Hands now freshly boiled in neat Domestos. No virus here.
Now then, as for those helpful ideas on avoiding boredom. Develop a hobby, learn to speak a foreign language, immerse yourself in house cleaning and home improvements, just a few of the suggestions.
Oh, come on. Be reasonable. Where will I possibly find the time for this stuff?
I climb out of bed in the morning, pad to the bathroom and – absolute priority - wash my hands for twenty seconds, following Government advice to the letter. I’ve tried singing Happy Birthday, more or less silently. That didn’t avoid the scrutiny of Marigold’s exceptional hearing. Isn’t it odd what some people find unbearably irritating? I moved on to God Save the Queen - who could possibly take issue with our National Anthem?
Well, I found one who could and did.
I considered reciting a poem, no singing involved. I swiftly ruled out Eskimo Nell and then the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam – far too many verses. At one stage of my life, certainly not recently, I could recite Kubla Khan by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in its entirety. Alas, yet one more example of former abilities vanishing for ever.
I did surprise myself by remembering the first verse.
‘In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree:
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.
So twice five miles of fertile ground
With walls and towers were girdled round;
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills,
Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;
And here were forests ancient as the hills,
Enfolding sunny spots of greenery.’
As for that last line, it grated when I first read it and it still does. Even Coleridge must have read back ‘Enfolding sunny spots of greenery’ and thought to himself, ‘that’ll have to go.’
Maybe he was interrupted before he could get around to it.
I know that feeling.
I reported back to Marigold, having timed the opening verse when spoken out loud at just a tad over the twenty second recommendation. She didn’t offer praise or congratulate my endeavours. Her response was, ‘why can’t you just wash your hands like a normal person?’
I have now reluctantly switched to silent hand laundry, even amidst my ongoing concern that the required twenty second rule may be at risk. After hand washing and other necessary bathroom functions I’ll gloss over for now, I move to the kitchen where my morning feast of medication awaits.
Having swallowed half of a Boots dispensary stock, I make coffee and ask Marigold if she’d like me to make her tea or coffee. I can’t abide tea so my choices are much simpler.
‘I’ll make it myself,’ she invariably replies.
This implied slur on my culinary expertise doesn’t become any easier with repetition. Marigold is a far better cook, no argument there, but surely even a ham fisted buffoon like me can be trusted to make instant coffee or pour boiling water onto a tea bag?
I make my coffee, well up to Barista standard in my view, munch a banana and go back to wash my hands again. The chance of viral infection since I last washed my hands is somewhat less than zero, but I do it anyway.
I don’t go out, I don’t see anyone else, I am living in a virus free bubble, but I wash my hands.
For twenty seconds.
Give or take.
Exhausted by my efforts I allow myself to be sent off to a very specific armchair where Previous experience indicates porridge will be delivered at this time of the morning. After that, back for a much needed hand washing and then I’m ready to start the day.
Every morning, on rising, I mutter ‘exercise’ to myself and every morning I remember I should have got that out of the way before the arrival of breakfast. Oh well, can do it later.
In fairness, despite my chaotic organisational skills, I do exercise. Indoors. I cycle, feebly, on an exercise bike I bought off Gumtree. I got it home and almost immediately realised why the previous owner wanted to get rid of it. It has two settings, well there are many settings but only two of them are working.
Setting number one is virtually freewheeling, a gust of wind could turn the pedals, while the only other viable option is set at the equivalent of ascending the really, really steep section of Alpe D’huez.
I settle for the easier setting and pedal away for five minutes or so while keeping a wary eye on my heart rate. The smart watch, so called, I am wearing tells me my heart rate at any given moment, how many steps I walk, the depth and quality of my sleep and many other things I have absolutely no interest in knowing.
Stress level readings, for the day, for the week? Theoretical calories used up by my cycling efforts? I’m happy to remain ignorant of all this, but my inability to work out how to reduce this flow of information means I’m stuck with it. It took me half an hour to reset the time when the clocks changed recently and I only noticed later this action had already been done as part of the ‘smart’ watch’s pre programmed tasks.
For the rest of the day I chat with Marigold, write the occasional email, read the newspapers online and do ‘jobs.’ This could be tidying out my bedside drawer, arranging pants and socks into neat piles, rearranging the clothes in my wardrobe – sweaters, tee shirts, trousers, polo shirts – in order of likelihood of ever getting worn, it’s pretty full on this lockdown lark.
As I’m not venturing forth I must confess I have lowered my previous dress standards. Yes, even more. This may surprise people who know me who are surely wondering how it could be possible to drop down from such a lamentable lack of style.
My three pairs of track suit trousers, all suitable only for wearing when putting the bins out at midnight, have found a new lease of life. I wear them in strict rotation to preserve their lifespan. Add a sweater rescued from a bag of stuff intended to go to the tip and that’s my look du jour.
Fortunately, Marigold does not have a judgemental nature. Or has finally given up with trying to make me look ‘smart.’ Pause to wash hands. I learnt a new word today. I was wondering if there was a means of expressing my only real concern about being confined to three small rooms for at least the next four months: a fear of running out of things to read.
The word I was seeking is abibliophobia. It’s not in the Oxford dictionary, yet, but it’s a recognised word all the same. I have a couple of hundred ‘old style’ books here and many, many more on Kindle, but I do have a pretty prodigious reading habit to indulge. I’m okay for now, but in four months time I may have resorted to re-reading last week’s newspapers or, unlikely as it seems just now, even plodding through the local free paper’s recommendations for non surgical beauty treatments available in our area.
Several friends have suggested this imposed isolation may provide the impetus to write another novel. It’s about time.
There’s reasons aplenty in favour, but I’m still not yet prepared to devote another entire year to a book project. Been there, done that. I wrote a Young Adult novel recently, far less taxing than writing in my usual genre, with a storyline centred on a viral outbreak becoming a pandemic.
Yes, pretty spooky as this was all done and dusted way before any indication from the Far East that there was a new virus raging out of control. Given the subject matter I sent the manuscript to a couple of publishers.
The last time I grovelled at the feet of a publisher I said ‘never again.’ Older, but no wiser I wait with barely concealed excitement for their reply.
In other words, I haven’t given it a moment’s thought.
Que sera, sera. What will be, will be.
I did spend an hour or so composing an author biography, as requested by one publisher. It’s been a while since I did one of these and I still find it hard to treat the subject, namely myself, seriously. The preferred format is to refer to oneself in the Third Person which is in itself hardly conducive to taking a serious approach.
Here’s a typical sample: ‘Since attaining adult status he’s never been a financial burden to his parents or the State. This may be his only redeeming feature. Even so, he frequently regrets scorning those lost opportunities.’
Anyway, that will have to do for now. These hands won’t wash themselves.