Somewhere In Between

Somewhere In Between

R umour has it, divorce rates are set to rocket in the wake of COVID-19. The lengthy lockdown proved too much for some and the first port of call for many a disgruntled spouse was, it seems, the local divorce lawyer. Forced to endure the company of their other half 24/7, a procession of embittered husbands and wives emerged from isolation determined to escape not just the confines of their home but the boundaries of their marriage too.

Contrarily, the birth rate is expected to increase later in the year thanks to the amount of spare time suddenly granted to fertile couples who chose to fight off the boredom with regular bouts of fornication. Let’s just hope they don’t name their new arrivals Covid or Corona.

The majority obviously fall somewhere in between these two extremities i.e. not exactly clawing each other’s eyes out but not chasing each other around the bedroom either. That said, they will still remember 2020 as a challenging year.

From my own personal point of view, the peace was well and truly shattered at chez Sherry. As a writer, I am used to working from home and spending most of the day on my own. It allows me to work uninterrupted without distraction, the pleasure of seeing my word count escalate more than compensating for the lack of human contact. Prior to becoming a full time writer, I worked in an office environment for almost thirty years and certainly don’t miss the constant noise, frequent interruptions and unnecessary (often ridiculous) office politics. In short, pre-virus, I was perfectly happy with my solitary work space.

Lockdown, however, saw my husband take root at the kitchen table. An assortment of gadgets now decorated the table top, an assault course of wires stretched across the floor and a chorus of tinny voices escaped down the hallway into my silent sanctuary. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t begrudge him the space (the Stay at Home message was loud and clear) but adapting to his constant presence was certainly a challenge.

Despite firmly closing every door between my office space and his, I could still hear the one-sided telephone conversation taking place in the kitchen. During daily Zoom meetings, I could hear the entire team discussion so clearly, it was all I could do not to chip in with my own thoughts and ideas. I saved his blushes by keeping my opinions to myself.

The Zoom meetings proved troublesome in more ways than one. Not only was I privy to conversations I had no business listening to, they also prevented me from entering the kitchen and, therefore, preparing my caffeine fix. Remember the live BBC World News interview with Professor Robert Kelly? (It’s worth looking up on YouTube if you haven’t seen it.) There he was, sharing his expertise on South Korean politics, when his wife and two children barged into the room, embarrassing the Professor in front of a worldwide TV audience. Granted, a handful of Zoom participants is not quite on the same scale, but I wasn’t about to stumble in to the kitchen wearing my Tottenham Hotspur t-shirt and fluffy slippers while my husband was holding court among his peers. Consequently, my morning coffee break was either severely delayed or cancelled altogether.

Lunch breaks were also problematic, sandwiched as they were between a succession of telephone calls and demanding emails. We tried our best not to answer the phone (him) and not to respond to emails (me) but certain habits are hard to break, particularly when you’re surrounded by the very things you’re trying hard to avoid. Not quite the leisurely lunch we intended.

Afternoons were equally tricky, particularly when the sun was shining. The temptation to down tools (or pens) was difficult to resist and having my husband at home all day was akin to being on holiday. Surely it wouldn’t hurt to finish early, enjoy the sunshine and sit in the garden for an hour or two? Trouble was, this became a regular (as in daily) occurrence which resulted in a big dent in our expected output.

I also began to see a different side to my other half. Most of us rarely get to see our spouse in ‘business mode’, their professional persona often left behind in sterile office premises or, after a long commute, in the driving seat of their car. But a shared working space provides a glimpse into their everyday world, an insight into their usually unseen attitude and behaviour.

At home, my husband is as laid-back as they come. A chirpy guy with a relaxed demeanor and a wicked sense of humour. He’s patient, empathetic and amiable, characteristics that do, I’m sure, transfer to his working environment. During lockdown, however, I was witness to the good cop/bad cop performance; the Mr Hyde to his Dr Jekyll. Obviously, he has different priorities at work, a more pressing need to achieve goals, meet targets and get the job done. More than once, I raised my eyebrows in surprise at his tone of voice, his apparent agitation or his obvious impatience. Unsure how to handle this side of his personality, I retreated outside to the garden (again).

As restrictions started to ease, along with the rest of the world, I began to look forward to some kind of normality. The daily routine of waving him off to work, tapping away on my laptop, looking forward to an evening of conversation; a round-up of our respective days of deadlines, deals and demands. Because that was the other thing about lockdown, after a full day together there was no longer any element of surprise. No snippets of information to look forward to, no morsels of gossip, no amusing anecdotes.

The reality of post-lockdown life was, however, not as welcome as I’d imagined. So used was I to the company of another human being, returning to solitary confinement was somewhat unsettling. The timing of my mid-morning coffee break had become something of a challenge, an exercise in measuring the gap between phone calls and Zoom meetings, attempting to slip in and out of the kitchen unheard and unseen. Making coffee was no longer entertaining but, instead, rather dull.

Similarly, with just a sandwich for company, lunchbreaks were not about who wore the silliest outfit on Zoom that morning but rather, whether to have pickle or tomato with my cheese.

So, once again, I find myself adapting to the latest way of doing things. My daily life is far from pre-virus normal. Nor is it lockdown limiting. It is, it seems, somewhere in between. At least neither of us is sprinting down to the family lawyer’s office or the local branch of Mothercare. Thank heavens for that, at least.

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