I have been absent, but that is because I am now too busy to do anything at all. Mostly because of the new job (now, less new, but still very different to part time freelancer life which felt like I had time to draw a breath), but also because I have been solo parenting for a month. Mark has been in New Zealand seeing his mother. It has been hard work, what with Covid measures like two weeks’ worth of pointless, performative, draconian hotel quarantining and cancelled flights back to London and sickness and sadness all round.

It is very boring and clearly politically/morally/socially problematic to complain about these measures, so I won’t. Not really. Except to say that zero cover policies sound insane. Mark was flown to the South Island, very far away from where he stated he needed to be, but the perceived safety (hallowed, sacred, semi-religious ‘safety’) of all New Zealanders is obviously worth individual sacrifices and so he got holed up and watched the entire series of Games of Thrones while his family sat around his mother’s hospital bedside praying she would make it through, ON THE OTHER ISLAND. What she doesn’t have is time, and Mark was made to squander his. He did manage to get out of his little room for exercise once a day, in a plastic-covered car park by himself. The plastic covering was there for his ‘safety’, presumably to stop his fellow New Zealanders from extinguishing the threat (as a vaccinated man) he posed to them. I asked him if he meant that the plastic was there to stop New Zealanders trying to…what? Shoot him? Throw tropical fruits at his head? Laugh at his pallor and his growing quarantine-belly? He said, yeah, all that, probably.

He was interviewed by a Stuff reporter because he applied to get out early to be at his mother’s bedside but this was refused, on the grounds that he had been put on the other island and that travelling back to his other would pose a risk to all New Zealanders. So he had to wait a few more days when the magic 14 day number made him safe again. It’s amazing how that pathogen works. So good at reading calendars and curfew times and how here, in Britain, it understands regional borders and can count how many people are sitting around an outdoor table. Science is just…wow.

So anyhow, he is out and he is very happy to be spending time with his mother who is looking and feeling a little better. He will be back to London on Wednesday and there are very good things about this, but also, I am sad about his snoring which I have not missed. I have enjoyed my massive bed, the tidy bedroom, the easier meals, the quieter evenings, the freedom to watch Call My Agent on my own. I have missed somebody giving me a hand. I miss sleep-ins.

We have experienced a bad haircut while he has been away. I haven’t cared much about the children’s flowing locks, kind of enjoying their ’70s shags, but Otis’s teacher asked for his hair to be cut. This was something I discovered at the rushed school pickup at 3:20. I don’t finish work until 4:30, so I told Otis I would take him up to the barber then, but he got embroiled in some sort of McDonalds voucher scheme with his brothers and their friend, and it was raining, so by the time I was finished I really couldn’t fit the barber in. So three of us cut his hair and it looks partly Liam Gallagher/Hoxton mullet and partly ’20s era Milly-Molly-Mandy. Like this:

I mean, I quite like it, and so does Otis. Apparently everyone in his class said he looked adorable, but then…did they? I mean…it’s a challenging ‘do. I will never know.

I’ve also had phone calls from school to say that Noah is so behind in maths that he might not catch up. He went to an intervention on Thursday afternoon to try to help him but apparently left after 15 minutes, telling his maths teacher he had a dental appointment. I emailed right back and told him that was a bald-faced lie, and that, while he is a lovely boy, he is ‘as ambitious as a piece of seaweed’. Then I thought – that is unfair on the seaweed. So I have taken his phone again and this weekend will try to look cross whenever I remember about the maths and mutter the phrase ‘do your maths’ when he tries to tell me something funny about his parkour shenanigans. ‘Maths!’ ‘Maths!’ ‘Maths!’ I shall hiss, all very threatening and authoritarian-like. That is parenting, right there.

What else? Tax. I owe lots of tax so working is just paying off the tax. The New Zealand accountants want a checklist of things for our tax accounts there and the list makes me want to hide in my cupboard and cry a bit.

The coffee machine started leaking so it is in the repair shop. We hauled out the La Pavoni from deep in the recesses of the cupboards and cranked it up again but it too is leaking. The kitchen bench is sagging a little now from all of the leaks and I imagine it will just collapse one morning in a dampened MDF sodden heap.

The first week Mark was away Noah had a late night shower and came out of the boy’s bathroom all pink and scalded and with a welt on his chest and it turned out that the hot water tap had shot off into his torso, and hot water was pouring out in a boiling chest-high flood. He managed to draw the shower door closed and when I went into to see what had happened, the shower room was steamy and all this water was hitting the glass door. Like a hot upside down waterfall. So we had to call Mark in his little hotel prison and he explained how to turn the water off at the source. We managed to get back into the shower and fasten the tap back on and hope that it wouldn’t pop back off in the night.

An hour later, after midnight, Barnaby came into my room and woke me up, saying that he couldn’t breathe. It was a respiratory thing, brought on by hay fever, though I didn’t know that then. I drugged him up with Piriton and Sudafed and got him to sleep on the couch in the living room where there was less dust (and small boys bodies) and told him to wake me up if he felt he couldn’t breathe again and then we would brave A&E together. I tried to get back to sleep but, you know, was a little worried that he wouldn’t be able to breathe again.

The next morning we got him a video call with the GP (because, of course, COVID) and she tried to look at his eczema though the screen but the wifi kept cutting out. She did manage to tell me that giving him Piriton every day for the last two months was probably why he was struggling to stay awake during class. If he does pass his GCSEs now that he is mostly conscious in class, that’ll be no help from me, then.

He is now on an inhaler, but when I tried to get the prescription for the inhaler filled (which had been sent from the GP electronically to the pharmacy) they hadn’t received it. I said ‘please sort this out because he might not be able to breathe tonight’ and the pharmacist said ‘excuse me, I cannot hear you through your mask and this plastic screen’ and so she asked me to write what I was trying to say all down but not before making me use antibacterial gel because, you know, The Danger Pen! and my potential capacity to spread some illness throughout the borough because of that Pen. I despair.

IT TURNED OUT I DID ACTUALLY COMPLAIN! Sorry for that, and yet, not sorry. It’s been hard.

Any More News, Then?

I had a hair cut, I went out with friends to a pub (sat outside, zzz), met my new boss at The Ned (but had to install the NHS tracker app before they let me in) and I went on an anti-lockdown march and cried because there were people there who were feeling like me and they mostly weren’t mental.

Otis discovered that if you stick a cushion into your onesie you look like a sexy tiktok lady:

I accidentally bidded on (and won) some Chanel earrings which may have been fake but PHEW they aren’t:

I read Shuggie Bain and have nearly watched every episode of Superstore. Last night the teenagers and I watched The Blair Witch Project and we all had to sleep with heavy objects. Just in case.

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6 Responses to Homestretch

  1. Jennifer says:

    Love everything you write and feel like I’m right there with you …never stop writing ❤️

  2. Aileen says:

    This is a lot. Please don’t feel bad for complaining. I’m glad Mark got out of covid jail in time to see his mother.

  3. rose says:

    Hugely trying and frustrating. Glad Mark had time with his mum and hopefully other family members. Even gladder he will be back with you and crew soon. That is a long time with lots of children, full time job and not having an accustomed partner present to be involved. Glad you had some movies. Hope the inhaler stops the breathing problems in positive ways. The shower problem is awful!
    THANK YOU for somehow finding time to write and post. Perspective on what was bothering me! Always a good reminder.

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