MY LIFE & OTHER CELEBRITES
By neil armstrong
Llook on the bright side. Self-isolation can be an opportunity for self-improvement. The internet can help you learn almost anything and can connect with talented teachers in the virtual world. There’s never been a better time to acquire a new skill or take up a new interest, so here are 15 mind-expanding ideas to keep your brain fit during the crisis. Turn yourself into Picasso Portrait artist Darlene Nguyen’s Rapidfireart channel on Youtube has a series of easyto-follow videos showing how to draw faces, with specific tutorials on eyes, noses, hair, feminine and masculine faces, different expressions and so on. Also, if you want to watch a master at work, cartoonist and illustrator Chris Riddell often posts short videos of him drawing on his Twitter account and on Youtube. Learn how to tell a Botticelli from a Bacon All of the world’s great galleries and museums – say the Uffizi in Florence (uffizi.it) or New York’s Museum of Modern Art (moma.org) – have websites that allow you to appreciate their treasures at your leisure. Head to the Uffizi site to learn all about the great Italian Renaissance artists Raphael and Michelangelo and visit the site’s ‘Hypervisions’ section for digital tours of paintings on a particular theme, such as depictions of the Easter Story. In the Artworks section you can study masterpieces and discover nuggets of information, such as which nine figures from mythology are represented in Botticelli’s famous Primavera painting and why. Moma’s ‘What Is Modern Art?’ section explains the birth of modernism and provides links to works significant in that movement, each of which comes with a detailed description explaining its importance. Become the next JK Rowling ‘If there’s a book that you want to read, but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it,’ Toni Morrison once said, and if you’re feeling inspired to write a novel during lockdown why not try a fictionwriting course to give you some guidance? The Open University (open.edu) is offering a free 12-hour Start Writing Fiction course, which gives insight into how to create rounded characters, structure plots and the importance of scenesetting. Or if you’re thinking of writing your own life story, there’s a wealth of help online. Websites like reliving.co.uk, which also has a useful app to store photos in, can help you get started, or try looking at the book How To Write Your Life Story In Ten Easy Steps by Sophie King. But if you don’t have the confidence or the time to write it yourself, you can even enlist a professional ghost writer to pen your autobiography for you for a fee, via a website like Story Terrace (storyterrace.com). Let Gordon Ramsay show you how to cook On Youtube, Gordon Ramsay has videos teaching everything from basic kitchen skills – such as how best to finely chop an onion – to how to knock up quick and easy meals such as a noodle stir-fry or blueberry pancakes, as well as more ambitious, delicious dishes. He makes an engaging, enthusiastic teacher, utterly unlike the exasperated, shouty TV persona he has become known for. Learn to play like the Sultans of Swing There are online tutorials on how to play tens of thousands of songs and pieces of music on all sorts of instruments, so if you haven’t sat down at the piano for years, or if you have an old guitar gathering dust in the corner, revive your interest. Guitar teacher Marty Schwartz’s Youtube channel Marty Music has almost two million subscribers and shows aspiring guitarists how to play their favourite numbers, from three-chord wonders to the solo from Sultans Of Swing. Put on a concert from your sofa Inspired by videos of Italian people singing on their balconies, choirmaster and TV presenter Gareth Malone is organising a social distancing choir, the Great British Home Chorus. The details are being ironed out but it will probably involve participants being sent tracks to sing to, recording themselves singing and sending the recording to Gareth who will mix all the contributions together. More than 15,000 people have already signed up and the first song is to be You Are My Sunshine (decca.com/ greatbritishhomechorus). The Sofa Singers is a similar project, a weekly, communal singing event (thesofasingers.com). Mind your language! Sprechen Sie Deutsch? Parlezvous français? Probably not. Sixty-two per cent of us can’t speak anything other than English. But there are a host of apps to teach you pretty much any modern language you care to learn. The most popular is Duolingo (duolingo. com). It’s free, offers brief, easy lessons and there are also podcasts. The Open University also offers short free language courses, as well as ones on all kinds of other subjects. In vino veritas? That’s the truth of it... The wine business is booming as many of us seek solace in a glass of something cheering. Event’s own expert, Olly Smith, has a website packed with information (ollysmith.com) and a series of podcasts, A Glass With…, in which he has a drink with a celebrity guest, including Sting, Sam Neill and Dawn French. The Lyon-based American-british sommelier and wine blogger Caroline Conner is running hugely popular online wine-tastings using Zoom where you can discuss wine and ask questions. (lyonwinetastings.com). Mix the perfect cocktail, shaken or stirred... Now that virtual cocktail hours – groups of friends using conferencing apps to enjoy a drink together – are becoming popular, why not learn how to mix classic drinks? The BBC Good Food website offers 66 easy cocktail recipes (bbcgoodfood.com). The recipes are simple but the drinks are sophisticated. Singapore Sling anyone? Or you could stick with a ‘Quarantini’ – a glass of whatever booze you happen to have in the house. Bottoms up! Join Emma Watson’s book club If you can’t meet up with your regular book club or you’ve always fancied joining one, then why not try one of the many online groups? There are lots with famous faces attached, such as the ones by Reese Witherspoon and Oprah Winfrey. Author Emma Gannon has also just launched The Hyphen-book Club on Instagram. Gen up about the past Dan Snow’s History Hit ‘explores the deep history behind today’s headlines’ and shows how an understanding of the past is vital to understanding what’s happening now. Recent episodes include one on the history of influenza and on Britain in the Eighties. The History Hour, produced by the BBC World Service, deepens your knowledge of the 20th century by providing ‘an hour of historical reporting told by the people who were there’ on, for example, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. Who do you think you are? If you have older relatives, now is the time to call them and ask them to tell you what they know about your family history. And then sign up for a free trial at ancestry.co.uk, which will help you trace the roots of your family tree. Open your ears to classical BBC Radio 3’s weekly Composer Of The Week with Donald Macleod is an excellent guide to composers and their music. The Open Ears Project is fascinating a podcast in which contributors talk about the piece of music that means the most to them. Host Clemency Burton-hill also has a book called Year Of Wonder, available on Audible as an audiobook, in which she chooses one piece of music for every day of the year. Become a film buff Work your way through the 100 greatest films ever made. There are several well-respected lists available. Every decade, the British film magazine Sight And Sound asks a selection of critics and directors to vote for their favourites. The top three movies in the most recent poll are Vertigo, Citizen Kane and Tokyo Story. Use the list at the BFI for links to essays and interviews about the films (bfi.org.uk). Did you know that early reviews dismissed Vertigo as ‘far-fetched nonsense’ and ‘pure dross’? ... finally,channel your inner Morse and get to work on a crossword Cryptic crossword puzzles provide a fun mental workout. If you’ve ever looked at one and been baffled by it, here’s the good news – there is a trick to them; you just need to learn a few rules. There’s a very basic guide here – solvingcryptics.com – or read Alan Connor’s excellent book about the history of crosswords Two Girls, One On Each Knee.