After six weeks of lockdown, I have stumbled across an epiphany; the real danger of isolating is not Covid19. After all, if you quarantine effectively, your risk of contracting coronavirus is relatively low.
No, the real threat is that you are likely to get press-ganged by your other half into 1,001 home improvement projects.
Imagine a wall, an ordinary plaster wall. To you or me, it may seem…well, nice. It’s a wall, what else is there to say about it?
As a grizzled veteran with a grand total of six months of marriage under my belt, I laugh at your foolish naïveté. That is not a wall. It is a blank canvas, on which your beloved’s imagination can run wild and free. For example, it is entirely the wrong shade of white. Perhaps we should paint it. Better still, perhaps we should attach some shelving units. And then we can paint it afterwards.
Should we paint it in Macaroon Cream or Water Chestnut? Whatever you do, do not shrug your shoulders and opine that “either is fine, they look the same to me”. This is the Wrong Answer and will be met with Disappointment. Yes, in capital letters. In the immortal words of Lord Cardigan just before he led the charge of the Light Brigade, “be decisive, even if you haven’t the faintest idea what you’re doing”. Alright, Lord Cardigan never said that, but he might as well have done.
You must constantly be alert for the slightest sign that your relaxing journey on board the good ship Weekend is about to come to a juddering halt, torpedoed in the side by HMS Don’t You Want This Place To Look Nice, the terror of the high seas. “What shall we do today?”, is not a mild question, it is a serious threat. And always be on the lookout for traps. “Doesn’t this room look nice since you tidied it last week” is not a compliment. It is the opening gambit in a cynical and ruthless operation to get you to tidy the next room.
At this point I should make the following clear. Firstly, my wife is six months’ pregnant — and I know she would help out with many of these other activities if she could. Unsurprisingly, growing a teeny tiny human takes a lot out of you, especially since it started dancing the macarena in there.
Secondly, the truth is that despite all my complaining I love my wife dearly and want to make her happy. And if that involves trimming the hedges, putting up shelving units, replacing locks and cupboard doors, measuring for new curtains, repainting surfaces, rearranging furniture and a long list of other activities, I will do them.
My moaning is good natured — she’s the one doing the real work here. But that doesn’t mean I won’t employ techniques to try and launch a pre-emptive strike on the “list of things for you to do today”.
One of my favourites is “I think I’m going to do the hoovering now, darling”. Yes, I will do the hoovering, but that’s not really what this is about. “Look at me”, I am actually saying. “I am being productive. I am making an effort to keep this place clean. I am therefore already busy, and as such am regrettably not in a position at this time to carry out any of the many ambitious projects you have planned for me.” This works up to a point, but should not be overused or it loses its efficacy, in which case you will be told: “Maybe you can hoover tomorrow. Let’s do the garden today.”
Ah, the garden. My wife and I come from different schools of thought. I hail from the “let’s pay someone to do it” tradition, while she belongs to the “why would you pay someone to do it when you can do it yourself” movement. My argument is less effective, given the lockdown. So I spent last weekend trimming our hedges, trying my hardest to ignore the bag of compost and numerous sachets of seeds that seem to have miraculously materialised. Apparently “somebody” is going to be planting a vegetable garden in the near future. It does not matter that the “somebody” in question is perfectly happy to buy vegetables at a perfectly reasonable price (and maybe even eat the occasional one, too).
“Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be able to eat things you yourself have grown?” I am asked. Well, not particularly, as it happens. Society has evolved to a point where we do not need to do this and can spend our time involved in other activities. Like watching Netflix, for instance.
Truth be told, however, I can very quietly admit to myself that yes, the room does actually look better now it’s tidier. And the garden does look neater. And that’s actually a very flattering shade of white paint.
Don’t tell my wife, though. Or I’ll be expected to have the nursery room ready by next week.