Admit it, you’d be a jibbering wreck without the technology that has helped you bear being cooped up indoors for the last ten weeks. No? Just us? Right, sure… Anyway, GQ writers are human, so we picked a selection of the best gadgets, apps and all-round technological marvels (plus a cookbook) to get through isolation.
Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P6 wireless speaker
Bill Prince, Deputy Editor
In common with many remote workers, my lockdown lifesavers swiftly boiled down to the tools of a trade. In my case, and in no particular order: an ageing MacBook Air, a similarly “senior” iPad Pro 10.5-inch and my ever-present, if rather less mobile, iPhone (series 8). While not quite the multiscreen set-up of a high-functioning, socially isolating city trader, all three are deployed in a similar way, albeit arrayed before me at the dinner table rather than in the stateroom of a 75m Benetti. And as far as those little work/life luxuries go, I’ve managed to boil down even further: to the B&O Beoplay P6 wireless speaker now forced to ride shotgun on my shutdown life.
Truth be told, I hadn’t had much time/need for portable speakers until a forced relocation into, ahem, ancillary accommodation on the eve of lockdown necessitated one and a kind friend well versed in these things hooked me up. To say it’s been transformational is an understatement: from the first knockings of the Today programme (BBC Sounds – another tech standout for sure) to the last rummage through the wormhole that is Apple Music (and beyond), it’s been a relentlessly upbeat add-on to a necessarily stripped-back existence. It’s also encouraged me to revisit, post lockdown, my own sadly archaic home hi-fi rig. Watch this space… Bang & Olufsen Beoplay P6 wireless speaker, £230. At amazon.co.uk
Smeg ECF01 Espresso Coffee Machine
Charlie Burton, Senior Commissioning Editor
Small pleasures are never frivolous. If you need persuading, read some Hemingway. The counsel of his writing is straightforward: you don’t know what’s coming down the pipe so enjoy yourself in the here and now. It’s why he writes about food and hotels as lyrically as he treats death and violence. As the pandemic locked us in its grip, I began thinking about Hemingway and his fatalistic kind of epicureanism. And I believe he was right. It’s the little things that really make life worth living and I’ve tried to enjoy them as much as possible.
One that I am grateful for every day is good coffee. Mine comes courtesy of a Smeg espresso maker that uses a traditional barista-style “portafilter” handle and couldn’t be easier to operate. There are just three buttons: one shot, two shots or steam. As the coffee trickles out it looks silky, almost viscous, and it arrives in the mug with a thick crema on top. It’s delicious. But that’s only part of it. A large amount of what I derive from this machine comes from how nicely it’s designed – its shape and its pastel-blue colour – and the simple ritual of filling the portafilter basket, tamping the grounds, twisting it in and summoning the steam. It creates a welcome moment of calm in a frantic workday. Nothing frivolous about it. Smeg ECF01 coffee machine, £319. At John Lewis. johnlewis.com
Nick Knowles cookbook (and Philips food processor)
Dylan Jones, Editor-In-Chief
I gave up cooking in my house when the rest of my family went vegan, or damn near it. Sometimes vegan, all the time vegetarian, but rarely meat. And as most of my cooking revolves (sometimes literally) around a piece of meat, I stopped, never to return. Or so I thought.
But the lockdown has done many things, not least turned me back into a cook. For the last ten weeks my family and I have been taking turns to cook every night (that’s right, every night) and so not only did I have to learn to make and cook vegetarian food, but I had to expand my repertoire (a repertoire that previously included exactly no vegetarian dishes).
And my lifesaver? Well, I had two actually. The first was the Nick Knowles Proper Healthy Food cookbook (especially the vegetarian lasagna and the kale salad covered in tahini and white miso), which apparently was designed to appeal to men who like meat but who don’t (or can’t) eat it anymore. And the second was the Philips food mixer that was in last year’s Men Of The Year goodie bag. (Our MOTY goodie bags are legendary, especially the special ones we reserve for winners and presenters – one year we gave away a car and I’m not even joking.)
So there, I’ve done it. I’ve recommended a vegetarian cookbook and a food mixer. I need to get back to the office. Proper Healthy Food by Nick Knowles, £14.99. At amazon.co.uk
Aaron Toumazou, Commerce Writer
In a cruel twist of fate, just as lockdown rules began, my dishwasher packed in and for what feels like a lifetime now, a proper sleeves-up sink scrub ensues every night before I hit the hay. I’ve absolutely hated it. Which is why my self-cleaning Larq water bottle has been a small consolation.
In the grand scheme of things, a single self-cleaning bottle is a token gesture when faced with a sink-side full of dirty mugs, but I love my Larq bottle for more than its ability to cleanse itself from 99.9999 per cent of bacteria at the touch of the button on the top, via UV-C LED technology on the underside of its lid. Unlike a colander with pasta slowly drying into its sides, even if I forget to push the button, it intuitively activates every two hours anyway to keep things clean and odour free. As the weather has warmed up and I’ve taken to the odd burpee in the sunshine, the double-insulation has proved to be a pretty nifty design quirk too. Plus, its stylish, all-black design makes me feel immeasurably cooler than others working out in the park and guzzling from a single-use plastic alternative. If only Larq did plates, saucepans and cutlery. The Larq Bottle, £95. livelarq.com
Robert Leedham, Audience Manager
If winning quarantine bingo means getting a buzzcut, making some banana bread and taking up running then I am a three-for-three cliché. Technically, I’d been on the Couch To 5k bandwagon since January, so my main priority since late-March has been trying to stretch out my outdoors time while fending off my innate desire to sit on the couch and lose to a 14-year-old at Fifa instead. To that end, my Apple Watch has proved a motivational godsend. As well as tracking my exertions as I trundled towards 10k every other day, its broader reminders to stand up once an hour and take a break via meditative breathing have proved a necessary push away from my laptop. There are plenty of decent smartwatches these days, but the Watch’s ability to slide into your life and prod you in a healthier direction remains unparalleled and particularly welcome right now. Apple Watch, from £399. apple.com
Olive Pometsey, Junior Digital Editor
Prior to lockdown, I owned and frequently forgot to water four plants. Now, I have 14. Don’t ask me how it happened, it just did. Plants purify the air, don’t you know, and while wistfully gazing at the gardens belonging to the flats below me, it became clear that if I was to get over my searing resentment for anyone with private outdoor space, I would simply have to bring the outdoors in. Thanks to online plant delivery services such as Patch, that was the easy part. Keeping my new little ecosystem alive? An entirely different story.
When a virtual Alan Titchmarsh fell into my palm by way of Planta, everything changed. A handy app that lets you log all of your plants on your phone and then reminds you when they need watering, it turned my thumbs bright green as soon as they hit download. And that’s not even the best part. If you’re willing to fork out some cash and pay for the upgrade, you’ll get magical additional features, such as the ability to take a picture of a plant and have it not only immediately identified, but also prescribed a to-do list to ensure it looks its best. I don’t want to brag, but my indoor garden now looks better than the outdoor ones below me. Just saying. Planta
Kingdom Come: Deliverance on PS4
Thomas Barrie, Features Assistant
While I realise this isn’t a physical gadget as such, medieval Hungarian RPG Kingdom Come: Deliverance has usefully wasted so many hours of my lockdown that I’m going to argue that it counts as the single bit of “tech” that has most impacted my last eight weeks. I play about two video games per year – usually the biggest titles to be released the previous year (so they don’t cost an extortionate £49.99) and nearly always single-player RPGs (not for me the pre-teen opponents and nonsensical racial abuse of online shooters, thank you very much).
I’d been meaning to pick up KC:D, which came out in 2018, for a while and since I grabbed a copy secondhand on eBay for a tidy £15 or so, I’ve probably cumulatively spent more time in the company of virtual bohemian peasants than I have in the physical presence of anyone from outside my household. That fact, which normally would be pretty embarrassing, is now totally justified by the guidelines set out by Her Majesty’s government: every minute I spend poaching deer in the king’s forests or fighting off armoured raiders from the next village over (in the game, I should add – society is yet to break down quite so badly in my neighbourhood) reduces the threat to myself and others. It’s super escapist, more engaging than watching a TV show that would take up the same amount of time and I’ve learned more about the Hussite Wars of 1419-34 than I ever thought I would. Everybody wins! Kingdom Come: Deliverance, £24. At amazon.co.uk
Slinger Bag Ball Launcher
Paul Henderson, Associate Editor
When we were all effectively placed under house arrest, it quickly became apparent that while exercise was encouraged, options were limited. “Go for a walk.” “Work out in your garden.” “Ride your bike.” “Try jogging.” Yeah, jog on, Matt Hancock. For those of us who wanted a little more stimulation from our 60 minutes of government-sanctioned fitness, the message was: unlucky. However, my sporting salvation came in the shape of a very large suitcase, AKA the Slinger Bag.
In essence, this portable tennis ball launcher became my 24-hour playing partner who was, and still is, always up for a game – even when new Last Dance episodes landed on Netflix. Simply plug it in, charge it up, load it with balls and you are good to go. No danger of contracting Covid-19 from an infected partner, no unnecessary “in or out” arguments and no reliance on immediate family members who “can’t be arsed to play with you again, Dad (sigh)… God you’re annoying!”
The Slinger Bag holds up to 144 balls, can fire them at speeds between 10mph (is that all you’ve got?) and 45mph (woah, slow down, Novak) and can be set at two- to seven-second intervals (depending on your energy level). Handily, the battery lasts for five hours after a full charge, which is more than enough for anyone – especially when you only use it in your lunch hour because you are, er, officially working from home. (Although to see the improvement in my drop volley you might think I had used it more.)
After weeks of solo practice (occasionally on court and in the back garden), even though lockdown restrictions have now been relaxed, the Slinger Bag is still my preferred playing partner. For one thing, it never laughs at my attempts at a double-handed backhand. And for another, it nearly always lets me win. Slinger Bag Ball Launcher, £780. At slingerbaguk.frameworksports.com
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