My stomach sank when I watched the Prime Minister's news conference on Tuesday night. Another lockdown. Level 4.
At least we're not in Auckland or the Coromandel, I thought.
Our household sprang to inaction, bearing in mind lessons from our last Covid rodeo. Here's what we've done so far:
Tuesday, August 17
6pm: Sit in front of the computer listening to news of the community case of Covid-19 in Auckland. Marvel at the big guy signing beside Jacinda, who not only communicates with his hands, but also with his face. He has the best expressions and should work all the press briefings.
6.20pm: Text a friend about our coffee date tomorrow, which likely won't happen. She has just had her first vaccine dose. My first shot is scheduled for tomorrow. I'm jealous. I consider inviting her for a cup of tea or glass of wine to beat the lockdown buzzer tonight. I refrain after remembering that my friend lives in Auckland for half the month.
6.40pm: Farewell Miss 17, who's off to a quiz night at college dressed as a tennis player. She even has a racquet and balls. Good thing lockdown doesn't start until 11.59pm tonight.
7pm: We're out of milk. Drive to the corner store to stock up on essentials before the masses descend tomorrow and we all must queue.
7.02pm: A queue stretches along the outside of the store. Apparently, lockdown has started early. I chat to the man behind me. Neither of us wears a mask. I figure I have nearly five hours before needing to pull the rarely used piece of fabric from my glove box.
7.12pm: The store is bustling with shoppers. I remind myself I am only here for two essentials - milk and microwave popcorn. I leave with those items, plus dark chocolate, unsweetened and chocolate almond milk, coconut cream biscuits, three bags of chips, salt and vinegar pea snaps, two kinds of cereal, eggs, a 2kg bag of granny smith apples, Havarti cheese, Shiraz wine, a can of craft beer and a frozen cheesecake. Stocking up on toilet paper is cliche, so I buy none. Also, no bread, because all the good stuff is gone.
7.35 pm: Return home to Miss 17, whose quiz night was cancelled because of the impending lockdown. "It's not even midnight yet!" says my daughter.
.:40 pm: Master 15 emerges from his computer cave to celebrate the fact school is cancelled tomorrow. Reality slaps him across the face as he realises he won't be able to see his friends for at least a few days, maybe longer. "That sucks," he says.
7.45 pm: Eat leftovers for dinner. Thankfully, I had restarted our lapsed meal kit subscription, so our repertoire this week will extend beyond fish cakes and pasta.
8.30 pm: Finish taking pie orders online for a fundraiser for Miss 17's soccer tournament, set to start in 12 days. The pies will be delayed and the tournament may be cancelled. This makes me sad, as she is in Year 13. This would be the last chance for her to travel with her team. I remember my American friends whose children missed an entire year of face-to-face school, including graduation.
8.35 pm: Start watching episodes of Dr Death on TVNZ, because what's more uplifting than seeing a sociopathic neurosurgeon maiming and killing people? The show is based on the true story of a former doctor in Texas.
11.30pm: Go to bed later than usual. Set no alarm.
Wednesday, August 18
7am: Wake up to birds tap dancing on my roof, and the news of more community cases of Covid, bringing the total to 10.
9am: Walk the dog. All my Papamoa neighbours are doing the same. They're walking dogs, babies, partners… Some wear masks. Everyone keeps at least a 2m distance and we cross a lot of streets to avoid each other.
10am: Peel, core and cut eight apples for crumble. Make topping, which includes lockdown basics of butter, flour and sugar. It's important we keep up our strength.
10.40am: I have burned the crumble. The top is slightly blackened, while the apples are undercooked. I pick out as many charred bits as possible. Despite its shortcomings, the crumble will disappear in about 24 hours.
11am: Eat a second breakfast consisting of an English muffin with peanut butter and orange marmalade.
1pm: Watch the Prime Minister's news conference. My favourite sign language interpreter must have the day off. I miss him. A beam of sunlight immobilises the dog and me. We fall asleep on the sofa in the middle of the briefing.
2pm: Reschedule my Covid vaccine jab for next week.
5pm: Happy hour online with two work colleagues. They take turns freezing on-screen. Invariably, their eyes are closed when this happens.
You can fill in the rest. We are back in Lockdownland. It's familiar, yet uneasy territory - eating, walking, working, trying to socialise online. This is how most of the world has lived for much of the past year and a half.
Maybe, like me, you had reverted back to old ways of overscheduling and overcommitting after last year's seven-week lockdown. Covid has hit the pause button. We can only hope the intermission is brief.