The Irish government announces that all schools are to close from the next day, Friday, and will remain closed 13th-29th March. Later, my good pal Lorraine collects the kids from school with all their books, so that they can study at home. Lorraine and I go for a wild and windy walk at the seashore near my home with our dogs Reuben and Penny, and Paddy (18) and Liv (15) join us.
I draw a cartoon. I don’t know what the person on the right is going to say. Is she feeling stupid that she hasn’t got a trolley-load of loo roll? Is she dismayed that everything will be gone from the shelves? After a bit I hear something on the radio about social disapproval being a powerful weapon, and I know what I want to say.
I go into the dining room. Paddy (Leaving Cert in a couple of months) and Liv (Junior Cert in a couple of months) are sitting at the table with their books out, studying. I feel very proud. There is nice, gentle rap-style music in the air. “That’s nice music,” I say. “Yes,” says Paddy, “whenever American teens undergo heartbreak, they write emotional music.” “How nice,” I say, “I spent my entire teenage years suffering severe heartbreak. I was always in love with someone who had no interest in me.” “Okay Mum,” says Liv, “I’m stuck here. There’s no school. I can’t escape. Do you want me to try to jump out the window?” I stop being personal.
I go back to the house for a coffee break. The calm vibe has changed. Netflix is on, and both Paddy and Liv are lolling on the sofas in front of the telly. Their dad is berating them in a loud voice, which isn’t making for a calming atmosphere. He then tells one of them that he can only use 5 sheets of loo roll at a time. I’m not having that, and take the blame for excessive loo roll use (man can use as much as he likes). I have no idea whether it’s me or anyone else who is using a lot, or even IF a lot has been used as I refuse to count that until we are down to one roll. But I am not going to see us descend into unseemly loo-roll blame games on Day 1.
I draw the view out of my window in my studio. This was a suggestion by USk Milano. My friend Paola lives right in the Red Zone and told us about this lovely idea. I’m to share it to their hashtag online today – #uskmilano I guess, but I can check. I like drawing laundry and I think it will look cool not to draw the washing line. But it starts lashing rain before I get to paint the clothes so I run out, whip it off the line and paint it from memory. Black and grey, what’s the big deal. As soon as the wet laundry is in its basket on my studio floor, the rain stops, but by this time I’ve had it with the weather’s unfunny jokes and I don’t bother putting it out again.
I tell my husband that we are going to give up giving up wine for Lent. I only suggested we do it in the first place because I wanted to be like my very cool friend Jennifer. But there’s a time for everything, and now is not the time. We have a lovely bottle of Oyster Bay, and for once our eldest, Honor (20), joins us in a glass. Normally there is “drink with my parents? Are you mad?” vibe but that seems to be fading, which is nice.
I go into the dining room to see Paddy at the books again. It’s maths, by the look of it. Liv sits down to join us and we put on some great music. Paddy is driving, music-wise. I am enjoying it very much when Paddy starts fiddling with his device. “Stop, don’t change it!” I say, “I like that song!” Paddy looks at me. The device he was poking is his calculator. I know this time I’m for it – I don’t have a great record – and the place erupts in laughter, to the cry of “BOOMER MOM!”
Paddy thrusts the calculator in my face, which he has decorated, schoolboy-style:
They all calm down, and Liv starts baking, since Junior Cert isn’t as important as Leaving Cert. She kneads flour, butter and sugar into crumbs, shiny apples ready to be finely chopped. She makes a funny face while I draw her, and even though I am very fast, she says she is getting a tick in her brow from keeping it furrowed.
I return to the studio, awaiting the text to come for coffee.
The text arrives.
After coffee and muffins, my tummy hurts. Paddy and Liv’s dad is shouting at them for laying around watching It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia instead of studying. I defend them – on what grounds, I don’t know, since there aren’t any. “I’m Good Cop,” I tell Paddy. This inspires me to draw a cartoon for the kids when I go back to the studio (bearing in mind I am supposed to be finishing a book for submission, like, a week ago).
I send it to them on WhatsApp, and I am immediately asked by each of them to get them ice cream. I do not get them ice cream. Paddy says he doesn’t like the way I under-flatter myself in cartoons and I think what a great son he is.
In a desperate bid to procrastinate, and in response to another cartoonist I’m friends with on Twitter, I draw a cartoon about fiddling while the world, and yes, Rome I suppose, burn.
Paddy and Liv send hideous memes about what to do in a toilet paper emergency. There is one about a slide at a pool, one about an escalator and one about putting one’s bottom out of the window in a car wash. Even though they make me feel nauseous, I draw one of my own and send it back to them.
Paddy is not pleased because he thinks it looks like him. I tell him it’s payback.
We go out to our neighbours’ house for dinner, who are our dear and close friends. I think long and hard about the wisdom of this, and decide on balance it’s okay. We have a wonderful time. We talk about coronavirus a lot. Lorraine, an engineer who has taken a side route into horticulture and garden design, tells us that in one of her WhatsApp gardening groups they have shared plants – complete with Latin binomials – that make good toilet paper alternatives. I don’t expect childish memes from them anytime soon.
Paddy had intended to go out on a bender today, and make it last until St. Patrick’s Day on Tuesday, but although he is 18 this would have been preposterous, and I am glad that he is going to enjoy the hospitality of my friends Lorraine and Sean instead, which includes beer.
More from Lockdown Land tomorrow!