Saturday 28 March – Friday 3 April 2020

If last week was all about suddenly learning to live a very different life, this week has been about realising this new life could last quite a while.

Here are my tips for the long haul, based on much cogitation, and (thankfully) the more useful insights of the better informed. I pass them on free of charge, and wish you good luck.

Get into a routine

The media, both trad and social, has been full of advice this week on how to stay sane and survive being at home. All sorts of experts, from agony aunts to social influencers to psychologists, have had pretty much the same nuggets of wisdom to proffer (if you were of a suspicious cast of mind, you might wonder if they simply cut ‘n’ paste each other). It basically boils down to: get out from under the duvet, get dressed, do your stuff. Do that Monday to Friday. Saturday and Sunday, do something different: back under the duvet, and sob loud enough to drown out the screams of your nearest and dearest.

If, like us, you were already self-employed and working from home, this sounds like life as normal. I figured out a few years ago, when I was mercifully released from commuting to Bristol every day, that having a routine when you’re your own boss is the only way to produce anything – other than empty chocolate wrappers.

Okay, that one’s sorted.

Don’t sweat the small stuff

I may have mentioned last week that our hideously expensive German washer/drier had mounted a rolling wave of strikes, and was now no longer willing to undertake any form of labour. After a few hours running around screaming – “what do you mean, I’ll have to hand wash all my sheets and towels, and dry them in 4 degrees on the line outside, because I’m still at risk of severe illness AKA likely to regret it if I catch coronavirus, and I MUST keep my bedding and towels and clothes clean?” – I came to my senses, and turned the problem over to my darling husband. He spent a happy day under the work surface, in the innards of the machine. The machine did not fall for his blandishments. We called the local fixit man. We disinfected the entire kitchen; I disappeared for several hours. He came, shook his head, departed. We called the Miele service department. We disinfected the entire kitchen; I disappeared for several hours. Thank God there’s a shed in the garden. The Miele man said they were only answering emergency calls. My beloved assured him this would be a mercy dash of the most applause-worthy. The Miele man said he would come, seeing as how it was me. He spent a happy hour or two under the work surface. The machine allowed itself to be cajoled into providing a washing function. But still no drying.

This time I didn’t run round screaming. It was getting too tiring. I’d been reading all the advice on FaceBook: I took in three deep breaths, thought about life in a laundry, every radiator draped in wet sheets, and decided it could be borne. So when the same Miele engineer returned yesterday, unexpected and unannounced, and replaced the drier sensor (“they never go wrong, this is very unusual”), I was able to take the whole thing in my stride. No small stuff was sweated.

Celebrate the little things

Today is my birthday. Also my darling’s birthday (same day, same year. If you must know, he is three hours the younger. I don’t care). Also our 22nd wedding anniversary.

Here is how we have celebrated: a coffee thermos and half an hour sitting at least six feet apart on a tree trunk after walking to Park Wood, watching our demented dog Peggy running round and round a large pile of chopped branches.

Then home to finish the curent gardening project – our present to each other, plants provided by the amazing local garden businesses Wykeham Gardens and Grange Farm Nursery – please support them if you can. We celebrated with a cup of tea and half a homemade blueberry muffin each, then came indoors very quickly. My, that wind is chilly still!

Lots of lovely messages from friends and family all round the world by WhatsApp (and other forms of social media that are available). Funnily enough, they all seemed to be in pyjamas and under the duvet. And tonight, instead of the posh clothes and fancy restaurant outing planned, we will have a delivered curry from the excellent local Anupam Restaurant, and watch the opening episode of Peter’s present from me – the complete box set of Inspector Morse. It doesn’t get any better, does it?

Bottom line: this isn’t going to be over any time soon. Yes, we’ll all need a hairdresser more quickly than we hope. Yes, we’re going to get very sick of cooking every single meal, and even more sick of wondering what to cook for every single meal. But we’ll get through this, each of us, by making a routine we can live with, not stressing about what we can’t change, and celebrating the bits of love and happiness that come our way.

And cheering and clapping the NHS and all the carers and keyworkers in our country, loud and clear, every Thursday at 8pm.

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