We slowly started easing out of total confinement in June, blinking and slightly disoriented and in a manner not dissimilar to sufferers of Stockholm Syndrome. When lockdown began, we had felt like prisoners in our own home. Three months later we were WFH pretty efficiently, even if we were wearing pyjama bottoms, as opposed to finding ourselves staring blankly into the middle distance, inwardly muttering WTF.
Ignoring the pit of despair that homeschooling plunged all four of us into, it could be argued that our pared-down existence brought some benefits. I didn’t miss the frantic early morning starts or being Uber Mum in the afternoon along with all the other harassed parents facilitating the school run or afternoon activities. Still, life had begun to feel very small. The gradual reopening of kiosks, cafés and restaurants with appropriately spaced outdoor seating has allowed for a little room to breathe. If it involves wearing a face covering, so be it.
In some ways it has been a transformative experience. If our son’s end of year school report is to be believed, the period he spent learning from home has turned him into quite the diligent student. His teachers cannot have any idea of the personal cost to me or his father that sustaining this illusion entailed. Our daughter invariably emerged from her online Zoom lessons having treated herself to a full make over, which I tried very hard to ignore. Her response to the change from a State of Calamity to a State of Alert was the decision to have a bold statement fringe cut in, possibly to enable improved vigilance.
It’s fair to say, that we have all reacted differently to the unfolding of these unprecedented events. I never foresaw taking up running again after a 20 year hiatus for example. I found myself so desperate to release pent up energy, as well as desirous of the odd hour alone, that I willingly undertook an activity that I deemed to be utter torture a year ago.
Parallel to my new interest in fitness during confinement, it was becoming increasingly obvious that my eyesight was deteriorating. Once I judged it safe to do so, I booked myself in for an eye test. After enquiring what my age was, the optician breezily advised me that after 40 one’s vision declines markedly, often noticeably every 2 years. She was puzzled that I hadn’t been suffering from headaches because apparently I can barely see. Quite how I’ve not been stumbling blindly around my own home for the last 4 months or not running into people or trees is anyone’s guess. I left the optician’s with a prescription for multifocal lenses, only slightly cheered by the news that I don’t yet have cataracts.
A pleasurable by-product of locking down was tacit permission to indulge my enjoyment of decent or deliciously trashy TV by night to a far greater extent than normal. Not even my failing eyesight could diminish how devilishly handsome the character Boxer was in the Netflix series ‘White Lines’. Along with many others, I found myself not really caring how Axel had come to meet his untimely death. I was more transfixed by the electrifying chemistry between Boxer and the other main character, Zoe. Not since Lady Gaga became embroiled in an ill-advised and ill-fated love affair with an unstable, hard living musician in ‘A Star Is Born’ had on-screen romance been quite so sizzling.
I later divulged my crush on Boxer-from-White Lines to a long-standing friend who used to own a small café bar in Lisbon’s Bairro Alto. I would pop into his bar from time to time, principally because I enjoyed my new friend’s company, but also because I was delighted to discover that he kept a supply of Sainsbury’s Red Label tea bags behind the counter. Upon my recent disclosure, my friend casually dropped the bombshell that “Nuno” (Portuguese actor Nuno Lopes, aka Boxer) had been a regular at the café back in the day. I was left contemplating how our paths had never crossed and indeed whether Nuno/Boxer was also a fan of Red Label.
A while later over a socially distanced restaurant dinner with another friend, she mentioned that in real life Nuno/Boxer is a sensitive intellectual type. I now began to wonder if I’d made the right life choices all those years ago. If fate had taken another turn, could I have spent lockdown reading poetry in the company of a mysterious bearded man, rather than trying to chomp on a poorly cooked head of broccoli at lunchtime or throwing cutlery at an unshaven, but not bearded, spouse? On balance, an unscrupulous career criminal such as Boxer would never have been a good love match for me, let alone ideal lockdown companion, even if he does have a heart of gold. Similarly, it is likely that I would have tired of a brooding bookworm knocking around my apartment. He probably would have offered less practical help and even fewer cooking skills and so reluctantly, Boxer/Nuno will be filed away in a box labelled Lockdown Hotties.
As we navigate what we’re told will be our new normal, total suspension of reality is no longer an option. The time is upon us to battle back and start living again, even if we are restricted in many ways. After all, this is still life, just not as we once knew it.