Warning: Readers may find this week’s ruminations from a lockdown kitchen head melting. Whilst every effort has been made to hinder thought ramblings, sure look it, read at your own risk. Like a hop-on hop-off existential tour, feel free to hop-off wherever you like.
There is comfort in the stillness in the morning only because we are non-verbal in the early hours otherwise heads would be taken clean off. Each of us quietly toiling in our own corner, some more than others, I being one of the other. All tuned out and plugged into screens. Himself has colonised the spare room containing the boxes that were never opened after a move 3 years ago including a recent addition is a standy-upy desk that looks like scaffolding for hobbits. I am relegated to the kitchen table. I know, like thousands of others; pity about me. For a couple of hours there is but the muffled hum of strange teleconference voices. That and frustrated yelps of ‘OMG. What is this teacher even on about?!, Where does he think he’s going with all this work like, I just don’t get this maths’. That’s the printable version. Come lunchtime there is a mass movement downstairs, like wildebeests migrating to a watering hole. The kitchen foraging begins and my erstwhile tranquillity ends.
And here’s the deep bit. It is then that I feel the spirit of Samuel Beckett loitering amongst us. It’s tangible. I’m a massive fan of his brilliance and I can’t help but ponder what would he make of this calamity. Welcome to I’m in a Beckett play, Get me outta here.
Now more than ever Vladimir's Habit is a great deadener in Waiting for Godot has never rang more true. The big brained absurdist existentialists like Beckett, Camus and Sartre figured habits are an unavoidable natural mechanism to elude the absurdity or randomness of life. And my Jaysus does this beat Banagher in terms of absurdity. The farcicality of padlocked playgrounds, empty pitches, barred beaches and vacant schools. Restrictions have imprisoned us and clipped our wings. Inmates in our own domesticity we surrender to stasis and habituation. To make sense of it all we cling to routine and the very thing that pledges security exudes monotony. There’s no escaping the quotidian mundanity. Like Vladimir and Estragon in Waiting for Godot and Hamm and Clov in Endgame in this lockdown we become all too aware of our interdependency combined with a need to leave whilst rooted in habitual behaviour. I even have a gammy knee, to match Estragon’s limpy foot, from walking the same route every day, the sea teasing me to places I cannot get to. Like Winnie in Beckett’s Happy Days we regurgitate stories and memories to elapse time. Her time is not linear as past, present and future are intertwined and it kind of feels like that now. But at least unlike poor Winnie, buried up to her neck, we have the privilege of movement.
Like Didi and Gogo in Waiting for Godot our own lines trip off the tongue with expert delivery and timing What’s for dinner?, Can you empty the dishwasher? I did it the last time, It’s not my turn, Who ate all the biscuits? Where’s all the ham gone? What’s up with the stupid WiFi?, I don’t want to go for a walk, Who didn’t flush? In the name of God will you open your window? I’m so sick of this f….n house. Just press shuffle and repeat and off you go again. Every day.
And then there’s the waiting. And the talking about the waiting. And the waiting for Leo to come on the telly to bring us hope Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. But it’s not to be and we cannot live in a constant preparation for leave-taking. So what’s to do. Don’t look at me, I don’t have any answers. Best pay heed to Beckett, You must go on. I can’t go on. I’ll go on.
It’s akin to Hitchcock’s Rear Window in my kitchen but alas I'm not swanning around in evening attire and faffing over Jimmy Stewart. I sit, try and work but am drawn to the comings and goings from the birdbox on the back wall. A new couple has moved in. They’re kilt with the busy toing and froing with twigs and moss. I’m guessing they are you young first timers the way they move from one branch to the next, like Olympic gymnasts on poles, but you never know, they could be downsizing. I even know they don’t like the peanuts in one feeder but they go stone mad for the fat balls in the other. Wouldn’t blame them either, if I roasted and salted the peanuts it’d be a different story.
I cannot speak for anyone else in this mad world but myself and can vouch that I am going fruity, losing the plot along with the marbles. You see it’s the pressure to produce, to be creative, to use this time constructively and prolifically. Don’t mind the virus, it’s going to be the death of us. It’s not enough to bake a few scones or banana bread. We’re expected to produce Bake Off standard. Go for a walk. Nope, not enough. Run a marathon around your back garden at least. And don’t talk to me about virtual exercise videos either. Tried that before. I should have known as the receptionist in the gym who recommended it had a number of angels pinned to her jumper. It’s easy, she said, no pressure, she said. The instructors on the big screen were like a team of Australian borgs, shouting out instructions to squat and lunge using instruments of torture masqueraded as weights. I couldn’t walk for a week, my knees buckled. Not for me, I’m out. Some people have a lockdown book written already? Ah lads…Small mercies but at least our younger ones are older. Otherwise I’d be gone wrong in the head with egg cartons, pipe cleaners, glitter and crepe paper. That never ceased to amaze me as an 80s child. Who had pipe cleaners in their house when Mary-Make-And-Do was on the telly? No one in Corrib Park that’s for sure.
I digress. In an effort to foster a positive industrious spirit in this nutty lockdown I took it upon myself to have a crack at learning the ukulele. Yes we had one already and no it’s not mine. It’s the youngest dawthers. I dusted it down and last week I learned a song. I know, musical genius me, 10,000 hours and all of that. It might as well have been cause it certainly felt like it. The wonderful Bacharach’s ‘Close to You’ famously and dulcetly sung by Carol Carpenter has been butchered within an inch of itself in the interests of sanity. The middle dawther said I sound like Kermit the Frog. Kids are great for an aul confidence boost all the same, aren’t they? The other night, as is becoming more frequent, wide awake at 3.30am looking at the leak stain in the ceiling I had a brainwave. I could re-write the lyrics of the Close to You and turn it into a lockdown song. So there I was at the kitchen table, pen in hand, staring at the clock waiting for inspiration to cradle me in its creative arms. It’ll be hilarious, I convinced myself. I could be a sensation, might get on Dermot and Dave. I was even writing up my interview notes. I’d be made.
The following morning I attempted to share my new ditty with the young ones. Oh Mum, seriously, not one of those? No interest - tumbleweed. In fact, nigh on repugnance. Had they dragged their eyes off their TikToks to even heckle me it would have been something. So apparently it’s shite. Mario Rosenstock, your job is safe. But if this thing goes on any longer I just might have to inflict further misery on the world by sharing it to the masses. Now for my next song…
By June 21st we will have exorcised the demons