Lockdown, our lockdown that is, ends today at 2pm on 24th July. I took a mugshot for the record and you are indeed perfectly correct, I am exceedingly tatty.
By way of a reiteration I have been turning over in my mind what has happened in the last 126 days.
What has not happened is easily summarised. We have not been out except for exercise and a change of scenery and then only half a dozen times. We have not been to any shops for any thing. My wife had a relapse and nipped into the Coop when she once escaped out on her own but otherwise none. I have not eaten any beefsteak. We have not hugged anyone (apart from each other). I confess that we both had a relapse on our grandsons birthday earlier this week but until then total abstinence. We have not eaten out or ordered a takeaway. We have not driven anywhere by car apart from one visit to the GPs and our ride to the grandson's birthday event mention earlier. We have not been in a confined space with any other person apart from the same trip to the birthday meet up. Apart from the lack of hugs we have not been bovvered. Not a bit.
What has happened? Well this for a start.
For four years I have invested time and hard cash into the cultivation of one of my favourite perennials but each year the gastropods have beaten me to it and scoffed all the new shoots in one overnight binge leaving nothing behind. In The Covid, eyes were peeled, tactics were improved and here we are, Helenium autumnale - Moerheim Beauty in all its glory.
The pond project was cancelled and in its place we have created a productive garden. Spinach has been moderately successful but due to dry weather it bolted early. Peas were very tasty, all 24 pods of them, light problems with those possibly and the lettuce did not work at all, again too dry but also in the wrong place. Chard is still going strong, rhubard is proliferating, climbing French beans are yet to produce but we have a very promising and attractive row of runner beans. We have perpetual spinach, Mizuma and a few other ideas for winter veggies but in the meantime cabbages, kale and cauliflower are all growing so there is much to anticipate with a good crop of chives and parsley coming along vigorously behind. I sent in an army of nematodes after the slugs and today it looks like this
We created a rose garden at the front of the house. We have three different yellow floribunda roses that in our dry, calcareous, impoverished soil have spent a few precarious years struggling against the odds. I dug out a massive trench at least 400mm deep and back filled it with a mixture of our soil, garden compost, John Innes No. 3 and added additional organic and slow release fertiliser. The plants breathed a long sigh of relief, I swear I could hear them, and they appear to have settled down, two have flowered once and a third late flowerer has at last begun to bud up. The prospects of a proper rose display next year are promising.
Before my dear wife fell over backwards wildly gesticulating with a loaded paintbrush, speckling the yard and putting herself out of action for a few days she had made an absolutely magnificent job of repainting nearly all the fencework and my workshed. Our woodwork has never looked so good.
An enormous nest of yellow ants appeared in our small greenhouse. I sent an army of nematodes in after those too and I can confirm that said busy pests have buggered off I know not where. They must have packed up, shouldered their eggs, pupae and household belongings and trailed off in the middle of the night, a long line of, I would say roughly 123,435, dejected, homeless ants who could not tolerate my alien host of foreign invaders. I am much in favour of hard working immigrants.
We are 11 to 8 down on the Friday night cribbage! Our game has proved to be a weekly treat that we have come to anticipate with great pleasure, an evening of catching up with the young folks and checking the progress of our next great grandson. Getting beaten fair and square is a small price to pay. Interestingly we have achieved such fluency with our invented rules for remote working that the real thing is bound to be confusing when we next play face to face.
We have discovered a new relationship with our garden and home. Re-learning how to appreciate the little details and feeling extremely thankful for the space we have to breathe in, work, do our separate things and relax together. Perhaps most importantly we have rekindled our love for this home with a new understanding of its worth as a home and the focal point of our lives. The memories, history and personalities contained in the things we hold dear, the places we have enjoyed and the loved ones we have lost have taken on a new significance. They have been the stable, familiar backdrop of our lockdown, secure, grounded and unchanging.
My wife has completed at least a quarter of a book of Telegraph cryptic crosswords and although it took me all of 126 days I managed a whole little book of 250 Sudoku puzzles ranging from moderately difficulty to your ‘aving a giraffe! Our conclusion is that Altzheimer’s has not crept up on us in The Covid so far.
Our diet has improved, probably more in my case than my wife’s, for a range of reasons not the least being that we have been less active outside of the house which has given us more time for cooking at home. Being highly gluten sensitive, (though tested negative I am as sensitive as any ceoliac disease sufferer), my go-to meals when eating out are either large lumps of meat and chips or all day fried breakfasts and we did eat out a great deal. Our digestive systems are now thoroughly re-acquainted with regular vegetables and as a consequence are behaving much better. I have lost 3kg in weight.
Online grocery shopping happened. At least it did after Tesco finally achieved capacity to meet demand. Unfortunately this took them most of our lockdown but it works pretty well now and especially so since they started to prioritise slot bookings for the over 70’s. Online shopping is now our thing and will be continued.
There was an unwelcome re-occurrence of PTSD symptoms, nothing I can blame on The Covid because it had been building up for some months ahead of the lockdown. I should say effective yet again, because this was the third time. After recovering from a second breakdown I tried to avoid a longer term of treatment being acutely aware that it affected those creative processes which my life and my way of life depends upon. Continuous mental war with panic attacks, palpitations, tremors and racing thoughts eventually wears you down not to mention the regular traumatic dreams reliving the stuff that caused PTSD in the first place and also the constant pressure to maintain a pretence of normality. I gave in, I surrendered to treatment and am now much improved.
We had a rest. A long unhurried step back from a frenetic world that no matter how “retired” you might be sweeps you along in a society that works more like a machine operating 24 hours a day, delivering an unending supply of hedonistic temptations, diversions and entertainment and consuming all the life it can digest in its one soulless objective of wealth creation. We have experienced both the effect of that devilish enginery and then a life affirming relief when the world took an unscheduled break in The Covid. We have been in respite. Taking a break, reflecting on our world, our society and our nearest and dearest. This has been the most profoundly rewarding aspect of the forced privations of this lockdown experience. Our lives have breathed a long sigh of relief just as our dear planet has with this sudden drop in environmental toxicity.
As a family we have grown together. We have always been close and supportive which is due mostly to my Mum and Dad’s example, a legacy to be remembered and honoured for its importance to us all, but now I feel we are closer, tighter and much deeper in terms of our shared experiences. We have been unselfishly supported by them all which has not been easy for them with two stubbornly independent, self sufficient people like us. We have learnt a little humility and to be dependent on them, our children and our grandchildren which has been a good thing and a thing to cling on to. We are naturally relieved that the virus has not settled on any of them so far and so, so grateful to them all that it is impossible to convincingly express that in words.
My wife and I have become much closer during our lockdown, much more integrated and settled after what seems to have been a lifetime, for each of us, fulfilling our caring responsibilities which took us in other directions and left little time over for each other. Here we are locked down together in The Covid with only each other for entertainment, friendship, conversation, reassurance, love and human contact at what surely was the perfect time in our lives to remember and celebrate our marriage while looking after each other. Here we are looking out for each other as usual in our first skirmish with that invisible enemy out there beyond our front door
Of course we are fortunate enough to be independent of the need to work and the pressure of paying bills although our pension savings have taken a serious hammering. We know that, but we worked hard for that too and in so doing prepared for an unknown future disaster which turned out to be The Covid. Little did we know though that a future voracious disaster would target mainly us, the over 70’s, as it’s preferred victims.
Sharon wears a mask,
Sharon cares for other people like she cares for me.
Don’t be a selfish dick head,
Be like Sharon,
Wear a mask.
The virus is still out there folks and at the time of writing new cases are heading back up again. The Covid is not over yet so wear a mask, stay safe, take no risks and watch this space, lockdown might return before The Covid is done with us.