Home-schooling, well isn’t that a total arse-ache? I can’t keep up: I’m stressed to fuck. We’re prancing about with Joe Wicks at 9am, then we’re doing a few worksheets, nipping out for some fresh air, reading stories, and all this amid repeated demands for drinks and snacks and me shouting ‘Have you washed your hands?’ WASH YOUR HANDS!!’ We’ve yet to check out Carol Vorderman doing her sums; nor have we investigated the billion ‘fun educational games’ on the computer (my laptop of course because Himself is up there doing his work) and I haven’t looked near their wee ‘See-saw’ school app because my brain can’t process any more information.
Meanwhile, DING DING DING goes the phone as pals post a million humorous jokes and videos where people showcase their creativity and ability to not only cope emotionally with this threat of extermination, but also produce original and entertaining content. I’m not a bit pleased with these ones who are managing to be amusing when I can’t even get my arse to a seat and churn out a blog post. I just can’t, between children wanting me and failure to harness any coherent thoughts. I feel as though there’s a red-setter inside my head who’s dropped a few disco biscuits, cranked up the techno and is having a good rave to himself. I haven’t been able to think or or channel any creative thoughts at all. My head is as fried as an overdone egg with burnt crispy bits.
As well as trying to feeding and teach my youngsters, and making sure the house doesn’t descend into a quagmire of filth, I’m checking in with work occasionally and trying to appear normal. But tell me, what does normal look like when normality has packed its bags and legged it through the door? And then, all of a sudden, it’s 6pm and we are tuning into Oliver Jeffers reading his stories as I pour a glass of wine and wonder where the hell the day went.
Could be worse, I suppose. I could be a respiratory consultant with no face mask and a 48 hour shift ahead of me with an empty fridge at home and no loo roll. It’s all perspective really, when one thinks about it.
Phew. Well that’s that off my chest then, how the hell are you all? I hope you’re well and hanging in there and that you got over that brief but terrible shock on Tuesday when Boris threatened to close the off-licenses.
In truth, I’m ok. There are moments when the whole ‘almost apocalypse’ has me wanting to crawl under the duvet and detach myself from reality altogether, but that would be quite selfish now, wouldn’t it? My kids have actually been (and I can hardly believe I’m saying this) quite sanguine about it all. They aren’t harassing me to have their pals round, and they seem to have digested that something big and beyond our control is afoot and that we just have to accept it for the time being.
Normally when I’m stressed I like to retreat into a book, but I’ll admit that I’ve found reading difficult, because I’ve trouble focus and I’m exhausted by nightfall. Happily though, before lockdown I popped into Books Paper Scissors and bought a copy of Malachi O’Doherty’s ‘Terry Brankin has a Gun’. It was quite what I needed: a fast paced page turner that succeeded in distracting me from our current situation. It’s a shrewd and insightful look into our troubled and not-so distant past and I loved it. Despite the subject matter being dark, O’Doherty manages to inject humour into some episodes with a deftness of touch. I was chuckling away to myself when the equivalent of the Nolan Show gets in touch with Brankin with hilarious results. Only a Northern Irish writer could capture the surreal aspect of society here with such clarity.
Next up, I’m going back to one of my favourite authors, Anne Tyler. With her finely tuned observations and wry tone, she puts me in mind of Elizabeth Strout, a writer with whom I’m a bit obsessed. Like Strout, Tyler examines the most challenging aspects of the human condition, and does so with such honesty and compassion, that you begin to extend some self-love to yourself.
So try, amid the madness of home-schooling and working and keeping in contact with your loved ones, to carve out some time for yourself. I’m away now to hide from everyone and self-soothe for half an hour. Too much reality isn’t good for anyone these days.