On the anniversary of lockdown

Still homeworking in Covid

To my left, the vertically stacked frame of a freshly disassembled cot.

I don’t mean to my left like ‘to my left, the distant purple hues of the gently rolling Quantocks’.

I mean to my left like an immediate barrier, cot struts like so many whitewashed prison bars.

To my right, at a similar remove, a clothes horse stabling a variety of gro-suits, socks, pants, and face masks.

Behind me, far enough away to allow my office chair a quarter-turn, another cot. The portable one we bought for hypothetical trips way, now pressed into emergency service as baby Mabel’s lunchtime nap spot when her normal kipping zones in brother Arthur’s nursery and Mum and Dad’s bedroom are occupied.

Such is the working environment when the opportunity for normal life – in this case, the time required to indulge in the luxury that is carrying no-longer-required items to the loft, rather than hastily dumping them in whatever area that passes for space – is more remote than that soft-remembered Somerset hillside.

When it comes to leaving what we still laughingly refer to as the study, I shall need to grasp the door with both hands to drag it a few inches across the stubborn pile of six-month-old carpet. One day, Dad, the solitary family member boasting the necessary tools and skills, will be allowed access to come in and trim the bottom of the door. But this is not that day.

This is the first anniversary of lockdown.

A date when everyone’s daily routine remains like dragging so many doors across so many inches of unforgiving flooring.

So much for friction.

On the other side of the ledger, my forward view in this office-cum-utility room is a window opening toward the blue skies in which, almost any day now, returning swifts will wheel.

I have internet, and no worries for funding food or heat.

I, and all those closest to me, have avoided the worst impacts of the virus.

For me, in comparison to many, the last year has been a walk in the park. Yes, it might have been nice to occasionally have an option other than a walk in the park – having naught but al fresco children’s ‘entertainment’ each and every day, especially over winter, has been nothing if not challenging – but I feel immensely fortunate that Arthur and Mabel have been around to share this. I can’t pretend they are not exhausting, but nor can I recall a time when I have been more grateful to be taken out of myself.

Finally, as I prepare to limber up, shift that office door and make the children’s tea, I am lucky to be employed in a line of work that, in the midst of the darkness, picks out the light. The universities and staff serving on the Covid front line, for example, or the headmaster who helped encourage pupils to be themselves by coming out to them during a school assembly. Such stories burn bright.

I’m certain I’m not alone in sensing that, hunkered down in our isolated units, we are bound in a solidarity unlike any seen since 1945.

The day of release draws near. We shall meet again, share our war stories, and drink to the future.

Oh, and put the cot in the loft.

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