Sunday 22nd March
It’s Mother’s Day in Ireland and I’m in bed, but I have to get up soon because I’m meeting my friend for a walk in the Burren. Reuben scratches prettily at the door, and I ask my husband Marcel to get up and let him in, seeing as it’s Mothers’ Day. He refuses. “It’s not Wives’ Day,” he says. Liv (15) comes in and asks me how I like my egg. A few minutes later, in she comes bearing a tray with boiled egg and four pieces of toast, two more than I usually have. Reuben jumps onto the bed and stares at me with his ears pricked up. He is ordered down by Marcel, who doesn’t think animals on the bed are cute in the way that I do. Reuben chances hovering at the edge of the bed for a second, is ordered down again in a no-nonsense voice, and hops down. He immediately goes around to the floor by my side and resumes staring intently. It is most off-putting and I block his gaze with the biggest cushion I can find. I text Liv to tell her it was the best breakfast I can remember in a long while, which is true, and she texts back “wait till you see what else is waiting for you when you come down.” A pile of beautiful muffins is waiting for me, fresh out of the oven. They are golden, dusted with caster sugar and I can see a glint of jam under the surface. I paint them super-fast before everyone falls on them. Liv asks for a critique. I don’t want to say anything negative but Marcel immediately comes back with “They’re a little too sweet.” Liv insists that I give her a critique. “I’m a baker, Mum,” she says, “I need to hear criticism.” I tell her, hesitantly, that the timing could have been different – in a couple of hours’ time, for example. “Okay, thank you, I’ve changed my mind, I don’t want that criticism,” she says.
I drive to Abbey Hill to meet my friend and her daughter for a walk. There are usually three or four cars parked at the start of the green road that runs alongside the hill of karst limestone pavement. Today there are about 20 and the road is lined with cars, because it’s beautiful out – one of the first sunny days of the year, and it’s Mother’s Day, no one can go indoors anywhere and everyone has been cooped up for two weeks. I don’t like it much but I am determined to distance from everyone. I have brought my sketching stuff and I have already decided that if anyone looks over my shoulder I will politely ask them to move away. We walk along the green path, doing a big socially conscientious swerve to every group we pass. One of my companions coughs a dry cough at the start of the walk, which reminds me to keep well away, to stay upwind (that was Marcel’s suggestion) and as far as I can from my friends – I could of course be the one carrying the virus, there’s no way of knowing. We strike off the path which is now full of family groups, and climb up the hill. I am keeping well back from my companions, so that my friend’s daughter asks if I am struggling to keep up. But I can smell their perfume, so doesn’t that mean there could be viruses on the breeze too? We go all the way to the top of the mountain, and my friend figures there is already a family group at the cairn at the summit, and that we should not encroach on their space. Doesn’t bother me in the slightest, I never feel that apparently common desire to get to the highest point of a hill – I’m not a freaking ladybird. I sketch the two women. I figure we’re okay up on that hill, in the wind and sun, and I am upwind of my pals, so if anyone is passing on the virus it’s me.
I stop for a few provisions in the village shop. The guy who runs it, Mike, takes community life very seriously. He has organised little taped off places on the floor near the tills where everyone has to stand so that they are not too close to anyone else. An older man is staring at bottles of fizz down one aisle, and apparently he has to touch, nay, fondle every contender before making up his mind. I stand a respectful and healthy distance away, waiting for him to decide. There’s no way he doesn’t see me, but he doesn’t look up or acknowledge me, nor, God forbid, be a little more efficient and make up his mind. Just that type of person. I go to pay. There is a transparent plastic screen hanging down to protect the workers. When I get home, I wash the packaging of the essential provisions I have bought – pasta, coconut milk, Coke Zero and chocolate M&Ms. Extreme? Perhaps….I never buy sweets.
I want to draw Honor (20). She is a beautiful girl, and like all beautiful young people it will be hard to capture that beauty. She is very happy to sit and be drawn. She looks at a video on her phone of a guy escaping from Chernobyl. This is very Honor: like her dad, it’s all about living on the edge. I am the very opposite – I just want a quiet life, but I do remember being a thrill seeker when I was Honor’s age. Honor is very happy with my sketch, and I have caught her impish spirit, but that ethereal beauty will be a bigger challenge,
I go to bed. I have a sore throat and I am wondering if I have caught the virus. Marcel says it takes a few days and I haven’t seen anyone, or anyone who has seen anyone. Paddy (18) wanders in with questions about how to make dinner – it’s Mother’s Day after all – and I become very tense, not wanting him to come too close. He becomes impatient. Liv comes in. “Mum, if it’s any consolation,” she says, “I had a sore throat the day school broke up and the next day I was fine.” It is consolation. To be on the safe side I drown whatever viruses may or may not be up my nose in First Defence. I am prevailed upon to come down to dinner and after a glass of wine I stop worrying about my sore throat.
Honor says she is going for a drive to the country with her ex tomorrow. Although he hasn’t been tested for coronavirus, he was ill with symptoms consistent with the virus, and works in the hospital. I cannot bear the thought of Honor being in a car with him – she is immuno-compromised – and we have testy words over Whatsapp. I tell her he is being irresponsible and that if she catches it from him I will go after him, which is a bluff because I wouldn’t have a clue how to do that. Eventually she says it’s been put off till Wednesday. I am not a bit happy, but I have at least bought a day or two.
I hope all of you in Mothers’ Day land were treated royally by your kids!