It’s hard to tell whether this parallel universe we are currently living in has made me fitter or unhealthier, more socially distanced or less.
I mean, in order to escape my other inmates in lockdown I’ve had to go running once a day for the last eight weeks. But it appears, the daily pounding out of my frustrations has been good for my soul but not for my body. This week my back decides it’s had enough and goes into its own spinal lockdown.
I am reduced to crawling onto the sofa, to resume my daytime soap binge, with a hot water bottle and a bumper pack of Maltesers. This only makes me more miserable as it reminds me that, at this very moment, I should be in Valetta, the capital of Malta, with my two besties, enjoying a fun break. To ease my physical and mental pain I self-medicate on wine and goodies from the cupboard of sin.
This, in turn, enrages Grunting Teen when he discovers his personal snacking store is nearly empty and that my lack of mobility means no imminent trip to the shops. In disgust he socially-distances himself all day, only popping out when his stomach starts rumbling, with a plaintive plea of ‘isn’t your back better yet, mum?’
Normally a one-off session with the chiropractor would sort it out but that’s not going to happen any time soon. But then the phone rings. It’s my friend, calling to commiserate about our trip. She’s a Pilates instructor, furloughed for the moment and desperate to teach a class. Before I know it, we’ve switched to Zoom and she’s talking me through a series of exercises to reset my spine.
Newly re-aligned I can now walk without pain, so when the phone goes again and it’s my other friend suggesting a Malta-alterative meet up in the local park, I gladly agree. It’s so great to see her I have to resist the urge to hug her and, instead, make do with a 2-metre-distance air embrace. Our conversation lifts my mood so much that I even stop off at the shop on the way back to stock up on essential chocolate and crisps.
Grunting Teen with his bloodhound nose for inappropriate food is down the stairs in seconds, hoovering up half the contents of the bag before I even have time to put them away. But put them away I must, as all this excess snacking has added undue stress to my poor wisdom tooth. It’s been nagging away at me for two weeks now. In normal circumstances a quick trip to the dentist for an industrial scale clean would sort it out, but now it’s erupted into a full-blown abscess.
Thankfully, the surgery still offers phone advice and half an hour later I pull up in the car park and the dentist passes me a prescription for anti-biotics through the window. We don’t usually have much to say during my regular check-up visits, as a mouthful of dental instruments isn’t conducive to conversation. But today, we have a long chat through the glass, about life in lock-down and how she’s worried about her family and the future of dentistry. Ignoring the throbbing in my jaw, I smile and nod in the appropriate places.
‘Thank you, I feel so much better for having this talk with you,’ she says gratefully as I finally drive off to pick up my meds.
Whilst waiting for the painkillers and anti-biotics to kick in I distract myself by skyping my sister-in-law in Germany. They’re slightly ahead of us in easing restrictions and can now go to outdoor cafes. But when I see Facebook photos of her countrymen drinking coffee whilst wearing strange swimming noodle hats for self-distancing, I decide that facing Covid is preferable to facing humiliation.
She reminds me that even though Eurovision is cancelled this year, I can watch the Shine the Light programme being broadcast from the Netherlands and join her and our extended family in a Zoom song appreciation.
So, on Saturday night we all gather round the TV in our different destinations round the country and abroad. The focus tonight is not on winning but showing solidarity with all nations of Europe. My back’s recovered and my tooth is on the mend. And as I applaud the contestants and comment on the clips, I realise that I’m thankful my body’s functioning once more, whatever its state of fitness. And I’m aware also that, although we might be spatially distancing, in many ways we’ve never been so socially close.