Thursday, 21 January 2021

Lockdown Diaries: Amanda Stewart

AMANDA STEWART is a journalist living in Woodcote with her partner, two sons (one semi-feral), five sheep, seven peacocks, eight hens and two dogs.

WHACK. I had face-planted in the mud on Gallowstree Common. I cursed covid-19, not for the first time.

You see, normally I walk the dogs in a more remote area, definitely not choosing the sticky muddy footpaths of Gallowstree.

But, as we are once again in lockdown, I had thought that I would walk somewhere whereby I might catch a glimpse of a living person, even if it’s just a silhouette in the distance. It has to be better than seeing no one, right?

As I lay flat on my face in the mud, bits of grass and autumnal yellow and brown leaves stuck to my face, I pondered as to which dog had knocked me over.

Then covid thoughts snuck into my brain and... What if I am really hurt? Will I be off to the Royal Berkshire Hospital? Will I catch covid there? What if I die? I’d always wanted a big funeral. You can’t have those? I want a horse and carriage, who will read the eulogies? Bloody covid. Again I cursed as I gingerly assessed the damage and, as I did, the phone rang.

It was Ines, one of my oldest and equally scatty friends. She asks: “Are you walking the dogs?” I reply “No”, adding: “I’m just sat on a footpath watching leaves fall.” She then asks me why I would be doing something like that. My sense of humour starting to return, I answered that I was studying the movements of squirrels during lockdown. “Oh”, she says, as if that is actually something I might be doing.

You see, nothing would probably surprise Ines. Indeed, just before lockdown, I had helped Ines unpack her house — she recently moved to Midhurst in Sussex and as we couldn’t find the knives and forks, let alone pots and pans, we had decided to get a takeaway pizza supper only, of course, due to covid, we needed the wretched face-masks to collect our food. Now where were they?

After checking about 55 unpacked boxes, we gave up and drove into Midhurst having ordered our pizzas and stood in the restaurant doorway, contemplating how to solve the non-mask problem.

The staff were staring at us with understandably unfriendly faces. We had no bloomin’ masks. Could they throw us the pizzas?

Judging by their stony faces that wasn’t going to be an option.

I delved into the pockets of my jacket. A few old horse nuts, soggy stale dog biscuits and, of course, a “dog-poo” bag — voila, problem solved.

We both placed the “poo-bags” over our faces and fell about laughing. The tie-handles funnily enough fitted snugly around our ears. Bloody covid could do one, we were winning at life.

We crept into the pizza shop, two middle-aged women donning dog-poo bags across their faces. We’re both ordinarily (I think) considered reasonably quite glamorous and we must have surely looked like a sketch from Absolutely Fabulous. Anyway, we didn’t care.

We secured our pizzas, paid contactless, of course, and mustered up as much dignity as we could, much to the amusement of onlookers. The staff were now laughing at our predicament.

Anyway, back to the woods. I finished the phone call from Ines, sat up and made my way back to my car.

I returned home from my eventful dog walk, stripped off my mud-laden clothes by the back door and placed them in the washing machine.

Rinsing the mud from my face, I wondered if real actual mud is as good for the skin as they claim? Every cloud has a silver lining, I optimistically mused.

Re-dressed, I flomped down in my favourite chair in the kitchen. As I look up, there’s a hen staring at me on the table. It must have followed the smell. The hen settled down next to me. I sighed.

This is 2020. Nothing is quite as it seems. If someone told me last year that I would march into a shop with a dog-poo bag over my face or actually enjoy breakfast with a hen, I’d have thought they were not all the ticket.

Strange times.

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