Lockdown, 26th March, 2020, Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK
With lockdown now in place, and most everything closed, I hear the song in my head, Everyday is like Sunday by Morrissey, that gloriously languid suburban lament of the same name. I’ve long identified with the words, having a particular disdain for the half-life Sunday so often is.
Today, having some time available courtesy of Lockdown Day 3, I discovered that the song lyrics were actually inspired by a Neville Shute novel from 1957, where residents in Melbourne awaited an impending nuclear apocalypse on the beach. This makes the song a touch more poignant, except for the Sunday bit.
Sundays have always come after Saturdays, and are usually a welcome rest and recover day from the night before. They can also be set aside as a time of refreshment and preparation for the week ahead. And when I was growing up, Sunday meant Church, the reluctant trip to mass in the mornings to cleanse the soul but with a regulation stop afterwards at the sweet shop we called Our Lady’s, to take the edge off.
Now, every day is the same as the one before, itself unlike any of the other seven days prior. The seemingly quaint weekday names, derived from planets or ancient gods, aren’t particularly useful in this Groundhog Day reboot. And the weather is glorious, day after day of blue skies and crisp cold air, mocking the whole country.
Getting out and about is different than before. Before Covid. BC. Seeing other people, even some way off, necessitate a good deal of course adjustment, to ensure that the respective trajectories are not programmed to come too close. On small pathways and pavements this can be difficult.
Yesterday I scurried up a bushy bank, and stood shielded by the foliage until the danger of other people passed. The approaching elderly couple noticed this gesture of public spirit and congratulated me. We all laughed and pressed on with our respective walkings, heads tilted down, our onward courses restored.
But can you buy eggs? Tricky. Hens are clearly working overtime, probably not socially distancing, but they are not laying enough. The supermarkets don’t have any. Are people stockpiling? So, I have a purpose and objective for today. Let’s call it Eggday.
Social Distancing, 19th March, 2020, Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK
It looks like we have found a house to buy and our cheeky offer has been accepted. Great? No, hold on a sec, keep that bottle of fizz corked. Is this the best time for anyone to be moving house?
Along with everyone else, I’m just not sure. With impending restrictions on movement, are we lucky to have got in, under the wire, and secured a good price? Or is this move absolute folly in amongst the general uncertainty and bewildering daily messages from a pantomime prime minister?
In my head I’m hearing Leonard Cohen’s Everybody Knows, the one about the boat leaking and the captain lying and the plague coming. It’s a jolly little number, best heard during daylight hours. In company if you can.
At home, the fridge and larder are full like it’s Christmas. Crikey, we may be forced into a bigger house if we carry on like this. The jogging must start immediately.
Out on the almost empty streets, life is a little less normal than before. And it’s definitely not just me. There’s a line of about fifteen people outside Boots, laughing and joking, somewhere between a party and a wake.
It’s a ‘one in, one out’ policy at Boots, small groups waiting for ages in close proximity groups. It strikes me that this is shifting the infection risk from inside to outside. But the crowd is friendly, doing impressions of themselves, walking up and down. See, I’m perfectly alright. Here’s the proof.
Our lovely estate agent told me this morning that his friend in the army is on standby to patrol the streets somewhere on the mainland. Worry lines are starting to replace his mischievous twinkle of the past few days. He has small children and all of a sudden I want to invite him home for a cuppa.
Round the corner from the chemist, an elderly couple walk slowly to their car, holding hands. You’d better not snuff it, he says. Who would look after me?
Talking of hands, I’ve seen more and more public handholding recently. And my own hands? Have I washed them? Have I touched my face? Is this doorknob clean? Should I grab this supermarket trolley?
So many questions.
Social Distancing, 18th March, 2020, Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK
This morning the car failed its MOT. This sad news for my 7 seater Toyota Estima, built in 1993 and imported from Japan, was somewhat inevitable Sometimes she fails on minor things such as worn windscreen wipers but this year the emissions were just out of control, and the brakes were ‘imbalanced across the rear axle’.
In a spirit of social responsibility I am glad. I don’t want to pollute the streets any more than I want to infect people around me. Walking is healthier and, with some sort of widespread lockdown around the corner, travel to the mainland – as islanders tend to call the North Island – is no longer featuring much in my weekend plans.
In fact, the Isle of Wight already locked down by the sea that surrounds it. There is talk of limited ferry crossings for the most vulnerable foot passengers. Vehicle drivers will be allowed to stay in their cars on board to avoid contact with others.
I am regular ferry passenger on the ferries but the worst thing has always been the enforced proximity to other people. Let’s face it, there’s nothing relaxing about sitting in the top deck lounge subjected to the cacophony of dogs and children, yelping, squeaking and shouting, crammed in, cheek by jowl, during half term holidays and Friday afternoon sailings.
With years of practice I have become adept at moving seats away from the coughers, the sneezers, the loud and the leery. Social distancing? Bring it on.
I spoke to my neighbour today, Martin, us both standing on opposite pavements. He was on the hunt for more milk. We discussed how likely that was, in the middle of the day, given the purchasing panic that reminded me of the January sales or Black Friday. I heard later that he did find some milk and he offered me a spare carton, just in case. This was nice and made me hopeful for the future.
One passenger who managed to get to the island yesterday was my son, Max, born also in 1993, escaping impending quarantine from his Birmingham shared house. He arrived, football scarf over his face, fearing us as much as wanting to protect us.
So now, three quarters of the family is living together again, in glorious isolation, settling into familiar rhythms of the past. And the old car sits on the street outside, angled across the house, like a shield.
Social Distancing, 17th March, 2020, Ryde, Isle of Wight, UK
The first thing that surprised me today was noticing the triumphant word SOLD newly affixed to our FOR SALE sign outside the house. A week ago, this would have made me happy, my pulse quickening a little, especially as the house had only taken a few days to sell. Instead, a new sensation of uncertainty and foreboding descended. I mean, who moves house in a lockdown?
The large pub at the top of the high street that looks down over the sea was full of lunchtime customers despite the voluntary social distancing advice. This made me feel better as I drove towards the supermarket, to buy what basics were still available for the long haul.
The island was pretty much identical to every other day, except I found myself noticing things differently. They seemed important in some apocalyptic way but probably weren’t. That was just me being dramatic. A smartish man glugged down cheap cider on a respectable street corner. A hearse passed by with a floral tribute to Granddad. There was no cortege. A flashing ambulance had parked on the curb and a folding chair was carried into the house.
At the discount supermarket all was seemingly normal, except for the occasional rows of empty shelving. There was plenty of earnest chatter amongst customers, berating the impact of staying put. Holidays, weddings and family gatherings were up in the air.
It is what it is.
Just got to carry on, haven't you?
I selected six bottles of wine but returned two on the advice of a store assistant. The current limit was four of any one item. The young woman at the till was sad at the prospect of having less elderly people to chat to after this weekend’s quarantine comes into effect. They were her favourite customers.
She’d also been surprised first thing this morning that all seven checkouts were in operation.
On a Tuesday!
Just like Christmas?
No, far busier.
Normal life is over for the time being. I mean, only four bottles of wine!