Rhubarb wants me to help her with her Brownie badges.
“Yes poppet! Which one shall we do first? Help an old person across the road? Help an old person with their shopping? Get drugs for an old person?
“No Daddy! They are not badges. They are things we are not allowed to do because of the virus.”
“Well what badges are we allowed to do?”
“Construction and Agility.”
“What the f-”
“Daddy! Swear box!”
“Technically I didn’t swear. You interrupted the swear, so you owe me a pound.”
Rhubarb does not look amused.
Print out characters from Frozen Two (the shit one) for the girls to colour in.
I join in and give Elsa purple eyes, green arms and orange teeth. I draw a thick black pentagram around Olaf.
Rhubarb asks me what I have drawn.
“It’s a good luck charm.”
“Why does he need that?”
“Because he’s in mortal danger.”
“You’re so kind and thoughtful Daddy.”
Head out the door with the kids. We’re off to the park. People cross the street as soon as we come into view. I wonder if we smell or they don’t like Rhubarb’s Texas Chainsaw Massacre onesie. Nope. Well, maybe it’s our fearsome reputation. We do belong to a gang called Perky Blinders, but it’s made up of well-intentioned, but slightly deluded middle-class parents who think buying quinoa will save the planet.
Reach the park. Feel a strange sense of freedom, not unlike the freedom I felt when I returned from Saudi Arabia after six months in isolation from females. Not leaving the house for five days had a greater effect on me than I was expecting. I look across the field. There’s barely a sole in sight. My eyes hurt. I’ve heard about this. People who spend months in a confined space like a submarine end up with submarine vision. Their eyes adjust to only seeing short-distance and when they go on shore-leave, everything’s a bit blurry as their eyes adjust back to normality. Either that, or I am wearing Babe’s glasses instead of mine. Or staring at the sun.
Remove Babe’s glasses and chase the girls round and round for thirty minutes. We wonder why another couple and their Alsatian pass within five meters of us despite the fact the field is otherwise empty. Maybe they like the way we smell or want a closer glimpse of Rhubarb’s onesie.
“The blood is fake.” I call out to reassure them. They nod but don’t make direct eye contact.
We head back home, have tea and put the girls to bed.
Check my email before hitting the sack.
A headline catches my eye: Russia Unleashed 500 Lions. Naturally I click to read more and discover, to my disappointment, that a story doing the rounds on social media is in fact false. Russia has not released 500 lions to keep people indoors as part of its response to coronavirus (yet).
I turn to Babe for vindication:
“See. My quip about jaguars wasn’t so stupid after all. It’s worth further analysis at least. Maybe predatory animals could help people maintain a safe social distance!”
No response. I know she’s not asleep because I can see her reading her book: Why Mummy Swears, by Gill Sims.
Another headline catches my eye: Coronavirus Rabbit Food.
Naturally, I click through to find out why this could possibly be news since we have been eating rabbits for about ten thousand years, or whether I have misread the headline and we are now feeding rabbits food laced with coronavirus. Note to self: must contact the Press Complaints Commission to lodge my concerns about the dangers of reading ambiguous headlines just before bedtime.
It seems there was a second post doing the rounds on social media saying, “West Berk’s small animal rescue has received numerous messages asking to purchase all of our bunnies at once. The chicken welfare association has also stopped adoptions. People are buying animals as LIVE FOOD because of the food shortage.”
Babe senses I want to tell her that I’m going to ignore this story because it’s probably just another one of Beatrix Potter’s conspiracy theories. She tuts. And without taking her eyes off the page, says:
“Before I forget, Jarrolds have donated lots of free moisturiser to hospital staff.”
“Oh, that’s what the bottle of Sea Kelp is on the sideboard.”
“Can I use it?”
“Are you a keyworker?”
“And there’s your answer.”
I leave her to her potty mouth novel and fall asleep wondering if Sea Kelp can stop corona or restore the three layers of skin I have lost due to all the extra hand washing.