I’m on a virtual date. It’s exactly the same as a standard date, just with a slight gap of 11 miles between us. With some of the dates I’ve endured in the past, 11 miles would be a little too close for comfort, but I like this date enough to very much wish we were sharing a sofa right now.
We’re watching a film about journalists uncovering child sex abuse in the Catholic church in Boston – possibly not the most romantic subject for date no. five, but it’s excellent. It has Mark Ruffalo, who’s my favourite actor when he’s not being the Hulk (funnily, being the Hulk is exactly when he’s the tallest teen’s favourite actor). All the uncovering takes place at the time I was a cub reporter on a weekly paper, so I can knowingly explain words like ‘stringer’ and ‘doorstepping’ and verify that the computers were, indeed, that big. It’s a good date, but I’d far rather be sharing the sofa.
We reach day 27 of lockdown and our new, gentler way of life. The teens and I measure our heights in pen on the landing wall that should have been decorated when we moved in 2016, and might actually get done now we can’t go much further than up and down the stairs. I’m precisely in the middle of their heights; two and a half inches taller than the elder teen – as I have been since we moved in 2016 – and two and a half inches shorter than the tallest teen, who’s still the youngest, only now with enormous man hands and a gruff voice. The teens find drawing on the wall as hilariously naughty as they did when they were still at the Play-Doh-in-the-sockets stage. It seems a very long time before lockdown.
Not so hilarious is camping in the garden, which I suggest we do at Easter (we always camp at Easter). A few years back, pitching the tent in our previous garden rendered me the best, most adventurous mum ever, but now the idea is met with rolly eyes and, possibly, a smattering of pity. Undeterred, I pop up my one-man on our current lawn. Round about now I realise it’s handy that the teens aren’t playing, as our current lawn will in no way accommodate the ‘big’ tent. I sleep out on Good Friday and wonder who on Earth is making so many essential journeys, at speed, along our road at 11.20pm.
Under lockdown, I read, ploughing through novels at a rate not managed since uni and the haste to get all those boring Laurence Sterne books ticked off the reading list. I read in the daytime – not even having to pretend to be ill – and it’s a joy to rediscover Du Maurier, who writes, prophetically for our new, unmaterialistic times, that “happiness is not a possession to be prized… it is a state of mind.”
I take a break from running, because it’s stopped going so well, and climb our little hill each morning in golden, hazy sunshine, looking down the valley to 11 miles away and daydreaming about proper dates. Above all, I sleep; for hours, like a child, in a way I haven’t since I was round about the smallest teen’s age, just before the 3am panics started to keep me awake.
I wobble daily, but that’s ok as I have the best kind of friends on the phone and on video messaging, and sometimes two metres from my doorstep, waiting to metaphorically pick me up. They wobble too but that’s also ok as, due to all the lovely sleeping and relaxing reading, I have the energy (and time) to pick them up in return. I go to Tesco to buy a sympathy card and find the sympathy section completely, utterly bare. It’s more poignant than a thousand news reports, no explanation of stringers or doorstepping needed, and I wonder if the shelves will ever be full again.
Life ticks by, determinedly, steadily. We have everything we need and a warm, safe home in which to have it, and I’m grateful every day. And then a job comes up, unexpectedly and without being asked to interview. Twenty seven days ago, I couldn’t imagine ever not running my business – which, by the way, has sailed through Coronavirus with a busy-ness that leaves me sick with survivor’s guilt – but the job has so much value that I instinctively accept. And so tomorrow, on day 28 of lockdown, I’ll join a National Health Service relentlessly stitching together the seams of our country each time a thread threatens to unravel, and I couldn’t be more excited.
“You’ve all got to remember that we will get through it in the end, it will all be right. For all those people finding it difficult at the moment, the sun will shine on you again and the clouds will go away.”
Captain Tom Moore raises his millions for the NHS in that quietly heroic kind of way that us mortals can only marvel at. Staying in is the new going out – and my sofa for one will, soon, again hold two.