Last night’s news was not looking promising. There’s a feeling that soon only essential shops may stay open and that we will be asked to limit our social interactions. In the meantime, until that comes into force, I’m determined to carry on as normal.
I head down to Saturday’s local park run, where, not surprisingly, the numbers are down. Still, there’s a good few hundred runners here, showing off how healthy and corona-free we are. But as we’re penned up, listening for the starter-gun, I have a sudden moment of panic. What if we only seem healthy but are in fact incubating and spreading the virus as we wait? On the positive side, I’ve never got off to such a fast start, racing to put as much space as possible between me and my nearest rival. I return home with a PB and a sense that this may well be my last parkrun for a while.
Grunting Teen is yet to surface so I brace myself and knock on his bedroom door. I parkour nimbly across his dark, fetid teen-cave, fling back the curtains and open the window in one deft movement. Inhaling deeply, I manage a single breath of ‘Timetogetupweneedtogoshopping’ and springbok my way out again.
Half an hour, 2 bowls of cereal, 4 slices of toast and a banana later, he deigns to look at me from underneath the fringe that reaches half-way down his face. I mentally add, ‘get a haircut’ to the priority list for both him and me next week. He mutters something under his breath, which I take to be an expression of defiance regarding our retail outing.
The Nearly-Beloved, that stickler for rules, is for once, on his son’s side.
‘Listen, we’ve been asked only to go out if strictly necessary,’ he says, ‘I hardly think a trip into town counts as essential.’
I point out that our man-boy is growing several centimetres a day and unless I get him some new trainers asap, he’ll have to go barefoot or be confined forever to the house.
‘Besides, it’s Mother’s Day tomorrow and unless you’ve both had a character transplant, you might need to find a card shop.’
The Nearly-Beloved’s face pales as he scrambles for his phone and the gift-delivery websites.
As compensation for keeping him in his mother’s good books, he agrees to come into town with us on a pasta recce whilst I sort out footwear for Grunting Teen, who has categorically refused to be seen in more than one shop with an aged parent.
‘We’ll go to the sports shop then,’ I say, ‘it should be quieter than normal clothes shops and I’ll buy you some large-sized trackie bottoms, just in case.’
Grunting Teen rolls his eyes at me, unaware that the jeans I bought him only a few weeks ago are now already hovering above his ankles. Still at least we’re heading towards summer and in the worst scenario I can hack off his denims at the knees to create instant shorts.
Dropping the Nearly-Beloved off with strict instructions not to return without pasta, I usher Grunting Teen into the store, which, to my amazement, has half-empty shelves and is packed full of muscle men.
‘What’s going on?’ I ask a harassed assistant.
‘All fitness centres have just been closed so everyone’s stocking up on home gyms,’ she explains.
Avoiding the hand-weights and static-bike corner where a fist fight appears to be in full swing, we head to the shoe section and then on to the till, where Grunting Teen is impressed that I can handle a self-check-out. But I’m not impressed with the various balls, pull-up bar, work-out mat and selection of food items he’s managed to conceal under the XXL tracksuit bottoms.
‘Sir says we’ve got to keep fit,’ he grumbles, as I reject a volleyball and several energy bars.
‘Well you’ve got enough equipment here to keep you going and hopefully your dad will return with energy giving pasta. If we don’t find some soon, we’ll be back on the Smash…’
Luckily, the Nearly-Beloved has had a successful outcome, judging by the big beam on his face.
‘’You got some then?’ I ask, ‘From Sainsbury’s?’
‘No, from that summer shop,’ he replies.
Summer shop? Does he mean Somerfield? I thought that closed down a few years ago. Still, for a man who hasn’t been in a shop for several years, he’s doing remarkably well.
It’s only that evening when we’re fine-dining on my corned-beef surprise and Grunting Teen asks, ‘Mum, why are we eating pasta willies?’ that I realise which summer shop he actually means.
Still, at least it’s an improvement on reconstituted potato and he did make the effort to get them, unlike Grunting Teen who, next morning, presents me with a Happy Birthday card he’s found in the kitchen drawer and a pack of half-eaten Maoam.
‘Sorry, mum. I forgot. I’m just stressed out at the moment,’ he says. And looking at his pale, anxious face, I suddenly realise that the constant stream of depressing news on social media is not doing my son any good.
‘What we need and what would be the best Mother’s Day present ever, would be a lovely walk in the countryside,’ I say, ‘it’s only a ten-minute drive out to the Peaks where we can escape the mad throngs.’
But the mad throngs have all had the same idea and the national park is filled with cars and rambling mothers. Thankfully, we manage to avoid physical contact, and the beauty of the moorland lifts my soul. Yet, once more I have the sense that this may well be my last foray into nature for a while.
Home again and the Nearly-Beloved is acting very suspiciously. He’s cooked a delicious meal of beans on toast and sat through an entire episode of the Crown without making any anti-royalist comments. Then, when Grunting Teen disappears to bed, he winks at me in a most unnerving manner.
‘The lady in that summer shop told me a very good way of boosting your immune system,’ he says, ‘I mean we should be doing all we can to make sure we don’t catch this virus, shouldn’t we?’
Hmmph, I don’t like the sound of this one bit! It’s not the first Saturday in the month. Or Christmas. Or his birthday.
‘I think you’re right, love,’ I reply sweetly, ‘Maybe we should self-isolate properly. You go and sleep in the spare room tonight…’