Good Friday 10th April 2020
Every day for the last three weeks has felt the same. The same as it always is for me despite the Coronavirus lockdown. I only notice the change in others as their lives are restricted to the equivalent of my normal routine. I’m still loving it. I feel energised, enthused, motivated to work more than I have for years. The creative urge it has given me is all consuming as I work further on the fifth portrait in the three weeks since this all began.
My paid work continues alongside with daily amendments to website and ongoing interest rate changes to be made to a plethora of documents for my main client. It’s barely registered with me that today is the start of Easter weekend.
Sarah drags me out for an hour in the car to do some ‘essential’ shopping. I stand in a patchy queue outside the bakery to get rolls and bread and some hot cross buns. People have already changed, each with a suspicious look that says Are you sure that’s two metres? There is little chit chat in this normally friendly precinct, everyone seems spooked and cautious.
We retreat, back to the house, loaded with veg boxes and bread for ourselves and our elderly neighbours. Yvonne brings around a beautiful little bara brith to say thanks at arm’s length. She’s a delightful little 80 years plus sparrow who loves a flirt and would usually insist on a (very welcome) hug and kiss, but she manages to contain herself.
I am persuaded to leave my painting for a couple of hours to have a walk with Sarah, Gareth and his girlfriend Lowri who is living with us during the lockdown. We have a delightful roaming chat down to the beach and back through Clyne which further cements our high opinion of this girl that our middle son has somehow captured. They make a handsome couple and match their good looks with even better personalities.
We’re eating and drinking well, still, for now, with Sarah let loose to feed us all now her work has gone. But tonight it’s a barbecue. I cook on the only lumpwood charcoal I could get and curse the smoke and the fierce heat. It puts me in a bad mood that I find hard to rise above suggesting that the overall enjoyment I’m feeling is really only a thin veneer.
Easter Saturday 11th April 2020
A good day begins with a sunny breakfast sandwich outdoors and a natter with the kids. Poor Evan has to work again and is desperate for a break. He jokes that his job as a delivery driver for a local off licence has become the fourth emergency service with people flagging him down in the empty streets to try to buy alcohol.
I persuade Bryn to help me in the garden. He’s a good lad but understandably frustrated with the situation that has clipped his wings just as he had gained his independence in his first year at university. I reason that it is good to keep him busy despite his reluctance as he usually confesses to have enjoyed it when the work is done. I suspect he’s just glad to be free of me nagging him for a couple of days.
It’s surprisingly hot in the garden and we soon build a sweat. I spend the day with a rerun of the famous ashes victory of last summer playing ‘as live’ on the radio. When it took place last August I listened intermittently as we drove across the Greek island of Lefkas with the climax coming as we sat in the departure hall of the airport. It was a wonderful shared moment with dozens of fellow travellers in a packed area that seems unlikely now. I can’t imagine when we’ll ever have the opportunity to be with so many people again.
Work done, I relax at the bottom of the garden which catches the last rays of the day. Despite the warm sun on my arms I am covered in goosebumps as Ben Stokes pulls off a miraculous performance to win the game. Sarah’s made wild garlic chicken Kiev for tea. We have a few patches in the garden which usually go for pesto but this is a nice change. I sleep through two episodes of the series we have been watching in the evenings.
Easter Sunday 12th April 2020
Thirty years ago today we were married. You’d think by now I’d remember the date. In my defence there’s been a lot going on but it took a conversation with my son about gin yesterday to remind me of our anniversary. Luckily Evan was working and managed to get me a last minute bottle of Tanqueray’s. Hardly imaginative but I reason that Sarah’s probably forgotten too — we usually do.
I wake early and go down to make Sarah a cup of tea and pop out to the garden to pick a bunch of bluebells for Easter. When I get back to the kitchen I discover that I had literally popped out as I’m in my robe with nothing underneath and it’s gaping . Still, it’ll be a change for the neighbours to have something different to talk about.
Sarah hasn’t forgotten. She gives me a heartfelt card that brings tears to my eyes and has also bought me a new radio for the garden to replace the one I broke recently. I am firmly reminded once again that I don’t deserve her.
We traditionally draw faces on boiled eggs for breakfast on Easter morning and today is no different despite the kids all being adults now. I love a dippy egg, preceded by grapefruit and accompanied by soldiers, toast and marmalade, and coffee.
Breakfast is followed by a tortuous couple of hours repairing the fence around my veg patch. I am ably assisted by Gareth while Bryn cuts the grass. Evan is relishing his day off fiddling with his van and Sarah is preparing dinner. I lose track of time resulting in me making a late lunch of smoked salmon open sandwiches with beetroot. As always I wonder, why does an open sandwich taste so different to a normal one?
Our wonderful little neighbour pops round with an anniversary card and a bottle of champagne for us, proving once again the value of fostering good relations.
I have a lovely chat with my darling daughter up in Aber. She is planning a little garden and says she may offer to help the elderly couple next door with theirs. I can hear her smile as she talks, I miss her so much.
Sarah excels herself with a dinner of belly pork and dauphinoise potatoes with chocolate cake for afters. It is sublime, with beautiful, melting pork and crispy topped potatoes with cabbage. It strikes me that we are anchoring our lives around mealtimes even more than we usually do. Ah well.
Easter Monday 13th April 2020
A chillier morning than the last few summery days. We have an early start as I have scheduled a portrait sitting via Zoom with our friends, Susan and Scott in Australia. Sarah and I sit and chat with them in their home in Perth and I sketch and make screenshots to work from later. We ‘meet’ their daughter for the first time even though we’ve known them for thirty years.
After breakfast I limp out to the garden to finish the fence. I’ve picked up a couple of niggles this busy weekend and stupidly hurt my foot kicking a rugby ball with Bryn on Friday. The fence goes well and Gareth suggests using a broken decorative windmill to finish it off. I detach the metal oak leaves and drill holes to stand them in the gaps between the rails. It’s an inspired suggestion that makes me very happy.
I go into the office in the afternoon to continue the portrait I began on Thursday and when I finish Sarah is waiting with a cold beer at the bottom of the garden. Lowri and Gareth are making a vegetarian curry with onion bahjis for tea and I am ecstatic. This can’t all last, can it?
Every Monday we sit as a family and watch Universally Challenged (as we call it). When the boys were young I had once overheard them watching it in another room. I was amazed that they seemed to be getting so many answers right, their muffled words followed by a triumphant Yes! I thought I had a couple of geniuses on my hands until I went in to find that they were just trying to guess which team would answer next.