THE GREAT INDOORS
Tall Stories: Trying not to meltdown during the lockdown
Seven days into quarantine and as yet no one here has died.
I am locked in the compound of my parent’s place in the countryside.
Acres of woodland with post and rail paddocks surround a regency villa with all the trimmings. High fences, a long drive and a big front door ensure that come the zombie apocalypse, I for one will be nestled safely within this iron compound, with rabbit militia surveillance and beady eyed crow henchmen that hang from a dying oak tree whose sharp finger like branches point into the sky creating a dark shadowy silhouette which arches over the treeline.
These are my diary entries after a fortnight with the folks.
DAY ONE – THE GREAT INDOORS
Lounge wear, all day? I could get into this.
My first thought is the appropriate clothing sitting on the sofa while I witness the end of the world from my phone. I don’t understand why casual legwear has a weird tapered cuff these days. Surely this is only needed if you plan to shoplift in Boots or appear on the next season of Love Island.
DAY TWO – PRE-PLANNING PEACE TREATIES
In the house, four adults relearn to live under one roof.
Rules are drawn up quickly, social zones and work stations are neatly created. Imaginary boundaries are dotted across rooms. It is clear from the beginning that we are all keen to get along. Scenes that could easily be drawn from an Eastenders Christmas Special are requested to please be avoided. No storming off, no punched breadbins and certainly no sulking – we are going to be on lockdown for a good while.
To ensure maximum privacy and ease of conversation, access to individuals’ work environment and safe ‘conversation zones’ are created. For myself, without the right intake of sufficient nicotine and caffeine I become a grumpy monosyllabic mute.
The news sparks debates that will last way into the early hours. The ticker tape of breaking stories run around the room, lashing us together and winding us slowly back into the television drama.
Netflix schedules are drawn, series binge orders are agreed. We all come together with our separate subscriptions. The UN would be proud.
True colours are shown over end to end watching and sneaky solo snack trips.
Send help, send food, send supplies, send sanity, send us a new series please.
“Have you seen this...?” is the new “do you want a cup of tea?”
My parents are killing memes, one share at a time.
Whatsapp groups shudder with morning mail. We’ve seen it all before but we cannot help but share the digital trash around the world.
It’s all fun and games until you catch it, I think.
I can only communicate through emojis to my friends.
I don’t want to burst into their time, as I wouldn’t want them to disturb mine.
I flick through Instagram stories as if I’m flicking through an old book in a bargain bin. Just seeing not looking.
I realise within a week that my life hasn’t really changed dramatically since being in lockdown.
An arrival of farm shop food. Dad gets the order wrong and orders several sacks of giant potatoes, kilograms of leeks and dozens of huge onions.
Re organising the pantry is a four-hour affair. Tempers flare.
Dad makes care packages out of the excess and drops them off at neighbour’s doors in the area and on to a local charity.
We catch Mum eating tinned biscuits she claims were definitely not out of the bin.
Left-overs are a sin.
We witness police “Arresting cyclists like something out of the Sweenie”
My sister emerges from her makeshift office. She juggles multiple international calls with multiple screens on various headsets and handheld devices.
A new appreciation for the postman Gary.
I now wait for packages like Christmas - the delay has made me start to really want stuff. But the only stuff I want though is American chocolate (3 musketeers bars), filter-tip cigarettes and imported original vintage band tees.
I realise I missed the weekend completely. Every day is a Saturday.
I break free.
Meditating swirling emotions on an hourly basis, it all becomes too much for the number one son. Running into the open like a lion cub, hungry for solitude I dust off into the pastel purple evening.
I find sanctuary in my own flat, to smoke in my garden and watch a couple of episodes of Curb your Enthusiasm alone. Glorious.
I realise I love my parents, my sister too. But there is a reason why we all live separately.
With an ashy exhale of breath I am back in the room.
Within a few hours I am missing the compound. I swear they call this Stockholm syndrome.
Thankful for the Apps. Welcomed distractions. These are my new friends now.
I try to attempt Tiktok challenges.
The new ‘House party’ app is an intrusion into my silent world. The notifications are endless, friends ‘in the house’ is a novelty wearing thin. Yet still, I can’t wait to play it officially.
Instagram becomes is my new tourettes.
I find myself glass eyed and scrolling into the distance, a new nervous tick.
I look outside the window with our dog. We watch the rabbits run in freedom. We both paw at the doors.
I think back to a life before quarantine.
REWIND. DAY ZERO - 28 BAYS LATER
I had always dreamed of this moment. The end of the fucking world.
I had an escape route out of London pre-written in my brain. Should doomsday ever happen, whatever the world-ending situation the plan always began with Costco.
Lines of traffic fill every junction, all lining up to park at the super-size supermarket - but we are driving in the opposite direction.
“How about here?” and here? – I sit in the passenger seat with my mother driving. Completely regressing to a pre-teen. I play with the car buttons and count the bays. It feels like forever before we find the perfect parking space.
Finally, we park. I look around and we are completely alone. The only car rocking in a sea of empty bays. Spookily solo when moments before we were surrounded by frustrated carpooling shoppers.
My mother disappears behind me through a wood line clearing – all I can hear is her calling me,
“Follow the path!” Stomping off into the distance, bobbing happily down a rocky path, she knew her way through the trees with the agility of a master ninja in the twilight.
As far as the eye can see, men and women queue up – up and around the corner and beyond. Bored witless and zombie-like, some cellophane wrapped for security, others with cotton bandages around their mouths, draping their shoulders from harm. All are fearful.
Stumbling through the Costco entrance gates we are caught in a wave headed towards homeware. Matted hair and tracksuited families stomp towards the extra-large goods like thirsty rhinos discovering a new water hole in a dusty drought.
A new orderly queue has formed in the pyramid shaped toilet roll corner of the wholesale warehouse – we line up as if we are waiting for bread in the depression. Idle conversation titters between us all as we thumb our items, some remark how it resembles wartime spirit.
We see a woman steal a family pack of toilet roll from an unmanned shopping trolley.
If it’s this bad now, what is it going to be like without Wi-Fi?
We return home to the compound. Thankful for our surroundings and family dynamics.
Long lost loved loves are sandwiched together whilst the flicker of easy digest entertainment suns their faces. The world learning to live together again.
Okay, maybe I do need friends. Reconnections with old friends drips into action, suddenly a waterfall of replies brings a shower of anxiety..
I dribble conversation to old girlfriends and new squeezes…
I download Tinder, Bumble and Hinge.
I consider chat roulette.
I delete Tinder, Bumble and Hinge.
Reality kicks in - I reply to all and clear my inbox. Once again, I am thankful for my friends.
My phone goes back on silent and in a hidden corner away from sight.
I start to consider what a county lines job shifting toilet rolls would look like, would I be successful, I ponder as I look at my Mexican handle-bar moustache in the mirror.
I finally shave.
We return to Costco.
We drive through our compound gates and contemplate whether this will ever end.