In some ways, the lockdown is great. I have spent a lot of time cycling with my daughter and playing with my son, learning the names of all his dinosaurs and which exact episode of Andy's Dinosaur Adventures he is asking for. I have been able to spend real time looking at the flowers as they bloom in spring. Teenage me would have found that laughable, but that's one development I can say for certain that I am pleased with. An appreciation for things-in-the-world is a source of pleasure, that kind of pure pleasure that comes from honey on toast, or a good cup of tea. It's not of the 'MasterChef' type, where it almost has to be deviant to qualify as worthwhile. Although the big small one taking an interest in food has upped the quality of the cooking in the house, and the quantity of cake, which is never a bad thing, there is a weekly stress over choosing what to cook to meet the stringent requirements imposed. Last week, I tried (with some success, I might add) fondant potatoes, which was new to me, sitting somewhere in between the simple and the complicated, although clearly anyone who would bother to attempt them has too much time on their hands. Flowers, which I suppose would have been the bane of my early teenage years, really are about as spectacular a thing as nature offers. You can sort-of see the need, from the point of view of survival of the fittest, for flowers to be attractive in its dull, behavioural sense. But that translates into something extravagant for us humans, capable perhaps of appreciating the appearance of something beyond its promise to deliver a sweet treat.
But at the same as all of this, lockdown is oppressive, a heavy burden to bear when there can be no trips out to band rehearsals, the pub, even the park is hopeless because all the exercise machines and children's play areas are cordoned off. Going to the shops demonstrates the good in some people and the desperate self-centredness of others. The Thursday night clap is a glorious invention, and one that - with some initial trepidation - I have joined in, by, with a couple of neighbours, offering a weekly performance of a tune out in the street. Visuals are poor, what with all the trees, acoustics are strange (I've barely ever played an amplified guitar outside, because you wouldn't normally get away with it!), and the two blokes I'm playing with are proper musicians. Fortunately, to make me feel better about this, one of them has taken to playing a trombone (his usual instrument is the double bass), which makes me sound a little more like I know what I'm doing. I've decided, when all of this lockdown stuff is over, though, to get a band together that plays the kind of music I would choose to play if no one else had much of a say in it. And to get out and play lots of shows, because - frankly - the world needs that kind of stuff, and I want to get out of the house. Applications from drummers, guitarists, bass players all gratefully received!
I genuinely hope all these ideas, projects and resolutions I'm making end up following through. I'm disappointed with how little I've written, but I can just about sense that improving. A couple of blog posts does not a fourth novel make, of course, but it's a form of progress. The struggle to motivate oneself to do anything constructive after a day of policing arguments over who snatched what off whom, when is the right time to give up and watch a bit more Andy's Dinosaurs, or who is doing their family MasterChef entry today, that struggle is, I say, a big one. Somehow work seems less onerous in this context. But I wouldn't swap back, I don't think. It's a strange thing to say - a very strange thing! - but the process of getting to know the children in a new, intense way has been a privilege, one that will be denied to most people most of the time. I can't share the lockdown experience with everyone I would want to, but that's the thing, isn't it?
It will be worth it, in the end, when it's all over and we can go back and see those people who we couldn't see, do the things we couldn't do... I think a lot of us will want the new normal to be quite different from the old.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought