Day Nine

Put on a face mask for the first time.

Babe walks in on me and tuts.

“Are you planning on wearing more than just a face mask and your steel toe-capped builder boots today?” 

I shake my head.

“This will be my new uniform. It’s my last attempt to express myself before Boris issues another ambiguous declaration of empathy and togetherness.” 

She shakes her head. 

“What?! Maintaining my personal appearance for the public’s safety and well-being is hardly a priority any more is it? Experiencing all that these four walls have to offer is now my only concern.” 

She sees me looking at her nurse’s uniform lying at the top of the pile of laundry we haven’t put away since last Tuesday.

“Touch that and you’re dead.” 

Noted. Decide to wait till she’s outside with the kids playing Swingball.

Settle down to do some emails. Decide to only use consonants, to see if anyone actually reads my emails.

No one replies.

Jump on a call and stare out the window the entire time.

‪I am wondering if I can get away with pruning my neighbour’s pear tree. Their curtains are permanently shut and they don’t appear to have ventured out in a week. If they also have submarine vision, they may not even notice the resultant nudity of the tree.

No one on the call notices me daydreaming, my mask or the bareness of my chest. Feel slightly disillusioned at how little interest my colleagues have in my appearance, or maybe they’ve simply become accustomed to my semi-nudity and questionable sartorial choices over the last few weeks.

When the call ends, I get a Slack message from my boss. 

“Hiya. Just thought I’d check in. Is everything OK? I notice your video wasn’t on.” 

Google, “how to prune a pear tree so it doesn’t die of toxic shock or embarrassment”.

Also Google, “why are prunes so good at pruning, what other fruits are good at pruning?”

Pop to the Co-op for supplies. Browse what is left of the fruit and veg section: strawberries, garlic and cabbage. Obviously I ignore the cabbage and go for a box of strawberries. I look at the source. Spain. I put them in my basket and make a note to wipe each one down with an antibacterial wipe before serving, to add that hint of “just decontaminated”.

I fear for the human race. If we are now all panic buying everything except strawberries, garlic and cabbage, we have about three days left before armageddon descends. Make a mental note to oil my crossbow and order an extra quiver of arrows when I get back, the poison-tipped ones. 

Consider getting two boxes of strawberries because they are on a two for one offer. Tut. Surely this is going to fuel stockpiling? Surely it should be buy one for a pound, buy two for £200?

I also grab four large cloves of garlic. That should be enough to make a necklace for me, Babe, Rhubarb and Special. Make a note to ask the old guy two doors down if I can borrow some wood from his shed to make wooden crosses, stakes and sign: CORONA VAMPIRE ZOMBIES KEEP YOUR DISTANCE!

Join the queue for the till in aisle thirteen. Twenty minutes later I reach the cashier who is hiding behind a six-foot, four-inch thick bullet-proof screen. I wonder if I have mistakenly walked into a bank and regret not bringing my Smith and Wesson, navy cable-knit balaclava and night-vision goggles. 

One inadvertent bonus of the screen, other than minimising the chance of either of us coughing bubonic plague into each other’s faces, is that I am spared the awkward and reluctantly delivered “How are you today, did you find everything you wanted?” chit chat that supermarkets forced their cashiers to adopt in the late 90s. No fair-minded Brit wants to be asked if they failed to ask a shelf-stacker for help finding an item before making it all the way to the checkout.

But I miss it, strangely. Mainly because I had got into the habit of asking silly questions in reply like, “No, I couldn’t find wafer thin honey roast pygmy feet. They’re usually in the chilled section, in between the elbow grease and left-handed spanners. Would you be kind enough to ask the Deputy Chilled Goods Manager to come off her lunch break and check the warehouse for me? My wife’s expecting and has developed a real taste for them.”

On the way home I hypothesise that Robert Kilroy Silk was perhaps a man ahead of his time. Niggle Farrage seems to have said far worse but not been sacked or lynched. 

Indeed, Niggle seems to have made a very successful career out of generously promoting farcical falsehoods based on smelly racial stereotypes from the 1970s, and lost a referendum to boot!

Yes, Leave had more votes than Remain, but half of them were cast by minotaurs and leprechauns and should be discounted because mythical beasts, technically, are nomadic, stateless creatures with no fixed abode. Not to mention English isn’t their first language so not really part of Niggle’s core voter demographic.

Make a note to tweet Kilroy and let him know that, like many one-hit wonders from the 90s, his come-back may be just around the corner and that if he praises white English NHS workers, he might just raise his profile again. I “at” Niggle too, for solidarity. 

Decide the Glaswegian accent is not really my thing and decide to speak like The Grand High Witch from The Witches instead. Babe vill love zat.