To keep myself occupied I’ve been treating the house like a circuit training course. Brush the cat, plump the cushions, put the dishwasher on, make a cuppa, do the jigsaw, empty the dishwasher, go outside and wave to Bruce.
So this is all bonkers, isn’t it? No one could’ve predicted that one minute we’d be traipsing to Morrisons for buns and the next we’re avoiding bumping buns with fellow shoppers who might have the lurgy. Anyone could have it and you wouldn’t know. It’s like blind laser tag but less fun.
Plump the cushions.
Daily walks have become a stealth mission, glancing warily around and lunging into the nearest rose bush every time someone gets too close. Maintaining our British decorum through distanced small talk with the postman, who you wished hadn’t turned up just as you were sneaking out of the house.
Brush the cat.
There’s a shortage of handwash because of the virus. The soap shelf in the supermarket is bare. So are the deodorant, mouthwash and shampoo sections. I can only imagine what’s happening to those people’s hands, but at least they’ll smell nice. Maybe crime will peak after this because no one will have any fingerprints left.
Go outside and wave to Bruce.
As a nation we’ve never been cleaner. And the queues for men’s toilets have never been longer. Pee-and-flee is no more the standard. Wash your hands before and after. Hell, even during. Someone else can hold it for you since they’re going to be washing their hands another 427 times today anyway.
Put the dishwasher on.
Suspicions run high. Do I hear a dry cough? Who is that? Quick, grab a face mask! There’s a shortage of those too, but Dave found one in the garage. It’s a batman mask from our fancy dress party last year. He wore it to go and pick up a prescription from the pharmacy this morning. Needs must, he said. I refused to go with him.
Make a cuppa.
I glance outside and realise the dry cough is actually the sound of Bruce frantically sawing down a tree in his garden.
Go outside and wave to Bruce.
I’ve decided to take the opportunity to read more books. Having scrutinised the bookcase to see what we’ve got, I chose ‘1984’. I know what you’re thinking. But it’s way more worst-case-scenario than what’s happening at the moment, right? Nobody’s going to start hiding in cupboards and writing secret diaries. Not yet. There are no cameras watching us. If they were, they’d be very bored. Despite all that I can’t help but notice similarities between Joe Wicks’ daily TV workout and 1984’s military enforced Physical Jerks. It’s a slippery slope.
Apologise for making Bruce fall off the ladder.
Still, exercise programmes are a welcome break from the news. Today the prime minister announced he has the virus. He must feel a little sheepish. All those speeches about keeping your distance and avoiding social contact. Sure, it’s unlikely he got it from the meat aisle in Tesco, but it doesn’t set the best example.
Empty the dishwasher.
While social distancing from some people is quite welcome, I miss my family. As a teenager I hated being greeted by a sloppy, unwarranted kiss from a distant relative who may as well have been a complete stranger, but now it’s all I want. Just a smidgen of human contact. We’re not built to operate alone.
Do the jigsaw.
We did a duck-and-dive grocery shop this morning. Queued outside Morrisons keeping the requisite two-metre distance from the person in front, being careful not to make eye contact with anyone lest they forget themselves and come over for a chat. I put on my best I-AM-NOT-AVAILABLE face. The line went all the way down the street. I fantasised about pushing over the person at the back and setting a domino effect in motion. If everyone around the world did it at the same time, it’d be like one of those mass Mexican waves.
Plump the cat.
As habitual human beings we’re not very good at shopping for ‘essentials’. At first glance we did well – some sausages, tinned fruit, toilet cleaner, Weetabix, milk, eggs and a moist but respectable courgette. So far, so good. The next bag showed signs of wavering – ham, alphabet spaghetti, chewing gum and a large jar of pickled cornichons. In the last bag were seven tins of anchovies, gluten-free naan bread mix and a frisbee.
Remove jigsaw piece from cat.
But at least we’re not hoarders. There’s something about a pandemic that reduces people to mindless, panic-driven robots with one setting: ACCUMULATE. As a result there’s suddenly no baked beans, pasta, rice or toilet roll for anyone else. The logic in this escapes me – firstly, those are not what I would call ‘essential’ provisions, nor will they last forever no matter how much you stockpile. A man interviewed outside Tesco said he was hoarding ‘because everyone else is’. It’s crowd mentality. Mass knobdom. While the prime minister’s being sheepish, the rest are being sheep.
Make a cuppa.
Lots of public services have closed now – hairdressers, beauticians and even dentists – and it’s starting to show. Standards of pride have desperately fallen as people shuffle about with shapeless mounds of hair atop their heads. Roots are back in, as are long plaits, hats and turbans. Eyebrows have expanded to Groucho Marx proportions. Everyone looks like they haven’t seen the sun in years.
Remove cat from dishwasher.
Goodness knows when this madness will end. Maybe this is just the start, the beginning of the curve that will alter our past and fill the stories we tell our grandchildren, in the way our grandparents talked about the war. Or perhaps we’ll be back to softer hands and delighting in those sloppy kisses sooner than we think.
I’m a writer and editor from London. You can find me on Twitter.