I am running out of DIY tasks to keep my husband occupied. Both he and my son are upstairs at the moment wrestling with a recalcitrant shower door. I am not their favourite person - 'nuff said. Then it soon becomes apparent that I have made a bit of a mistake - the new shower curtain I have ordered is too small, it may have been suitable for Hobbits but fully grown humans, I don't think so. In my defence I argue that had the job been done earlier in lockdown, i.e. at the end of March when I actually ordered said item, it could have been returned and exchanged once the discrepancy in size was noted... I am met with silence and hands twitch towards implements lying about the bathroom that have been needed to force the much glued, stuck and screwed shower screen off the wall - a few tiles scattered amongst the mix of tools attest to the difficulty of the battle.
'I'll make a cuppa then shall I? Biscuits? Ooh, or a bit of chocolate brownie we baked yesterday?', unnerved by the continuing silence and the sharp looking 'shanks' (as my son seems determined to call them), I retreat.
I don't want to give either of them delusions of grandeur but I exit without turning my back on them...
Downstairs I moan to the dog that it really isn't my fault. The dog rarely leaves our side anyway and during lockdown he has got up and followed us about continuously and, sometimes, I think, I catch a look in his eyes which is all about wanting the house to be a bit emptier for longer periods so he can just rest... This feeling is made all the more complicated for him as he often gets frustrated when we are all in different rooms of our, albeit very small, house. He really is adored and I forgive him all the loose hairs and wet dog splatter stains that I have been driven, during lockdown, to clean off skirting boards and walls. I never realised some of our walls were white, they always looked sad, with a hint of grey. I have yet to get really desperate and 'do' gardening, which is a relief to all concerned because while I enjoy it, I am rubbish at it. This relates to a lack of knowledge that I make up for in ideas and motivation - neither of which guarantee success however and the results can be, literally, fruitless. Except for growing rhubarb which for some reason, as a disgruntled friend will attest to, I seem to be rather good at... (I bought the last rhubarb plant which was for sale at a school fete, she's never really forgiven me...) So, as we have faced lockdown all together, I have really valued our dog - our constant companion, confidant and official clown (although our son also vies for this title...).
I have always marvelled at the change an animal can bring to a person in therapy, the support they bring to those in care homes or hospitals, and the learning they enhance in many school settings. Nature too can have this affect on people and despite my parodies of this experience, I have enjoyed our daily walks to help de-stress in our distress. Nature and animals as co-therapists then, I am all for it . So it was no surprise that I related so strongly to a post on Facebook about a horse called Peyo and his handler Hassen. Please look it up and share with others the impact of this wonderful equine on people's well-being in times of dire need. I had tears streaming down my face and felt humbled by the bond, by the connection, man and animals have, that animals want to have with us.
Am I more emotional during lockdown? No, but I normally don't follow the news so much, taking care to distance myself from bad or negative stories. Another Facebook post catches my eye, an 18-year-old son of an NHS doctor who died with coronavirus, has asked ministers for an apology and to '...openly acknowledge there have been mistakes in handling this virus.' His plea has gone unanswered it seems. We all look to Boris who has returned to Downing Street after recovering from coronavirus, for answers. None come in his first speech back on Monday 27th April, but he does encourage us all to stick to the requirements of lockdown. As a nation I think we are wondering if our Prime Minister's brush with the serious (and reportedly life threatening) consequences of his decisions and behaviour will have altered him....
On the 29th April Boris Johnson became a father again for the 6th time as his fiancee gave birth to a baby boy and on April 30th we are told we are now, it is agreed, definitely, through the peak...so we add the care home figures to the daily tally of deaths... Quickly the questions about ending lockdown swarm Facebook and the media in general. When would schools open? How about non-essential shops opening? Would we see some measure of a return to 'normal' life? In all, was the lockdown now at an end? Still those other questions, and certainly the answers to them, about the decsions the government had taken in the days leading up to the lockdown and the lack of PPE and organised testing, seem to be glossed over. It is interesting the description the Prime Minister chooses for the disease, comparing it to a mugger... A mugger responsible for death on such a scale as we as a nation, along with the rest of the world, have suffered? Something felt at odds about this description, but then I wonder if it was more about sowing the seed of stealth as an image we needed to take away, that it couldn't have been helped, no-one needed to ask questions about being prepared to tacle the virus, not when it was a mugger, as these just came out of nowhere, there was little you could do..., 'it's not my fault guv, I was mugged...'. Then we learn that the UK has the highest death rate in Europe... That weekend the TV series Gogglebox seems to ask the very questions that the media has 'missed', members of the public in their armchairs reflecting on lockdown don't have a use for spin or gloss, thankfully. They have heartfelt reactions to the suffering we have experienced as a nation and they want answers, we all do, alongside that 18 year-old lad whose father died saving others in his role within the NHS.
During lockdown the Labour leadership has changed hands, Jeremy Corbyn is out and Keir Starmer is in. He is a former Chief Prosecutor used to assembling evidence and serving it to devastating end to the accused. He may ask the questions, he may yet get the answers, we are waiting for. The first meeting for Boris and Keir came at Prime Minister's questions on Wednesday 6th May, and Starmer asked, 'So can the Prime Minister tell us, how on earth it came to this?' Unsurprisingly Boris dodged the question so Starmer also asked him, in the light of limited PPE, to promise that a plan to keep the public safe is needed before anyone returns to work, or school. Boris said we will all be told the details of PPE on Sunday 10th May when he will address the nation with more details of the proposals for life after lockdown, some of which he will discuss tomorrow, on Thursday May 7th, and that new modified lockdown rules will come into force from next week, on Monday 11th May.
I am concerned about leaving lockdown too early, I think preparation is the key and as this hasn't seemed to be too important to this government previously... We want to avoid a second wave, a second peak, so these new announcements will surely be about safe new ways to go about our daily lives - the second phase of our response to this virus, our 'new normal'.
Thursday 7th, 30,615 deaths, 539 in the last 24 hours and lockdown was formally extended over the bank-holiday weekend with non-essential travel still in place. Boris talks about his plan to get us 'back to normal', how we will re-open gradually and slowly ease lockdown, there will be staggered steps between now and October. Easing of the restrictions on public exercise will be the first measure...what joy I think, more punishing walks as a family, I'm sure our son will be thrilled... We celebrate VE day on Friday 8th May in our own homes, posting photos of the high teas we have had, the scones we have baked, the cakes we have eaten, the cups of tea we have drunk, the bunting we have hung in our windows and gardens - 31,241 people have died, 626 in the last 24 hours. And the Queen has made a speech asking us all to be kind...