First thing on the first day of renewed house arrest, the ceiling fell on me while I was getting dressed. Not being metaphorical, here. This being an old house, bits fall off every now and then. The whole structure didn’t come down, just a sharp-edged slate section, which hit me on the head and then fell on the floor, where it split into a dozen shards, thus proving my head is not as hard as the floor.
I was so stunned by this that I ended up wearing an inside-out jumper, which, as it turned out, didn’t matter that much since I had to get into the shower again anyway to wash the blood out of my hair. You forget, if your house doesn’t frequently stab you, how energetically scalps and ears bleed. You could lose a whole armful of blood out of the top of your head in a few minutes from a minor cut up there.
I went looking for a styptic pencil — designed to stop bleeding from small cuts — because I knew I bought one about 20 years ago, and had never thrown it out because you never know the day nor the hour. When found, it was only eight years past its best before date. I applied it to my head. It worked.
Dino the cat has had a bump on his head for a while, and I’ve been meaning to address it even before he started to behave oddly. Starting with crapping on the carnations. Now, cats are somewhat fastidious and do their business silently in hidden places, tidying up after themselves, which is why they make good housemates.
Consequently, I was a bit surprised by the carnations but thought no more about it until Dino hammered home his point by favouring the upstairs and downstairs showers with his custom. An appointment was made with the vet, and my friend Bryan brought around a cat cage.
By coincidence, my son arrived at the same time with his dog, which clearly got above himself by appearing earlier that day on Virgin Media’swith Pete the Vet.
Jack is an agreeable golden retriever of reasonably advanced years, an appearance of nobility, and a preference for sleeping in the sun. As a puppy, he had tried to play with Dino, who had rejected his overtures and, on this morning, all that rejection seemed to burble up inside Jack when he saw Dino half way into the cat cage. He went for the cat. The cat responded by shooting out of the cage, clawing Bryan, and heading for the roof.
Bryan was left looking like he had been assaulted by a deranged Brillo pad, the vet was left without a client, and Jack lay down (in instalments because of his arthritis) with the pride of a job well done.
I slip under the barbed wire in order to visit Julie the physio. Julie is eight and a half feet tall, and is punctilious about Covid-19.
She is PPE’d to the gills and shoots me with a thermometer before she lets me in to help rectify the damage done to my left arm when I fell off a barstool on which I was standing in my kitchen. The previous week, I had shown the surgeon how nearly straight I’ve managed to get the damaged arm with Julie’s guidance, and how much dexterity is back in the hand. Afterwards, I found myself wondering about the urge to be approved of by the medical profession.
Nobody seeks the approval of their architect or their pharmacist, yet everybody wants the doctor to praise us for sobriety, weight loss, compliance with challenging therapies, or devotion to exercises designed to prove they did great surgery. You overhear it all the time: Patients telling their friends that their consultant had never seen a tumour so big, an injury so nasty, a recovery so remarkable.
That’s when those patients are not reaching for the fruit analogy, which always comes into play when we describe cancer. Nobody ever likens their cancer to a vegetable. Always to a fruit. It was as big as a tangerine or a grapefruit, and nobody ever has one as small as a blueberry or a grape.
I have learned to do many things during lockdown I didn’t know how to do beforehand, so I tell myself I must find out how to empty Henry the Hoover before he bursts.
Although I hate him so much, a bit of me would like that. The other thing I have learned to hate is the V-shaped pillow. If you read in bed, you have to have a V-shaped pillow. Getting it into a clean pillowcase may not be as epic a struggle as getting a fitted sheet on a mattress, but it’s a challenge.
The pillowcases for these pillows are always made crucially too small, so getting the pillow in is akin to squeezing a live octopus into a glass bottle: You end up exhausted, the octopus feels abused, and a little pocket of air remains at the bottom after the whole palaver.
It is always Specs, Dino’s sister, who announces a fresh catch with that keening miaow cats do to indicate they want you to come and admire the product of their hunting expedition. She does this on this afternoon.
I find her standing over a tiny inert bird. She nudges the bird a couple of times with her paw, but the bird doesn’t even twitch. I howl abuse at the cat and chase it out of the house, coming back into the kitchen with the tools to remove the wee bird and give it a decent burial.
No bird. I search the kitchen. No bird. Then I hear a noise and looking up to the barrel vault in the old tower where I live, I find the bird, fluttering around. I take video of it and send it to two people — my son and Bryan (recovering well from his Dino wounds).
“What the hell is that, a bat?” comes the response from my son. “I’ll get there as soon as I finish,” comes the response from Bryan. If the bird would hold still, I might establish for sure that it’s what I suspect which is a wren, but it won’t. I turn off lights and open windows and an hour later am able to tell Bryan that we are minus a wren.
A woman on the radio says she’s just plain tired of this virus. It wasn’t too bad first time around, but this is ridiculous. I don’t know whether to laugh or cry.
A friend emails me, saying that the worst thing about this new edition of cocooning is how boring it is. Don’t I find it terribly dull, being stuck inside all the time?
I don’t tell her I could do with a bit of dull. Being stuck inside is way too exciting for me.