These are strange and worrying times that we’re currently living through and we have a choice of being overwhelmed by fear or of trying to ‘find the message in the mess.’
Today – because tomorrow, who knows? – I’ve decided to put a positive spin on the situation and find the ‘crown in the corona’ and the ‘victory in the virus’.
Unfortunately, I’ve fallen behind in the stockpiling stakes, so soap, sanitiser and paracetamol have already been bagged by the gold-medallist-hoarders with their triple-decker trolleys, leaving me to raid the booby-prize shelf, with its oven cleaner, wasp spray and indigestion tablets.
Back home I spray the chemical cocktail randomly around. It’s pretty potent and before long my lungs have taken a hit. I decide that a walk in the fresh air is just what I need. There are a few pedestrians out and about but, as I cough up the waspy oven cleaner, they magically disappear and I have the streets to myself. It’s remarkably peaceful without the usual traffic noise, and the air tastes clean and fresh. With no office to rush to, I have the time to admire the miniature daffodils, nodding their golden heads appreciatively at this new world order.
Zen peace doesn’t last long though as, on my return, I discover the Nearly-Beloved, rummaging through the kitchen cupboards
‘What are you doing here?’ I ask nervously.
‘We’ve all got to work from home – ‘it’s meant to be safer, more hygienic.’
His expression suggests otherwise, as he’s had over 30 years to realise my limitations as a housewife and my personal immunity-building strategy of exposing the family to as much dirt and bacteria as possible.
‘Ah, found some!’ he shouts victoriously and from the space under the u-bend of the sink, he conjures up 2 bars of coal-tar soap, circa 1998.
‘At least we’ll be able to wash our hands now! And maybe if you do a bit of de-cluttering, who knows what else you’ll find.’
And the Mr Right I married turns out, as usual, to be Mr Always Right. As I visit storage places last opened in the 20th century, I discover a bottle of disinfectant, nozzle missing – but beggars can’t be choosers – and a pocket-sized anti-bacteria gel, wrapped up in a nappy sack. I feel like I’ve won the lottery!
And even more so when a note pops through the door, suggesting we start a neighbourhood Whatsapp group to look out for each other in the community. It feels good to know that the media portrayal of selfish individualism is not, in fact, the case and that strangers can still open their arms, metaphorically at least.
However, when I open my arms to the Grunting Teen, on his return from school, he recoils in horror. ‘Mum, you’re old and decrepit! I’m not supposed to go near you!’
‘I assume you’re showing concern for the potential risk you may cause to us?’ I say, pointing him towards the bathroom.
It feels almost festive as I hear him singing the government-prescribed, two rounds of ‘Happy Birthday’ upstairs. Just a shame that, instead of the homely aroma of baking cake, there’s a pervasive scent of tarmacked road.
‘Mum’, he says plaintively, peering over at me from the landing, ‘are you going to die?’
‘Well of course I’m going to die,’ I reply, looking at his shocked face, ‘it’s the one given in life. And that’s why it’s important for each of us to contemplate this fact, decide how we feel about it and what we believe. You know, ‘die before you die’. That way it really makes you appreciate every moment of life you’ve been gifted, so you use it wisely and don’t waste it…’
My words, apparently, haven’t reduced his anxiety. I try a different tack.
‘Listen, 96% of people recover completely from this illness and, if I get it, then I intend to be one of them. Because, if I peg it, your big sister will inherit a teenager and I couldn’t possibly do that to her.’
In response, there’s a grunt and a ‘Can I go on the PS4 then, mum?’
Whilst the boys are otherwise engaged, I crack on with the cooking duties. I’ve not done a good job on stocking up for the current crisis. But down the cellar I do have random supplies in case of a ‘hard Brexit’. So, dinner tonight is a medley of tinned chili con carne – sell by date 2019 – and a packet of reconstituted mashed potato, followed by some healthy peaches in syrup. Thank goodness for those indigestion tablets – far more useful than paracetamol!
And even more gratitude comes my way as, in the spirit of ‘social distancing’, Grunting Teen retreats to his Cave, the Nearly-Beloved finds solace in his CD collection, leaving me to retrieve the Christmas Quality Street and binge-watch season 3 of The Crown.
All is well, as long as I retain my sense of humour … And if we all survive until the summer, then you’re invited to a BBQ at mine – no wasps guaranteed!