense of disapproval and shock was tangible.

“Why are you all so surprised?” I snarled.

“Every woman with a family and half a brain hates Christmas. They just don’t admit it.”

I paused.

“And now that there’s all this monumental fuss of Halloween, there’s even more pressure about Christmas. I can’t stand the thought of it.”

Everything stopped. The world, it seemed, ceased turning. The sun hid its face behind a cloud.

The local magpie gang hung suspended in the sky outside the kitchen window, beaks dropped open in horror, and the sweeter, littler birds stopped singing.

“But,” the family said. “But. But. But. But, like, that’s an awful way to be going on.”

I turned to look at them.

“You do it then. You do the shopping. You drag down the decorations and stick them up. You do the tree. You order the turkey and ham and plan the meal and buy the vegetables and dig out all the recipes and make the sauces and the sausage-meat stuffing and the bread stuffing and do the peeling and the chopping and make up the beds for the guests that will be staying and wash all the good china and lay the table the day before, having first washed the floors and cleaned the house from top to bottom.”

I took a breath.

“You worry about whether the turkey is cooked or if we should have invited X or Y or none at all. Because I’m sick of it.”

“You” I pointed to one, never-to-be-named family member, “have never done a hand’s turn for Christmas Day.”

“You” I pointed to another never-to-be-identified loved one, “never did a thing for years, and now you think you should be canonised for peeling the carrots.”

“You” I prodded another, “always make sure you’re not around to help. Don’t think I haven’t noticed that every year for the past three or four years you promised me the sun, moon and stars in terms of help on Christmas Eve, while at the same time secretly arranging to be completely unavailable on the day.”

And yet, I barked, every single one of them expected a lovely, aromatically traditional and utterly magical Christmas without doing a bit to help.

I couldn’t bear it anymore.

And now that Halloween was over, the pressure would come on. And what a Hallowe’en we had this year. Every house in the country went over the top, draping doors and windows in fake spiderwebs and had at least two hand-carved pumpkins on display. There were Halloween tablecloths and Halloween things to stick on the window and Halloween things to hang from the ceiling. There were even Hallowe’en table centrepieces.

I mean, really.

It’s as if, I nearly shouted, Christmas had turned orange and come early and I’m not in the humour for any of it.

I blame Emily in Paris. It has left me absolutely catatonic. And I didn’t even want to watch it in the first place.

I mean, an American in Paris? What a cliché.

When someone told me about it I declared there was no way that I would be watching THAT.

And then one night I was so Covid-weary, so fed up, feeling so down-trodden and overworked that I didn’t have enough brain cells to watch, say, the really interesting documentary about the tomb. The tomb was left untouched for 4,400 years. This sort of stuff is right up my street especially as I never got the time to really dig into the story of the discovery of the Saqqara necropolis just outside Cairo last year – for those who don’t know, they found the untouched tomb of a high-ranking priest from 25th century BC . Along with all the other treasures, there was a pile of mummified animals including a lion cub.

But no. I hadn’t any brain cells left so I watched Emily in Paris. Emily has a mind-boggling amount of what seems to be designer clothing. Yeah, I know she works in marketing, but really?She is an empowered millennial female (I think) and protests the inappropriateness of a gift of expensive lingerie from the CEO of her French company.

The series is bland, it is perky, it says absolutely nothing of significance except that one of her colleagues reminds her that she lives to work, while the far more sensible French work to live. But that’s not particularly new.

The only political figure in it so far (and I’ve watched a fair bit of it by now I’m ashamed to say) appears to be Brigitte Macron who retweets something Emily says about the vagina not being male. Excuse me?

There’s no history. There is no family. There is no context and above all, no baggage – Emily and her handsome corporate-looking Chicago-based boyfriend break up shortly after she hits Paris.

Most of all, there is no Coronavirus and not as much as a mention (so far) of Donald Trump. She makes two good friends and with apparent reluctance but great regularity seems to get into passionate clinches with one friend’s boyfriend – a hunk of a chef, and God can the man cook an omelette.

As the series progresses, Emily wears ever-funkier ever more amazing designer ensembles so she always looks offbeat and beautiful. She always eats in lovely busy restaurants and always, always, appears to be extremely competent and successful when it comes to doing her job despite the fact that her boss despises her. (Do we blame the boss? Really?)

I think deep down, one of the main attractions of this utterly silly twinky-dinky series is that there are no real, even medium-term consequences for anything silly that Emily does. And this, it seems, is what we really need now.

The burden of our generation’s personal choices – burning down the Amazon, melting the Arctic, polluting the rivers, destroying the world’s wildlife, poisoning the seas with our micro-beads and our wipes – has truly never felt so awfully heavy.

We have learned too much about consequences. 2020 is the year of consequences. Like nearly everyone else these days,

I constantly feel as if I’m on the edge of a nervous breakdown.

But in Emily’s world there are none of these things. Maybe that’s why I can’t stop watching it.

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