Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience of self-isolating with her children in Southsea. It’s Day 10, and Maddie and the kids decide (somewhat reluctantly) to tackle the garden.
I won the battle of the fort and we finally did the garden.
The fort has been dismantled, the living room has been returned to normal and A is back to learning to fly by jumping off the sofa.
‘Oh, you’ve taken your clothes off again I see.’
‘Yes, so I’m lighter and it’s easier to fly.’
Well, of course. Impromptu physics lesson incoming.
I’m not a huge fan of gardening, (read: I hate it) but I like the garden when it’s been done, and I read something interesting about gardening helping your microbiome, so, you know...
I do have to psych myself up to getting out there, though. If my brain can conjure up any opposition it will, because spiders. The slightest excuse and I’m done. Oh, there’s a cloud in the sky, I’ll do it tomorrow.
In fact, for the past couple of years I haven’t even done my garden. I did an exchange of services with one of my best friends, LB. She loves gardening and hates washing up. I hate gardening but really don’t mind washing up. I mean, I don’t love washing up, but I do it 3 times a day and sometimes get some exciting creative ideas while my brain is in a relaxed state and engaged in a monotonous activity. So, she did my garden and I did her washing up once a week. She lives alone so it was just one load on a Friday, and less than I’d wash up after dinner each day. I got the better end of the deal because my garden took more work than her washing up, and last year she grew 6 bags of tasty potatoes on my patio. She definitely did the lion’s share.
But LB is stuck at home making her own garden look beautiful. I announced at lunch time yesterday, while my poor sons were enduring the tragic hardship of a vegetarian sandwich (‘If this virus means we have to eat falafel again then I don’t like it anymore’), that yes, we were going to do the garden.
‘You’ve been saying that for a week,’ said S. ‘It won’t happen.’
That was it. The motivation I needed.
It did happen. It happened for 3 hours. S and A helped, but Z was ‘training’ for his Fortnite tournament again. By helped I obviously mean annoyed each other by throwing weeds about and both trying to sweep the same area at the same time, leading to ninja broom fights.
‘Shall we count how many woodlice we see?’ I tried.
‘Urgh! Look! I accidentally chopped a worm in half. Did you know worms can still survive if they’re chopped in half?’ S helpfully asked A, before chasing her around with half a wriggling worm.
It’s not a huge garden, it’s a classic Pompey courtyard. But there are flower beds, I do have some established plants now (thanks LB!) and when it’s tidy it’s a lovely space. The rosemary bush took a harsh pruning – there’s something quite therapeutic about hacking at things with shears to counter the sound of a 5 year old screeching at her brother and his endless supply of worms.
They gave up and went inside long before I did. Once I start something I like to finish, so I was still out there at 5pm scrubbing the winter of dog wee off the concrete with Jeyes Fluid (yes, I rinsed the Jeyes off well; 8 times, just to be sure).
In light of my extended gardening, we didn’t get out on our permitted daily exercise until 6pm, so we managed to catch a beautiful sunset at the empty beach. I love sunset and sunrise. May is my favourite month for a sunrise and I’ve seen many of them, both from my pre-child life as a party animal, and then from being up at 4am with babies and toddlers. Having the time to stop and appreciate a sunset is the hidden gold in this whole devastating virus. It doesn’t make up for how many people are going to be affected but appreciating the beauty available to us for free is something than can help us all.
As we walked along, Z and I reflected on what we’d normally be doing at that time if the world wasn’t going through this ordeal. We’d have just finished dinner and I’d have been rushing around clearing up, trying to carve myself 10 minutes to sit down with a coffee, before getting A off to bed and doing some more work.
My usual existence as a single parent is dictated by time. Getting up then, being in the shower by then, getting A dressed by then, school run, checking emails by then, doing work by then, attending this meeting or this lecture then, food shopping, walking the dog, picking A up then, doing more work, paying bills, getting dinner for then… and so on. I had alarms and reminders pinging at me from 7am until 10pm every day. Time was a weapon of self-flagellation. Everything happened according to time’s rules, and I was constantly running around trying to keep up, stressed at missing something, forgetting something or being late for something, and corralling my children into whatever time said they should be doing.
Now all the reminders and alarms are turned off, (apart from the ones reminding me to take my medications), and while it may still be true that time and tide wait for no man, it’s a relief to step off the wheel for a bit. Spending valuable time living in the moment with my children is the only good thing about this. Which is why – sorry mum – I’m not doing structured homeschooling, but more on that tomorrow.