It’s been a while since I’ve blogged. Seven years, in fact. Despite having been in three different lockdowns over the past twelve months, my dog novel has remained untouched, the screenplay unstarted and writing plan undisturbed.
Just sticking to a routine over the samey same same days that don’t change even on weekends or burgeoning seasons has been challenging enough.
Whilst typing, I look down at the keyboard and notice how wrinkled and dry my hands have become. Handwashing for as long as it takes to sob-sing the ironic ‘happy birthday’ has resulted in moisturiser bottles placed on the coffee table, laundry, glove box, bedroom and handbag. Sadly no amount of coconut oil or body butter erases the degradations developed from compulsory supermarket sanitiser sprays, baby wipes, liquid soap and dish detergent.
My scaly mitts have wiped the mud from my dog’s feet; scrubbed toilets, washed oily baking trays and patiently kneaded bread. They’ve tickled Felix’s silky ears, eagerly ripped open amazon parcels and held the equally scaly hand of my husband Dean. What they haven’t done is write.
That’s going to change now, even if no-one finds me here or bothers to read. The cobwebs need to be blown off, even if the exposure to subject matter is considerably more limited than a little over a year ago.
So, write what you know. Classic advice that’s even more relevant in our corona-riddled times. The challenge is that we all know about baking at home, the importance of walking 10,000 steps per day and staying in facetime touch with family and friends.
Journalists have noted that the work from home uniform might be a suit on top (if the zoom camera is on), but tracksuit pants on the bottom. No doubt the skirt, pantyhose and heel sales are down. I’ve worn jeans only when required to take the F bus into Geneva to see my psych or neurologist. Otherwise, its yoga pants that have never done a downward dog or eased into a warrior pose. They have, however, queued up at the supermarket and done their share of recycling.
These black yoga pants are decorated with the short white hairs of our recently adopted shelter dog (the afore-mentioned Felix) and display a splattered hem of mud from our regular walks. He’s only four years old, with a sleek spotted body that owes its heritage to a distant past of greyhounds, fox terriers and dalmations and as such, requires exercise that not only keeps him fit but also stimulates his eager young mind.
Therefore yoga pants are best. Easy to quickly pull on when I hear the flappita flappita flappita of him shaking himself awake coming from the living room. He then skitters on the fake floorboards to our door, and anything more complex to manoeuvre than yoga pants produces a low and emotional whine of frustration. Draped on top of the pants in readiness the night before is an ancient sports bra, men’s walking socks and t-shirt. Dog Woman Clothes, in other words.
My only other preparations are to visit the bathroom, swallow my anti-depressant and put my glasses on. My hair goes unregarded and unbrushed. Our first walk usually hits around seven kilometres or 10,000 steps and we return home an hour later; Felix to seek out his water dish and me to kick off my shoes, wash my hands and cool off. I’m drenched in sweat.
So why bother changing? Felix needs other walks during the day. A wander and a wee at lunchtime and then another inspection of his neighbourhood before dinner. It is only after that, whilst he’s happily inhaling his crunchies, I have a shower. It’s 6pm. I’m now squeaky clean, but the French curfew has kicked in. No-one allowed anywhere outside until the following morning. There’s a strange awareness that we are all at home in our apartments, yet the usual daily sounds of life — television, footsteps or doors closing — have disappeared. The silence outside fits the curfew, but inside when lights are on in windows or revealed through slitted blinds hints at the sheer tiredness and listlessness a lot of us feel.
The only outfit worth changing into is my pyjamas. My wet hair experiences the only combing it receives each day. As I slump onto the couch, Felix immediately leaps up to snuggle against me. He knows the routine and knows that it’ll soon be time to watch Netflix and hopefully score a few snacks as we humans eat dinner from large pasta bowls resting on our laps. He snoozes contentedly between my husband and me, like a big bony cat who knows he’s adored and adores in return. This scenario repeats night after night after night, and is what I most look forward to. My two boys. Squished together by my side and willing to remain so.
The final trip outside for Felix is his bedtime ablution at 11pm. A quick trot around the block which is fine for me to go in my pyjamas and braless under a parka. We see no-one else.
He rests on the end of our bed afterwards while Dean and I look at our phones and read, waiting for our eyes to blur and for ‘night night’ to be announced. My husband’s hand touches mine before giving Felix’s back a few strokes. In turn, I twist over and offer him a squirt of moisturiser from the bottle near my reading lamp. “Yeah go on,” he says, no longer caring if he ends up reeking of vanilla or violet.
The lotion is routine rather than a solution now. Our hands remain red-knuckled, split and parched but there’s no other I’d rather be holding than his.