Not in Kansas anymore

Well I didn’t see that coming. But not many people did, did they? Global pandemics don’t tend to be top of my list of Important Things To Look Out For but now, like most people, I feel like I’m an expert. Pretty much overnight I went from angsting over my marriage, job and chin collection to gobbling up every news report and pronouncement from the Downing Street lectern as if my life depends on it. And maybe it does, a thought that, for the first few weeks of Covid-19-induced horror jolted me awake at 5am sharp every day. Nope, we’re SOOOO not in Kansas anymore.

Worrying about the job? Well that all stopped. Since we all got furloughed last month there’s no point really. We’ve got jobs, we’re being paid and that’s just FINE. At least we’re not having to keep up the charade of Working From Home anymore, which was a total nightmare for those first few weeks. Trying to run team meetings via Zoom with the smiling but terrifying Boardroom Butcher in attendance, was particularly unpleasant.

Resting Bitch Face – which I now realise is my default facial expression – is so much harder to hide when your face is permanently on show inside a mini-screen, like a particularly miserable TV presenter. In those team and client meetings I found myself veering between that and a rictus grin, the only two facial expressions that would show up on Zoom, it seems. I hated every bit of it. The only saving grace was a Through The Keyhole peek at The Evil Panda’s tacky lounge, with its chandeliers, fluffy mauve cushions and ‘BITCH PLEASE even at my worst I’m still BETTER’ posters everywhere. Am pretty certain I spotted a Barbie Dreamtopia Brush ‘n Sparkle Unicorn on her mantelpiece. Tacky doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Slapped with a wet fish

Fi’s starting to frighten me. Cooped up on her own in self-isolation, cabin fever and the lack of human contact has definitely got to her. Both her kids decided to stay with their mates at uni, and while dumping Ed The Saucepot yoga teacher had seemed like a NO-BRAINER when she’d discovered he regularly swings both ways, now she’s spending every day on her own it’s a source of some regret. She’s given up on yoga entirely and slid back into her boozing ways, so while our FaceTime catch ups are often hilarious, there are some teary moments too. Sometimes I really could strangle Mark, and our home-life isn’t exactly non-stop fun-time karaoke and family film nights, but Fi’s lockdown life is a darn sight worse than mine.

Living with the kids again has brought a few slapped-with-a-wet-fish surprises. The good news: cheery soul that he is, Robbie’s proving to be great company. Oh yes, he’s annoying, wondering round barefoot all day constantly helping himself to whatever’s in the fridge (PLATE, Robbie!), with jeans hanging perilously from his non-existent hips and only willpower preventing his Ted Baker boxers from getting flashed to the world. Admittedly normal household rules don’t seem to apply when it comes to my son and we’ve given up trying to housetrain him, but on the plus side he does make a mean curry, is always up for a board game and knows exactly how to lift the household mood when it gets a bit flat. He’s also helped Mark build a barbecue shelter in the back garden, an alternative MAN CAVE for when Mark is in the mood to marinate. The fact that he’s dropped out of uni, lost his job and been dumped by his girlfriend has all turned out to be pretty irrelevant in lockdown world. Growing up is certainly taking its time for the boy, but he’s just a lovely soul who’s still finding his way, right?

But Ellie is turning into a huge worry. Arrogant and entitled, the girl doesn’t seem to believe the rules of lockdown apply to her. Every day after a couple of hours of assiduous titivation in the bathroom (godawful music blaring at top volume) she heads out ‘for a walk’, only reappearing some time later and running straight up to her room, a whiff of weed following her up the stairs. She barely speaks to us, probably because of the explosive rows about who she’s meeting up with and the danger that breaking lockdown rules is exposing us and everyone else to. Social distancing has no meaning to a self-centred 19-year-old. The Ellie Show must go on, apparently, and I’m so furious I can hardly look at her. The last two months have been a revelation in parenting terms, as the wastrel son is a ray of sunshine, while the beloved daughter is turning into a self-centred narcissist. How have I got my children SO VERY WRONG?

Lost all sense of time

I genuinely can’t remember what day it is and I don’t even care. All that matters is what we’re having for dinner, are snacks available and will I have time for a quick gin or two before The Apocalypse. Lockdown is bringing out the latent slacker in me and I’m while often fretful about actual MORTALITY, I’m way more chilled with Mark. All those life worries have drifted away into the ether, at least for now to be replaced by numb boredom. Possibly helped by the HRT patches Dr Baxter prescribed just before lockdown (THANK GOD).

Normally a bit of a Vain Vera, nowadays I’m eating whenever I get bored (ie, all day), wearing the same clothes three days running, have stopped shaving my hairy extremities and the beard’s coming on nicely now I’ve had to give up on electrolysis – with any luck it will obscure the extra chins. Soon I’ll turn full YETI and unless I can get to a hairdresser soon, I’ll be a yeti with the added bonus of a substantial badger streak of grey in my hugely overgrown barnet.

Have always wondered if I’d look cool and edgy as a ‘grombre’ gal, and now I’m pretty much forced to find out whether going grey is for me. Frankly? The jury’s out. Mark assures me I’ve still GOT IT, but then he’d say that if my head fell off – the man’s a SEX BEAST. The kids do that humouring-mum thing of enthusing just a bit too much, so I don’t quite trust their opinions. But never mind anyone else… me, I veer between loving it (especially paired with red lipstick and artfully drawn on eyebrows) and literally RUNNING from the mirror when I get that first-thing-in-the-morning glimpse of a haggard old lady staring back at me in horror. So… it’s work in progress.

Turns out I actually care

Community minded? Usually it’s just not my thing. but suddenly, without giving it a second thought, I find I am. So when Martha, a teacher who lives at Number 11, formed a community action group organising shopping for the elderly and self-isolating in our neighbourhood, I instantly volunteered my services doing social media updates for the group and dropping off flyers, as well as offering our empty bike shed as a shopping drop off. Meanwhile I’ve started chatting to anyone who’ll listen on the daily dog walks, yelling “Morning, how are you keeping?” at startled elderlies and be-masked passersby. Some look genuinely relieved to exchange a few words. This is what it’s all about – human connection and CARING for each other! And I for one am a changed person, being extra warm to the annoying neighbours as we chat during the enthusiastic thursday night #clapforcarers. I’ve even caught myself donating to food banks and shedding tears over videos of nurses’ post shift conga line as they wheel out another Covid 19 survivor.

Yes, I feel a whole new me emerging. A me that actually cares about other people, and isn’t constantly fretting over what they think of me. A me who is going to do something MEANINGFUL when this whole damn global pandemic is over. A me who may or may not emerge looking like a grombre yeti in a fat suit.

Oh and did I tell you I turned 50 last week? Yep, turns out I didn’t need a massive f-off party after all, lockdown took care of that. Making a big fuss about my significant milestone just didn’t seem to be appropriate when friends are losing parents and aunties and the world has literally gone to hell in a handcart. Mark made an amazing cake and has promised me a very special holiday a deux IF EVER life gets back to normal, and that’s good enough for me.

Has Amanda genuinely developed a social conscious? Will she still be a sexpot with grey hair and a full beard? Will Ellie get arrested for breaking lockdown rules? Find out in the next instalment of The Midlife Diaries of Amanda M.

By Amanda M

Arrive late to work to find the whole office abuzz with the company-wide announcement about our new boss.