The Corona Chronicles: Week 4: Family’s good and bad news week

It’s been a good news, bad news week.

The good news for Grunting Teen is that school is now closed. The bad news is that his teachers are still setting him work.

The good news for the Nearly-Beloved is that his job is safe. The bad news is that his office is now permanently in the dining room.

The good news for me is the freedom to enjoy the unseasonal sunshine. The bad news is I’ve only got this chance because my own work has dried up.

Still, the Nearly-Beloved likes to keep me busy and has tasked me with sorting out the kitchen cupboards and mowing the lawn. As well as the oven cleaner and wasp spray, I’ve found eight packets of pegs, 2 pairs of oven gloves and 5 car sponges, foisted on me by the prison-release door-to-door salesman, whose sob story I can never resist. Now with government plans to cut short some offenders’ sentences, I expect to be inundated with dusters. But on the bright side I can pass them on to my neighbour who’s in charge of our street’s face mask production line.

As expected, all parkruns have been cancelled and so has the Sheffield half-marathon, which I’ve been training for over the past 3 months. It’s a bit of a blow, but I’m keeping fit, keeping the garden in shape. Only, apparently, I’m not! The Nearly-Beloved, who has strict rules about what constitutes a weed, is not impressed by my haphazard digging and wiggly borders. He takes regular breaks to supervise me and point out the error of my horticultural ways. But it’s okay. I’m dealing well with it. And that husband-shaped hole behind the garden shed is coming along nicely…

Darling Daughter is working from home too and my son-in-law’s been furloughed, so financially they can cope. They were meant to be moving into their first house this week but instead they’re unpacking boxes and hunkering down in their flat. At least they haven’t started paying the mortgage yet and are saving a fortune by staying in.

‘Your hair looks lovely, sweetheart,’ I say, smiling at her from the bench in the garden.

‘Yes, thank goodness I got it cut before lock-down,’ she replies and I groan, wondering what state my own thatch will be in by the end of this crisis.

‘What are you doing here?’ comes the voice of disapproval from the back door, ‘We’re all meant to be self-isolating!’

‘We’re at least 2 metres away from each other’ I reply, ‘and we’re family members. What harm can it do?’

The Nearly-Beloved harrumphs and disappears.

‘Maybe I’d better go then, mum,’ says Darling Daughter sadly.

‘Okay,’ I agree reluctantly, ‘I was going for a run anyway.’

And the run lifts my mood and turns out to be most sociable. I decide not to head off-road into the Peaks, in the unlikely event I twist my ankle and have to explain to A&E why I was so far from home. Instead, my route takes me past several friends’ houses and, as they’re out in their gardens, we shout news and encouragement to each other from a corona-safe distance. But I opt not to tell the Nearly-Beloved of my adventures. If he was running the government, we would all have an allocated, solitary exercise slot and be tasered if we broke the rules.

Unfortunately, though, he’s pre-empted this evening’s Corona update, as we’re now instructed to stay at home, only go out for essential shopping and exercise just once a day. We can only mix with people in our immediate household and we’re forbidden from heading out into the countryside.

Grunting Teen hears the news and abruptly disappears from the room. He’s been doing so well this week. He’s been keeping up with all his on-line schoolwork, taking his personal hygiene far more seriously, and even offering the occasional, muttered response to us at mealtimes.

I go upstairs and knock on his door.

‘What’s wrong, sweetheart?’ I ask.

He looks up at me from beneath his curtain of hair.

‘This all sucks, mum! It’s the holidays next week and I can’t do anything! I can’t go climbing any more. I can’t go to the cinema. And I can’t even see my mates. It’s so unfair. And my hands hurt.’

I look down and notice for the first time that his fingers are red-raw. He’s obviously been taking the hand-washing to extremes.

‘Oh darling, I know it seems as if a noose is tightening on us,’ I say, feeling exactly the same way, yet deciding I need to be the voice of reason, ‘but we’re the lucky ones. We’ve got plenty of space and a garden to escape to. We’re not being bombed and we’re not short of food. We’re being asked to have a staycation to protect the vulnerable and help out those in the front-line who are potentially risking their lives for us. It’s not much to ask is it really?’

‘S’pose not.’

‘And look, I’ll cook us a nice tea tonight.’

‘Not your corned beef shocker, pasta willies, or chilli and Smash again?’

‘No, a proper tea, I promise.’

And so that evening after pizza, ice-cream and 2 episodes of Tiger King, it turns out to have been more of a good news, than a bad news week…

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