Things get comfortingly domestic as lockdown gets under way

Lockdown Day 1 achievements. PHOTO: ELSPETH MCLEAN
Lockdown Day 1 achievements. PHOTO: ELSPETH MCLEAN
In the final hour before lockdown, I was on my hands and knees scrubbing my kitchen's wooden floor with Sunlight soap, writes Elspeth McLean.

It seemed fitting somehow. As I scrubbed, I wondered how many women in previous uncertain times had found themselves attending to similar domestic tasks at strange times.

Women wondering where their menfolk were in wartime, grieving widows and mothers, women waiting for a loved one to die. All of them wanting to do something, anything, to stop them thinking about the grief which had taken up residence in their heads and what life might hold now.

Such highfalutin’ introspection was dealt a swift blow when the Murchison-dwelling sisters, who know my enthusiasm for housework, discovered what I had been doing.

"Are you sure you are not cleaning up a crime scene?"

Oh dear. Would it be too much to expect a pinch of political correctness from that pair in these odd days? A rhetorical question.

On day one I was like a whirling dervish. When my companion, who was actually working, looked miserable when his lovingly-made morning coffee was not accompanied by a scrummy scone, I set to and baked some for lunch.

Then, since we had been avoiding the supermarket like the plague (there is always space for an appropriate cliche‚ in a crisis) we had no bread.

I found some yeast remnants, use-by date last August (I didn't want to broach the hot cross bun supplies this early), coaxed it into action, fossicked about in half-dead packets of this and that and came up with a loaf of bread. It even included trendy black chia seeds and linseed, bought for who knows what and when. Some of the flour may have had its protein level boosted by weevils. So keto.

There was also knitting — the continuation of a cowl for my almost 3-year-old grandson to wear on bike rides with Dad.

In the afternoon, entertainment was provided by my companion who, gazing out the window instead of slogging away at the computer, spied our cat Joey torturing a mouse, something which can go on for half-an-hour.

Covid Kitty (Covey for short) hindering knitting measuring. PHOTOS: ELSPETH MCLEAN
Covid Kitty (Covey for short) hindering knitting measuring. PHOTOS: ELSPETH MCLEAN
Ignoring the idea that killing mice is a good thing for cats to be doing, he waded in to save the mouse, which promptly bit him on the finger, drawing blood.

He was indignant at the mouse's lack of gratitude. I said I would ignore him if he started frothing at the mouth because he was just the sort of idiot who would clog up the emergency department unnecessarily. (Were those Murchison gals soothsayers?) No frothing has ensued, and the mouse's fate is unknown.

Following days have not been so eventful. There have been biscuits made out of strange ingredients, sour dough, more bread, the preserving of apples, knitting of mittens and a cat toy, and the addition of a bread roll to my girth.

To get away from the constant Covid-19 clamour, there have been bike rides and forays into the garden to half-heartedly haul at vines and weeds, and some small painting jobs.

This week, Health Minister David Clark's lockdown transgressions are likely to provide a huge distraction from the management of the Covid-19 crisis.

At the time of writing, there had been little time to reflect on this.

Even though Dr Clark has not had a high profile during the Covid-19 crisis, the Prime Minister considered it would have been difficult to strip him of his portfolio at this stage. He will be a lame and sitting duck.

The exhortation for us all to be kind during the Covid-19 crisis is unlikely to be followed by those angry at Dr Clark. Many people, frustrated by the disruptions to their lives and worried about their futures, will take the opportunity to pile on the vitriol.

Politics is a brutal business.

At home, we have had cat politics to cope with. Joey has not taken kindly to interloper, Covid Kitty (Covey for short), a feral North Otago kitten captured shortly before lockdown. Covey is oblivious to this distaste, boldly bouncing up to Joey and wanting to play.

We are hoping they will be able to hang on without attacking each other for a few weeks when Covey will find a new home with a friend whose ancient cat and only companion sadly died during the lockdown.

Match-making the pair, by photographs delivered to our friend's letterbox, has been an unexpected pleasure in a time when it is hard to feel useful.

While we wait for more freedom, the kitchen floor cleaning has become a weekly ritual.

I'll be at it again tonight, thinking and scrubbing and hoping that mostly we are all hanging on without attacking each other — and avoiding crime scene clean-ups as we head into week 3.

 - Elspeth McLean is a Dunedin writer.

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