I think I’m now firmly ticking all the Lockdown stereotypes off the list. My burgeoning waistline is testimony to the banana bread and cream sponges I’ve been baking. (Top tip: adding two tablespoons of peanut butter to your banana bread mix makes it deliciously unctuous). I’m watching You Tube videos on how to successfully transplant my tomato plants without killing them and I’m googling what depth of container is best for sowing courguettes. LSB ordered a BBQ on-line before remembering how all our past barbeques have ended up encrusted with moulded fat and been chucked in the bin. So our new lime ‘Smokey Joe’ from Hillmount is now sitting forlornly in the shed while we grill the sausages as usual. I’ve been fruitlessly scouring the net for a trampoline and discovering that earliest possible delivery is mid-September. I’m never normally ‘on trend’, but I’m slamming it at the moment.
One quick glimpse at my Instagram feed tells me that everyone is stressed to f**k, so I’m bang on trend on that front too. I’m swearing like a navvy, as evidenced on Thursday when I took the dog on her first outings since the accident and she slipped her collar and made to go careening down the street. The worst word, (you know, THAT one,) slipped from my lips as I took off after her. I didn’t want her bursting her stitches and undoing all the good the week’s rest had achieved. The children looked on bemused but thankfully wide-eyed in their innocence.
Later I apologised to them. They have, in fairness, been fairly dire this week, so tempers have been frayed and I have been very ‘shouty’. ‘I’ve been a terrible mummy,’ I said dolefully, as I put then to bed. ‘No, you haven’t,’ said the Small Child, putting her little head on my shoulder. ‘But you ARE a terrible teacher. TERRIBLE.’
The endless questions. MUM!! Can I have a drink? (You know where the fecking tap is!) MUM!! Where are my shoes? (‘They’re your flipping shoes how should I know?’). MUM!! Is my hoodie dry?’ This, from a child, who is standing IN FRONT of the hoodie where it is hanging, damp to the touch, in the laundry room. They have developed selective deafness so they remain impervious to demands to empty the dishwasher, but should they hear the slightest whisper about a socially distanced meet-up they are up off their seats and executing a victory dance.
My brain feels like scrambled egg. Lockdown is like death by a thousand micro-obligations, each task do-able in itself but the accumulation threatens to overwhelm. There have been rows over school-work, rows over eating vegetables, rows over the fecking FECKING Nintendo and the piles of abandoned clothes, not limited only to the house now, but which are also strewn around the garden. I keep reaching for the wine then feeling like an alcoholic and replacing it in the fridge until what feels like an acceptable hour.
Achievements are small but significant. Today I was interrupted and taken upstairs to be shown the cat sitting under the ironing board and the dog lying on a blanket across from her about a metre away. Not a single hiss has been emitted so this détente is worthy of celebration indeed.
So it brings me no end of comfort that other people claim that they too, are going slowly but definitely madder by the moment. I’ve had to completely stop listening to the news because I haven’t been able to control my Tourette’s every time Boris or Trump gets a mention, which is, let’s face it, at every single bulletin.
I’ve been feeling miserable, then feeling bad for feeling miserable, because one, I don’t have coronavirus (as far as I know) and two, if I happen to hand over a fraudulent tenner in the shop, I’m unlikely to end up dead in police custody. What really, does a middle-class white person have to complain about, living here in leafy suburbia? I suppose that’s the first step: understanding that you’ll never understand, and trying then to do something, anything, that will make a difference, no matter how tiny.
With two inquisitive minds in the house, there are questions coming at me that I have no idea how to answer. Please, I think, just go back to asking me what’s for lunch. ‘Was George Floyd a bad man?’ ‘Why did the police do that then?’ At what stage do you start talking to children about these things? So there have been many challenging conversations. We’ve watched the protests on TV but I’ve said we won’t be attending any because of the virus. So we are reading and donating and I’m signing petitions on line. As I said, I’m on trend.
But meanwhile, I’m baking buns and sowing seeds. This, I believe it where it all starts. Children need to learn by osmosis and be shown how to self-soothe, and when they see me out, pottering with my bags of compost, they see me happy and no longer rattled. It usually isn’t long before they abandon their screens and pop out to join me. Voltaire’s Candide, my most favourite of all literary characters, knew what he was on about when he said we should tend our gardens. It won’t heal us, or our fractured society, but it’s as good a place as any to start.