Two years ago this week was my beloved’s birthday. We’d been planning a big party, but that obviously wasn’t happening. Instead life was all about sprucing up the house so we could do everything at home that we used to do everywhere else. For Tammy, that meant recreating the coffee house environment that often seems to define her life. Sadly, covid means that coffee itself has lost some of its lustre.
I have rearranged Mike’s old room to give it a café feel. Tom has put Charlestons on the speakers, to attempt a perky vibe, from an overpriced, independent café with 1920s décor.
[Because a coffee shop is weird without customers, chairs have been scattered about the room and a selection of childhood teddies and other stuffed toys sit at their coffee cups like a child’s tea party on a significantly bigger scale. Covid is already driving us back to infancy.]
Coffee is not the same, as I’ve lost my sense of smell. This only hit me on Tuesday. I had moaned that the coffee we were using was “a bit flat”, so I got down a new bag of my favourite Papua New Guinea coffee, cut it open and took a deep breath. Nothing. Nada. No smell at all.
I can still taste sweet – or citrus – or salt. But the subtleties of flavour are now lost on me. I wondered why I had been going for hot squash with Archers so enthusiastically. I get the sweet of squash and the kick of alcohol, but a fine whisky would be lost on me.
Two words which summarise the experience of Covid19 – flat and dry. Dry, overwashed hands; dry cough; dry sneeze; dry, papery face.
Tom’s isolation ended last Monday. He showed no desperate desire to leave the house – though at 5pm he joined me for a short walk around the park. Tom declared “out” over-rated and hasn’t left the house since. I tried to interest Tom in the many signs of spring. Cow parsley in bloom. Drifting white blossom. Dark pink blossom. Ashes, with black tips and brown fuzz. Strutting pigeons. The horse chestnuts, which on Monday had limp, hanging leaves, have been gathering sap and strength each day. For Tom, though, spring is about temperature, and it has been particularly cold.
On Wednesday I woke up to discover I was 63 years old. How did that happen? I had intended to retire, but I’m still an employee with that wonderful monthly salary. Tom gave me a new velux blind, which transformed the upstairs loft office. I reorganized my work computer, and spent a couple of hours arranging a suitable skype background, with some heavy books (Investment Law, Theory of Justice) moved into prominent positions – and the diet books moved out of sight.
Then a delivery man rang and ran away (in the modern style). It was a large parcel from Fortnum and Masons, with a bottle of champagne with my name on it, and two drawers of truffles – in the world’s most exciting red, sparkly box (which I have been showing off to everybody). Did that count as essential? I’m just relieved that even in a plague, you can count on Fortnum and Mason to get through the essential morale boosters.
A second parcel, from Mike, with two colouring books. I have discovered that if you colour-in during the 5pm Government briefing, the whole experience is less scary and anger-producing.
And, finally, the programme that is getting the whole country through lockdown – Tiger King. Did Carole Baskin kill her husband and feed him to the tigers? She is so sanctimonious and twee we all sort of believe it.
So a good birthday.