Nuala McCann: Every tentative step outside is an anxious one
THE book says start with your sock drawer. Because this lockdown is not quite over and because the past few months are a desert of broken resolutions, now is the time to seize the carp.
When this pandemic pressed the pause button on normal life, it held up a magnifying mirror to reality – that spot became a boil of bubonic plague proportions; that annoying habit of always buying books about cleaning and clearing and never reading them. You get to see yourself up close and nasty.
So begins the grand cleansing that started with the sock drawer. The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning goes on to the Oxfam pile. It hunkers up to Salman Rushdie's Midnight's Children and Joyce's Ulysses.
"Admit it, you've had four months of lockdown: if you haven't read it now, then when?" my big mouth in the magnifying mirror tells me.
This glass half-empty view of life needs shaking up. So all the magical beauty of tidying up and sparking joy and winnowing rooms – all those self-help books that I hoarded but never heeded are in the exit pile.
Saturday is now officially self-care Saturday – the full works; waxing, plucking, dying and tanning.
"I ran into our beautician on the street and she said she turned on her phone and on the first day, she got 250 calls," laughs my sister.
The women have spoken. By August, I'll be there too. Meanwhile, my sister informs me that she has visited my mother who is rocking a Jon Bon Jovi mullet.
I ring my mother.
"Just keep ringing, Nuala," she says.
"I always ring you mum," I reassure her.
"Not me, the hairdresser, keep ringing the hairdresser," she hits back.
By the time you read this my friend who lives down the country will have had the joy of a private bonfire in her garden. Apparently, they all have a good 'redding out' in the season. Burn, burn, burn – I'm in the mood for a fire. The others who live here are not too impressed.
"That's an oil tank and a boiler out the back," they say.
They're city folk. My mother understands – she's fond of burning too. But in the absence of a good blaze, I'm doing a good red-out. Back in that sock drawer, amid the flotsam and jetsam of my life – odd socks and last winter's holey tights – I come upon my abandoned purse. Inside is my pink travel card – it feels like a ticket to a faraway land.
That was a time when I jumped on a bus, hit the card reader and waltzed upstairs to the front seat on the double decker to watch the city roll past – top of the world, ma.
From my purse, I pull out a wad of bank notes. It's been 16 weeks since I've touched one of those. All that wealth sitting in my purse and I had forgotten.
It's a throwback to old inter rail adventures. Long after the trip was over, on a winter's day in Ireland, I'd reach into my jeans pocket and extract a ticket for the ferry from Piraeus to Paros; a small pile of drachmas; a dusting of white sand from a far off beach.
I'd picture old women in black, rushing to meet the ferry and usher us backpackers to rented rooms in their homes. I'd see the sun sparkle on a turquoise sea and a line of white washed houses perched on a cliff's edge.
This is a slow road out of lockdown. First, we start the cars. One purrs into life, the other has a flat battery.
"You can't imagine what it's like out there," says my friend.
I can, I tell her. I've been watching Krishnan trying to navigate his way through Channel 4 News on Super Saturday in Soho. My heart bleeds for him and his field producer and even the policeman perched in the high booth, like a swimming pool attendant, looking down on the milling masses waving their pints, winking at the camera and generally making a nuisance of themselves.
It's not like that here. Every tentative step outside is an anxious one. We emerge out of this underworld and into the light, blinking but alert as a family of meerkats. I'd really like to wake up and think that it was all a dream. I'd like to be Bobby in Dallas stepping out of the shower.
I'd really like to retreat to the sock drawer.