A week back I went on a lengthy walk with a friend in the hills and stopped at a pub for lunch on our way home.
Fast-forward to this week and I’m locked in my house feeling a little like a convict, though I’m worse off than a convict in that I haven’t got my own cell but have to share it with a wife and two small children.
Never mind a strong immune system, you need a strong marriage to get through this current crisis. In which case, I’m in trouble.
Because of this pesky coronavirus malarkey, Mrs Canavan and I are having to do things we haven’t done in years, like have conversations. It’s unbearable.
I, not being a key-worker, am working from home, which, when I was single and carefree, would have been blissful. I could have spent my days reading books and sipping coffee while lying on the chaise longue in my satin pyjama bottoms, and generally lived a wonderful relaxing life.
But now, with a wife and two children aged one and three, I’m not sure I can think of anything worse than having to stay home.
Mrs Canavan and I have had more arguments in the last four days than in the previous four years of marriage. I suggested I move into a nearby flat for the next 12 weeks – a suggestion to which I think she would’ve agreed until she realised there would be no one to take out the bins out on a Thursday night.
Working is incredibly tricky when you have kids running about. I have a little office in the house where my computer is. But it’s right next to the lounge. So I’ll hear my three-year-old Mary say, “where’s daddy?” Mrs Canavan will reply “he’s at work”, to which Mary – who’s cottoned on to the fact my car is parked outside each day – will say “no he’s not, he’s in here” and promptly barges open the door and marches straight in. My day job is a university lecturer so Mary’s arrival – because she has impeccable timing – will generally happen just as I’m in the midst of delivering an online lecture to about 50 students.
Suddenly, as I’m trying to look scholarly and discussing the best way to insert an inline hyperlink into a digital news story, a three-year-old will stomp into shot and shout in loud tones: “DADDY, I NEED A POO. NOW”. It’s most off-putting and possibly not something Ofsted would approve of.
One of the most irksome things about being at home is that I have to do more parenting. I know, it’s outrageous.
Previously, I’d only had to deal with the kids for a couple of hours at a time, and I thought they were great. After three days of self-isolating, I realise I don’t actually like them. I mean they’re so clingy, and they need entertaining all the time. Most annoying of all, they won’t sit on the settee and watch football with me.
My one-year-old also has an infuriating habit – and this might sound trivial but by god it’s annoying me – of pulling his socks off. From the very first thing in the morning we play this game where I put them on, he takes them off, I put them back on, and he takes them off again. We repeat this 479 times a day. Yesterday I tried new tactics and taped his socks to the bottom of his trousers, but within minutes the little blighter had them off again.
It’s an incredibly irritating trait, and more to the point thank goodness we eventually grow out of it. I mean, I’m 44 and it’d probably look a bit odd to my co-workers if I started taking my socks off in the office every five minutes.
Thank goodness we get our daily walk is all I can say. It’s a moment of respite, a chance to escape and enjoy some solitude. I’m a big outdoors person anyway, but never ever have I enjoyed being outside as much. At a time like this, even breathing the crisp fresh air makes you appreciate the joys of something so simple as the ability to go outside. In fact, my big hope is that one long-lasting positive of coronavirus is that we reconnect with nature and change our ways a little.
I’ve noticed on my daily walk, for example – if you can forgive me for a moment for making a rare serious point – several parents out and about with their children, children of all ages. That wouldn’t have happened a week ago. The parents would be stressed out about work, and tired and moody, and the kids would stay in their rooms playing on their phones. Maybe, just maybe – and as you read this next bit imagine a piece of stirring orchestral music in the background – families will forge closer bonds and go for walks together when this is all over. We can but hope.
One slightly depressing thing I’ve noticed is that people seem to be behaving a bit differently on the street – including myself.
A week ago, I would smile at someone I passed, and say hello and perhaps have a short conversation. But I realised the other night not only was I physically edging away from passers-by to maintain this two-metre gap – as instructed by Boris – but also I wasn’t acknowledging them and, worse still, not even making eye contact. And generally the other person did the same.
It was as though if one of us spoke, we would spew out a vat-full of coronavirus germs and infect the other … which is obviously ridiculous. I guess it’s just a sign of how this situation is affecting us – but we mustn’t forget that it is acceptable, indeed needed now more than ever, to continue to say hello to someone on the street.
I’d write more of this drivel but unfortunately my daughter wants me to go and watch Bob The Builder with her. Ah, the joys of self-isolation. Roll on 2021.