|John Everett Millais "My First Sermon"|
We're fortunate that we have no small children at home, that everyone has their own space/loo, that we have a garden, pets and access to countryside. I simply could not have coped with this situation when our children, one of whom possesses legendary restlessness and curiosity, were of primary-school age.
Even a weekend was a challenge, and that was in those far-off days when cafes, National Trust properties, swimming pools, swings-and-slides and cinemas were open and friends were visitable. I am lost in admiration for everyone facing round-the-clock childcare for an uncertain period stretching way into the future.
But to be honest I am mentally in far more pain than I would have anticipated after just a week of semi-confinement. It’s not that these days I go out that much when I’m not commuting to work. It seems that what my psyche can’t cope with is simply that there’s nowhere to go because everything is shut.
After drinking far too much wine last night and vivid flashback dreams I had a realisation. It’s like the dreaded Sundays of my 1960s childhood EVERY SINGLE DAY. Outings were out of the question, except for compulsory church services where I had to sit in a pew being told I was a sinner while my brothers sang in the choir. Girls were not allowed because our voices were deemed impure.
It used to be hard to revive memories of a world where all cafes, pubs, restaurants, shops, museums and theatres were closed all day. I can’t remember whether cinemas were, but my Sabbatarian father would not have let us go to one anyway. He genuinely believed (and still believes, for all I know, but I can’t ask him because his nursing home’s under lockdown) that Sundays should be reserved for Communing With God. I was even rebuked once for baking a cake, but won the battle over watching TV by bloody-minded attrition.
The good bit was that we were allowed a boiled egg for breakfast and a glass of orange squash at lunch. These were out of the question the other six days a week. But I remember a particular sinking feeling every Saturday evening as Sunday approached, and often burst into tears when I woke up on a Sunday morning facing only boredom (God sadly didn’t choose to communicate with me personally) and a long sermon by a patriarch opposed to the ordination of women.
Now I’ve diagnosed my mental malaise, which is caused by memories of a world before the Equal Pay Act 1970, let alone the Sunday Trading Act 1994, I hope to be able to cure it. I need to get researching and writing something obsessively and lock up the wine in the garage. And thank my lucky stars that my children are adult and safe. I can also drink as much orange squash as I like, and eat a boiled egg every single day that one can be sourced from our local Morrison’s. Freedom is always relative.