The sun’s come out in anger for the first time this year and as I am British I have a cultural responsibility. Rising to this I took to the garden with a deck chair and a tight vest in order to burn its shape and outline into my pasty body as soon as possible. I pinged at around 3pm on day one. Job done. Laid out with my top off, I now look like the beginnings of a helicopter landing pad dug out of raspberry jam.
Sunburn has made me grouchy. The children haven’t noticed a marked change in my mood but they do now look up when I walk into the room. This is not for any reason of concern, it is more that my skin is now so dry from the sudden change in temperature and my disdain for the advised protective products that I sound like a walking crisp packet. They only look up because they think I’ve opened a bag. Their interest wanes the moment they realise I haven’t. So off I walk. My discomfort has required me to adapt my stride so my legs don’t rub together, while also holding my arms out from my side for the same reason. The result is a movement that is stiff-limbed and clumsy and to reflect this, my wife has nicknamed me ‘Forky,’ in reference to a character in Toy Story who is made out a fixed plastic fork, goggle eyes and some pipe cleaner.
This name has lead to some misunderstandings when shouted.
We are still on Easter holidays of course. The depressing thing about this is that it would appear we have been for a couple of months now and still we are not actually at f##king Easter yet. This weekend is a bank holiday weekend apparently. Even the calendar is mocking me.
The woman over the road is tallying. By this I mean she is keeping a tally of people walking past her house, making sure they are taking their one walk a day and no more. I know this because she is making sure everyone knows it. Whenever someone passes she bangs on her window, points at her tally chart and puts up her finger to denounce this is walk number one mister. The world needs people like her right now: diligent, determined and a stark reminder that it is all of our responsibility to keep each other safe.
But also I am a little bored, I have some time on my hands, I like a little challenge and I have a number of outfits for a number of occasions…
The first time I walked past her is just me. I waved. She put her finger up to denounce ONE! So I know that was it, my one walk for the day.
It has begun.
The next time I walked past I used the Bee Gee slash sex-offender look from a previous diary entry. This time I needed a wig but I was still very capable of finishing the look with back-combed belly hair and you-can’t-tell-where-I’m-looking-pervert-glasses. I even did a little disco dance past her, mainly in celebration when I, again, get one finger raised to confirm that the disguise had her fooled.
I’m getting into this now. The next run is a little off-the-shoulder number, kitten heels, hairy legs and a single finger that I press to my lips like I have been a very naughty boy. This time I got no response, she just seemed to step away from the window and I was left with my arms out, stood in the middle of the road, my handbag dripping from my open palm, legs shoulder-width apart demanding an explanation - like it’s 3am outside a Thanet nightclub and the date I’d been buying drinks for all night is pulling away in a taxi.
By the time I was changed into the inflatable dinosaur suit for my fourth pass the police had arrived. A separate neighbour believes the chase that ensued is the funniest thing he has ever seen.
And for the record – in her police statement, little-miss-tally-over-the-road states that this was the first time she had seen the ‘hairy-legged burns victim in a dress’ walk past her house. Chalk that one up as a win for Gallagher.
I’ve been having really weird dreams. One was so far-fetched that I was actually out of the house, in a coffee shop, the bastard kids were at school and someone else’s responsibility and I didn’t have to know any maths at all.
A big event recently was putting the clocks forwards to ensure it is now harder to put the children to bed. The lighter evenings are not all bad however as they have presented me with an opportunity to spend some time on myself… to get in shape, to be the best me I can be.
So yesterday, at around midday, while sat in the sun with a Hazelnut Magnum on the go, and, having lost a bit of the cracked chocolate to the cavern that is now my belly button, I made a decision. My wife was sat next to me. I looked at her and poked my bulbous, isolation-fuelled pot belly and announced to the wife that I am going to start that 60 day fitness DVD programme I have always talked about doing ‘when I had the time.’ The one that cost me £100 six years ago.
She didn’t engage. Part of her was doubting me, I could tell that. So I gave her a rousing speech: I told her that when it comes to getting in shape the essential ingredients are willpower, determination and sheer guile. You have to be able to put your mind to something to get it done and, fortunately, these are all things that I have in abundance. I would have proved that six years ago when I bought it too, but the cellophane wrapper on that DVD is an absolute joke… ridiculous, far too tight round that case. I do remember giving it a good go but some things are just insurmountable...
She looked me up and down and then said… ‘yeah, you like starting stuff don’t you.’
So I thought, right then, that’s only made me more determined! The cellophane this time was short work with the aid of a pair of scissors (time must have weakened it see) and I set up the DVD player in the garden, I figure if I’m going to do a workout, I might as well inspire those who can overlook me. In my mind, as I emerge from my house with pop socks and my leotard from the nineties, I look like Jane Fonda (for a moment I consider another pass on tally-woman but I was lucky to get off with a warning). But it is during the first few star jumps of the warmup where I catch my reflection in a distant window that I realise I actually look like someone has shaken up a sweaty lava lamp.
That cellophane wouldn’t go back on either.
Laters yeah. Stay in, stay safe, protect our wonderful NHS and have a wonderful bank holiday weekend. Indoors.
Today is day 44 of isolation with my family. Piggy is now in charge and family meetings are called daily by someone blowing into a conch. What the hell even is a conch? Just the word makes me angry – it’s so up itself and pretentious… ooh, look at me, I’m a conch! You’re not, you’re a jumped up shell mate, now f@ off.
I am angry. Everything is making me angry. We have been in here now for 58 days and still there is no return of live sport, actual schoolteachers or any sign of conversation with an actual adult other than my wife. Don’t get me wrong, I like talking to my wife but I-spy is becoming a little bit tedious now...
Wife: ‘I-spy, with my little eye, something beginning with H.’
Me: ‘It’s house again, isn’t it…’
School’s out. The last update was just before that. You didn’t miss much and can rest assured that the last days of lessons were a mismatch of terrible maths, worse drawings, me wondering if English is actually my first language and some practical lessons (the six year old is now incredible with throwing knives – there’s real talent there). I have no idea what day this is but some b@stard had a pop, they got in touch on FB and said I’d missed a day or two of my ‘journal’. One – this is not a journal, this is a rant at best, a cry for help more like. And Two - ‘missed a day or two!?’ What does that even mean anymore? And how long does it have to be before I’ve not missed days, more a period. As in, a period of my life. I was in my prime when this started! Tall, slim, sexy… Look at me now… Short, broken, so full of Pizza Hut stuffed crust that I reckon if you pulled my arm off it would have that delicious stringy cheese stretched out between it – and just slightly alcoholic. I mean, not so I depend on it. I just really need it. Or I get the shakes.
They took the recycling away last Thursday. I was terrified of being judged… the sheer volume of wine and beer bottles in my recycling… we cleared up less after my wedding reception… So when they came Thursday morning I stayed in bed waiting for it and it turns out I needn’t have worried – I am not the only one! Every bin as they came up the road was tipped up to make a sound like someone had ram-raided an off-licence! It was beautiful.
The kids are now officially on Easter Holiday. This means there is no home-schooling as part of surviving the day, so now - and for the next two weeks – it is literally just surviving the day. Yesterday afternoon we watched Frozen II as a family. They have both seen it twice before and I have not seen it at all. They can also work Alexa to play the soundtrack just about every waking hour. This means that they are on hand to not only tell me what is about to happen throughout the film but also to sing along like a couple of alley-cats trying to ward off would-be attackers at every one of the bastard songs. They sing like sirens. Not the sort that are part of mythology, who sit out on rocks and lead sailors to their doom with their beautiful, alluring voices, but the sort that sit on top of a police car and slice the air up into a raucous cacophony of NEEEEEEEEENAAAAAAAAA’S…..
This could have been a wonderful family moment despite everything but instead it was the point where I realised that, right now, I would rather sit and watch a film with an open wound than these two poorly brought up, feral little shites. They ate all my popcorn. I try not to be bitter about it. And just to rub salt into the (open) wound, they then sang with their mouths full.
Fortunately, as the children have become more and more unbearable, our springer spaniel has also upped his game. Not one to be left out, he has decided to encroach on the one thing that my wife finds more affective than anything else for a bit of escapism - she loves spending a little time lost doing a jigsaw puzzle. So the spaniel has recognised this and eaten 25 puzzle pieces of her one ‘under construction’. We only know this because he spat a piece out yesterday, a moment before he swooped to steal a BBQ burger in the garden. Then the wife ‘finished’ said puzzle later in the evening. Except for the 25 gaps, laid out to mock me in turn. He’s always my dog when he’s badly behaved. With my wife raging at me like it was my fault I come back quickly with the suggestion that, thinking about it, I’ve bagged up his garden poos and they are still in the dustbin if she wants the challenge of seeing if they fit together? This does nothing to appease her. Two puzzles for the price of one! I try, along with a little shuffle and that expression that says come on! Every cloud! If anything she’s angrier. I’ll never understand women.
I also took the plunge and shaved my head. I said it was coming. The prompt was a picture on a newsfeed that showed David Beckham has now shaved his head. David Beckham is much like the afore-mentioned Brad Pitt – it suits him, any hair suits him, he is an attractive man and remains so – even with a one-all-over. I thought that somehow, this time, I would be the same. I am not. David and Brad remain sex symbols, I look like the prognosis is not good and I am having one last trip to Disney.
Fortunately there is light at the end of the miserable tunnel. Wednesday evening I get to put the bins out again, which involves a walk up to the end of the drive and back. And Friday I have a new book out. It is no less sweary than the above and, much like living in a world where the children are at home all the time and there is no getting away from them, there is no promise of a happy ending… But you can pre-order it here:
Stay safe. Stay home. Don't worry about your recycling.
My cat’s a bastard. I watch him stroll in through the cat flap, unruffled, carefree, still with the stench of fresh air lingering on his coat. He’s been out. Outside. Out there, wherever the hell he wants to. He might just be coming back from my favourite coffee shop for all I know. Maybe right now it is full of cats; a burly Tom is the barista, the straggly street cat is up at the piano ‘cause he knows a tune while a couple of kittens bring out the drinks and pastries as a Saturday job. Just getting a little bit of pocket money for catnip at the weekend.
My cat stops in the middle of patch of sunlight in the middle of the kitchen floor. He knows I’m looking at him. He doesn’t care. First he’s been out, now he’s licking his own gentleman’s area.
I wish I could do that. (The going out bit I mean, obviously… honestly… you people.)
I watched the neighbour’s cat earlier too. He lives opposite. He’s one of these puffs-of-white cats, like someone has drawn a couple of black smudges for feet on an earbud and then had it manicured and blow-dryed. He always looks well turned out – too pretty for something that basically lives on the street. Like how I imagine Elton John looks in his pyjamas: white, puffy – but always absolutely marvellous. I watched this cat casually walking along the top of a fence – just because he can. One paw brought round to place in front of the other – delicate, elegant, arrogant. Bastard.
I watched him for maybe twenty minutes and then I only stopped because he went out of sight. If he had dozed off on the top of that fence I might still be watching him now. Waiting for a highlight like a twitch or a sneeze. Why? You may ask… The same reason you’ve just read three paragraphs about cats. God I’m bored…
And now I have an added pressure. Every time I go into the bathroom I am considering when might be the right time to use those clippers on the windowsill. To shave my head. A number one all over. I did it before but for very different reasons. It was around the time when Brad Pitt did Fight Club and he had that close-shaved look. All the girls well fancied him. My mistake was not considering that all the girls have always well-fancied him - no matter his hairstyle - because he’s that sort of bloke. If he were a cat he’d be one of those white bastards elegantly wondering across a fence, his paws neatly brought round one in front of the other, looking like a puffed up earbud with feet drawn on – well aware that the creepy neighbour opposite is looking at him behind turned-in blinds. When Brad Pitt shaved his head he still looked sexy-good. He had the face and the body to pull it off. I did not. I had the face I have now, which comes free with a freakishly long neck and the body of a racing snake. He looked like a Hollywood Hunk. I looked like a toffee apple.
The clippers have remained on the window sill for now. But I know it’s coming.
The cat’s just gone out again. He asked me if I needed anything. Said he might be a while. I hate cats.
We split the day today. Both the wife and I have work to do. She agreed to have the kids for the morning so I could write some words and cover a radio interview and then I would come down for the afternoon and she would lock herself away to work. When I came down the kids had done most of their work. They were pre-occupied too, both playing nicely and leaving me the hell alone. The wife was shut up in Josie’s room (it has a desk) and I saw a little opportunity. Yes I was supposed to be doing some activities with the kids but they seemed to be keeping themselves amused… and it was probably educational…
Anyway. I took a gamble. I thought the wife would be busy. I thought she would be locked away. I thought I would get away with it. Four minutes after I snuck into the living room I got this picture sent to my phone. It was from the wife. It was entitled ‘home-schooling.’