My brain, which has always been like a sponge, has now become a child’s nappy*: a sponge-full of water releases its content with a kind of random certainty, whilst a child’s nappy retains pretty much all that it has absorbed locked within it, entombed and festering. My intellect has become a sanitary product from which I cannot extract my usual effluvia. (I’d better tackle this straight away, whilst I am here. I am talking about a modern disposable nappy. I am of a generation that used Terry nappies, which you had to learn to fold correctly – differently dependent upon sex – and pin without puncturing the child. I am of a generation that had a nappy bucket lodged permanently in the bath. I am of a generation that had a bathroom that smelled permanently of ammonia. I am of a generation for whom nappies were wholly unreliable: you simply wrapped the child in them and hoped for the best. It seldom arrived. Leakage is what arrived – of all kinds and in all directions. I am of a generation whose children always came complete with mysterious brown stains. I am not talking about these nappies. Just so that you know…)
Obviously, I know exactly what has caused this logjam, what I do not understand is why?
The cause is very obviously Lockdown, but why has it affected me so? Although I am currently trapped at home, exactly the same amount of interesting stuff happens to me now as has always done, eg none. I’ve always managed to write about nothing in particular before, so why not now? Common experience is what makes comedy work. Who amongst us has never felt frustrated enough to thrash his errant car with a branch? Who has not wanted to wedge bread sticks up his nose and say ‘Wibble’? Who has not tried to make breakfast to ‘The Stripper’; not attempted to appear cool by dancing (badly) like someone half their age; not resisted the urge to yell ‘Don’t tell him Pike’ whenever the opportunity arose? Humour only works when it is shared, so our present situation – although NOT its viral cause – should be ripe for the old rib-ticklers. Why, then, is it so hard to find the funny?
It is very hard to imagine that any family cooped together under current circumstances, would not get on one another’s nerves. My wife has taken to calling me Thrush because she finds me so irritating. Keeping a two metre distance between us is not difficult: we seldom drift so close without snarling. My wife has laid a tape measure across the bed which ensures that I sleep on the dressing table. Many of the things that we normally take in our stride have become extreme irritants: ‘Do you have to breathe like that?’ ‘Like what?’ ‘Alright, do you have to breathe AT ALL?’ I have taken to drinking rather more than I usually would, because I realise that it makes me much more difficult to fall out with**. I presume that by the time this is all over, having to live together will have become valid grounds for divorce.
And what has happened to sleep? During lockdown I have not stopped. I have ‘worked’ on one task or another, all day, every day. I have become tired at the same time as usual. I have gone to bed at my usual time. I have lain abed trying to persuade my legs not to perform the kind of involuntary Irish jig to which they are prone, as I am painfully aware that doing so produces the kind of ‘Tut!’ that could perforate an eardrum. I have got up and found a film that I have already seen a thousand times and watched it again. I have gone back to bed and found sleep, eventually, having grappled with the ‘do I or don’t I need a wee conundrum’ (I do) for thirty minutes. I have found myself welded to the sheets in the morning: absorbed into the mattress, neither prepared to let me go until it is much too late for breakfast, but not quite late enough for lunch. So I open the fridge door and stare at yesterday’s leftovers before thinking ‘Why not?’ and attempt to spread a congealed mass of lumpen gravy onto a slice of toast that is brown on only one side, due to the toaster being on the blink again and the chances of getting a replacement being close to zero seeing as everyone likes a slice of toast at such times and the only one that Amazon have left also cooks Coquille St Jacques and comes out at £347 for the two slice model (which is totally inadequate – obviously). I’ll wait until dinner, when we can sit in tortured silence after a three hour discussion about whose turn it is to cook, and eat beans on semi-toast whilst watching Pointless.
And thence to my little office with the water of life and the opportunity to put all of my thoughts down onto LED. Except that I don’t have any. I’m beginning to build up a picture of who walks what dog and when, if you’re interested. I’ve begun to differentiate between those who have always run and those who started with the lockdown, by the colour of their face and the number of the arteries throbbing on their foreheads. I have begun to recognise those tortured souls who wander past the pub each day, just in case it has opened again and no-one has told them. I can pick out those who reluctantly find themselves trudging off to join the three hour queue for the pharmacy as the Germoloids has run out and grandma’s traditional family cure does not bear thinking about. Besides, where could you even buy a poker these days? My head has turned into a super-absorbent disposable nappy and until I can find some way of dropping it into a bucketful of Napisan, I have nothing really left to say.
Stay safe everyone.
*For my US readers, that is diaper.
**For Alanis Morrisette, THAT is irony.