It’s not that I’m bored especially, it’s just the relentlessness of it all. It’s all the meals, so many meals. And yet at lunchtime I make Giles get his own and the kids only ever have some variation of hummus, pita, cheese, bread, cucumber, carrots, hummus… but it all makes a mess that needs to be cleared up.
Maybe it’s not the making of the food, it’s the aftercare.
Perhaps it’s the sound of the running of the tap, tschhhh, every ten seconds or so as I get the cloth and rinse it under the water and squeeze it out and repeat and squeeze and then tap off *muted thump* and then off I go to wipe something else down, wipe, wipe, wipe. Endless wiping. Who said that? I can’t remember now. The endless wiping. That’s supposed to be thing dementing thing about babies, but actually it’s just the dementing thing about housework.
Or is it not dementing?
There is actually a huge amount of joy to be had from managing to keep – against all one’s natural personality and all the odds – the house tidy and reasonably organised. It’s especially true when we are captive and have so little control over our lives, over what happens next.
Coming down in the morning, again, another morning exactly like the one yesterday and the day before, to a spotless kitchen with the kettle full and my best mug there with the teabag already in is nice. Nighttime me was thinking about Daytime me – for a change. (Nighttime me is usually to be found lazing about in piles of dirty laundry and old dishes with her feet up, picking her cuticles and shouting “FUCK daytime me – let’s open another bottle!”)
Returning the kitchen after every meal to a blank slate takes my mind off the fact that some creative side projects I was working on Before have now, of course, completely hit the wall. They hit the wall at 80mph, sideways, with the rotor blades still turning and then blew up. But, god, I know I’m lucky – it doesn’t matter whether or not I ever work again.
I obsessively speculate about when (if??) the schools will re-open and then feel sad – because my children are having a whale of a time. They are behaving better and fighting less and actually finding non-screen things to do, though not so reliably that I can ever get any work done. Sam, who I thought might go completely loopy during a lockdown, is coping with this new normal with considerably fewer pyrotechnics than he gives off on a normal school day.
It’s the relentlessness, though. It’s the all the time. Although part of me is rejoicing in the all-the-time, too. I know! I cannot believe this exists within me – perhaps it is Stockholm syndrome – but I know that somewhere I relish knowing where my children are and what they are doing all the time. And no you can’t go out and no they can’t come for a playdate. Just sit there, sit there and find something to do while I sit here and make sure the sky doesn’t fall in.
It is the different side of the same feeling coin as the one that occasionally drove me to spy on my own children while they were playing in the garden at nursery (though safeguarding rules made this tricky). It was utterly fascinating and self-soothing to watch them have little friendships with other kids, to watch them interacting with the nursery workers. It was a bit like, having made an elaborate paper boat, setting it on a body of water and giving it a push and watching it drift away from you, knowing it might sink but hoping very much that it would float.
Clothes. Is it unpatriotic to have bought things online recently? Having thought for weeks and weeks that I could live forever without ever buying another item of clothing I have, I’m sightly ashamed to say, been pulled inexorably into the tractor beam of the massive fire-sales the entire high street is being forced to have. Now I am also no longer spiking my bloodstream with alcohol every single night I have had to look elsewhere for a thrill. And I have started further justifying have a look at clothes online to myself with: “It is a good deed to buy something in order to shore up retailers who are struggling”, while also thinking: “Maybe that dress will change my life.”
If you have got any money left at all or you are in fact saving money by not going to the cinema or eating out or going on holiday or driving your car about or buying coffees – and you also happen to be in the market for new clothes – the high street is your total oyster right now. Most places are throwing discounts around like there’s no tomorrow, for a reformed-ish compulsive shopper like me it’s like waving a very chilled glass of cold hen-night Chardonnay at – well, at me.
I cracked and purchased from Me + Em this sleeveless black linen “swing” vest and a camouflage jacket that I have been eyeing up for actual months. But that’s it. Anything else feels somehow too joyful, when the only thing I ought to be getting joy from right now is all the wiping.