Week Eight of Jane’s Life in Lockdown
First published in the Isle of Thanet News of Friday 22nd May 2020
Hark! The Today programme has a news story that is non virus-related. I never thought I’d welcome the word Brexit at 7 am, but my relief is short-lived. At mention of more blind stubbornness – even now! – a familiar dull rage thuds in my chest and drives me out of bed.
Fortunately, there’s no time to dwell on such things. Not when there’s a cake to be made with the gluten-free flour I bought in error, some increasingly bendy carrots and the berries that have been rolling about the bottom of the freezer ever since the bag split. We’re all make-do and mend now!
“Desiccated coconut from 2016?” I enquire. “It still smells ok.”
My son wrinkles his nose at the pulverised mix of ageing fruit and veg. “That’s a good start,” he says drily.
I am just stirring in cinnamon as a safeguard flavour-all, when my phone makes a strange sound. After 374 volunteering hours as an NHS check-in and chat responder, I have finally been called upon to act. I throw the spatula aside in alarm. Can I remember the guidelines, I think, as I feverishly write down the number I am to call, and compose myself to be suitably calm and cheery, helpful and reassuring. I try to remember where I have stored the number of the support line, as I hurry upstairs to make the call somewhere quiet (my son is mid- ‘conference call’ in the office which was once our dining room, and the air is filled with loud guffawing), settle myself on the edge of my bed and hit the keys.
‘Hello I’m Jane,’ I silently rehearse, remembering to be clear and respectful, kind and non-judgemental, ‘and I am phoning in response to…’
At the other end, the ringing stops and I take a deep breath. I get his answer-machine.
It transpires my husband is on a waste-not mission too, when he delivers the news that he has been comparing energy-providers and has recently moved us to British Gas. I put my head in my hands. Has he forgotten, I cry, the three years I spent doing battle over the bill that wasn’t mine? The one that should have gone to the tenant? Did he remember the bailiffs’ letters and the hours spent screaming on the phone? He didn’t.
It will all be a stress, I wail.
“It will not,” he says, munching carrot-berry-coconut cake with a pained expression. “I can deal with British Gas.”
A letter from British Gas arrives addressed to someone who doesn’t live here, care of a Limited Company I was part of twenty-five years ago. I drop the offending missive on my husband’s desk. “Good luck with that one,” I say.
It’s Quiz Night with actor Paul Clayton and his husband Richard.
This hilarious weekly event is attended by various of the acting fraternity plus Tom and me – our burning ambition being to rise above the middle of the leader board, which we haven’t managed yet. Apart from one brief heady moment when we’d used our joker in the first round. Oh yes – it’s all very slick!
Tonight, a new element has been introduced. There is to be a Treasure Hunt, where one of each team elects to be the famed Anneka from the popular TV series. This sounds exciting.
In between rounds, the theme tune suddenly plays and I – who have insisted on bagging the position of the legendary programme host – must rush about the house gathering named items. First up is a single sheet of loo paper, and I belt to the nearby bathroom, only to be pipped to the post by my friend Janie in France, who, I still maintain, was waving a piece of kitchen roll instead (a deed she hotly denies). It takes so long to get from upstairs writing room to the kitchen below that I’m beaten on the citrus fruit front too, but am hopeful of the third and final challenge – to produce something with a wheel. Surely nobody will have this close at hand!
I race downstairs to where my husband is peaceably reading, and grasp his Zimmer, heaving it back upstairs – it’s surprisingly heavy to run with – and arrive panting at the screen only to find Janie already proffering her shopping trolley, someone grinning behind a pushchair, and Tom holding up the wheeled computer mouse that was right next to my keyboard. “You could have just shown this,” he says calmly, as another three points bites the dust.
When I return the device, my husband is unamused.
“Have you got British Gas sorted yet?” I counter.
“No,” he says tersely. “I couldn’t get through…”
(To be continued.) (I can guarantee.)
Lockdown Dilemma of the Week
The joy at having a cast-iron reason not to meet in person, has faded as the weeks go by and we now need fresh get-outs from hooking up online. You can hardly say you’re out that night! The top excuse given seems to be a prior engagement to “zoom with the family”. Since none of my friends would believe that, I have to be more creative. ‘I need to marinate the pork balls,’ or ‘I’ve got some seedlings to prick out’ sounds about as convincing as ‘I’m washing my hair…’