Tuesday, 19 May 2020

Bored? No time!

I cannot say I have joined the masses who are filling their time following Joe Wicks nor watching box sets. For me it’s more like being the mother of a new-born - countless half cups of tea await me when I do finally sit down.

If Richard had more stamina he’d be up doing morning tea, bringing me breakfast in bed, hoovering, feeding the cat and taking the car to the co-op to do the shopping for the next couple of days. I would have time to do the washing, the finer points of cleaning in the bathrooms and kitchen and potting up in the garden. I would have time for tea and time to sit and read a paper. And editing, critiquing and enjoying fiction.

But, now, my mornings, in particular, start early and there is rarely breakfast in bed. Sometimes our enthusiastic cat wakes me at six a.m. by sitting on my head, crying loudly in my ear, rubbing himself against my face or simply landing on me and rolling around with a loud purr. Whatever behaviour he manifests the importunate beast gets his way and I stagger down to the kitchen to part fill his bowl with whiskas while I rapidly make myself a cup of tea before he wants a top up of Sheba.

If I’m lucky I get to listen to Today - which is a joy now the misery Humphreys has left. When I’m more awake I disinfect door handles, front door knocker, letter box and lock. I spray Flash on the bannister rail, taps, loo handles, light switches, cooker, washing machine and dishwasher controls, cupboards, fridge and freezer door handles. Finally I disinfect the necessary ie the loos.

If the cat is content I make myself breakfast, unload the dishwasher, put out or check any washing on the line, hoover and dust. Then I check on Richard. If he’s awake he’s ready to have his bowl of soap ( not soup) and hot water to wash his hands for the regulation twenty seconds. Then he has an orange or cereal and his meds. He usually has water but often I make him tea which he’ll sip and leave until he’s ready to drink half a mug. Meanwhile I disinfect the ensuite and make him his sachet if he feels the ravages of prostate cancer treatment are making him feel constipated. This, now, is only occasional. Usually he’ll sleep until midday. He has post-surgery depression, PTSD, psychosis and anxiety. Exactly the issues now confronting covid-19 patients who have undergone endless, frightening days on ventilators and a lack of family contact. I’d never heard of post-hospital PTSD, depression, psychosis and anxiety until Richard suffered from it in the autumn. Now it seems to be in the daily headlines. I also understand cancer patients suffer similar post -hospitalisation depression and anxiety. Others who have had prolonged treatments have said while they may have physically overcome procedures their mental health took a long time to stabilise.

This situation requires that I carry the label ‘carer’. Carer in my case means the following: checking that Richard eats well, takes his meds, stays hygienic and has some stimulation which, for him, is usually in the evenings. It also means I get to do everything around the house and garden. 

Richard is still very quick at answering questions on early evening tv quizzes and at University Challenge. He’ll cook most evenings, now, and will cut the lawn, deal with the bloody recycling, sweep the stairs and is just beginning, again, to follow life-drawing classes. He engages with Grayson Perry’s inclusive art series and loves BBC 4 programmes. (Please don’t take BBC4 away! ) But in lockdown I can’t provide the social interaction he needs to be fully part of society again. Now our small local shop has closed - since lockdown - he doesn’t go there for milk and a chat and he can’t get a drink nor mix in the pub or in our local brasserie. All these interactions would help him overcome anxiety and depression. Thankfully the psychosis seems less troublesome now.

We are entering the warm months of the year and I can spend hours weeding, watering and digging the garden. I put in this year’s broad beans and potatoes, for Richard. The French beans have just gone into their planting spaces after ten days’ hardening off. The courgette seedlings have got through a whole night outside but under cover. They are five days behind the beans and aren’t fully hardened off yet but are leaping out of their pots.The tomato plants are eager to go out too but not full time yet. 

When I’ve finished my morning’s gardening I’ll deal with the post, disinfecting it first, choose what to serve for lunch and prep an evening meal unless Richard seems eager to do so. There are endless things to arrange eg house insurance, boiler breakdown cover, Richard’s medical appointments and procedures, organising workmen - within social distancing rules - contacting friends, family and neighbours and so on.

But the area that has dominated my life since lockdown has been shopping. Because I can’t drive and Richard is advised not to until he’s more alert ( an overused term now, surely) the big weekly shop is out. We rely on deliveries. To my pleasure Sainsburys sent us a ‘you are priority’ email, which was great, at the start of lockdown. But that was a short-lived joy. We couldn’t book another delivery slot for five weeks. Thankfully our local WhatsApp group recommended a foodies heavenly farm shop which also sells and delivers household items like washing up liquid. But I also had to get deliveries from Superdrug and Holland & Barrett for shampoo, gluten-free ingredients and sugar-free items. Neighbours have been shopping for me too. It’s been a lifeline. And, when you consider Richard has shopped and cooked for me for forty years, you’ll see what a change this has been for me. But we prevail.

Sainsburys delivery slots are, tentatively, improving. The driver yesterday said they were recruiting from agencies and working round the clock to get deliveries out to households. I didn’t have the heart to question why there were no eggs in my shopping. No eggs!!

After a big shop has arrived at our doorstep I wash every item to ensure covid-19 isn’t lodged in our household and put them to drain on cloths, ensuring chilled and frozen food get into the fridges  and freezer first. 
It takes ninety minutes to put all my shopping away, to wash the cloths, bags and floors that have been in contact with the outside world and finally to wash my hands thoroughly and strip out of my possibly contaminated clothes. 

Sounds neurotic? You bet. But if I got covid-19 Richard wouldn’t cope in the mornings. I would be in bed, ill, desperately in need of a drink but he’d be far away in the land of medicated nod. If he contracted the virus he’d have a set back mentally and would become even more anxious and confused. I truly can’t take risks.

I’m not bored. I don’t have the time or energy for it. Until Richard is well and driving I am a domestic goddess. Or a maid of all works. Take your pick! I’m busy, that’s certainly true.

Where do I fit in reading, editing, critiquing, virtual pub quizzes and zoom calls? My regime is a bit like working full time, but without the social interaction nor the traffic jams. Time to get bored? Time to watch box sets? Time to follow Joe Wicks? Erm ... that’s for others. Meanwhile I’m keeping house and home as intact and functional as I can manage. And I have lots of early nights! I just about managed to write this as we don’t have medical appointments today. 

Will life return to normal? What is normal? And would I recognise it? I don’t have time to ponder such things for long! 


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