So here we are, in this new place. Although you and I are still here, in this old place. But I find that in that new place, which is also here but not specifically here, there are new patterns.
The most significant one is that where once we used to be a get-out-in-the-morning family, we are now a go-out-in-the-afternoon family. This may sound like a small thing, but to me it is not.
Historically, whenever I found myself in sole charge of my children – whether or not my husband was along for the ride – I insisted, absolutely insisted, even if it was -3C and raining frogs outside, that we went out in the morning, came back for lunch and then ideally got out in the afternoon as well. I had a mania, particularly, for going out in the morning. I was aghast at people who said “We’re still not quite together,” at 10.30am. Not together? Not together?? What are you doing? What do you do at home for all those hours? It’s almost lunchtime.
I don’t know why I was so judgmental about it – but we all have our things, don’t we?
I think I was right to insist on getting out and about very early in the day for all those years. When my children were small they needed to be shuffled about quite a lot, just keep them moving and they and you won’t go so crazy. In recent years it has been more difficult, they don’t wake up so early, thank fucking Christ I mean one more day of a 5am start and I was going to set fire to the world, and these days getting them out of the house early is more tricky. I’ve had to be like come on, come ON GUYS, we want to get there early!
No-one ever dared ask me why we needed to get “there” so early. And I never questioned myself – I just did it. I just did it because I had always done it and that was the way that it was.
But that was then and this is now and these days we stay in, “home-schooling” (snort) until 12noon then it’s lunch and telly then at 3pm we go out. And then we’re only out for 2 hours and then we’re back and suddenly it’s kids tea and time for a drink!
And I suddenly see that while my going out in the morning mania might have worked just fine for years, now we don’t have to do that anymore. We can stay in in the morning without finding Sam at 10.35 tearing from one end of the house to each other like Keith Flint out of the Prodigy or Kitty rocking backwards and forwards in a corner, as if davening, out of sheer boredom; we have projects to get on with that don’t involve screens, we can linger over breakfast. And this change of pattern is sort of amazing and I think henceforth at weekends and in the holidays this is what we will do.
I thank this whole catastrophe for this particular illumination.
Of course there are other patterns, that are not new but that we have not suffered under for a while, like the utterly monstrous amount of housework involved with four people all at home, eating three times a day – and no cleaner.
I acknowledge that I am lucky, I can choose to live in my apron and just bend under the work, silently. I am not required to do paid work as well as all this.
And I know from past experience that you push back against the constant demands of your home at your peril. Never dare to hope that when you get back that pile of stuff will not be there, that the smear of whatever on the surface will have gone, that the laundry will have been taken out of the machine – but it will not have. It will still be there, like a dead body.
And so I am folding myself under this pattern of work and I try to take pride in it and forget that I was once free, that I could call “Bye” and go out of the door and no-one knew where I was for three or four hours. Forget that. Forget all that.
In a way this house arrest reminds me powerfully of having babies and small children. It’s the same type of thing, only so much easier because there is nothing at all in this world, or even in an imaginary world, that is as difficult or draining or enervating or exhausting or confusing than having very small children. In a way I think it might be a good thing to have very small children during this period – one of the things I felt most crushed by, stuck at home with infants, was the idea that everyone else was out having a good time.
Other patterns: meal plans. I really do hope that I will use some of this time at home to continue with the elaborate and detailed weekly meal-plans plus shopping lists that I have been working on. I never bothered with meal plans Before, taking advantage of the decent row of shops at the top of my street. Going out every day to get only what you need is an efficient way of shopping – there is basically zero food waste and you never look at what’s due for dinner that night and whine “but I don’t want a tofu curry tonight”. But in terms of time, it is not efficient and I would so often remember – fuck! – just at pickup time, that there was no dinner for the kids and have to stop what I was doing and dash up the road, cursing the fact that I was not the sort of person who did weekly meal plans.
On balance, it really is better to plan out all your meals and get everything in once a week. You run the risk of food waste, but it’s not so much of a waste of time. You have one big think about it once a week and then that’s done and you can think about something else. We are more likely to eat a more varied diet, too, as when you have a good think about different dinner options or refer to a list you can recall things you haven’t had for a while, rather than panickedly reaching for the same things they’ve had week after week for the last 18 months.
How about you? Tell me about your new patterns.