Lockdown Blue

July 2020—outside the main timeline

A Challenge That Is Tony Story

This lockdown thing was fun to start with — for about half a week! No school for those at school and time off work for those who had jobs, but Mum was soon complaining about having Dad and me under her feet all day. At least our house is big enough that we can all escape to a room of our own.

The chance to sit back and do nothing quickly faded. The local school and further-education college soon organised on-line lessons, the staff earning the grudging respect of pupils and parents for their efforts. Mum soon organised Dad with a list of jobs he had been putting off — including decorating both the inside and the outside the house. I have to give him his due: he must have bought the paints and wallpapers when the jobs were first mentioned as his stockpiles were enough to avoid having to search around for some way to get supplies when all the stores were closed.

Mum, meanwhile, has been working in the garden. The whole place looks smarter than it has for as long as I can remember. When I mention it to the ’rents, do I get thanks for the compliment? Nah!

“We’ll have to smarten you up now lad. Won’t we?” says Dad.

“Good luck with that,” Mum cackles. “More chance of peace in the Middle East.”

I give a sickly-sweet smile. “The old jokes are the best,” I say. “And those are older than me.”

Of course I get roped in as labourer and general dogsbody for Mum and Dad in addition to my own chores. Because they heard some report that they thought had said kids were less likely to catch the virus, I get to do the shopping as well. I’ve restricted myself to using the corner shop owned by Raj and Nav’s parents. Not only is it nearer than the supermarket and have shorter queues, but they have also been able to keep stocked up with pasta, flour and loo rolls. The supermarket has been out of all three for weeks.

Raj and Nav’s parents are classed as being at risk so the boys are running the shop. That gives me another reason for using their store: it gets me some limited face time with a couple of my mates. It’s a real bummer not being able to hang out with my friends, most especially my boyfriend, Tony. Calls, texts and social media are not the same. They keep us in touch but not in physical touch!

The rules allow us to leave home for a limited period for the purposes of exercise, so our friends have a route and schedule — organised by Virginia of course — that takes us past all our houses so that we can shout, over the street noise, an approved, socially-distanced ‘hi’ to each other as we pass each day.

Apart from shopping and exercise, the only times the ’rents or I have stepped into the street have been to join the eight o’clock clap in support of NHS staff.

Thankfully our town is not the big city and has had virtually no cases of the virus and those that have caught it have self-isolated properly. In fact, the townspeople have been pretty good about sticking to the guidelines on social distancing and only making essential journeys. Needless to say, there are some who think the rules don’t apply to them. Dad is appropriately blunt:

“Most of the twats are people who should know better — politicians and the like.”

Dad, of course, manages to find a silver lining in the restrictions: an officially approved reason not to visit Aunt Doris.

Lockdown started to ease a couple of weeks ago. Dad has been called back to work from furlough to help organise the main reopening of the site. Now the other high street businesses are starting to reopen although most in town are only dealing with customers by appointment.

There’s one shop I haven’t been able to go to for four months and it’s really bugging me. Dad keeps suggesting an alternative arrangement but I veto it as I have heard about the disaster Tony had when his dad suggested the same thing and he made the mistake of accepting. I manage to get a time slot at the shop, but I am that keen to have what’s bugging me sorted that I am early and arrive at the same time as Tony. We must have back to back appointments. I know why he is here when I see the results of his dad’s suggestion close up, but I’m too far gone with my own problems to tease him about it.

The shopkeeper is taking his time dealing with his current customer. I shall be so relieved when it’s my turn. Even now I am here I have to wait sitting on this table in order to comply with the social distance thing —Tony has managed to grab the only chair. At least we can talk in here without shouting over the street noise.

“Where did you find those dreadful shorts and that foul tee-shirt?” Tony asks. “In your dad’s rag box?”

I’m not sure I want to talk to him if all he is going to do is insult my sartorial choices.

I don’t have to answer, as, at last, the previous customer is finished.

“Who’s next?” asks Mr Crimp, the barber.

“Me!” I yelp holding up my hand. Sod Tony. He can be first after me!

Copyright © Pedro July 2020

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