Living in Lockdown – by Melody Flumendorf

Primrose Hill Short Story Entry

“I’m stuck!” I could not believe it. Looking across the rather muddy shore I could make out my 10 year old, one foot firmly set in the mud, the other dangling in mid air. Her shoe had already sunk into the brown mass and seemed to be beyond reach. How had it come to this?


How indeed? Just a month ago life had seemed to return back to normal. Not that the year had started well: The same daughter who was now literally all muddled up had endured an ice skating injury, a loss of a part of her finger and even an operation to repair the damage.


January had clearly not been our month. By February however, things had slowly returned back to normal- our visits to the Royal Free became less frequent, spring was slowly coming, and we were excited about a project we had delayed for 6 years: The rewiring of our house. Finally we would be able to paint, fix and hang up everything we wanted to! I had my Pinterest boards sorted, had bought a rose tinted globe chandelier for the living room and started dreaming about a freshly painted home.


With this prospect, our short trip to Amsterdam was even more exciting. How we laughed about these crazy people with their masks on! Oh look, the hand sanitiser is sold out, well we’ll just wash our hands more often.
As our arrival there coincided with the first case of Corona in the Netherlands, we immediately joked: “Hey, it wasn’t us!” Back then, we were sure that this thing would just blow over. After all, new viruses were discovered all the time- remember the swine flu in 2009? Confident that this was just a reprise, we headed to a hotel in London the following weekend- for work. The children enjoyed the warm pool, the lavish breakfast and the long walks in the park nearby. It was the perfect weekend. My husband mingled with 500 guests at the event that followed, still confident that, even if things got worse, we could handle it.
Then, on the following Saturday, we started to feel a bit off. Nothing mayor. I developed a fever and called my mother that maybe, just maybe it wouldn’t be such a good idea to visit us right now. She wouldn’t hear of it: “You need me now when you’re sick, what will you do with the children?” In the end I gave in – I couldn’t see how we could have gotten infected with Corona anyway, the numbers in both the UK and the Netherlands were still very low, so I probably just had a common virus. It was winter after all.


When she arrived a day later, I was already bedridden and feeling miserable. Getting up made me dizzy. A friend of mine told me she had had the same in January- what a relief, it probably was just a common flu then! Yes my husband coughed and coughed but he does that every
winter, nothing to worry about.


On Tuesday, there was a talk of school closure on Friday. On Wednesday school had already closed down. My husband called me from the supermarket: “You won’t believe it, Sainsbury’s is empty! Empty! I can’t get any food!”. As my fever abated, my anxiety levels rose. What was
happening? Suddenly everyone talked about nothing else but Corona. Why weren’t we in lockdown? What was our PM doing? Articles about food shortage appeared and warned us that we could be running out of fresh produce within weeks. We were glued to the radio, waiting for the seemingly inevitably shutdown of public life. When it finally came, we were almost relieved.


But by now we had another problem: Our finances. My husband, working in the event industry, had lost all his income for the coming weeks within days. A client of mine had jumped the ship too- his recruitment company was struggling. We were at a loss at what to do. When Boris announced the government would pay 80% of wages for those not working during what was now dubbed a crisis, we breathed a sigh of relief. We would have food on the table after all.


And what more could we spend our money on anyway now that everything was closed? Our rewiring project had long been abandoned. We were now stuck- at home and otherwise. Passover came and went- a bit of a non event with no guests and no big outings. We spent our days in parks, got chased by a deer, learned to play football (sort of) and started to make Tik Tok videos. There were nervous breakdowns, missed zoom calls from school and egg races in Hampstead Heath. Going to the supermarket became a big thing. And when we both suddenly lost any sense of taste and smell, we realised how lucky we had been. Like most
people, we never got tested so we might never know for sure- but the same friend who, back in January, had reassured me that it must be the flu had had the same symptoms by then.


The kindness of strangers and friends alike amazed me. Our street came together and offered help via WhatsApp and shopped for each other. Professionals offered free advice and calls on Instagram- one of them became my Business Coach and is the reason you are reading this
right now. And of course, we got stuck in the mud. Back at the shore, I saw my 10 year old helplessly moving her arms, trying to balance herself
on one foot- and did the one thing that was totally inappropriate: I laughed. And laughed and laughed. Soon, we were all crying from laughter- my grumpy husband excluded who had to fish both daughter and shoe out of the brown mess.
“This was the best outing!” declared my 6 year old. And would you know? Sometimes being stuck is not so bad at all.

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