At night my wife keeps her iPhone on her bedside table in case, I suppose,  someone rings to say we can claim for having an accident  we haven’t had. So far, thankfully, it remains silent but its close proximity means that the first thing my wife does in the morning is to read the newspaper headlines.  I therefore wake to be told, ‘America is in trouble’, and, ‘A man of 48 has died  when, only an hour before, was joking with nurses’.  She also tells me how many people are infected in Lambeth, since this is where we would have been if we weren’t in Windsor.  I flee the scene, and open up the digital version of the Times on my laptop only read the same things all over again.

We have not been out, not even for a walk.  I have however ventured down stairs (76 steps down and the same number up, though up makes it seem more) to collect the post from our post box. Just three things waiting there.  A card from SSE explaining that they had failed to gain entry to read the electricity meter and would I please send a reading as a matter of urgency; a card from Thames Water urging us to become ‘Everyday Sewper Heroes’ by not flushing wet wipes down the toilet; a card from Subway advertising takeaway food.

Whilst a disappointing haul, I have to admit these things seemed endearingly normal; mundane life going on despite the national emergency.  The communication from SSE was particularly intriguing (self-isolation suddenly makes the tiniest things intriguing!) since we have a smart meter allowing SSE to access our meter remotely.  I pondered (plenty of time to ponder too)  whether to send a meter reading as requested but, before I had done so, an email arrived saying our bill was ready to be viewed online. I love it when things happen before I have done anything to make them happen.  It would have been even more satisfying if I’d added ‘read the electricity meter’ to my To Do list and been able to cross it out as done without having done anything!

Apart from walking down and up stairs (you’d normally say ‘up and down’ but we are already up so it has to be down and up) we do some exercises.  My wife has a chart with diagrams illustrating some Tai Chi exercises so we do those together and finish off with some squats.  I read an article in my digital Times saying that if you only did one exercise it should be the plank, aiming to build up to being able to hold it for 30 – 40 seconds.  I read on to learn that someone had done the plank for over 8 hours (apparently a world record, dutifully recorded in the Guinness Book of Records) so doing it for a mere 40 seconds suddenly seemed, well, a doddle.  I tried it while my wife silently counted the seconds;  22.  If she’d counted aloud I’m sure I could have lasted for longer out of sheer cussedness.  I’ll try a few more today. I’m sure that if I do my own counting I will be able to get to 40 seconds.

We continue to be frugal with our dwindling rations.  Yesterday, having spent ages extracting what I thought were the last traces of marmite from a jar, I was about to throw it away when my wife said, ‘Wait, that’s not empty!  We could rinse it out with hot water and use it to flavour soup’.  We even have discussions about whether to share an orange or splash out and have a whole one each.  Orange juice is a cause for concern.  I have it instead of milk on my shredded wheat at breakfast (odd I know, I thought twice about admitting it) so suddenly orange juice is elevated to being a must.  Very odd how this unprecedented national emergency distorts one’s priorities.

An alarming email has arrived on my iPhone from BT. It says, ‘You’ll no longer receive new emails; update your settings today’.  It goes on to explain that this is urgent and that I should simply go to a website and follow the simple step-by-step instructions.  Too many simples − terrifying!  I spent yesterday afternoon on the terrace in the sunshine painting a watercolour of parrot tulips; a delightful displacement activity helping me, albeit temporarily, to forget all about BT and my absent emails.

At 8o’clock last evening we went onto the terrace to Clap for our Carers.  We are in the centre of Windsor surrounded by shops and offices so our clapping echoed on empty buildings.  If we stopped clapping we could just hear some  distant claps coming from somewhere out there in the dark.  Rather comforting.  It made us realise we are not alone.

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