This time last year I was walking out to my office shed every morning to check on my seedlings and wondering why there were somehow fewer than the night before. That’s also what I did yesterday, and today. When people spoke of life finally returning to normal, I suppose I always suspected the changes might not apply to me.
I would be more excited about lockdown easing if I had something to show for my prolonged confinement. My oldest son got a new job. The youngest graduated from university. The middle one spent the year working in America. At the start of the first lockdown, my wife complained about there being nothing on TV for four weeks, and then started a new business. I’ve got a half-completed mosaic tabletop, and some missing plants.
“I don’t understand how there can be fewer seedlings,” I say. “Where do they go.”
“You’re meant to be looking at this,” my wife says. She is showing me the latest version of her website, due to launch in a few weeks. I half close one eye and tilt my head.
“I’m worried your blurb is too wide,” I say.
“What do you mean, too wide?” she says.
“It’s hard to read,” I say. “It needs squinching up.”
“You’ve always got something critical to say,” she says.
“I know,” I say. “I thought that’s why you called me in here.”
“You can never just say, ‘That looks great.’”
“It looks great,” I say. “Just squinch it up.”
“My business partner’s partner is very supportive,” she says.
“What does that entail, exactly?” I say.
“He’s very engaged and enthusiastic,” she says.
“Whatever it is he does, I don’t think you’d like it if I did it,” I say.
“You may be right,” she says, running her mouse in circles as if it were a toy car. “But I don’t know what you mean by squinching.”
“Or you could just break it into two columns,” I say.
“Columns,” she says. “Hmm.”
“You’re welcome,” I say.
“You may go,” she says.
I wander into the kitchen, where the middle one is staring at his laptop and the oldest one is pulling on shiny orange shoes.
“Where are you headed?” I say.
“Football,” he says.
“Football?” I say, incredulous.
“Wednesday night,” he says. “We’ve started again.” The youngest one walks in, shoes in hand.
“So that’s four for supper,” I say.
“I’m going out,” says the youngest.
“Out where?” I say.
“The pub,” he says.
“The pub?” I say, scandalised. I notice he is splattered from head to foot in white paint.
“So what are you, like, a decorator now?” I say. He stares at me.
“Yes,” he says.
“Really?” I say. “Since when?”
“Since last week,” he says.
I turn to look at the middle one.
“Are you here for supper?” I say. He’s got little wireless stalks hanging from his ears, so I’m not sure if he can hear me, but eventually he shrugs.
“Yeah,” he says. “What are we having?”
“Whatever you make,” I say.
“Fine,” he says.
“Bye-eeee,” says the oldest, heading for the front door. I look out into the garden.
“It’s still light out,” I say. “I suppose I could go and stare at my mosaic table for a bit.”
“I think,” says the middle one, pulling the stalk from one ear, “you should do a podcast.” I consider the idea for a moment.
“It’s true,” I say. “Everyone else has a podcast. Why don’t I have a podcast?”
“All you need is a good title,” says the youngest one.
“Exactly,” I say. “I already have a microphone.”
“And some decent topics,” says the middle one.
“I’ll give it some serious thought,” I say.
“I’ve just emailed you a list,” he says.
“Have you seen my microphone?” I say. “It’s excellent.”
“And I’ve got one guest who said yes for next week, but at this point he can only do Tuesday.”
“Tuesday PM,” he says. My wife sticks her head round the door.
“What’s for supper?” she says.
“Dunno yet,” says the middle one. “Dad agreed to the podcast.”
“Did he?” my wife says. “Good.”