It starts when I’m giving them tea.
“Is that a cough?” I asked.
“Maybe the fish finger went down the wrong way,” suggests Rose.
So I give him a drink of water to wash it down.
But no. There it is again.
It seems like a dry cough.
“It does, doesn’t it?” agrees my daughter when she comes back.
Coughs and colds are quite normal at this time of the year, especially with little ones. This time last year, I would hardly have given it a second thought. But now, well… You know what I’m thinking.
Still, it doesn’t seem that bad. In fact, it’s stopped now.
I cycle back home, hoping that it will sort itself out. But my daughter texts at lunchtime the next day. “George is still having the odd cough. I rang the doctor and she says we should both be tested.”
My daughter isn’t coughing herself but it seems sensible that she gets done at the same time.
The good news is that George seems quite well in himself. He’s eating and playing normally but we’ve all heard of cases where people don’t show any signs. We’ve also been told that the virus rarely affects young children. Even so, I can’t help worrying.
Luckily my daughter gets a test that very day just forty minutes away at a drive through centre. “George was very good,” says my daughter. “He didn’t make a fuss at all. But we’ve got to self-isolate until the results come through in the next 48 hours or so. And I’m afraid that includes you, Mum.”
It makes sense. After all, two days isn’t that long. I just hope George and my daughter are clear.
As a writer, I’m used to spending several hours on my own, squirreled away at the top of the house in my study. It so happens that I’ve got a tight deadline at the moment, working on my copyedits for next year’s novel The Lies We Tell (published by Penguin).
So I didn’t think that two days of self-isolation would be that hard. My husband had also, luckily just done a food shop. And it wasn’t as though I was going anywhere. The only thing I had to cancel was a walk along the seafront which I’d arranged with a friend. I’d been looking forward to it for ages – I miss the company of my chums – but it’s a small sacrifice in the scheme of things.
A waiting game
It was the mental side which I found difficult. It reminded me of the time when I worked as a writer in a high security male prison. I would feel very constricted being inside all day and when I finished work, I’d gulp down the fresh air gratefully.
It’s even harder for my daughter’s little family. Her husband isn’t allowed back to work until the results come through although at least he can work from home. (Thank goodness for modern technology which allows this!)
It’s also a challenge to keep Rose and George amused especially when it’s raining too hard for them to go into the garden. “I’ve explained that they can’t go to school for a couple of days,” says my daughter.
I have to say that they are both very good at understanding. The virus, to them, is becoming part of everyday life.
We’d rather hoped that the results might come through a bit sooner. I had to have one a few weeks ago because of a change of taste after a cold and it came back (negative) within thirty-six hours.
“Any news yet?” I say to my daughter when I phone.
“No,” she sighs as we get into the second day. “George’s cough has completely gone by the way.”
And then, just before bedtime, there’s a ping…
“I was so nervous I could hardly read the texts,” she says when she calls. “But they’re both negative. We’re all right.”
Phew! But it does make me think of all those families who haven’t had good news.
“Can I go back to school tomorrow?” asks Rose when I rush round to celebrate with them.
“Yes,” says my daughter.
Even George, who took a couple of sessions to settle down, jumps up and down with excitement.
“It’s fancy dress day, remember?” chirps Rose.
Of course. Actually it’s in aid of Children In Need. Rose has to go in either an outfit with lots of colours or “crazy hair”. She does both! My daughter finds a rainbow dress in the dressing up box and has already got some multi-coloured pipe cleaners to twist her hair!
George is much easier to dress. He’s in his Spider Man outfit. No surprises there!
I get a chance to see them when they’re back from school and I’m on tea duty. “Don’t you look lovely?” I say as Rose does a twirl and George leaps off the sofa despite my “Please don’t do that in case you break something!” I love looking after them but it’s also a huge responsibility. If they have to break a leg, I’d rather it’s not when I’m looking after them!
In fact, it’s hard to get them undressed for bathtime because a) they’re full of beans and b) it takes yonks to remove all those pipe cleaners. Then Rose decides she’s going to decorate my hair with them. You can see the results!
When we come downstairs, my husband has arrived, bearing gifts. “Comics!” yell the children, falling on them with excitement.
My husband hasn’t brought the usual girly sparkly magazine I get for Rose. Instead, it’s got a free rubber snake. George is thrilled with some kind of plastic claw. Children’s magazines have changed since my day but I still remember the thrill of my June & Schoolfriend dropping in through the letter box.
I have to say it’s such a relief being able to do normal things again (within the limits of Lockdown, of course). So the next day, we all go for a lovely walk along the beach. “Can we have a chocolate ice cream, please?” asks Rose.
“Of course,” I say. The word “No” isn’t in my granny vocabulary unless it comes to safety.
So we sit on the front in the wind and munch our cones.
“Mine’s rather cold,” says Rose.
“Then I’ll warm it up in the Aga,” I say.
“Mum!” giggles my daughter. “Those two have got you wrapped round their little fingers. Whoever heard of warm ice cream?”
“Actually,” I say. “It’s a vital ingredient of Baked Alaska. Let’s go back to my place and I’ll show you how it’s made.”
And home we run.
Jane Corry is the author of five top ten best-sellers. Her latest novel I Made A Mistake is about Betty, a grandmother who lives with her son’s family. Published by Penguin, £7.99 in paperback and also available as an e-book and audio, narrated by Emilia Fox. http://bit.ly/IMadeaMistake OR https://www.hive.co.uk/Product/Jane-Corry/I-Made-a-Mistake/24376830