Covid and the Dutch House

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‘Is the ‘Dutch Housewife’ a porn movie?’ asks my son, looking up from his phone.

‘Why would we watch a porn movie while Granny’s still up?’ I reply.

‘Why would we watch a porn movie full stop?’ says my wife.

‘Dad said: ‘You’d like the ‘Dutch Housewife’?’ It sounds like a porno. Don’t get shirty with me,’ says my son.

Mother is silently mouthing answers to University Challenge. Or doing a Mindfulness exercise. The rest of us are debating what movie to watch after University Challenge.

‘I said she’s LIKE a Dutch housewife. I was complimenting her for organising the deep clean we did on the house today,’ I say.

‘We?’ says my wife.

‘In the 17th century, Dutch women were famous for their hygiene standards and their rigorous cleaning regimes. Just like Mum.’ I say to my son and then smile at the beloved.

‘Famous for my cleaning regime, am I? I guess you’ll be pimping me out on a neighbourhood website as a deep cleaner, next?’

Covid-19 cabin fever has set in. Nothing I say or do now can get me out of this deep and dangerous impasse. The situation is potentially so ugly that I may have to apologise and send myself to bed without supper.

‘Noel Coward!’ shouts Mother at the TV rocking forwards with excitement. For a moment, it looks like she is going to fall off her chair.

(‘Noel Coward’ Jeremy Paxman repeats softly from the TV).

Mother has correctly answered a question which the mighty Trinity College Cambridge team have fluffed. And they don’t fluff many.

‘Goal!’ shouts my son and breaks into a strange jig, which he’s copied from a Jack Black Instagram video, to celebrate Mother’s one answer victory.

I don’t want to rain on her parade, but we are watching a repeat of last week’s show and she got the same question right then. But that’s Covid-19 for you: every day is Groundhog Day.

My son’s jig has broken the tense atmosphere. If I keep my head down, I may make it to bed fed and still married. But Covid-19 has got me thinking deeply about life. For example, while sterilising the bannisters this morning, I wondered if it is possible for a house to be hygge without hugs?

This fuzzy Danish word stands for homely conviviality and Nordic knitwear. I can see that artisan woollen beanies, socks and jumpers could heal many gaps in a life and I’ve often wished I were Scandinavian because of their superior social system and crime procedurals.

But if you can’t hug or kiss your family because you have to stay two metres apart how long can you stay a happy hygge household? I also want to know if they agree with me that the Government should rename the ‘Nudge Unit’ because it is clearly inappropriate in current circumstances to be nudging anyone. Should I risk these thoughts with them? Or call it quits now?

‘Chekov.’ My wife starts whistling and fist pumping. She’s got a question right on University Challenge.

‘Dad,’ my son whispers and showing me some no-name online dictionary on his phone.

‘What?’

‘It says here a Dutch housewife can mean a prostitute, a sex doll or a body length pillow.’

‘Let’s not go back over that now,’ I say. ‘At least, not till after dinner.’

Published by Man in the Middle

This is the diary of a man balancing the needs of his aged Mother and family as they struggle with multi-generational living. It's about what happens to your life when your Mother moves in.

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