If I could go back to that carefree woman of two weeks ago, who was perusing through clothes she didn’t need in charity shops, laughing with colleagues at work and leisurely cruising the aisles of a fully stocked supermarket...
I’d shake her and shout- SEE YOUR FAMILY AND FRIENDS, SQUEEZE THEM THAT BIT HARDER.
LOOK THEM IN THE EYE AND TELL THEM YOU LOVE THEM.
THEN GEN THE FUCK UP ON EVERYTHING FROM LONG DIVISION TO PHOTOSYNTHESIS.
Because everything is about to change. Everything. And you will need to know this shit.
Ooooh. You just wait.
The announcement comes. We should stay in our homes. We often do of a weekend anyway, so what’s the big deal? This will be like wet play at school, just going on for slightly longer. Right?
See, I thought home schooling would be a bit of a stretch, but hey, I’m an intelligent woman. I have challenging conversations with grown ups regularly at work. I’ve managed to balance writing two novels with family life. How hard can this be?
Oh stupid, naïve woman of this time last week. If only you knew.
Day one- my husband is looking after the kids, while I attempt to work in the bedroom.
We’re not yet on full lock down and the builders are still working upstairs on the never-ending loft conversion, which seems to mainly involve drilling loudly and consistently.
My husband is in the front room, wearing a hi-vis jacket on the five year olds insistence, because ‘that’s what my teachers do,’ apparently.
I’m sitting on the bed with the laptop on my knees, trying to position it in such a way that I can have a zoom call without any of my colleagues seeing the mountain of washing in the background.
I hadn’t even heard of zoom a fortnight ago. Or Houseparty. Or how to do a WhatsApp three way call.
Day three and it’s my turn.
Now, to all the teachers I was ever a dick to at school, I am so fucking sorry. You are heroes. Every single one of you.
Trying to do anything with a five and an eight year old is tricky at the best of times, but trying to teach them anything at the same time is near on impossible. They both want to do different things, alternatively their shared interest is getting on each other’s tits.
So I do what any sane thinking person would do, and buy the last remaining trampoline in the whole of East Sussex, to be delivered as quickly as humanly fucking possible.
By day four, we’re getting into a bit of a rhythm, at least between 9am- 9.30, as we watch Joe Wickes with the rest of the world wide population.
Lunch is a big deal and can take anything up to an hour and a half.
The only thing the five year old really responds to is the story time one of his wonderful teachers records daily and posts on line for them to watch. She’s like a sorcerer. I can’t get him to sit still long enough to finish a sentence. She starts to read and he’s chin resting in hands, mesmerised for a full fifteen minutes.
By Friday, I give myself a hearty pat on the back and a massive glass of wine. Done.
Until the reality dawns on me. It’s the weekend, and it’s going to be exactly the same, except Joe Wickes isn’t live streaming.
The thing is, the penny hadn't really dropped that being in social isolation would mean that we would be with each other ALL THE TIME for potentially months.
I attempt to reassure myself that in times of change, it’s amazing how we adapt,.
I remember when the smoking ban was first introduced when we were all semi-professional smokers, and we were all like, they can’t do that. That’s an outrage. If we want to smoke inside, that’s our right.
Where as now, it’s incomprehensible that we’d walk into Pizza Express and someone would be sitting inside with a fag on.
'Socialising' has quickly taken on a life of it's own.
Beers in the pub have been replaced with group chats on Whatsapp. Playdates with Facetime meet ups. Classrooms with zoom meetings of children excitedly shouting over each other. Pictionary with school friends you haven't seen for forever who drop in via Houseparty is now a common occurance.
We're all learning how to connect again. Just differently.
But for now it also seems vitally important that we find a way to manage the noise we let into our lives and into our brains, through all the countless sources of information, while we're working out what the fuck we're doing.
Be gentle on ourselves.
And on our families.
We’re all going to have melt downs.
Our kids are going to miss their friends, their teachers and the structure they’re so used to in their lives.
We're all trying to figure out how this shit works while all living within four walls.
Attempting to work, to parent, to teach, to cook, to clean, to maintain relationships with our friend and families without all killing each other.
But we’ll all get through this.
And when we do, how much are we going to enjoy that first sunshine pint in a beer garden?
A long walk on the beach.
A trip to the cinema to see some awful Disney film that the kids are desperate to see.
And a bear hug with all those we love and for now can only tell them on a screen.
Now, that is going to be worth the wait.