Home Alone

The pandemic has revealed just how many people live alone; we hear and read about well known stars and artists happily living by themselves, presumably as a lifestyle choice. Plenty of ordinary people live alone, perhaps always have done as adults, or since a parent or partner died or after divorce. Many of these are happy living by themselves, self contained. Those elderly people already restricted to home before Covid hit, are not necessarily lonely. A lady in her nineties on our library round told us she was never lonely, as long as she had the twenty books we brought her every three weeks. Of course there are many people who are lonely, young people from broken homes in tiny bedsits, old people who have no family left in the world.

None of these ‘single households’ reckoned on having a pandemic and being prisoners in their homes. Single retired people leading busy independent lives suddenly found themselves described as vulnerable. The people for whom lockdowns and the lack of access to normal activities are so hard are single parents in tiny flats, carers left to cope with disabled children or parents and partners with dementia. Their support network was suddenly pulled out from beneath them.

Being alone is not the same as being lonely. In days gone by lone people might manage a farm by themselves with the nearest humans miles away; being alone really meant that, no radio, television or internet. I can’t imagine what that would be like, but perhaps the company of their dog, farm animals and nature all around was enough. It’s a cliché, but you can be just as lonely in a big city; most of us have probably found ourselves in a new town, at a new job, knowing no one.

When we first moved here sixteen years ago Cyberspouse had a few more weeks working out his notice at Heathrow. When he left for work early on Monday morning with the kitchen flooded ( that’s another story ) I suddenly realised I had gone from a home with five people and a job at Heathrow with thousands of people – I wasn’t actually working with thousands, just moving among thousands each day – to a strange house in a place I knew no one. I wondered if I only existed in relation to other people.

I had time to get used to the idea of joining that large club, widows ( what a medical scandal it is that women are still outliving men ) and the even larger club of women living alone. After the flurry of activity and family visits we are in our second lockdown in England, so now I am officially on my own. Cyberspouse was totally dependable, unflappable and fun, so being on my own was not what I would have chosen, but if others manage to cope so will I. During 2019 we had plenty of time for trips and fun and getting everything in order. In 2020 I learnt to be a carer and the only responsible adult in the house, no more yelling for help when the computer didn’t work. I am cheating slightly, having had family to help out with the official stuff and Cyberson Two, who after doing nothing at school, is now a builder we all depend on, who can turn his hand to anything. The downside is that none of the family live nearby, but it must be hard to truly be on your own.

What else helps? Covid Comforts are what we all need and anyone who has a home and food enough to eat must be grateful. We glimpse on our television screens into the homes of news commentators or our favourite entertainers; they enjoy having the chance to chat and presumably they are coping fine with lockdown. Invisible are those folk in poverty or grieving having lost family to Covid. It may seem to me that everyone is walking around alive while Cyberspouse is not, but 53,000 is our death toll from Covid in the United Kingdom.

Meanwhile in my cosy lockdown retreat I live in a nice little road with good neighbours and a garden to keep me busy. We are allowed to go to the shops for essentials and at the local shops I buy fresh flowers regularly, my lockdown treat to brighten the dark days of winter.  We can go out for exercise and use our beach huts; I can sit and chat at the beach hut with the one friend we’re allowed to meet outside. We can go out for medical reasons, so I was quite excited to go on the bus to the hospital for a blood test!   

Indoors the lifesaver is BBC Radio, it never goes off; if I can’t sleep I can listen to the World Service. During the day there is news aplenty ( too much ), but also intelligent chat, dramas, serials and music. I have a CD player so I am never without music on tap. Television may have plenty of rubbish, but also interesting or cheerful programmes to watch with dinner on my lap. Writing is absorbing, creative and vital. Photography and crafts are other creatives to focus on.

Connecting with the outside world? The good old fashioned telephone is the easiest way to chat to people, but how many of us would want to do without the internet during Covid? We can blog, Facetime, share political and lockdown jokes on Facebook, go on zoom; my only experience with zoom is the weekly quiz my daughters’ friends do, but it’s good to have something fun to focus on.

What will happen next in the world, in our own countries; will Christmas be cancelled, will those of us in the northern hemisphere cope with winter… look out for Home Alone Two.

The Game of Death – New Players

Warning: If you want to avoid the topic of death and dark humour read no further.

Covid 19 has made people think and talk about how people should die, with emphasis on not being alone, preferably with family. Covid patients in isolation have been unable to see loved ones.

In reality most of us cannot choose where to die or plan the scenario; victims of murder or major disasters certainly don’t have the luxury of dying in their own beds comforted by family. Awful circumstances such as terrorist attacks find total strangers holding the hand of a dying person, giving their death some dignity. As no one comes back to tell us, we cannot know if the surroundings and company or lack of it make any difference to their own unique internal solo journey. Celebrities often seem to have died ‘peacefully at home with their family present’ but folk lore and family tales seem to indicate that dying people often wait till the very moment loved ones pop out of the room.

Most terminally ill people will probably get the chance to opt for palliative care at home, though it can’t be guaranteed; they may need to go to hospital or a hospice eventually, but Covid has made it even more desirable to stay at home and leave hospital beds free for others. Unless everyone in your family is a medical person, carers will need help along the way or near the end; team work and various bits of equipment are required to make life easy for patient and carers. There is nothing to stop you ordering wheelchairs and all sorts on Amazon and getting next day delivery, but the National Health Service is geared up to lend what you need and the various teams helping you will be busy arranging equipment. The largest item is the hospital bed; you might die in your own home, but probably not in your own bed, however romantic that looks in films. The beds have to be plugged in and do all sorts of things. The bed and other items come with wheels and stiff pedal brakes impossible to put on or off if you are only wearing your slippers!

In the first few months of the lockdown I coped fine by myself with Cyberspouse. District nurses were trying to avoid going in any homes, but they phoned regularly with advice and to arrange some of the medications. They were ready to come out with their protective gear if necessary. Cyberspouse was happy not to have any visits, medical or otherwise, relaxing at home in the exceptionally sunny weather we had.

Later on, family help was more vital than keeping isolated and they took turns to come and stay; it was only in the last ten days that the district nurses came and arranged for Marie Curie nurses to parachute in with four visits a day. A helpful bright yellow book arrived promptly in the post. We were also glad a few times to ring the emergency numbers that had been sitting by the phone for months; night duty district nurses and 111 doctors. Marie Curie were excellent, compassionate and caring ladies and one chap. Visits rapidly increased and they made sure I had a night nurse for what turned out to be the last night, one of the few nights I was going to be by myself. They told me I was going to have wonderful Linda who had been doing the overnighter ‘forever’.

Linda arrived with a huge bag, rather like a mature Mary Poppins. I explained yet again that none of the family lived nearby, but they had all been to visit and my daughter was coming back the next day. It was a busy week in real life with two grandchildren just back in the UK and starting a new school and my daughter’s son starting school! Younger son had just got engaged. Linda was there to make sure Cyberspouse was comfortable, to organise the practicalities and make sure I didn’t miss the moment…

I later got a nice card from Marie Curie and they have rung me a few times to see how I am getting on. They are a charity well worth supporting.

Handy Home Hints

You might think your loved one is past the point of seeing the GP, but it is the GP who has to prescribe the drugs and you will have to go and sign for the ‘just in case’ controlled drugs as well as collecting various ongoing prescriptions.

It is helpful if someone in the family works for the NHS or has a friend in palliative care nursing … my daughter is a physiotherapist and had that very friend to ask for advice. She always made lists of questions and sounded professional on the phone, so we were well prepared.

After the death a doctor has to come and certify the death, either the GP or the on call ( 111 ) doctor at night. After that you must call the funeral director, but you can decide if you want them to come as soon as possible or wait a while.

Afterwards you will have to return all the drugs to a pharmacy, especially the controlled drugs, but unused needles have to be returned to the doctors’ surgery.

Darkly Funny Moments.  

The next day, Thursday, the funeral directors phoned to say they had not had the notification from our GP of the death. The on call night duty doctor had sat at the kitchen table typing into his lap top, saying ‘everything is going straight through to your doctor’s surgery’ but my writer’s mind thought ‘I have no proof he’s even been here, no piece of paper, was he actually a doctor?’ I was slightly reassured that nurse Linda knew him. When my daughter tried phoning our surgery she couldn’t get through and in the end resorted to using her internal NHS email. Luckily the information did end up in the right place.

One thing the district nurses requested unsuccessfully was a hospital bed extension, we had been expecting it for weeks. When a chap with a truck arrived at the door on Thursday morning I thought he was very quick to collect the hospital bed until he said cheerfully ‘I’ve brought the bed extension’. Poor bloke was embarrassed when I apologised that it was too late.

We had not seen much of the palliative care team from the local hospital who originally got us organised. One of the nurses had phoned the previous week saying ‘I’ll touch base with you on Friday.’ Sure enough on Friday the phone rang and she said brightly ‘Just calling to touch base’… so I had to tell her the news.  

Because of  Covid we were saved a trip to the registry office; instead I had a nice phone chat to Polly the registrar including Cyberspouse’s no funeral request. After taking most of the details she asked me my occupation. Oh oh, was I going to fail this part? I replied that I had done all sorts of things and she said ‘How would you like to be known in a hundred years?’ Well who in a hundred years would know I didn’t earn a living at it, so of course I replied  ‘A writer!’

https://www.mariecurie.org.uk/help/support/terminal-illness/preparing/what-to-expect

Saturday Short Story – Lockdown Two

Vivienne looked out of her front window, the road was quiet, empty; Saturday, day three of the new lockdown. At least in the first lockdown it had been spring, a spring as warm as summer and she had not been living by herself. Glad as she was for the peace and quiet after her divorced, inexplicably homeless son had left, you could have too much peace and quiet. She was used to living by herself since Geoff died, but that was without a pandemic; going to her groups, lunches out, friends round for coffee. Now the clocks had gone back, the nights were drawing in, dark by five o’clock… a month was a long time, but there seemed little hope that it would be only a month. It made little difference that Julia had been stuck in Tier Three, no one was going anywhere. If James drove her up there for Christmas they would be the exact limit of six people, but she presumed that was another rule that had gone by the board. Now her son was talking about helping cook Christmas dinner for the homeless, no doubt because Cassie had also volunteered. Vivienne felt like a statistic, vulnerable because of her age and pitied as a one person household. Could join a bubble or was that just lonely old people who needed help, certainly not her. Meet one other person for a walk, hmm, Sonya down the road had said she must pop in for a cup of tea a couple of weeks ago, after her ex husband had departed from Sonya’s life and his own… but her new friend had been busy with the funeral and both daughters returning from abroad and now it was too late.

A morning walk would be good and the autumn weather was pleasant, a newspaper was all she needed, with James still insisting on doing her on line shopping, but it gave a little purpose to the outing. As she passed by Sonya’s front gate she was pathetically grateful to see Sonya coming towards her with the dog.

‘Oh I’m glad I caught you Vivienne, why don’t you come in for that cup of tea, I’ve still got cake left over from the funeral, I’m sure no one is going to tell on us.’

Vivienne didn’t take much persuading, she was rather curious to see inside the house. Their front gate chats had really only been about Covid, the dreadful ( Vivienne’s opinion ) dying ex husband Sonya had taken in for his last two months that had turned into seven and Vivienne’s trials and tribulations having a son in his forties back at home.

Inside, the house was bright and tidy, not at all the gloomy hospital scenario she had imagined from Sonya’s descriptions.

‘The girls did a great job helping me put the house back to rights, once the hospital bed and all that equipment had gone. Glad to get rid of all those things with wheels and brakes, the number of times I banged my ankles. It is a bit strange without him; they rang me up, the cancer charity, in case I wanted to talk. I felt like saying I would be more upset if the dog died.’

‘But you might benefit from someone to talk to, it must have been very stressful.’

‘I feel sorry for our daughters, nothing much was really resolved, especially as he was dead by the time they got here.’

‘Oh dear, I’m sorry, but it must have been good for the three of you to be together.’

‘Yes, they decided we must celebrate the good times; all those photos I had up in the loft have been digitalised and you wouldn’t believe what you can order on line.’

Vivienne could hardly miss the large framed photo in the hall. The young man bore no resemblance to the withered scowling figure Sonya pushed in his wheelchair.

‘He was very good looking.’

‘Yes, unfortunately lots of women thought so.’

Sonya led her into the front room where a large framed collage of photos took up one wall; babies, holidays, happy days by the look of it. Turning away Vivienne supressed a smile as she saw heart shaped cushions scattered on the large sofa, each bearing pictures of young Sonya with her beloved.

‘Goodness…’

‘Wait till you see the dining room, I’ll put the kettle on.’

On the dining table was a colourful jigsaw in progress, as Vivienne tried to make out the picture her friend came in with two mugs of tea and slices of cake.

‘Only his cousin actually came to the funeral, so we didn’t have to worry about numbers or getting much food in – do you like the jigsaw, that was when we had the caravan.’

Vivienne picked up the large bright mug, disconcerted to look into the eyes of the deceased ex. She thought of the one family photo and picture of she and Geoff at that dinner and dance displayed in her living room and wondered how many items in this house were dedicated to Sonya’s husband.

‘Did you see on top of the piano?’

A very blingy metal frame contained a picture of an impossibly glamorous Sonya leaning against the muscular loved one, who in turn leant against a huge shining motorbike.

‘That was before we had the children and how about this, I ordered it from Amazon, my family tree.’

On the other end of the piano was a gaudy metallic tree with heart shaped frames hanging from its branches. Tiny babies and aged people peered out.

‘It was a very reasonable price, for real silver. But I still like this best.’

Vivienne followed her gaze to a large family portrait, two little girls swamped in frills and their father gazing adoringly at his wife and daughters.

‘We won a free studio session, though it turned out you had to pay a fortune if you actually wanted to keep any pictures, but I’m glad we had that done.’

‘I wish Geoff and I had thought to do something like that, you can’t beat a professional photographer.’

‘Yes, that was taken just before he deserted us.’

Unmasked

After months of indecision and confusion from our leaders we are finally wearing facemasks – a bit. On public transport and for customers in shops it’s official, though without much hope of enforcement. Staying at home as a full time carer, the only shop I have been to is the tiny Boots’ pharmacy attached to our doctors’ surgery. Actually lots of people aren’t going to real shops; busy working couples who have been doing on line shopping for years and the ‘vulnerable’ who have discovered on line shopping and don’t trust anything the government says.

At our little chemist the staff have always worn masks and only let one person in at a time, so it feels safe, with the added benefit of privacy for discussing personal medical stuff. But I miss the jolly days crammed in with bored toddlers and having a joke with bored adults as we all waited and wondered who would hit the jackpot and get their prescription next or at all. And of course listening in to other people’s strange medical problems or listening in to the medical problems of strange people…

In Covid times we wait outside, not too many people, but with plenty of opportunity for confusion. You may think someone is pushing in, but they are making their way to the outer door of the surgery to ring the bell and report to the all powerful receptionist, who tells them to wait outside until summoned on their mobile phone; leaving them with the dilemma of which queue to stand in. The rest of us are either queueing to go in to the pharmacy or have already been in but have to wait for our prescriptions.

On my first visit with official mask wearing I got a tickly cough ( NOT a Covid cough ) as soon as I got inside – what to do? Rip off mask and take a sip out of my water bottle? NO, not allowed to touch mask let alone remove it.

One of the regular staff is always friendly and helpful, but a good while ago he was away and when he came back had lost his voice, reduced to a whisper, that was okay without a mask… I had no idea if he could hear my mask voice properly; I was there to collect new prescriptions, with either no idea what they were called or how to pronounce them and also to explain that as we were having a regular medicine in liquid form could we cancel the repeat prescription for the capsules… He checked the computer screen and the bag of medicines and the forms, but he may as well have been speaking in Martian. I understood only his last whispered words Address, post code – for a moment I thought the mask would make me forget my own address, but I managed that bit and just hoped what was in the heavy bag was all the correct stuff.

As I was leaving I did feel, in my stuffy mask, on a hot day, looking forward to taking it off as soon as I got round the corner…  I did feel at last I was part of the Covid Community.

As I was leaving, another staff member came out to give a lady her prescription and asked her address, the woman instinctively pulled down her mask to say her address…

Silly Saturday – Stonehenge’s Stones

A good news item this week was that ‘a new scientific breakthrough has, for the first time, allowed geologists to pinpoint almost exactly where Stonehenge’s giant stone uprights and lintels came from. Scientists from the University of Brighton have traced the stones to a small very specific two square mile patch of woodland just south of the village of Lockeridge, Wiltshire. Builders of Stonehenge probably chose it as their source of stone because of the exceptional sizes and relative flatness of many of its sarsen boulders.

So no one has ever noticed before that in a little wood nearby, there are huge stones lying around that just happen to look like the ones at Stonehenge? Did no one ever trip over them or fall down the holes left when the Stonehenge Sarsens were extracted?

Warning, photo taken before Covid 19 social distancing

The other ‘exciting revelation was this… ‘Professor Nash was able to analyse the Stonehenge sarsens because a core extracted from one of the monument’s giant stones during repair work in the 1950s (and taken to America by one of the engineers involved in that work) was returned to English Heritage last year.’

What! Some chap is tidying up his office and suddenly thinks ‘Now where did I put that bit of Stonehenge sixty years ago…’ Was he embarrassed to return it after all this time?

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/science/archaeology/stonehenge-stones-sarsen-archaeology-a9644436.html

Friday Flash Fiction – Open Space

Cassie was feeling more positive than she had for a while as she saw James approaching on his bicycle for their rendezvous at the austere offices of their employer MPJ. It was not because the pubs were opening tomorrow, something to be avoided, or because she believed the pandemic was over, it was not; but her mind was open to new possibilities.

‘How was the ferry James?’

‘Great, it’s so windy out there on the water this morning, I love it like that, blowing the virus away; only a few of us on the boat anyway.’ He laughed. ‘Less than a week of the ferry back on duty and they have taken away my hire car.’

Cassie couldn’t help feeling a little pleased that once again they were safely separated by the water and a limited ferry timetable. Their several meetings at the offices had been good, making life seem a little more normal, but would it be awkward now she had declined to join his bubble? Would he try and change her mind after she admitted on Facetime last night that Doris next door did not want Cassie to create a bubble for her. Doris’ son and family were now 85% sure they would be over from the USA for their delayed annual holiday and Doris was hoping they would quarantine with her, be her bubble.

James keyed them in at the side door, ushering Cassie in first and keeping a safe distance. At the desk the lone security chap looked glad to see them.

‘How many in today?’ asked James.

‘Three, no sign of the boss yet.’

They walked up the stairs; even if they had wanted to use the lift James had put several bands of yellow tape across the lift doors. The corridor was silent and Cassie stifled a giggle.

‘Why are we whispering.’

‘Strange isn’t it, I didn’t realise how noisy this place was when it was full. Coffee first? That machine must be the only thing still working at MPJ.’

It was still a bit awkward – just standing there a few feet apart. He was smiling at her.

‘I like this, having a proper chat, I know it’s not every girl’s… wom… lady’s idea of a date. That’s what I like about you Cassie, up for anything. I love the way you aren’t worried about what you wear and don’t fuss about makeup and stuff.’

Cassie wondered how to take his remarks, she couldn’t imagine him doing very well on the dating scene, but obviously she wouldn’t either.

‘Has anything new been decided about work? The parents in my group are going round the bend. The children are going back to school next week, but it’s only for two days a week, then in two weeks it will be the holidays.’

‘So what do parents usually do in the holidays?’

‘Don’t ask me, what does you sister do with her two?

‘They are too far away for my mother to help out, they take some time off for the family holiday, that’s up in the air this year… the rest of the time, holiday clubs I think.’

‘All grandparents can’t be isolating, they can’t all be old and have health issues.’

‘The younger grandparents probably have jobs, or did have. Anyway, the boss still thinks we’re all doing a wonderful job working from home and wants as few coming back here as possible till we’re absolutely sure it’s safe.’

‘You can’t blame him after losing his daughter and that girl in my department, but it’s never going to be a hundred per cent safe in any work place, safe anywhere for sure.’

‘He’s changed a lot,’ said James ‘those who have known him a long time say he’s changed completely. Now we not only have to treat all the staff as family, we have to look after the homeless as well.’

‘I know, I got the email, I volunteered.’

‘I didn’t volunteer, it’s been dumped on me, have to work out the logistics of using this nearly empty building to make sure nobody in this city goes back on the streets.’

‘Isn’t that the future of offices, that’s what everyone is saying, but what do the homeless want? That’s what I’m going to find out at this ‘People in the Park’ thing this afternoon.’

‘Oh that, don’t you go taking in strangers Cassie.’

‘Is that likely, I’m afraid I’m not that much of a do-gooder, my home is my castle.’

‘Don’t I know it’ said James.

Cassie smiled to herself as she cycled to the park. Poor James, she was still managing to avoid telling him where she lived, but would she feel home owner guilt as she met up with these homeless people?

Luckily some overly sincere volunteer was facilitating the little gathering in the park, a couple of other MPJ people and five men and women and a dog. Cassie didn’t think of herself as good with people, but this little straggle of folk must be feeling even more nervous. She found herself drawn to the chap with the shaggy dog, Sam he introduced himself. The others were happy to let him do the talking, he was engaging and had good ideas. He needed a haircut, but so did everybody till the barbers reopened tomorrow; Sam didn’t match the homeless stereotype. Staying in a hotel obviously helped and perhaps he was recently homeless without ‘complex issues’. The more he talked the more fascinated Cassie was, how could such a chap have ended up with nothing in the world except a rescued dog? But what he said was true, how would putting these people in an empty office building help if they didn’t have jobs to regain their self respect. Where would the jobs come from in a post Covid recession.

When they broke up from their carefully distanced circle, agreeing to meet next week, Cassie felt she was at least part of something new and positive, even if she couldn’t see how it would work out. She felt a cold nose on her hand.

‘Sorry Miss, Sheba doesn’t understand social distancing.’

‘Oh er, call me Cassie please Sam, I like dogs, or at least I’ve never had one… I have got a pair of geckos.’

‘Really, how about that, I used to have some strange pets when I was a kid.’

Sam’s route around the park, with Sheba glad to be on the move, was the same path back to where Cassie had locked her bike. He walked parallel with her, keeping to the edge of the path, a safe distance, but smiling and chatting. Yes, Cassie felt she was part of something new and positive.

Silly Saturday – Secret Sorties

The opening of pubs in England on the fourth of July might be welcomed by many, including characters in books and television dramas, but characters and their writers might be in for a shock. Pubs in fiction are where people meet, either by arrangement or propped at the bar chatting to a stranger. Large and busy pubs are also where characters good and bad like to lurk anonymously, looking out in case they are being followed or following someone. In the best stories our heroes and lead characters inevitably have secrets they must keep from family and friends; in dark corners of noisy pubs they meet up to exchange important information unnoticed.

Roving campervan detective, Tobias Channing, in my latest novel, regularly sought out popular chain Wetherspoons for a cheap meal where he would be unnoticed as the stranger in town. Fortunately his story is set firmly in 2014, pandemics are one of the few things he doesn’t have to cope with.

What of novels and dramas of the future? No one will be slipping anonymously into any establishment. At the pub you will have to give your name and contact details at the door, perhaps needing your passport to prove who you are. Inside you must sit down and wait to be served and you had better take a book to read or your phone to play with as you won’t get chatting to strangers. There will only be two or three other customers, all spaced well away.

And if you want to pop to the toilets to do a drug deal, sniff a line of cocaine or squeeze through a tiny window to escape the enemy you have just spotted, you are out of luck. You have to ask the bar staff for permission to visit the Ladies or Gents and they will be buzzing in one person at a time.

This picture on Facebook elicited lots of shares.

If this idea from Paris catches on it won’t do much for the street cred of a crime boss or super spy to sit with Big Ted.

Silly Saturday – Summer Solstice

Hurrah it’s the longest day of the year; but that doesn’t mean you cannot join in the fun if you are in the southern hemisphere. One of the features of the new WordPress BLOCKS, which not many people are aware of, is the fifth dimension, which only works twice a year at Solstice. Simply click on a picture and you can be transported to that place. A square picture will take you there in the present, a round picture will take you to the exact moment the photograph was taken. Got it? Just make sure you read the complicated WordPress instructions on how to return…

River Avon, Christchurch
Whitby, North Yorkshire
Salisbury, Wiltshire
Ironbridge, River Severn, Shropshire
Bournemouth, Dorset
The Forth Bridge – don’t forget to take your letters to post.
Westminster
Cornwall
Think carefully before choosing this one.
Come in for a cup of tea.

How did you get on? Tell us which was your favourite place.

Friday Flash Fiction – 707 – Bubbles

Vivienne looked out of the bedroom window across the road, glad to see signs of life. The little boy in the corner house was outside again after the welcome rain, playing swing ball on the lawn. Since the family moved in a couple of years ago the house had been transformed, the noise of all the building work had been worth it and with the designer garden it was a welcome outlook in these restricted days. Young Freddy was an only child, she had felt sorry for him, such a quiet little thing, not like her grandson, but he seemed happy with his own company, playing, building tents and searching for wild life amongst the flowers and his father’s strange sculptures. She wondered if a grandparent or lost uncle would be added to their household to create one of these new bubbles, more confusing instructions from Boris. Well she couldn’t join a bubble, not with James living with her, you had to be living on your own; so still no chance of seeing Jason and Jacintha. Julia and Jack lived too far away to pop round with the twins and stand in the front garden. Even if she had been on her own who would they choose to share their bubble; she felt a stab of jealousy, probably one of Jack’s divorced parents, his lonely father or his needy mother. Unless they had both acquired new partners…  Vivienne smiled to herself, she couldn’t be bothered to house train another man, even in the unlikely event of meeting someone. She imagined some dreadful man in his eighties wanting to try out Viagra, or even worse, a chap in his declining years searching for someone to look after him.

Over dinner it turned out James had his own idea about bubbles.

‘What would you think Mother about inviting Cassie to join our bubble?’

‘We haven’t got a bubble.’

‘No, but we could make one. Cassie hasn’t got any family, she’s new in the area, so perhaps she would be glad to visit us?’

Vivienne pictured having someone new to talk to, someone intelligent to chat with, not about geckos, but it sounded as if this on line girlfriend had plenty of other interests, including her new gardening adventures.

‘Or I could visit her.’

She wondered what her son had in mind exactly, how did on line dating work? It was not new, a few of her friends had had some hair raising adventures on line, or rather, when they went off line. James visiting Cassie would obviously give them privacy, surely he didn’t want his mother part of the bubble.

‘What does Cassie think?’

‘I haven’t mentioned it yet?’

‘Has she suggested you meet up in the open, now there are less restrictions?’

‘No, I sometimes think she prefers being on line, she has never exactly said where she lives. I only know it’s within cycling distance of work.’

‘And how would you get there with the ferry still being out of action, surely not on your bicycle?’

‘The boss was talking about a short term car hire. I shall have to go in to the office soon, if only to finish my assessment of who or if anyone can work in the building. Anyway, what about you Mum, you could go out a bit now. ’

‘A walk round the block is going to be my limit for a while yet, where would I go with everywhere closed ?’

‘It’s a pity you gave up driving so long ago.’

‘Because you could have borrowed my car?’

‘No, no of course not, so you would be independent.’

‘I was independent, near the town centre for my bits of shopping, meeting friends at that nice waterside restaurant, popping over on the ferry for a proper shopping day out and of course Suzanna was always happy driving me and Dee out and about on our little outings.’

‘Oh… yes, I’m sorry that must have been such a shock.’

‘…and most of us only finding out on the grapevine, Suzanna’s family didn’t know who all her friends were, not that we could have gone to the funeral. She was the fittest of all of us, the last one we expected to get Covid.’

For some pre-Covid tales, why not dip into one of my collections?

A second anthology from the author of ‘Dark and Milk,’ including recent prize winning short stories. As you would expect, some tales are light, others very dark and you will not know which are which until it is too late! Visit places you may or may not find on a map, discover the Hambourne Chronicles and meet people who may not be what they seem.

Friday Flash Fiction – Freddy

They didn’t do clapping and banging saucepans last night, did that mean Covid was going away? Freddy didn’t want Covid to go away, he wanted it to stay forever so he didn’t have to go to school ever again and Mummy and Daddy didn’t have to go to work ever again.

Freddy was good at home schooling; he did all the work his teacher set, he did lots of BBC Bites, he liked those and the extra work his parents set because they didn’t think his teacher gave him hard enough work. Even when Mummy was doing conference calls and Daddy was busy on his lap top, Freddy carried on working, looking up countries in the big atlas or writing a story. If he kept being good at home schooling then he wouldn’t need to go back to school.

At the weekend they had had an important conversation with him.

‘The Prime Minister says your class can go back to school, but we have some bad news… now don’t be too disappointed, but Daddy and I have decided you should not go back yet. We are very proud of you doing so well at home schooling and it might not be safe at school; remember how we measured two metres?’

‘Yes and our desks are closer than that’ said Freddy hopefully.

‘What Mummy means is that some of the children who aren’t as clever as you might forget at playtime and bump into you.’

Freddy knew for sure who would bump into him, purposely and give him Covid. He certainly didn’t want to go back to school if They were going to be there.

‘Are the other children in my class going back?’

‘Some are, perhaps when things settle down you will be able to go back.’

Freddy didn’t want things to settle down. Perhaps They would go back to school and catch Covid and die.

At bedtime he listened to his mother talking on the phone, who was she talking to?

‘Yes I know, it’s a difficult decision, we’re just lucky we can work from home and Freddy has taken to home schooling so well. But it’s not really fair on him, being an only child, he needs to be with other children. Yes, I heard about that, extending the end of term.