Life

Nuala McCann: Lockdown life has become so boring that I've resorted to doing my taxes

Lockdown living recalls the long boring Sundays of childhood

WE'VE got those rainy Sunday, grey and lonely blues. There has to be something cheerier than betting on two raindrops racing each other down a single pane of glass. But it brings me back to the long ago Sundays of only three channels, coffee from a bottle called Camp and the looming mountain of homework calling out from the desk upstairs.

Sunday was a grey desert punctuated by Mass in the morning and corned beef for supper. You had your big Sunday dinner, you were sent off to do your homework and the damp feeling seeped into your soul. Sundays were the end of the weekend and school and the week ahead loomed up.

Homework done: there was nothing else to do on drizzly Sunday afternoons but watch Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers tip tip tapping across the old TV screen. There might be a big sweeping Hollywood staircase and a chorus of happy, happy girls in incy wincy shorts with tap shoes and walking canes, tippy tip tapping too. Maybe there was even a circle of laughing ladies performing synchronised swimming in a pool, bottoms up, legs perfectly straight up in the air.

"Bored and stuck here," I say. When you live with someone of your own generation, you have the same shared memories of Sunday blues.

"Grey Sundays and nothing to watch but old Hollywood films," he sighs.

"Boys Town, The Nun's Story, Spencer Tracy," I say.

"Top Hat, Meet Me in St Louis," he counters, rolling his eyes.

We had no PlayStations or Nintendos, no loadsa TV channels to flick through. All we had was good honest boredom laced with the excitement of imagining there might be upside-down pineapple sponge for dinner. Yes, that was a thing in the days when spaghetti was only ever a describing word for a Western.

The four walls are bearing in on me. "We've only got August and September and then, maybe, a second wave," I tell my husband.

"We've got the rest of our lives," he says with that Spencer Tracy twinkle in his eye. He looks at the miserable droop he married and says, "Remember the old, long haired soothsayer from Monty Python, all 'woe is me, pestilence and death'?"

"Yes," I reply.

"That's you," he says.

I bury myself in my taxes – after all, death and taxes are the only certainties in life – and I am so bored on Sunday that I am completing my tax return. It does not lend to a good mood. I rush frantically around looking for my big blue income book, my P60, my pension details, my life. I tear my hair out and there's more of a mane to rip at these days. I am a Shetland pony with too-long of a fringe and a very vague understanding of the intricacies of tax.

My blue income book reminds me of sitting at my 'O' Level maths exam and asking for a blue logarithm book because everybody else was asking for one... but the question was 'why'?

A friend rings." You need to get out more," she says.

"Tell me about it," I say.

I'm getting into long chats on neighbourhood websites about the ins and outs of lost cats – and I don't even own a cat. The bigger question is, does anyone ever really OWN a cat?

"Take baby steps," says my friend. "Visit the fruit n veg shop and put on your face mask."

I practise speaking to a shopkeeper: "A box of your finest strawberries, my good man, and wipe 'em down with Dettol please," but I can't shake off my inner soothsayer.

I have two face masks – one is black with pink roses. The folk around here like to point out that it matches a pair of my pants.

"You didn't make it from a pair of your old pants?" asks my friend.

"Spare me the thought," I reply.

The other mask is periwinkle blue. And no, I do not faintly resemble the girl behind the flap of the tent in the desert from the old Turkish Delight ad.

The face mask matched with a pair of glasses is not pretty. The glasses fog up when you breathe. My mother is fond of an old optician's ad: "You can't be optimistic with misty optics."

Time to get back on the horse and back out on the street: time to buy your own fruit and veg... soon, very soon.

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