Mother wants to break the Covid rules

Photo by Tiziano Pedrini on

Mother wants to break the covid rules wearing a Dior headscarf

Mother wants to break the covid rules by going out to the shops. She’s decided to break the covid rules in stylishly so she’s put on a light brown raincoat and a faded Dior headscarf clutching a shopping fibre bag printed with the smiling faces of her grandchildren. Old habits are reasserting themselves like weeds in a garden.

‘Do you want anything at the shops?’ she asks.

My wife, son and I are chewing in different corners of the kitchen. Cows in a field. It’s lunchtime.

‘Mum, you know we are all still in the Lock down and you can’t go out,’ I say.

‘Yoghurt?’ she asks.

Mother wants to break the covid rules

It’s hard to know if she’s asking a second question or just misheard my reply to her first. She doesn’t wear her hearing aid often so a misunderstanding is the most likely solution. I realise she has forgotten that going out is against the regulations and dangerous, possibly deadly. But I know if she goes out and contracts the virus the GP has said that the chances of her getting referred to hospital for treatment are currently slim. She would be a low priority in any competition for medical resource. A possible victim of triage.

‘The Government recommends you don’t go out at all at your age unless it is essential.’

‘I thought I could go shopping if I have a special note. Or did I hear that wrong?’

‘Do you have a special note?’


There’s a brief pause.  

I went out more in the Blitz

‘I went out more often during the Blitz, you know.’

We’ve had several discussions about the Blitz, the War and the parallels with Covid-19. Mother concludes it’s only those who didn’t actually live through the War who keep on drawing parallels with it.

So I can answer her I work the large cud of homemade vegetarian sausage roll to the side of my mouth.

‘It’s frustrating. I know.’

‘When will it end?’

I shrug my shoulders as this seems to be the 64-million-dollar question which no one has an answer or not one they want to share at least). She looks down to the floor and, for a moment, is motionless.

‘I don’t care. I’m going out.’

Mother wants to go to the shop because it’s she sees this as her way of making a contribution to the household economy and proving she’s still independent, in some small way. Most of all, she wants to do something which will break the dull cycle of ironing and movie repeats she’s trapped in.

‘You can’t go to the shops because other people are there. But how about a walk to the shops? Or up and down the street?’ asks my wife.

why does my wife suggest this?

I am surprised that my wife suggests this. Since February, she is the one who is most conscientious in following the government instructions but in the last minute she’s decided the psychological benefit for Mother of getting out of the house outweighs the remote chance of her contracting covid-19.

‘Yes, that would be nice. I’ll just go up and down the street once. Maybe twice.’

‘Shall one of us come with you?’ says my son.

‘No. I want to go myself. It’s lovely and sunny.’

My son opens the door for her. I watch her paused in the doorway like an astronaut hesitating in an airlock. I can’t tell if the sharp sunlight has dazzled her or if she’s just steadying herself before plunging into the street but she’s paused there for a few seconds. Suddenly, I am reminded of the image of Captain Oates frostbitten at the doorway of his tent heading into the Antarctic blizzard. Should I stop her?  

‘I’ll watch her from the front wall,’ says my son.

After a while, Mother comes back in. She’s happier and looks around the sitting room to see if the ironing board is up and a full basket of laundry nearby. 

‘Is there any ironing to do?’

‘Is the Pope a catholic?’ I smile.

‘I think it’s time to keep calm and carry on ironing then,’ she says.  

Published by Man in the Middle

Ecce Man in the Middle. The stale meat in the inter-generational sandwich.