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It is 347 days since the first lockdown started in the UK, which seems the right time to commemorate things. If we wait any longer, it will turn into a year, which will give a false sense of order and logic. Mr Z has put himself in charge of household morale. He roams about, inviting everyone to count all the things that have changed. I see myself as the Theresa May in this scenario.
“Nothing,” I insist.
“But what about …”
“Nothing has changed. Nothing. Has. Changed.”
“We got Covid?”
“OK, you’re quite right – my mistake. In the middle of a pandemic for which the world’s immune system was completely unprepared, we caught this weird virus we’d never had before.”
“I don’t see why you have to ruin everything.”
“That’s definitely changed – it used to be you who ruined everything.”
There is a principle here – I remember it from a walk I went on 1,000 years ago. There is that age when your parents no longer make you go on walks and you have to decide whether you are going to go for a walk under your own steam or never walk again.
For a while, if you choose to go, walks seem incredibly long, like a noble test of endurance. Just going to a pub that is farther away than the nearest one makes you feel like Edmund Hillary. But then home seems a little closer on the way back, because all the waypoints are familiar.
This also works on life, but not in a good way: if you stick to what is familiar, it will end up seeming very short. If we don’t find a way to distinguish the time we just spent, it will turn into one endless day, long but short, like a dream, like waiting in an airport lounge. So, yes, some things definitely happened.
Three weeks ago, my son became taller than me. It was preceded by endless chimpy display, during which he would claim to be taller and I would point out that he was on tiptoes, or on a stair, or wearing clogs, or I was sitting down, or he was asleep and fantasising tallness. I got so used to my watertight and routine denial that I was struck silent when it finally came to pass. This must be how Nigel Lawson felt. “Name one gas responsible for ‘global warming’! You can’t, can you? Can you? Oh …”
Anyway, he is taller. His eyes are higher. Soon, he will be able to rest a pint on my head. My thoughts gallop ahead. This makes him 5ft 10½in, so next he will be 6ft. Then he will be 6ft 2in. Surely he should become a model and in due course a good candidate for The Tall Man in Charge of Everything.
Mothers are crazy. What is wrong with us? I pester him constantly to rank himself, by tallness, against everyone at his school.
“Well, I haven’t seen them since October …”
“Still, though – was there anyone who looked like they might be growing?”
“I’m probably the tallest smart person.”
“How do you figure that?”
“Well,” he says, unveiling his point like a card sharp. “You’ll notice I never get bullied.”
In November, Tesco started a promo on bulk purchases of Diet Coke, which is working out so well for them that it has not ended. This has changed the texture of our disharmony, from: “Who finished the Diet Coke?” to: “Twenty-four cans in three days?! Which one of you is hiding Donald Trump and why can’t he buy his own Diet Coke? The man’s a billionaire!”
In January, I saw my neighbour in the street and told her I liked her mask. It turned out she had a spare, which she put through my door. I immediately started crying. That was new. I never cry, unless I see a dog helping another dog on the internet.
I definitely went to the pub last July. And in August and September. In October, I got kicked out of a Wetherspoon’s. There was surely some weather in the summer and then, particularly in January, some different weather. My birthday was the hottest it has ever been. I know this because a friend blew me out five minutes before she was due to arrive with an economical: “I cannot be bothered.” I can’t remember anything, but I can hold a grudge. Good to know.
Around Christmas, we became a nit-free household for the first time since 2009. Yesterday, my daughter played a tune on the saxophone. This came after four years of the most terrible anguished noises, like a wounded musk ox, trapped, starving, simultaneously everywhere in the house. So that was massive. I probably should have put that closer to the top.
And here are the things that are indistinguishable from one season to the next: any day on Twitter; any point on the trajectory from Couch to 5k then back to couch; any dish involving any kind of sausage; any press conference held by any government minister; any graph comparing the UK with the rest of the world; any sentence using the words “roadmap” or “new normal”. They could be this year or last year, a Saturday or a Monday; they obliterate time and transform our experience into one perpetual present, like that of a fish. You want memories; start there. Nix the sausages. Choose life. Try halloumi.
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: After months of nothingness, I’m desperate to do things worth remembering | Coronavirus