Postcard from isolation

They say keeping a routine is important. My routine is mostly thinking about what meals I want to cook in the next few days. And excitingly, I now have three meals a day to consider. Back before, when you could decide on a whim to go down the shops for one ingredient, breakfast didn’t really feature on my radar. I don’t like food in the morning. A litre of strong milky hot tea is the only way to start a morning. It’s the ideal accompaniment to my hour in bed reading.

So now I am allowing myself to indulge in the mid-morning breakfast. It might be a case of using up the slightly-too-ripe tomato from the fruit bowl on toasted getting-stale bread ends topped with the wilting basil. Equally it is just as likely to be the three-weeks-in-fridge eggs scrambled and topped with hardened cheese nubs. Weeks of staying home to ‘flatten the curve’ (which we no longer need to explain. Other new phrases that have entered the common lexicon: social distancing, self-isolate, herd immunity, lockdown) force us to consider our fridges and pantries with a critical eye.

Now of course, there will be dishes to wash. Currently there are always dishes to wash. Next it’s time to do my yoga stretches. Move the ottoman, lay down on the floor, press play on whatever podcast I’m currently listening to (preferably non-Covid-19 in subject), notice how much cat hair there is down here, ignore it and begin the stretching routine anyway. My glutes are tight when I sit too much and I’m always sitting too much now. So as I lay flat against the floor I try to breathe slower, deeper, testing the capacity of my lungs. Covid-19 or Coronavirus (pick your preferred nomenclature) attacks the respiratory system and patients have reported the sensation of drowning. I have to admit that this is the thing that scares me the most. Drowning, in a hospital bed with the best medical care our country has but unable to do a thing, seems inconceivable.

So, breakfast and stretches done, time to do some laundry. Yes, I’m washing things more than I normally would. That’s the thing about an invisible virus, it could be anywhere. After venturing out into the world, the one inside opens the front door to minimise touching of surfaces.
Inside person – ‘wash your hands!’
Previously-outside person – ‘I am!’
I read an analogy about picturing the virus as glitter and as a glitter-phobe I know that shit gets everywhere even when you think you’ve cleaned it off and gotten rid of it. So yes, I’m washing our towels, our clothes, our bedding more often. I feel like I’m guarding myself against the unknowable.

Time to think about lunch. What might it be today? Cacio e pepe? Okonomiyaki? Cheese soufflé with a side of petit pois a la française? YouTube cooking channels have a lot to answer for. Get distracted by my phone and check Facebook and Instagram for absolutely no good reason apart from being reminded that there are people out the in the world. There’s a new messenger request. Someone else wants some of my sourdough starter. I’ve shared maybe 30 of these in the last month. People rediscovering the ability to make their own bread. Not that I imagine they will continue to be home bakers once ‘normality’ has been restored but maybe, just maybe, they won’t baulk at the $7.00 sourdough loaf from their local bakery.

I switch on our hand-me-down coffee machine and warm up the milk while it cycles through its start-up. We take our coffees on the front porch to discuss today’s lunch options while marvelling at how quiet the street is now most people work from home and the park next door has been locked closed. The autumnal weather is at odds with the sense of existential dread so many people are feeling.

I think the house directly opposite us is empty. Maybe they’ve a holiday house they’ve retreated to. I don’t blame them. The house with the most comings and goings in our street belongs to the weed dealer.

So what do I do with the rest of my day? I write. At least I try to write. This isolation has been great for my writing. The forced solitude (if you don’t count Steve in the next room or the two cats) encourages introspection. And that’s what I write. I write narrative non-fiction which is factual things I have done and my view on it all. I may massage details to suit but it’s my story so I don’t care.
I’m most of my way through a manuscript that I would love to finish. I want the lack of paid employment to continue so I have to keep writing.

It has been speculated that we’ll be in lockdown til late July. Yes please. Though of course it’s not as simplistic as all that. I still want to go the the pub and see my friends, more than one at a time. I want to share meals and laugh at a joke without the effort that Zoom sometimes requires.

So , Mr Prime Minister, can you forbid me from going back to work but let me go out and play with my friends please?

The New Norm

The world has shifted sidewards too rapidly these last few weeks. Maybe it’s only been a week but that’s the thing about time – when the laws of the universe have gelatinised, time itself becomes untrustworthy.

Most of my work has evaporated and the remaining quotient has become an ‘essential service.’ As the majority of the fortunately employed now work from home, we’re discovering the limitations of our country’s internet connection.

The local library has temporarily closed so friends are delving into their bookshelves and sharing the bounty.

Good Karma groups are reaching out to ask for assistance, sourdough starter or spare computer monitors.

Each inclination to go down the street (for coffee, for flour or to just feel sun on your face) becomes a fierce internal debate.

Bedroom doors are shut so we can hear the rest of our team during the endless online meetings.

Social media has become something I wish to simultaneously avoid and yet that’s where I’m finding the biggest belly laughs. Nothing like a pandemic to inspire the best memes.

My podcast listening is down because I’m not commuting but on the upside I’m reading much more because books are excellent escapism.

I’ve always enjoyed showering in the middle of the day and it currently breaks up the day rather nicely into two distinct time frames. Of course, I also have no excuse not to do my morning yoga stretches even if I don’t get around to them until the afternoon.

Pubs, cafes and restaurants no longer exist as a viable place to congregate (even typing that word feels a little risky) so drinking at home is the only option. I absolutely believe I’ll have virtual drinks with friends via Skype/Zoom/insert app of choice before the new norm dissipates.

I read a book or watch a movie where people are cheering on a sports match, or slapping each other on the back at a pub and think ‘well, not now!’ We will become used to this new situation. That is a fact.

Just think how wonderful things will be when we’re sitting in a friend’s backyard passing around a bowl of chips and not second-guessing ourselves. It’ll take some time to be comfortable around other people, touching what they’ve touched, not flinching when someone coughs. Maybe that time will coincide with the same time people will use the last of their hoarded toilet paper.