WE’VE got Covid in the house.” Josie Long has popped up on Zoom looking tired and maybe a little stressed. And with good (or, in the circumstances, bad) reason. 
The C word is at large in the Glasgow home she shares with her partner and their two young children. “Technically I don’t have it. I’m testing all the time,” she explains, “but I do feel that perhaps I had it mildly because now my chest is very tight. 
“It’s the fourth time,” she says with some exasperation. 
In the circumstances, Long is entitled to feel a bit fed up. But it’s not what you expect from the comedian. It’s so far from her default position. So, it’s not really too surprising that within five minutes of our conversation kicking off she’s passionately extolling her love of Glasgow, the short stories of Raymond Carver, parenthood and Dawn French and pretty much anything else that pops up. 
As a stand-up and in person Long is quite simply one of life’s great enthusiasts. You can tell from the titles of her past stand-up shows. Cherry picking to make the point, there was Kindness and Exuberance (2006), Trying is Good (2008), All the Planet’s Wonders (2009), Romance and Adventure (2012), Something Better (2016) and her current show Re-Enchantment which she first performed last year and is still touring.
Which makes her new book of short stories, Because I Don’t Know What You Mean And What You Don’t, as much of a surprise as her Covid-induced weariness today. 
Because for once Long is not looking for the positives as she so often does in her stand-up.

These are, as she says herself, “sad, terse short stories.” Stories full of bad boyfriends, toxic relationships, parental fear and the odd dystopian nightmare. 
“People finding the present difficult or finding being in the present difficult,” she suggests.

“It was refreshing for me to sometimes be like bone dry in my cynicism.”
That said, Long adds, “I think it’s still people trying desperately to hold out hope, or at least keep their spirit alive.”
The book arrives trailing effusive praise from the likes of AL Kennedy, Frankie Boyle, Joanna Lumley and the aforementioned French, another comedian turned writer (as is Boyle for that matter).
French’s endorsement was particularly pleasing for Long. “That Dawn French had even read it was such an incredible thrill. Quite literally my childhood hero who taught me what comedy was.
“This is something I’ve wanted to do since I was a child. And it’s fulfilling to not have to write with my comedy brain the whole time. Just to write for the sake of developing stories and processing emotions … And getting revenge on people who deserve it.” 
Ah yes, that might be those bad boyfriends …
We could accept the book as something of a Covid gift. Apart from one story that dates from 2016 and another started in the same year, the rest of these stories were written during lockdown when Long was pregnant and couldn’t perform, except online. Even so, it was a struggle to get started and she needed encouragement and mentoring from her friend and novelist Nikesh Shukla to get herself motivated.
“I live or die for compliments. I can’t help it. So, the fact that you do 16 little pieces and you get the feedback back each time was very helpful.”
So much has changed for Long since the last time I met her back in 2018. A book and two children for a start. She also moved to Glasgow from London at the end of 2020. “I’d been wanting to move up for a decade. It just took me that long to extricate myself from London psychologically.”
What have been the upsides and downsides of relocation, Josie?
“It’s genuinely nice to feel content. I can’t get over the fact that I live somewhere that architecturally has so much beauty to it. I do know it’s not all beautiful, but all the tenements I find really stunning. I just do. So, on a very basic level it’s so nourishing to be walking around somewhere that I think is beautiful.
“The downside is that the buses lie. All day, every day. Every day the buses are like, ‘Yeah, yeah there’s one coming … Oh, it’s disappeared.’ If you said there were no buses for 30 minutes I’d be OK.”
Other changes? Well, she has also been diagnosed as having ADHD during lockdown. Did that come as a surprise?
Sort of, she says. Her friend Helen Zaltzman had suggested as much nearly two decades ago when they were both living in Peckham. “It was so obvious to her.”  But Long didn’t believe her. It was only during lockdown, when she had the chance to achieve her lifelong ambition to write but was struggling to take it, that she began to think again. 
The diagnosis allowed a few things to fall into place for her.
“The bittersweet part of it is I feel able to understand my emotions and my brain so much better. A lot of the things that were difficult are a lot less difficult. I don’t have to take meds yet. I am just aware and that is wonderful.
“But, on the other hand, I look back at being expelled from primary school when I was eight, not being able to do as well as I wanted to do in my A levels, struggling with my degree, not following through on a million different creative projects. What? Nobody picked up on this the whole f****** time? Not a single person? That can be frustrating.”
She can see the condition at work in her fiction too.

“I think the book itself is part of that feeling of overthinking and overfeeling that is so typical of ADHD. A lot of the stories are about anxious people with very overworked inner monologues which is like … my vibe.”
We talk about parenthood because it is inevitably front and centre in her life these days.
“Becoming a parent suddenly makes things terrifying. My daughter is under the weather and last night I had a panic attack and I had to go up and sit with her. 
“You see things that you went through and you think, ‘No, I can’t bear the thought of them going through that.’
“You want them to have an easy run,” Long admits. “But also what’s good to know is all the things you experienced you came through and that actually there are not that many experiences they couldn’t get through.” 
On the very last page of the book a tired and stressed mother of young kids asks: “How can I bring someone into this world when it feels like apocalypse is everywhere?” In the circumstances, that seems a suitable question to ask Long herself.
“I do think that climate change is incredibly, desperately sad,” she explains. “And I do think that the authoritarian government in Westminster is horrendous and a generation of people had their hope stamped out of them and raised to the ground.”
In her own life, she adds, “I do think a lot about my children and how will they forgive me for this? 
“But I also say in the book “enough will be wonderful”. I believe it. I really do. I believe being on Earth under any conditions is worth it, even if it’s for a small amount of time. Because why not? What else is there going on in the universe?”

Because I Don’t Know What You Mean And What You Don’t by Josie Long (Canongate, £16) is out now. Long will perform her stand-up show Re-Enchantment at the Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock, tonight (June 3), Mull Theatre, Druimfin, June 27 and the Tolbooth, Stirling, on July 7