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Day 17

It’s been like grand central station here today. Big D has had one online meeting after another, Littl’un has had Facetime fun with his friend Vinnie (they’ve invented some kind of Facetime hide and seek – so he ended up in the laundry basket again!) and also a chat with his Mammy.​

And I’ve spoken with my mother and my great friend Brenda. We’ve had several deliveries, and the postman’s been too. So that means quite a while spent disinfecting – though I’m not entirely sure that we’re doing things right. I’ve seen no definitive guidance on how long the virus remains on different kinds of surfaces, and how best to deal with them. We’ve been following a regime of wiping down hard surfaces with disinfectant, and putting cardboard things and post into a bin bag for a couple of days before opening them – then washing our hands. We were just saying that the Government should bring back the old Public Information Films to show us how to bring things safely into our homes. People of a certain age will remember the cartoon cat “Charlie says – Don’t Play With Matches”, and the cartoon couple Petunia and her little husband, who used to do everything wrong to show us when to call the coastguard, not to litter or leave gates open in the countryside, and how to use a pelican crossing. We need them back.​

Is anyone else finding that in trying very hard not to waste food, they are ending up with some pretty strange meals?

Today for lunch the only thing the three of us had in common was the “bake your own” rolls – delicious warm with rather too much butter. Littl’un had sausages and beans on his, while I had a defrosted Christmas starter from M&S – smoked salmon “gilt snowflakes” spread on mine, and Big D had a pack of only-a-few-days-out-of-date pastrami with salad. It looked pretty good, but I wouldn’t have eaten it. He said it was delicious. We’ll see what his stomach is saying in a few hours.​

And rather than having pretty relaxed access to the food cupboards, I’m in strict control of what is on offer – to ensure that we eat things in the right date order and maximise what we have.

At the moment I’m thinking that I’ll try to keep this up after the crisis is over. However, I might not feel the same after a lot more of these odd concoctions. It’s a bit like a really strange edition of “Ready, Steady, Cook!”

Speaking of food, today not only have we taken delivery of our first fruit and vegetable box from our local supplier, but my younger brother has called in on his way home from my parents’ house with a few more bits and pieces that he couldn’t get for us yesterday. Flour, hand wash, and a tin of minced beef and onion (yuk, but Dad likes it in a pie). I’ve disinfected the containers and have them drying on the step. Do you think I’m inviting thieves? The fruit and veg man said he’d had a woman practically begging him to chase down some flour for her. Strange times.​

My brother and I had what’s become our usual chat with me standing in the doorway and him halfway down the drive.There’s not much privacy.

Once again we’ll have been amusing the neighbours, as he told me how revolting the photos were that I’d sent him of my latest infection (I get lots of infections as a result of the immunosuppression, and the one that started yesterday is on my foot. Probably fungal, but hard to tell). I sent him photos so that he could go to a pharmacy, show the pharmacist, and get me the right sort of cream for it. His view is that looking at the pictures I really need to be seen by an expert in tropical medicine. He also said that if I get any more infections anywhere to please not send him photos without prior warning. And also that I owe him a ham and pease pudding sandwich because after seeing my message he couldn’t eat his lunch.​

Day 23

I haven’t blogged for a few days. It’s been very up and down. Things start to get real when people you know are affected by the virus.​

My sister-in-law’s mother has been taken to hospital with coronavirus. She’s eighty years old and has COPD. My sister-in-law is in pieces at her mother being alone. Last night our close friend’s mother was taken to hospital and has tested positive for COVID 19. She’s ninety six. We keep hearing of more cases in the nearest town – Ashington. The Prime Minister is in ICU. My brother, who does our shopping, has warned me to tell Big D to be doubly careful when cleaning our things, as he and his wife have been exposed to the virus as they were with his mother-in-law before the paramedics arrived. I’ve had moments of feeling pretty scared. I know the risks for me with immunosuppression and asthma. We are the last line of defence between Littl’un and the care system. I admit I’ve lost sleep over it.​

On the other hand, the sunny days blending into each other have been pleasant and calm. This is a big thing for us. Calm is always our objective. And Littl’un is loving having us both at home all the time. Predictability, certainty, no difficult transitions, no other adults making demands on him – this all makes him feel safe and loved. He is thriving.

This morning we were woken up just after six by Littl’un shouting from his bedroom “Darrell! Jac! Guess what? I’ve been asleep with my glasses on!” He thought it was hilarious, and came into our room laughing his head off, then had to jump onto us in excitement, telling us how much he loves us. He is such a bundle of joy. We were late to bed last night, but it’s a pleasure to be woken up like this. Mostly.​

Over the last few days Littl’un and I have been cleaning out the old lady of the road – our 26 year old camper van – which is going to be stationary on the drive for at least the next three months – and decorating it to turn it into his art studio and chill-out den for the duration.

He’s very happy about that. He’s appointed himself Manager of the project. I’ve been the cleaner. And I’ve vowed never to allow McDonalds pancakes with syrup to be eaten in the van ever again. That syrup has glued pens to tables, straws to cupboards and pictures to windows. It’s lethal stuff. But now the van is looking good. Clean and tidy, and the table’s up in the middle. And filled up with art materials. This afternoon we started drawing pictures on the windows with chalk pens. I did a wonky rainbow made of stars – art isn’t my strong point – and Littl’un drew Spiderman’s eye – which I have to say looks a bit rude. I’m keeping schtum.​

Our evenings are developing a kind of pattern where we watch the Government press conferences at five (Littl’un talks all the way through), then we have dinner, then we have a film night.

On Friday we watched Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Joseph and the Amazing Technicolour Dreamcoat – a recorded live performance starring Donny Osmond – which we couldn’t have done in the real world as Littl’un gets too scared and squirmy with all the people around in a theatre.He loved all the songs.And I sang all the way through.It was great.We’ve also watched Four Kids and It, and had Littl’un’s introduction to Harry Potter.His amazement and joy has been such fun to see, and we’ve enjoyed these films as a family with popcorn (last packet in the cupboard now gone). ​

Meanwhile, in the outside world, the Rebel Parents continue to do things they shouldn’t – going into shops for things they don’t need, and driving a bit too far, so they can keep up their usual routines as far as possible.

Mam said to me “Do you know, there was nobody in Warkworth when we went to feed the ducks on Sunday, and the little shop was empty? “Strange, that.​

Day 28

Well that’s Easter been and gone. Maybe the strangest Easter holiday ever. And today – Easter Monday – marks four weeks in isolation for us. Time flies when you’re having fun.​

I’ve been using social media quite a lot, and this weekend it seems that a lot of friends are starting to feel the reality of lockdown and are getting a bit low. Lots of sharing of photos of family meals from last year, or holiday snaps. It’s been true for our family too. Big D has been a bit grumpier than usual though it’s sometimes hard to tell as he’s a “bloke of a certain age” and they do tend towards grumpiness, don’t they?​

And I had tears last night for the first time. I think they were more tears of frustration at the Rebel Oldies in our families, who still aren’t getting why they mustn’t go out unnecessarily.

Big D’s Mum was “out shopping with a friend” when he rang on Saturday to see how his parents were doing, and his Dad, who is 84, continues to do their weekly supermarket shop rather than allow a younger family member – who is shopping anyway – to shop for them and drop it off. He says he likes to stay independent. And then when we were speaking to Big D’s brother and his wife yesterday, who was enjoying a well-earned rest from the last eight days “on” in a care home, Big D’s Mum and Dad turned up with some chocolate for them both. Of course they told them to go away – but leave the chocolate! That made me laugh, but honestly, we are both despairing of our parents. Third Sunday in a row that my parents have done a 25-mile round trip to feed the ducks and buy the pies my Dad likes. It was just too much for me last night – I was so upset that they continue to take silly risks for themselves and for others and will not listen to the family. And this in the week that a kinship carer in our kinship friendship group is fighting for her life in intensive care.​

Littl’un has had his moments this weekend, resulting in a few meltdowns, but on the whole he’s been in great spirits, apart from having an itchy bottom.We’re hoping it’s not worms.

Yesterday morning I did an Easter egg hunt for him.At six sharp he jumped on our bed to wish us Happy Easter.He had no expectations of receiving anything and was so appreciative. He squealed with delight at the rhyming clues I’d made for him, as they were full of toilet humour to make him laugh. Probably a bit too much toilet humour actually.And he was genuinely amazed that family members had sent Easter eggs and small gifts for him.He screamed “This is fantastic Jac – but it’s just too much – you’re giving me a heart attack!”He is a sweetheart. ​

Big D forgot to order me an egg from my brother on shopping day, so though I’d bought him a box of gourmet Jelly Beans, I didn’t receive any chocolate and was too slow off the mark to have bought any for myself.

I have to say I didn’t get offered any of the Jelly Beans either, as Big D scoffed the whole box straight away – gourmet suggesting something a bit more genteel than shoving in several in one go. But he obviously enjoyed them! I confess I resorted to eating one of the eggs I’d bought for our neighbour’s granddaughter, replacing it with one of Littl’un’s Kinder eggs and a fluffy rabbit we happened to have in the house. Naughty – but very nice!​

Day 31

This week I read an article by a woman in Italy who said that the preoccupation of isolation is food, food and more food. It seems to be true in this house too.​

A lot of time is spent looking for delivery slots from the various supermarkets – including in the middle of the night, waiting for deliveries, wiping down shopping with disinfectant, and meal planning so we have enough food to last until the next delivery without resorting to extremely strange combinations. It’s happened a few times, but I really don’t fancy eating tinned meatballs with supernoodles too many more times.​

Who would have thought that I’d miss going to a supermarket?

Big D hasn’t done it for years. I’ve always found food shopping a bit like going to a takeaway. You spend ages reading the menu, then you choose the same thing you always have. Unless you are lucky with the yellow-stickered markdowns. I do miss the thrill of a bargain – and then having to decide what you’re going to do with that piece of salmon or pack of beef medallions​.

Our new way of getting the things we need has settled into a pattern of a weekly shop – either a supermarket delivery if I can get it, or a shop done for us by my brother if not. He’s also doing our parents’ shopping. It’s quite funny because there’s a running commentary on our eating habits. He’s told Mam and Dad that they eat far too many cakes and pies (maybe one of the reasons they still do secret shopping!). I think he’s quite impressed with our diet. Of course, what he doesn’t know is that I’m sneaky, and buy all our crisps, pop and wine from a cut-price website and have them delivered. I discovered “Approved Foods” a few years ago. Big D always says “Oh, here’s another delivery for you”, before diving in and scoffing all the crisps and peanuts.​

As I’m writing this, Littl’un is using food to recreate a visit to his Mammy’s house.

He usually goes every week for three hours. She always gets him a pizza delivered, and he gets comfy on the sofa ready to watch a film with her, like a little Prince. He asked for pizza for lunch today, and I was instructed to cut the box I took out of the freezer to make it look like a delivered pizza box. While it was cooking he made up some “pink sauce” like he does with his Mammy – half tomato ketchup, half salad cream – and he put it in the corners of the pizza box like they do. When I took the cooked pizza in to him, arranged “just right” in the box, I found he’d changed into his onesie and was sitting infront of the TV. “I’m recreating it all, Jac” he said. “I do miss seeing my Mammy in her house”. Yes, facetime is good, but it’s not quite the same.​

It’s my birthday in a couple of days. Mine on 18th and Paddy’s on 19th.

He said he might drive over from the Wild West if it’s sunny, and sit in our garden with his dog and talk to me through the window. There are presents here for him, and also a big box of essentials that I’ve put together. A couple of weeks ago I sent him a shopping delivery of things like loo roll and tinned goods – most of which he said he wouldn’t eat – but it comforts me that he won’t starve if he contracts the virus – it’s just him and his crazy dog, and his nearest shop is seventeen miles away and I know he will have eaten all the chocolate and biscuits already.​

It’s now been five weeks, and I miss Paddy’s face. He says he’s absolutely fine, and I’m sure it’s true.

The hills and the forest are his happy place. He’s helping a bloke plant trees up in the forest at a lot more than a social distance, and it sounds so therapeutic. He says it is. He sends us photos. We WhatsApp most days. I’ve a feeling that he may decide it’s not worth the drive down here at the weekend. – the practicalities – like where will he go to the loo? And what if the dog jumps up etc – may make it too stressful for him. We’ll see. Anyway, Littl’un and I are going to be making birthday cupcakes this afternoon. With an electric whisk, as he broke my wooden spoon last Thursday during the “Clap for Carers”. There may not be a party, but there will be cake.​

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