LOCKDOWN WITH FOUR GENERATIONS OF MY FAMILY
Considering I am in isolation I have never felt more crowded in my entire life!
I woke up one morning to find myself in lockdown with four generations of my family. That’s right! Four! The group consists of my soon-to-be 86 year old mum, my daughter, Catherine, 32, my son- in-law Kris and my three year old grandson, Harvey. Then of course there is my New Yorker husband, Charlie, who is clearly wondering as we speak, how the heck he got into this mess and, finally, our accident prone chocolate labrador, Bailey.
The truth is, our once tranquil home is now a chaotic hive of activity with two of us launching new businesses, another writing his latest novel and the fourth working full time from home. In other words it’s a mad house. Fortunately I am used to working in a busy newsroom so have an amazing ability to cut out the background noise.
As mum is in the high risk category (my husband did point out that she is indestructible but…. nevertheless) we can’t leave the house. Fortunately we have a garden which has been a God send. Harvey and mum (who he calls GG) spend a great deal of time together gardening, enjoying tea parties and working on various art projects which have an unfortunate knack of destroying my kitchen table. Their conversation is seamless and endless. Quite what they are talking about nobody seems to know but it certainly appears fascinating to the two of them. With the exception of one particular afternoon during which Harvey convinced GG that he was allowed to drive his motorised black Mercedes car without his dad at the remote controls, things were going surprisingly smoothly. Even that wasn’t the end of the world. After all, what’s a few decapitated delphiniums and a swollen foot (GG’s) in the big scheme of things?
As journalists and with my husband’s family all living in the States we found ourselves watching CNN 24/7 until I turned into an anxiety ridden, nervous wreck. I was feeling positively edgy and so when my husband suggested that I might be going a little overboard with the anti bac I didn’t respond favourably. That’s when I made the decision to cut back on my daily news consumption and just watch Piers on Good Morning Britain as he systematically ripped various politicians to shreds.
Adapting to this new situation, I realised there was a silver lining to all the heartbreaking news. This would be “stolen” time, having my daughter and my grandson back in the nest. ‘I’ll work out with Joe Wicks in the mornings,” I announced to a disinterested Bailey.
“I can bake and play with my grandson, cook healthy meals, fit in some work here and there, just like when my kids were at school, and spend the evenings with my family looking through old photo albums.” It was all going to be the best it could be in the circumstances. It could only have been improved by my son, James, being with us. But knowing that he and his partner were safe nearby was enough to be grateful for.
We started out full of optimism, having made the decision to use this unexpected time wisely. We would work, lose a bit of weight, reflect and “reset” our lives and probably even do a bit of meditating to regain our equilibrium. When I mentioned all of this to my husband he didn’t utter a single word. He didn’t need to. I knew exactly what he was thinking! This period is now fondly referred to as “Phase One” and it lasted approximately a week and a half.
Phase Two kicked in shortly after my son - in - law’s neck went into spasm. Having spent a couple of weeks conducting zoom business meetings from his three year old’s miniature table and chair set, we all agreed he couldn’t go on like this so I broke the news to my husband that we were about to move the furniture around for the fourth time! What had previously been my mum’s sitting room, then television room and finally my daughter and son-in-law’s bedroom was about to be reorganised yet again to accommodate a desk substantial enough to support three computer screens. The room had the added bonus of having a small bolt on the door. A valuable asset for Kris when conducting one of his many work video calls, by preventing a repeat of the Professor Robert E Kelly affair.
It was all working out surprisingly well until my daughter nipped in to change out of her sports bra one morning. After five minutes pottering around in her undies, she was horrified to realise that her husband, who was sitting with his back to her, wearing earphones, was in fact on Zoom with several work colleagues and had forgotten to bolt the door. Thankfully, he appears to still have his job, so it wasn’t as bad as it seemed unless of course you are Catherine.
While this was all going on upstairs, my husband and I were jumping around like a couple of lunatics downstairs desperately trying to keep up with our first Joe Wicks body HIIT work out. Our kids had warned, “they can be tough so don’t overdo it.” Admittedly, the twenty minute session left us huffing and puffing, but mainly because we were performing our squats and leg raises straddled across Harvey’s, Brio train track, which appears to have become a permanent fixture on our living room floor.
Throughout this mayhem Bailey stared at us with a somewhat superior expression from the comfort of our once stain-free cream couch, making no attempt to stifle a yawn as if we were a couple of maniacs. Still, we felt pleased with ourselves for managing to complete a session that our 30 year old kids warned was “tough”. That was until Joe pointed out during the cool down, that we had successfully completed a routine for absolute beginners and that if we felt sick and light headed that was perfectly normal, which frankly was a relief as I had turned a rather strange shade of beetroot by this stage. And then, just in case we hadn’t got the message the first time, he followed through with, “This is the ground zero of work outs.” It was pretty deflating to be honest.
By the time we’d finished our stretches, mum had appeared in the doorway wearing her trainers, raring to go. Before crawling off to the shower I set her up with one of Joe’s “Senior” workouts, hit “play” and left her to it. By the time I returned she was somehow in the middle of a high impact boxing session. ‘That senior one was too easy,” she explained, throwing a pretty impressive left hook while Harvey sat alongside Bailey cheering her on with a , “Well done GG”. "Harvey found me this boxing one on the Tube,” mum explained. “It’s very good.” Harvey is three and knows his way around the remote in a way that I can only dream of. I did feel I should warn mum not to go too crazy but in fairness she seemed to be coping really well so I left them to it. This is the kind of madness I am living with on a daily basis.
The following morning little things, like walking, proved to be quite a challenge as both of my glutes, clearly taking their lead from the rest of the world, had gone into lockdown. By this stage we hadn’t lost any weight, we’d had no time to reflect or “reset” our lives (something I’d been particularly keen on looking in to) and by the time we got Harvey off to bed at night we were all too exhausted to learn how to meditate. So we did what every sensible person does in lockdown…. we began binge watching Netflix.
Phase Three kicked in when we realised that not only were we not losing weight, we were in fact gaining it. Any hopes of “re setting” anything, let alone our lives, had long since gone so we “meditated” up an industrial sized bar of chocolate in an obviously desperate attempt to regain what was left of our ever diminishing equilibrium.
I was also getting the sense that Charlie’s patience was hanging by a thread when he pointed out: “We are more likely to die of anti bac poisoning than corona the way you’re carrying on.” Admittedly spraying him down on a regular basis when he hadn’t even left the house could have been construed as overly cautious, but we did have an 85 year old human and a 77 year old labrador in the house.
Following the sports bra incident things had settled down between Catherine and Kris until last Saturday when she was due to interview Lauren Steadman of celebrity SAS for her YouTube channel. Kris was supposed to be in charge of Harvey and we were all going to stay in the garden to avoid any background noise while they zoomed. With seconds to go, Catherine checked her screen, horrified to see that her carefully lit background had morphed into a pile of bathroom furniture, along with several bottles of cleaning fluids and a stray pair of mum’s big knickers teetering on the top. Visuals aside, there was no way Catherine would be able to hear Lauren due to the din of frantic tile scrubbing emanating from the bathroom.
Apparently, when “questioned” Kris explained what any normal male would understand, he’d merely wanted to pitch in with the chores by giving their bathroom a deep clean and the obvious time to do it was when Catherine was about to start a live interview and with Harvey on the loose. I won’t repeat the conversation that ensued other than to say…. the interview happened and it was great and within four days the kids were talking again and the dent in the wall had been repaired.
Climbing up three flights of stairs the following evening, Harvey scissor-locked to my left hip, I admitted to myself this wasn’t exactly how I’d envisaged my life at sixty.
But during these chaotic, heartbreaking weeks which none of us could ever have dreamed of, something magical has occurred. Having lost her partner after 62 years of marriage, my mum’s zest for life has been reignited by her great grandson and the joy she has found playing with him every day. They have become real pals. The young and the old have connected in the most beautiful of ways. And, as I have always known, as much as I love my work I am, and always will be, happiest when at least one of my children is back in the nest. I am a nurturer, a home maker at heart. I also understand that nothing will be solved by continuing to spray my husband down with Anti Bac on a regular basis. I need to let go of the reins, go with the flow and hope for the best.
So, for me, right now, this is sixty……the real story!