Taupō & Tūrangi Weekender editor Laurilee McMichael chronicles life in alert level 4 lockdown.
Day Eight of lockdown: cases 797
We're living in a strange new world. A world where pants are optional. A world where hoodies and sneakers, usually picked up off the floor from the day before, are work wear. Where makeup and some days even showers, just seem like too much work and where you only bother brushing your hair if you have a Zoom meeting starting in five minutes. I've claimed the home computer to work on. It's in the dining/kitchen area which means I'm constantly interrupted by the sounds of my kids fighting and calling each other rude names, and the sight of them smearing food across the benches and floors. My hubby has set himself up in the bedroom, hunched over his laptop on a camping table that's the wrong height. He does a lot of Skyping so we have to keep the bed behind him made and I live in constant fear of waltzing half-dressed through the background of one of his calls en route to my jeans drawer.
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Day Nine: cases 868
It's official: working from home bites. All day I am confronted with the spinning circle of death as my computer struggles to deal with the amount of applications I have open. Everything takes 10 times longer than it would in the office and it's always worse in the afternoon. Even opening a simple text-only email can chew up minutes. I'm sure my bosses think I'm useless. They are of course right, but I blame the rest on the internet. Outside, it's another perfect day. The longer I spend in lockdown, the more I yearn to do things that beforehand I never gave a second thought to. A chat in the office with workmates. A wander through town. A trip to the mountain bike park. All now forbidden.
Day Ten: cases 950
It's a beautiful Saturday morning and - hooray! - I don't have to work so the kids and I go for a stroll along the lakefront although we soon get sidetracked picking blackberries along the way. My son scooters home for a container and we pick enough for a batch of blackberry and cream cheese muffins. The boys soon get bored and go home but my daughter and I carry on in silent enjoyment. There is no need to rush off, no sports event to get to, no story to file or commitment that has to be fulfilled. We have all the time in the world and so much time to see the small things. We eventually and reluctantly turn for home, because the sun is shining and only one of us (me, the sensible one) thought to wear a hat. Late in the afternoon, I go for a bike ride, by myself. For years when the kids were small my husband and I each had to exercise alone. Back then, I often resented having to bike on my own. Today, after 12 days in the non-stop company of four other people, being out by myself in the late-afternoon sunshine feels like heaven.
Day Eleven: cases 1039
Daylight saving has ended and here comes winter, that time of the year when your thoughts turn to soup and firewood (not eaten together, obviously), when you add an extra blanket to the bed and start inviting the cat to sleep on top of it. I have a grey pumpkin for the soup and when a knife proves not up to the job, take to it with an axe to get it into chunks. Autumn, I suppose, is not a bad time of year for a lockdown - it's warm enough to get outside. Although maybe wet weather would motivate me to attack some of the spring-cleaning jobs that the more fanatical of those on the internet have taken to endorsing. By now, according to a schedule devised by some anal-retentive neat freak with nothing better to do, I should have at least cleaned out my fridge, wiped my kitchen cupboards, reorganised the linen shelves and cleaned the windows. I have done none of those things although I had a feeble attempt at cleaning a couple of skirtings and gave up halfway through in favour of reading the paper. (Bonus: Canvas magazine this week provided a dot-to-dot, the first one I've done in 30 years. Hello, Freddie Mercury). I'm as much in favour of clean skirtings as the next person, but it's hard to escape the conclusion that it's an ultimately useless endeavour: they'll only get dirty again.
Day Twelve: cases 1106
There is no more morning or afternoon. Now, the days are divided not by lunch, but by the daily Director-General of Health's press update on the latest number of cases, or what my niece has called pre-Ashley and post-Ashley. I have this week on leave so pre-Ashley is for the Les Mills TV workout, hanging out the washing and reading the paper, while post-Ashley I do a bit of house work, a bit of work work and try to get the kids off screens and outside for an hour or two. Unbelievably, they are stepping up to help around the house. They've gone from doing bugger-all to doing very little, but still, it's an improvement. We now have them hanging out washing, emptying the dishwasher and doing a meal each week. The downside of this scheme is that when it's the boys' turn we are subjected to a diet of macaroni cheese, nachos, pizza and spaghetti bolognaise, but the upside is that we may have some show of eventually turning them into functioning adults.
Day Thirteen: cases 1160
"Lockdown is boooring!" wails my 12-year-old son. It's 10.50am and he's already had a fight with his big brother and they've made a terrible racket while my husband is on a work call. I'm pulling my hair out. He is literally unable to amuse himself and everything I suggest, he hates. Everything he suggests, we're not allowed to do. No climbs up Mt Tauhara, no bush walks. I'm bored with the same bike rides we've been doing for more than a week and he doesn't want to do the ones I want to. I have a week off work and want to make the most of it outside. He'd rather be indoors, as long as it involves a screen. He wants to play Monopoly. I couldn't think of anything worse. I want to go for a long ride. He is not at all keen. He locks his big brother out of the house. Conflict erupts. However, we're doing better than another family of five we know. Their kids had a massive door-slamming set-to and one of them lost the tip of his finger in the fracas. He was rushed to hospital where the doctors glued it back on. He's now sporting a bandage big enough to choke a donkey.
Day Fourteen: cases 1210
Back to the supermarket which since my last visit has implemented social distancing with us all waiting patiently as the queue inches forward. It's a short wait but the shopping inside takes twice as long as normal with having to wait, silently fuming, for the person standing in front of your chosen item to move on. One woman stands staring blankly at the eggs for what feels like a full five minutes while I chafe with irritation several metres away, although who would know under my face mask? Similarly I smile at people and then realise they can't tell - it must simply look like I'm narrowing my eyes evilly. Another factor that seems to add to the extra time is that despite my list there's lots of things I can't find, which is odd. I ponder whether the face mask is cutting off the circulation to my brain. It's quite possible but I find this thought itself too hard, so go back to wandering the aisles vaguely in search of cooking chocolate (elusive), spinach (present), flour (none) and wine (plenty, thank God). And Easter eggs. Thanks to the PM declaring the Easter bunny an essential worker, I've had to add Easter eggs to the list. At home though, I have a brainwave: make our own hot cross buns, a new first. I've seen all the Instagramming idiots photographing their food during the lockdown, how hard can it be? Harder than I thought, it transpires. I don't know what went wrong but despite the quantities being correct the dough was too stiff and smoke began pouring from the cake mixer during the kneading process. And - the real kicker - I've run out of flour. Damn, damn, damn!