We’ve decided to shake things up a bit round here. On Saturday LSB suggested a ‘Date Night’ so at half seven I poured myself a glass of fizz and went upstairs to glam up. It wasn’t a moment too soon as I was getting sick looking at myself, trogging about like some Russian babushka in my woolly cardigans and tracksuit bottoms. Added to this, while out in the garden some bastard insects have nibbled my ankles which are now red and splotchy; my IBS is back from nerviness so I’m boasting a bloated look, and my hands are cracked and veiny from the constant washing. I don’t want to emerge from this quarantine with LSB marching down to the solicitor and citing that he wants a divorce because in addition to my habitual crankiness I also look like a sack of shit.
It was nice, listening to Craig Charles on Radio 6 while I dried my hair and applied proper make-up, with a slick of creamy eyeshadow and my Mac lipstick with a fine little brush I’d forgotten I had. It was nicer still when I went downstairs and the kids said, ‘You look fancy!’ and LSB refilled my glass. The Older One assigned herself the role of ‘Head Waitress’ and served me crisps with a tea-towel over her arm. ‘That’s lovely,’ I said, giving her a kiss and telling them both to clear off to bed. To our amazement off they scampered and didn’t even come back down to annoy. I’m not convinced that LSB didn’t drug them slightly.* We sojourned from the breakfast bar to the table, which earlier we’d cleared of paints and papers and felt tips and other ephemera. We lit a candle and opened a posh bottle of Spanish red. We wondered, if after being in the house for almost 3 weeks if we’d have anything to say to each other. It’s been odd, all of this. During the day, LSB comes down from his study and says things like: ‘What’s the craic?’ and I look up, raise my eyebrows and say ‘What the hell is likely to have changed in the last hour since I saw you?’
But what we are noting is that it’s the micro-stuff, the minutiae that we’re now reporting, has become imbued with more significance. It’s actually lovely. Back when I was pregnant and my pelvis was fecked I used to sit at the front window and watch all the people going by with their dogs. I had different names for them all (the dogs, not the people) so a fluffy white Samoyed became ‘cloud dog’ and a grey mongrel who wasn’t a looker, bless her, was ‘hyena dog’. There was, and indeed still is, a guy we call poodle man, who always has his black poodle with him or a coffee, although never both. It was a pleasant diversion, this dog-spotting, from watching the History Channel and endless documentaries about the Holocaust. No wonder I was proper depressed during both maternity leaves.
But this is what we’re back to now, reporting on all the small things. I mention how when I take the kids on our daily walk that we wave in at an elderly man at number 19, or stop and chat if he’s weeding at the front. Yesterday he told me to pick a few of his blue hyacinths and get the girls to draw them. ‘Very tricky to draw, are hyacinths,’ he mused. Every day we spot our friend Paul in his study. He waves his left hand in an animated fashion, while his right grips the phone as he works. We giggle as we know he wears his work shirt and his grey tracksuit bottoms which no one can see over Skype. Often we meet Maggie and her Shitzu, Bubbles. She always extends his lead so the girls can make a fuss of him. The Small Child likes to giggle over the name ‘Shitzu’, for obvious reasons. ‘But Bubbles ISN’T a rude dog at all,’ she opines. We wave in at Emma and her new baby girl and she waves her baby’s hand back at us. At our friend Sam’s house we make rude faces and execute a ‘crazy dance,’ sometimes to the consternation of passing vehicles. Our little pal Sophie likes to come racing out of house and chat down at us from the tree in her garden. Sometimes she climbs quite disconcertingly high.
I have become an irrepressible ‘thumbs-upper’ even though this is a gesture which has, for some reason always irked me. I give the thumbs up as I pass, as it manages to convey so many things: ‘I’m still alive, and obviously, so are you if you can wave out at me.’ It says, ‘This is horrible and frightening but we’re still here.’ It says, ‘I’m trying to home-school my kids, check in with work and stop them gate-crashing their dad’s work calls and putting the hamster on his shoulder, but we’re smiling.’
So these are the stories we tell each other as we sit over our M&S Dine in for two. We talk about the friends who have contacted us from New Zealand, Barcelona and Nova Scotia, and the ones up the road with whom we rarely talk, but who have lifted the phone. Our 91 year-old friend Grace informed me earlier by e-mail that she spotted a woodpecker during a walk in Belvoir Forest. LSB has never seen a woodpecker, other than the reappearing one in episodes of ‘Ben and Holly’. When this is all over he wants to go and have a look. I never had him down as one with bird-watching tendencies, but there we are. It turns out that we actually have quite a lot to cover over our dinner.
*No children were actually drugged on Saturday evening. Honestly. There was, however, extensive bribing with Nintendo Switch and a large bag of Moams.