Mother is in a nursing home with a broken pelvis and vascular dementia. Her last fall has taken a big toll on her. She needs specialist care and I’m facing down the guilt which comes with accepting I can’t look after her anymore. This is more frustrating because covid means we can’t visit her in the care home.
It’s like living in the Middle Ages, right now
At the moment, though, she is better off in her nursing home than staying here with us. The WIFI is down, the boiler is broken and the dishwasher is as dead as a dodo. Home may be where her heart is, but right now she’s better off somewhere with functioning central heating and clean crockery.
‘We’re actually living like people did in the 1950s,’ says my daughter.
‘More like the Ice Age,’ says my son.
He’s got a point. The house is so cold my daughter’s boyfriend, who is ‘bubbling’ with us, hasn’t taken his overcoat off for three days and I am sleeping with my socks on for the first time since I was at University. Though not with the same socks, obviously.
And it’s not just our dressing habits which are get slap dash.
There’s a pyramid of unwashed dishes on the sideboard which will soon slide onto the kitchen floor unless the lamb fat which is gluing them together sticks or we can agree whose turn it is to hand wash them. We are all pretending it’s not our turn. Why? No one wants to go hand to hand with the congealed lamb fat without the help of hot water. I’d like to blame someone but can’t in all fairness.
If only there was some light at the end of the tunnel. But the electrician, who’s come to fix everything, tells me I have a score of 38 on my electrical loop inhibitor. It should be under one.
‘I’m not even allowed to touch anything with a score that high,’ he says.
The electricity isn’t earthed properly and could blow any minute
‘You need to call your network supplier immediately,’ he says.
And leaves without fixing anything.
‘I have a problem with my inhibitor,’ I say to the electricity network’s customer service team, who kindly don’t laugh.
In fact, within an hour, two service engineers have rushed over and finished in the basement inhibiting our loop from any further excesses.
‘How long has it been dangerous like that?’ I ask.
‘Probably since you moved in,’ they say.
The thought that we’ve been living in a tinder box for twenty years only adds to my sense that 2020 is a year best forgotten.
‘You’re not normally emotionally sensitive enough to feel sad,’ says my wife. ‘Make a list of all the good things that have happened this year. That’ll cheer you up.’
Big Boy Pants are on my ‘happy list’
An hour later and I have quite a long list. It includes the scientists finding a Covid vaccine; Donald Trump being told to find his ‘big boy pants’; my son’s A levels; my daughter’s graduation and my wife’s continuing forbearance.
But top of the list is ‘Sock Amnesty’, which is a fun and inclusive game for all the family which I invented during the first lockdown. The goal of Sock Amnesty is for everyone to hunt out their old orphan socks, dump them into a laundry basket and then battle to match up as many orphan socks with their lost twins in an hour. The person with the most pairs at the end of the game is the winner. It’s like apple bobbing only with socks and you can’t use your teeth.
‘Is ‘Sock Amnesty’ really the best thing that happened to you this year?’ asks my wife, looking at my list.
‘It’s not the sort of hard-core game they’d play at the Bullingdon Club, I admit. But anything that encourages us to recycle has to be a good thing don’t you think?’
My wife would rather play a drinking game
‘I think I prefer more traditional drinking games to ‘Sock Amnesty’,’ says my wife.
My son comes into the room and says he’s just heard that the government is going to ensure covid testing is available to everyone who wants to visit their relatives in a care home by Christmas.
‘That’s really good news,’ says my wife.
‘If it comes true,’ I say, stubbornly down beat.
A version of this article first appeared in the Chiswick Calendar.