‘What do you miss most?’ I hear people ask. Families towns, counties, and countries away; Loved ones in hospitals and nursing homes without visitors since March; hugging a grieving friend or waking our dead; livelihoods lost overnight and the pressure to reinvent oneself online. Each as valid and heartbreaking as the next. I must have a charmed life or simply be very shallow but I miss no longer being able to outsource my personal grooming. Hair. Let’s start with the body. I swim therefore I wax. Gone are the days of some poor young one pulling and yanking so I’m not scaring children on the beach. DIY is proving very challenging. I was recommended a pot of microwavable wax that came with a lollipop sized paddle to cover my 34” legs, it started off well, easier and less painful than I’d imagined, ‘why didn’t I ever try this before?’ I asked myself but then I got bored and less brave as I neared the thighs and bikini line so decided to go hybrid and use a gel that you wash off in the shower after 10-12 mins. Gel on and waiting round in the bathroom having been ejected from the kitchen by my teenage son saying ‘just no’ as it was putting him off his coco pops. I realise I’ve forgotten to take note of the time and worry I’m going to burn the legs off myself so hop into the shower with mixed results, perhaps it wasn’t 10 minutes after all so I’m down to the schoolgirl option of the trusty razor but it’s been almost 30 years and the muscle memory is gone. Between the hair, the wax, the gel, the blade and the blood, my bathroom resembles an ISPCA crime scene where a baby otter has been massacred. Let’s move to the head. My friends have taken to the packets to cover their grey, having been a white blonde child, now mousey, there isn’t too much grey to worry about, my concern is the volume of hair sadly missing its trimonthly strimming. My hair grows out and in full blossom can take an entire day to air dry. Now that I’m back in the sea [thank you Phase 1] and the recent heatwave providing free highlights [thank you Mother Nature], so when that volume of hair mixes daily with saltwater, I’m skirting dangerously close to a Mick Wallace look. Roll on Phase 4.
My adult son has moved home and there is noise again. After 3 years of solitary confinement with an autistic teenager where we exchange stock phrases every few days, there is now this thing called conversation at the table and rap music and phone calls late into the night. While the adult child may well be missing his independence, his poor mother is having an awful time of it hiding my various vices. Paranoia inducing toxins are making me too paranoid that I’ll get caught and he will finally work out why my many ideas never come to fruition. It was too stressful so instead I’ve picked back up the lesser vice – smoking – after almost a decade nicotine free. It’s not even the nicotine fix but the thrill of being caught is giving me that much needed adrenalin boosts to my otherwise exceptionally dull Groundhog Day lockdown existence. The last cigarette at night in the garden before I lock-up the house with the wind blowing my kilos of hair in the moonlight, with the sound of the wind and the sea on the other side of the hill, I feel like I’m on the set of a Hollywood movie in Malibu. Really goddamn sad.
The adult son likes dark chocolate now that he’s been living away foreign. Gone is my stash of 80% Moser Roth, always untouched, in the fridge for those moments when you just feel like a square of chocolate. I may have to revert to my old tricks of disguising them as leftovers in Tupperware.
Then there’s the ex-husband who we’ve adopted back into the household. The infiltration originates back to our quarantine in mid-March when adult son came home from Madrid so himself was our only link to the outside world, daily visits with supplies, joining us for almost every meal but a few months on and he’s looking alarmingly comfortable. Arah, it was always very civil and we ate together as a family perhaps twice per week before the pandemic but again another intrusion to my previous solitary confinement. The TV is on 24/7 news recycling byte-sized dumb downed snippets. At least there are no sports, small mercies. I had to stage an intervention a month back lobbying for the teenager to have a change of scene so I could have one night to myself, not that I was going out or entertaining but one night to dial back in to listen and leave audio messages in our WhatsApp group with the other Pendemic editors. The Late Late Show being our preferred meeting ground.
Even a lockdown can’t ignite my interest in the garden. My house came with a 30-year-old mature garden which my father told me I’d knocked 20k off the value by sheer neglect. A quick burst in April saw me plant seeds on windowsills, possibly in response to Eamon’s Ryan’s plea for self-sufficiency, but I neither watered nor moved them and they’re as withered and lifeless as Miss Havisham’s bridal bouquets.
For a while there I thought my sons were attempting matricide. Our 2km limit restricted us to Tara hill, our mini mountain of trails and sea views, not bad to be within its limits but we know nearly every blade of grass and have devised a number of trails each more challenging than the next. The teen, armed with my Garmin no longer clocking sea miles, took the concept of PBs a little too literally for his unfit middle-aged mother’s liking. I had mentioned in passing one day that we should try to beat our time each time as a sort of fitness challenge. 21:15 was the time on the clock that day so he was aiming for ‘sub twenty’ said in his mid-Atlantic Wexford accent. Well, the 6’3” inch gazelle of a son has me nearly killed. It had got to the stage that I was willing for the dog to do her business so I could have a breather picking up the poop. I’ve told him now to burst on without me and I see him at the top. With my new smoking habit, I’m taking the opportunity to have a really unpleasant experience of smoking a cigarette in the incline which is doing nothing for my own PB. I pant my way up to the summit to hear of his 15:47 or 15:15 and I’m easily ten minutes behind.
A further COVID confession is that I’ve finally fallen in love with my home. I moved here fifteen years ago with a husband, two small children and full of possibilities. I had trouble adjusting to everything being a drive away having grown up walking distance from our small town and then in cycling distance of Dublin’s city centre. I didn’t drive til my mid or late 20s so not traveling by foot was a real adjustment. Roll on a few years and a failed business, an autism diagnosis, a failed marriage and the house in serious negative equity made a fresh start impossible because I had to stay here and grit it out. But lately, now that I’m not gadding about at the opening of every envelope in North Wexford and South Dublin, I’ve been forced to spend time here. A former recording studio then garage has been cleared to make an indoor gym, the hammock has been hung in the shade between two apple trees, my next project turning the shabby patio into an outdoor living room is in motion. Because I don’t have to leg it out the door first thing in the morning, I have my morning coffee (and sneaky cigarette) in the garden surrounded by birdsong and the sound of cows breathing and chewing. While I’d never turn down a striploin steak, I think cows are such beautiful calming creatures. Between that and the moon putting its best foot forward for us all and the sky seeming even more full of stars, I’m finally a culchie!