I knew something was wrong at about 2am. Normally, I just sleepwalk to the loo for an early morning pee and return to bed hoping my bladder will leave me in peace for another four or five hours. But this morning was different.
My limbs were shaking involuntarily like a Mexican Jumping Bean after a long night out downing shots of mezcal. My head throbbed. Although I was wrapped in my Santa Claus woollen jimmy jams and reindeer socks, I felt as cold as ice.
If I don’t warm up soon, I thought, I’ll die of hypothermia and my wife will wake up tomorrow next to the frozen body of a husband, who looks like a comedy Christmas Yule tide log bought from Iceland supermarket.
I got up, turned the central heating on and jacked the thermostat up to Climate Armageddon before returning to my side of the bed.
‘What’s the matter?’ asked my wife, roused by all my huffing and puffing.
I hold my arms out to my sides.
‘Look. I can’t control my arms from shaking,’ I said.
‘It’s too late for jokes,’ said my wife.
‘Either I’m possessed by the evil spirit of a Body Popping dancer or I’ve got Covid,’ I replied, rolled back under the duvet and slept for most of the next 24 hours.
Zzzz. Tea. Zzzzz. Soup. Zzzzz. Clean teeth. Zzzzz.
Tea and toast. Zzzz. Sausage sandwich for lunch. Watch ‘Dog Soldiers’ on C4 (worst ever movie?). Zzzzz. Asked by wife to have a bath. Explain this is not possible because I have so little energy I’m scared of drowning. Clean teeth and comb hair to show commitment to household hygiene, instead.
Tea and toast. Attempt to read a book, but immediately fall asleep. Chicken salad. Watch entire series of ‘Shetland’ on BBC I Player (nice woollens). Wash and clean teeth without prompting.
Tea and toast. Watch ‘The Awakening’ (v.good). M&S prawn sarnie and cheesy wotsits for lunch. Craving for take away curry. Wife agrees as long as I commit to a daily bath, washing teeth and opening a bedroom window. Curry excellent, few spillages. All agree it was time bed sheets got washed anyway.
Tea and toast. Think a bit. Sushi for lunch. I now know why Netflix will win the content war. Nothing new to watch on I-Player or Amazon Prime after only four days of intense goggling. Read newspaper. Boris Johnson lying again. Wonder if mother will be allowed out of her nursing home for Christmas Day. Change pyjamas.
The bedroom door creaks opens and wakes me up.
Through one tired eye, I can see my wife in the doorway. She’s smiling broadly, as if she’s got good news.
Praise be, I think. We’ve finally won the Lotto Roll Over after years of trying. Why else would she look so happy this early in the morning?
‘We’ve won the Lotto, haven’t we?’
‘Not yet,’ she replies.
‘Oh God, that’s so unfair,’ I say.
‘What’s so unfair?’
‘Twenty years of hard graft week in week out, gambling in support of charitable causes and nothing in return. That’s what’s unfair. We’ve never even won enough to buy a packet of crisps.’
‘It’s not about the winning,’ she asks.
Not about the winning? What sort of an attitude is that? I close my open eye and lean back into my pillow.
‘Can you imagine the value of all those £10 flutters on the Lotto, if we had invested them in an equity index tracker instead?’
‘Not really,’ says my wife.
The smile is sliding down her face like rain off a window.
‘How are you feeling?’ she asks.
‘My head is full of cold porridge and my joints ache like an egg about to hatch. But don’t worry. I’ll be alright here poaching in my own sweat. You get on with your life.’
My inner Benedict Cumberbatch delivers this last sentence in a faltering voice and throws in a noise like a little pony whinnying for good measure.
‘Ah,’ says my wife. ‘You’re definitely getting better. Your self-pity has returned.’
My wife is taking away my breakfast plate, which is smeared with tomato sauce and mustard, like a Kandinsky painting. I’ve just downed a full English breakfast and feel So Money Super Market.
‘I don’t know what I’d do without you,’ I say to my wife.
‘Lose weight?’ she replies.
‘I just want you to know I appreciate everything you and the kids have done to support me in my fight against this terrible virus.’
She makes a choking sound, as if something has stuck in her throat.
‘We’ve learnt a lot over the last week, for sure,’ she says.
‘The fulfilment which comes with kindness? ’ I suggest.
Jacob Rees Moggs
‘More, what it’s like to be Jacob Rees Moggs’ nanny or run Room Service at the Savoy.’
‘I’ve used this week in bed to think hard about our future. Undistracted by Matt Hancock’s makeover, I think I’ve found a cure for capitalism and created a new manifesto for mankind.
‘Oh God,’ she says. ‘Not now. Can we do this when I’ve got a drink in my hand?’
I’m dispirited by her reaction. I’ve been thinking hard about the purpose of life and she doesn’t seem in the least interested. I know she’s got to go to work soon but surely she’s got 10 minutes she could spare?
Luckily, moments later, my daughter pops her head into the bedroom. She’s dressed in her running gear and wearing a purplish bandana. I sometimes wonder if she sleeps in running gear. Each night she and her brother come back late from their responsible jobs and go running. Not to the pub to drown their sorrows at the ghastly legacy bequeathed them by us Boomers or to drown out the pain of their day at work, like my father did. But to stay fit. Or something like that.
‘Howdy Old Paps. How yer feeling?’
My daughter and I talk to each other as if we were characters in Little House on the Prairie. Don’t ask why. It’s an old joke that solidified into a habit. Today, I’m not going to play the game.
‘I’ve found a cure for capitalism.’
‘Oh,’ she says. ‘Interesting.’
‘And rewritten the ten commandments,’ I say.
‘Good going for just one week,’ she says.
‘That’s what I thought,’ I reply. ‘Do you want to hear what I’ve written?’
She looks at her watch.
‘Actually, I’ve arranged to meet a friend for a run and I’m late,’ she replies and swifter than Usain Bolt she’s gone.
‘It’s fresh original thinking,’ I shout after her. ‘You’ll never have heard anything like it before in your life.’
‘That’s what scares me,’ she shouts back as her Nike’s carry her down the stairs and away into her own future.
A version of this blog appeared in the Chiswick Calendar.