Local parent, researcher and writer, Maddie Wallace, continues her daily diary describing the experience first, of self-isolating, and now of being in lockdown with her children in Southsea. We’re at Day 65, Maddie has to teach A about death using Disney and they have an eventful trip at the beach.
‘Please can I have one of the toilet rolls as a pet?’
Is not what you expect to hear as soon as you open your eyes, but that was how the day started.
‘What do you want a toilet roll for?’
‘Just to cuddle it. I want to look after one all by myself.’
Ignoring the fact that toilet rolls don’t need looking after, I said she could have one. After all, the Great Toilet Roll Crisis of 2020 seems to have passed. But I agreed on the proviso that no sheets could be removed from the roll, the roll must remain intact and not be spread around the house. She nodded assent.
‘I said it mustn’t be spread around the house!’
‘That’s not around the house, that’s my bed. My bed isn’t the house.’
Ahhh, I see the selective interpretation of events is not restricted to American Presidents.
A loves the beach at low tide, so having checked the time, and not wanting to be out too long, I announced we’d be heading to the beach at 3pm. Apart from S, who was off prowling the city on his bike. Having finished some work, done some extra work, made lunch, washed up and generally been an all-round productive badass, I took myself out in the garden to continue reading about propaganda. ‘I might manage to read one chapter’ is now my mantra.
A appeared with her bucket for our promised trip to the beach. She plonked it on my lap under my textbook.
‘Muuuuum. My boocket has a spider in it.’ For some reason she can’t say ‘bucket’.
She wanted to know why I threw her beloved bucket across the garden, yet we all know we shouldn’t share our phobias with our children.
‘I’m just reading a really tricky paragraph and you surprised me.’
She went and got the bucket. I lowered the book to my lap. She put the bucket by my foot. I lifted my legs up.
‘Look at the spider,’ she said. ‘Is it dead?’
Now, as strange as this may seem for someone with arachnophobia, I hate dead spiders even more than live ones, (except live ones running towards me or actually on me of course). When they die and put all their legs together you can see the hideous exoskeleton on their abdomen in all its glorious, vomit inducing monstrousness.
‘MUUUM. MUUUUM. MUUUUUUUM. Look at the spider mum. Is it dead? Mum, mum Muuuuum!’
I looked. It was dead. I kicked the bucket across the garden.
Only moments after she’d stopped wailing about the tragic loss of the spider, she found ‘a strange thing’ near the back door. I didn’t want to go and look; I was reading about corporate media whitewashing. She was insistent.
It turned out to be a very small – and very dead – baby bird. It didn’t even look like it had hatched or finished growing properly, but I can’t say I really know what baby birds look like when they’re hatched, or what they look like when they don’t hatch.
A was devastated. ‘Why did it have to die?’ she wailed. I sat her on my lap and tried to console her, drawing on the teachings of The Lion King and circles. Just as she was calming down, she spotted a dead woodlouse near my chair and that was her gone.
‘Why is everything dying? Why did you let everything die?!’ she sobbed into my shoulder, apparently mistaking me for a government minister during an international health crisis.
The birds in next door’s tree and on the surrounding rooftops had been cheeping madly about something all morning. Maybe that dead baby bird. If that’s what they were upset about, I’m pretty sure our cat had a part in it, but I didn’t mention that to A. She may have fallen apart completely. However, she had noticed the birds making a racket and decided to deal with her grief by talking to them.
A can have an argument with anyone – including herself – and in no time she was bickering with the birds.
What do you mean? Why are you tweeting about that? No, I didn’t, someone else ate all the brownies. You’re birds anyway so you probably can’t even eat them because dogs can’t eat them and you’re smaller than dogs. Yes, you are though. Much smaller.
This is a mere snippet of their ‘conversation’; I managed to read about half a chapter during this exchange and, remarkably, the birds calmed down.
The beach was – predictably – packed. We went to the far end, walking through from the gravel carpark on Fort Cumberland Road and arrived right next to the nudist area. I was so busy thinking about avoiding crowds and getting some work done, I forgot about that.
‘Oh my god, that man is naked!’ exclaimed Z.
‘What man is naked?’ asked A, who has an even louder voice.
The dog had chosen to stop and squat about two metres from the poor guy trying to tan his penis in peace. I directed Z in the opposite direction with his sister while I waited for the dog to finish her business. I swear she was laughing at me.
‘Look that way! You can see the pier and the Isle of Wight really clearly today! Go and find us a spot down there while I clean this up.’
A’s favourite feral place is the beach. We could’ve stayed hours, but even though you’re allowed to stay out longer, it doesn’t feel right to take all the equipment for a day trip as if it’s a bank holiday. Lots of people had, but I’m not there yet. I told Z and A we would stay for an hour only, and A went straight down to the water’s edge to start arguing with the sea.
Within ten minutes Z was bored. ‘Can we go yet?’ he asked.
‘Nope. I’m reading a complete chapter of this book and it will take me about an hour as I have to make notes as well. The more you moan at me, the longer it will take.’
‘But there’s nothing to doooooo,’ he wailed, throwing himself down next to me.
‘Are you kidding me? The tide is out, there’s sand everywhere, you have a little sister. . . You have one job here, dude. One.’
Maddie is sharing her lockdown experiences every day on S&C – you can find each day’s diary and all of Maddie’s previous articles for S&C here.
S&C is managed and operated by a small team who work on a voluntary and freelance basis to run our website, social media and engage with local residents and communities. Like all independent news providers in the UK, we’ve been hit hard by the pandemic and are currently seeking funding to survive.
If you want to find out more about the challenges facing local independent news: visit the #SaveIndependentNews campaign website, get involved with S&C, donate, and help us spread the word on Facebook and Twitter. And if you want to know more about us, click here.