I was starting to lose the plot isolating in a tin van writes Steve Canavan

In the last 18 months no one I’ve known, friends or family, has had Covid.

Thursday, 15th July 2021, 12:30 pm
Covid test
Covid test

It’s been hugely disappointing as I’ve been desperate for a chance to discuss it with my mother, as I know she’d love that kind of thing.

‘You’ll never guess what?’ I can imagine her saying, after calling me in the evening – usually at 7pm, as I’m bang in the middle of trying to put to bed two children under the age of four who really don’t want to be put to bed.

Me: “What?”

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Mum: ‘Margaret from bridge has Covid.’

Me: “Really? Margaret, the one who had the yachting accident? Walks with a limp and gets nervous around water?”

Mum: ‘Yes, but it’s no surprise. She was sat that close to Derek at bridge she as well have been on his lap. Then she accidentally drank out of Sheena’s mug – I saw that, because I said to Eileen ‘did you see that, Margaret’s just drunk out of Sheena’s mug?’ – and then, later on, Joan saw her go in the disabled toilet with Colin, the one with the gammy arm who lost his wife six months ago, and when they came out – some time later I might add – he looked flushed and the top button on her cardigan was undone. So she was bound to catch the virus sooner or later wasn’t she? Probably riddled with it poor woman.’

Alas, as it’s turned out, the first person I know to catch Covid is me.

Ahead of a meeting at work, I had to go for PCR test (the test that works, as opposed to lateral flow tests which I’m petty convinced read negative before you’ve even shoved them up your nostril) and then, late that night, drove to the family caravan in the Lakes as I was planning on a walk the next day.

The next morning I woke with a sore throat and generally feeling funny – ill, not telling one-liners – which worried me slightly, but it was still something of a surprise to receive a message saying I had tested positive and must self-isolate for 10 days.

Given one isn’t allowed to travel it meant I was effectively stuck 100 miles from home.

‘You’re joking?’ said Mrs Canavan but with the addition of three swear words when I told her. ‘You mean I’ve got both kids while you have 10 days in a caravan on your own?’

As I dwelled on this thought, I had to restrain myself from breaking into a broad smile and doing a celebratory tap-dance.

“Yes, I know, it’s awful,” I replied with what I hoped sounded like sincerity.

So, long story short, I’ve spent the last week in a small tin van on a farm in the middle of nowhere.

The first couple of days were not pleasant – I was suffering from what felt like flu and the Blackcurrant Lemsip I’d found at the back of a cupboard was having little effect other than giving my urine an unappealing red tinge.

But then, on day three, feeling fine apart from a bit of a cough, it began to feel like I was on holiday.

For the last four-and-a-half years I have been woken at 6.50am by children running in the room and jumping on the bed, and then had to keep those children entertained until they went back to bed 12 long, hard hours later.

But now, here I was, on my own - and it felt marvellous. I found myself sleeping in each morning till gone 9, then I’d make a cup of tea and go back to bed to read (go back to bed! To read!! Imagine that!!!), and then – usually sometime about 11-ish – I’d drag myself from beneath the duvet and decide what to do next. The choices were, A, have a shower (though there didn’t seem much point as I wouldn’t be seeing anyone, so it didn’t matter if I smelt like a wart-hog); B, have a cup of tea and gaze out of the window for a while; or, C, there wasn’t a C.

As the days crept by, however, I must admit being cooped up on my own, unable to leave the caravan, started to have a strange effect on me.

I began having imaginary conversations – I had a very interesting one with my late grandad about electric cars, and another with the swimmer Adam Peaty – and, to pass the time, started building towers out of food items.

My best effort – and I was weirdly proud about this – was a tower a metre high, and it would have been even higher had I not got cocky and tried to balance a bottle of olive oil on top of an ever-so-wonky tin of Heinz tomato soup.

In my solitary confinement, for hour after hour, I began to have weird thoughts, like – as I gazed at the surrounding hills – do sheep appreciate views? It would be such a shame if they didn’t. They spend their entire existences halfway up mountains, in rubbish weather, with only grass to chew on, and then they’re slaughtered in barbaric fashion. The only thing they’ve got going for them is the view. So I do hope, when nobody is watching, they get out a deckchair, sit back, light a cigarette, and say, ‘gee, look at that scene Doreen, isn’t it splendid?’

And why do lambs look so beautiful and white and fluffy but adult sheep look so dirty and mangey and unkempt? Then again I suppose that’s the price of living outdoors. I guess I’d look dirty if I lived on a mountain without any shower facilities, fresh clothes, or a restaurant I could dine in.

I then – and this was a clear sign I was going insane - got quite emotional thinking about a tree that has been planted at the back of a supermarket near where I live and contemplated the unfairness of that tree having to live in such an unappealing environment, whereas a tree in the Lakes, or the west coast of Scotland, or in any picturesque place, has such a better deal.

Fortunately just as I was about to have a full-on mental breakdown, something really interesting happened in that a cow suddenly, and without warning, popped its head above the dry stone wall at the side of the caravan and mooed incredibly loudly.

I was overjoyed. It was the quite literally the first exciting thing that had happened since the previous Wednesday.

I have one more day of isolation to complete before I’m allowed home. On the upside, it means I won’t have to build any more towers made from food cans.

On the downside, it means I’ll have to see Mrs Canavan and the kids again.

Swings and roundabouts.

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