Someone once described life with children as playing the B side of your life, an analogy that would probably go over the head of anyone under the age of 20. Extending the comparison, I’ve found life in lockdown, accompanied by two tweens, to be on a par with a very dodgy album track. It was never destined to be a hit single, or a banging B side, just a slightly lame filler while everyone waited for something more exciting to happen.
Time out from the usual hurly-burly of a hectic weekly routine has afforded some benefits in that it’s allowed for a less frenetic existence. Equally, losing structure has often felt as though we’ve become suspended in a time-freeze similar to something you’d find in ‘The Matrix’. What felt like a relief in the early days of lockdown quickly transformed into ennui. Our days are busy, but always with the same tasks, meaning that all of them signify a replay with no option to skip, or better still, fast forward. With little discernible difference between one day and the next, the pause button on our life was pressed and we found ourselves muted, static and incapable of moving forward in any meaningful way.
Now, as we start to move cautiously towards deconfinement in Portugal, I suspect that the pace with which we can return to any form of normal, new or otherwise, will feel frustratingly slow, plodding and downbeat. While communing within society again feels good, the unnatural necessity of carrying a face covering around with you should you wish to actually go somewhere detracts from the exhilaration. The alternative is to wander around aimlessly mask-free in the name of exercise.
Shops other than supermarkets have now reopened, albeit with a strict one in, one out policy, and, in the case of larger stores, on a frustratingly limited basis. A recent attempt to procure boys shorts from a flagship H&M was thwarted because the majority of the store remains inaccessible to the shopping public. The powers that be, clearly guessing at what potential customers might require as they emerge from isolation, have made interesting decisions. After spending 10 minutes browsing, I quickly surmised that my 12 year old son would have no use for a floaty kaftan, a unicorn swimsuit or a babygrow. I can only presume that the thinking behind this strategy is that most boys of this age don’t give two hoots about what they’re wearing as long as they’re engaged in virtual combat on a platform compatible with Fortnite. Unfortunately, whoever made this call is probably right and so the boy continues to play on in slightly too tight shorts without batting an eyelid.
Other recent relaxations have also meant that I was able to rectify the increasingly alarming situation that was unfolding with my hair. On good days I was inadvertently channeling Bonnie Tyler caught in a wind tunnel in 1983. On particularly bad days, it was veering more alarmingly towards Jon Bon Jovi circa 1986, replete with frazzled split ends which were quite visibly living on a prayer. The monotony of life in living memory has been such that the process of taming my out-of-control mane was one of the stand out moments of the last 11 weeks.
I would love to say that living in lockdown has brought out the best in all members of our household. Closer to reality, as Louis Theroux observed in one of his Grounded podcasts, is that it has brought out the truth in us.
It transpires that in a pressure-cooker scenario none of us behave consistently well or emerge bathed in glory. I have no doubt that if we as parents were a bit annoying before all this started, we’re now the proverbial thorn in our children’s side and for a number of reasons. Despite some rationalising that online gaming is one of the only ways that the yoof can or will socialise in the current circumstances, we have tried to curb our son’s desire for marathon Nintendo sessions. This might have been unwise as it’s only added an extra layer to an already tense situation. Meanwhile, the 9, going on 13 year old sees fit to argue the toss about everything, commencing first thing and hitting repeat until bedtime.
As the responsible adults, our efforts have been mainly concentrated on keeping mind, body and soul together with varying degrees of success. Yoga continues to feature heavily on my part and I was particularly captivated by the notion of ‘breath of fire’ which neatly summarises my irritation levels of late. This, along with a disappointing defeat by Wild Thing pose, which in theory is designed to improve core strength. In practice, I judged that it would more likely result in something closer to a slipped disc or possibly even a fractured vertebra. As with so much of all we currently face, what we wish were possible, simply isn’t.
Our world is beginning to open up again by increments, but with distance learning and remote working in place for the foreseeable future, nothing feels dramatically different. As Joni Mitchell pointed out, you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone. What we took for granted vanished almost in the blink of an eye and until that returns, we continue filling our days, waiting to press the play button once again.