Ordinary Things

I’ve been sorting batteries into piles. Those working and those defunct. Yesterday I cleaned the cupboard under the sink, realising that I have enough cleaning supplies to last months. One friend shaved her head for cancer research, another worked out how to use the pyrolytic function on an oven she’s used for years. We’re not bored. Many of those around me are juggling offspring of all ages with work, study and the need to maintain sanity. Mostly we’re conquering the ordinary things that build up in the flotsam and jetsam of life. For my friend shaving her head – we’ll she’s done an extraordinary thing.

For us in the privileged and developed world, the lock-down means our days are full of ordinary things. Pete walks for hours on end. Not only will this help him overcome an injury that’s troubled him for years, but it’s allowing him to know his surroundings. Then there’s the angelic ordinariness to the way the girls are playing together. At 8 and 10 they’re still childlike in their endeavours to build huts and pull out the paints. It’s as though they too need to get back to basics and creating the mess that there’s never time for outside of lock-down.

Ruby cooked dinner for us last night. It was a thing for Guides. Other girls had been baking up a storm for their parents so I thought she could take on dinner. I soon realised that she’d never used a can opener. She turned the oven on to grill without adjusting the temperature, and didn’t know how to tell when the oil in the pan was warm. Now there’s time for these life lessons.

Learning is all around us. We’re talking about getting more tropical fish after lock-down. Territorial is how we’d describe our Chinese sucker fish. Terra being Latin for earth, territory being the zone the girls are playing in. A simple conversation about our fish turned to a lesson in vocabulary. Spontaneous research happens frequently too. Ruby befriended a garden insect and wanted to know more. According to Bug Man Ruud Kleinpaste, cockroaches are the world’s best recyclers of human mess. Who knew? Knowledge is everything.

Exercise is different. It feels a little weird doing it so publicly, outdoors, but still in our own bubble. It’s a bit like undressing in public. Bikes are everywhere and novice cyclists are seeing the light of day. And there’s a sweet strangeness to seeing all of these couples out walking. It’s as though the walkers with dogs are the only ones who can legitimately say “but we usually do this”.

The world is applauding the doctors, nurses, and emergency service workers who head out to protect us each day. And it’s my sincere hope that this pandemic will turn the spotlight on public spending on health and well-being worldwide. But I’m applauding the ordinary workers too. The butcher who donned gloves and a mask and dropped off our meat last night after dark. Or the supermarket workers enforcing lines and distance protocol, all the while dishing out hand sanitiser and scrubbing metal trolleys. Ordinary as those tasks may seem, they too are our lock-down heroes.

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