Sit’ Rep’: we have been staying tF at home with steely resolve. We have supplies, we have the internet, we have countryside on the doorstep. We are socially distanced. We are, if anything, a little fitter than usual. We are – touch wood – well.
We are very, very fortunate.
Although, quietly, slowly, I have also had a realisation. Namely that life will never be the same again.
What does that bring to mind? The future of work? Of travel? Health? Politics? Recession?
While all of those may be now set on an unexpected, unpredictable path there is a factor that is unique viewed through the Beer clan lens.
Pretty soon the kids aren’t going to be kids anymore. They are not even going to be here.
Circumstance has caused the eldest, accidentally, through no action of her own, to finish her schooling. Exactly what will happen for the (A-level) class of twenty-twenty is unclear at this time, but it seems almost certain that whatever happens, she ain’t going back to school.
The Beer quartet are soon to become the Beer trio.
Even with the security of a roof over our heads, a cottage is oft oppressive in these strange days. Of course, we are not prisoners. Far from it. We are more like astronauts simulating a space journey, living together in the same experimental earthbound capsule shaped like the family home. We are in erratic orbit trapped by the gravity of Covid-19. Our crew only truly aligning for dinner each evening, before each melt away into private evenings of 21st century head-space. (Not so long ago broadcast TV would be the conduit for our shared space, shared experience… No more as separate screens glow in each cabin.)
Strangely immune from normal routines, waking times, bedtimes et al. “Weekends” have become tragi-comically irrelevant. The clock-change to BST? Seemed like an April fools. Whereas April fools was properly out-of-sorts and didn’t seem like itself at all.
The only certainty is the evening meal. Yet whenever we sit down to dinner – and boy, there has been some top notch cookery action – I find myself looking beyond the food. Surreptitiously I check my family’s faces, taking mental snapshots. Then I check-in with my own feelings and choke back a tear. I know that wherever we are headed, we won’t naturally pass by this way again. Not like this. Assuming we are – forgive the dramatic tone here – saved from the pandemic, this family chapter will, come summer, close and a page will turn. The table will soon be set for three. Our daughter will leave home. Time will pass in a heartbeat and then, so will our son move on.
Table for two.
Present day April 2020. We four squabble, we disagree, we laugh – a lot – and yet we make a reasonably effective team. I genuinely don’t mind being cooped up on this mission together. Rather, I am cherishing it. As I write – for I have not said this aloud in a “Father-has-an-announcement” proclamation at the kitchen table – this is somehow a secret. To identify the elephant in the room, I fear, will somehow make it the only topic of conversation: we are flowing along a river that will soon meet the sea. This is made all the more poignant in the knowledge that the simple, daily focal family dinner will soon require diaries, planning and an effort to simply occur.
Right now is precious, because life will never be the same again.
Stay well everyone.