My husband – more than two decades my senior – is now of an age, with health conditions that have put him on the list of shielded patients. I am currently taking medication that affects my immune system and my son – who I usually see for about two hours a day Monday to Friday – is working from home here full-time and can no longer travel to his girlfriend at weekends. We were in semi-lockdown already and now, along with so many others, it is total. I’ve packed the blunt instruments out of sight but we’re all still speaking. Just.
We play a complex game of musical offices. Tom is based in the dining room but after a high-level conference call during which my husband hove into view pushing his Zimmer and shouting ‘Morning Tommy’ while the cat strolled across the table, he now moves upstairs when the camera has to be on. After a brief experimentation with his own room, my writing space was commandeered. Its proper desk and a view of my bookshelves being deemed preferable, as Tom’s boss acidly observed, to the chief executive from their biggest client getting a view of socks and my son’s unmade bed.
I’ve got a book to write, I mutter, secretly relieved I can procrastinate a bit longer. I have made a list of Things to Achieve during Lockdown. It includes said manuscript, home maintenance, transforming the garden and tackling the stuffed writing room cupboard, last breeched in 1997. So far, I’ve made two carrot cakes, watched the first two series of The Windsors (very funny) and planted a tray of chive seeds.
My son has taken to addressing me in the voice of Harry Enfield being Prince Charles (we’re on season three now) and puts his head around my door to announce with twitching facial expressions: “‘The delivery has come.”
Since it is the last slot we are likely to score for about three months, the plan was to be comprehensive. I have tried to be considerate on the hand-wash and loo roll front (there’s none to be had anyway), but the goods still take up half the path. “Do you actually need that many?” I enquire, waving through the glass, as the delivery chap beats a hasty retreat and my son and I prepare to stagger inside under a weight of wine boxes.
We soon discover my husband has also been panic-buying pineapple, getting round the three-items-only rule by ordering across several different brands.
“Nine tins,” I say crossly, “is completely irresponsible.” He looks truculent. “I like Pineapple,” he grumbles.
If you do too, I can only apologise.
He has forgotten several items we genuinely need and ordered custard, which we never eat. There is still no bread flour. I make bread regularly and have for years. I bet those who’ve stripped the shelves have never baked a loaf in their lives, I rant to the cat. “You keep saying that,” says Tom.
“They’ll have weevils by Christmas,” I add darkly.
Tom holds up a fresh pineapple by its spikes.
“What did you order that for?” I demand of my husband.
He shakes his head. “I didn’t know I had.”
The cat has upped his rodent quota and there is a large dead mouse on the hall rug. I like to think it’s his primal instinct to contribute to the family food banks in times of crisis. Especially as this is a sad day in the supply chain. Nick the butcher from W.A. Hazell in Broadstairs is retiring after decades in the town and I am bereft. His chickens were the best and, bracing ourselves for this moment, we’ve been unashamedly stashing his chipolatas since long before the virus. Nick has been brilliant at delivering to the elderly and vulnerable. He’s going to be missed.
Meanwhile, I’m wishing I’d got my hair cut while I could. The side of my head I keep cropped is growing over my ears. I am just wondering if I can trust my husband to give it the once-over with his beard trimmers when I find him in the kitchen stabbing at the pineapple with the breadknife.
The hair can wait a bit longer….