This morning we sign in ‘harrumph, yours, Cerberus’ with a faint whiff of protest. This lockdown malarkey is not for us; man, woman, child or child-beast. Guilt creeps up my spine when jovial Mrs E fires us an instant reply celebrating the wonder of Tuesday.
I am not sure why the second day of the school week seems so hard in lockdown; perhaps it did during peacetime too but I never paid much attention.
An onslaught of real work awaits Mrs M and I today which whilst satisfactory in its undertaking doesn’t add sufficient sheen, or help, when two 3-feet high bipeds destroy the peace and fabric of our domestic hovel.
I’ve lined up a furious burst of activity. We’ve a live lesson to get through then I plan to take Cerberus and Medusa walkies in the afternoon with a friend and their brood.
The live lesson is a tense affair; we need to make it through 15 minutes of teaching with no mute button in an intimate four child only virtual classroom. Debretts would be proud of Cerberus’ first seven minutes but thereafter he just saunters off.
It leaves me in a sticky predicament. I foolishly sat on one side of him to provide encouragement but now realise I cannot chase without crossing the camera line. There is a pregnant pause as I await his return. He doesn’t and worse, because he has left the door open, his sister swans in and hops into his seat. Before I let her destroy Cerberus’ limited future prospects with an avalanche of “I hate you Mrs E” “I hate you Emily” “I hate you Anna” I forfeit my invisibility, slam the laptop shut and hoick Medusa into the next room. Cerberus is having an utter meltdown somewhere and Mrs M advises me “he is overwhelmed”.
My concept of ‘overwhelmed’ sits somewhere in the same latitude as being savaged by a Yeti or having your entire family killed in an aeroplane crash. It seems the term is overused.
I consider the possibility I have a clinical incapacity for empathy. I mentioned that jokingly recently in a child-based setting; was it a shop, playpark..? I genuinely can’t remember but do recall the reaction of others. A stolid unremitting silence. It was a grave moment and filled me with the instant urge to run into the mountains, surviving on a diet of lichen and deer droppings.
We have failed the home school test yet again so I send a quick email to Mrs E apologising for ducking out. Ever the optimist she notes it was just great to see him. I don’t even think she was being sarcastic. I feel proud to have a child under such glowing care.
On our afternoon walk we gather children like a trans-activist does Scottish ministerial supporters, and unleash them on the world. Unlike the craven world of politics, our children tell it like it is. “My daddy is a liar” I hear my friend’s son tell a stranger. Instantly Cerberus repeats this and points at me.
I look dough-eyed at the stranger and silently plead they take the children away. Neither my friend or I make any effort to refute the allegations.
I’ve a vision of myself from the last time I looked in the mirror, which would have been around 2013, and consider that man could be trusted to care for the future of our race.
There’s a nagging sense in my cerebral cortex that my lifestyle since may have tarnished my phizog permanently. I catch a glimpse of our reflection in the playpark slide. With our milky coffee which we’ve brought in tupperware dribbling down our beards, black bags under our eyes and bobble hats, we are identikit homeless sex offenders.
I’m filled with cheer as I stop at the local shop for two bottles of wine before home, but it’s only a brief gasp of life.
Another good friend emails to tell me they are having a hard time and not coping well with lockdown any more. I can immediately think of two others who feel the same and remind myself to phone them.
For all the calamity we face each day in our failure to raise Cerberus and Medusa well, so many we know have hit a brick wall.
The snow is coming down thick and fast tonight, offering a glimmer of timetabling for sledging tomorrow with the children.
I ask myself though, how long can this winter possibly last? And at what cost?