• Tilly Rivers

Exercising in Lockdown

Updated: Apr 9, 2020

I was pacing up and down the kitchen this morning, panicking at the thought that Boris Johnson is still in intensive care while still quivering from the warning a friend on the phone had just given me that ‘make no mistake, we’re all going to get it,’ when the telly burst spontaneously into life. It does that.

‘Stress is the biggest killer in the world,’ said the presenter as if this should cheer us up in the middle of a deadly pandemic. ‘The best thing we can do is exercise.’ I groaned and turned it off – at the socket. Doesn’t anyone else find it odd that we’re all being told to exercise and also to Stay at Home? There are only so many times you can pound up and down the stairs.

The friend on the phone is living alone and said she was so bored she’d washed the car seven times, the dog twice and herself not at all. Obviously if you’ve got children at home, boredom isn’t a problem, but since I’m living with my ‘vulnerable’ Mum, much of my stress seems to come from worrying that a) I’m somehow going to infect her and b) that I’m not using my time usefully while stuck at home ‘protecting’ her.

I mean, looking at the news it seems everyone is painting landscapes, writing blogs, reading books, having sex, having quarrels, meditating/healing/growing and writing a best seller. I should be doing all those things, (well apart from the sex, obviously.) But I’m like the old sailor in the poem who had so many things which he wanted to do, that whenever he thought it was time to begin, he couldn’t because of the state he was in.

In the end I decided to follow the broadcaster’s advice and go out for a walk. With Mum. Once she’d got her hat on, her ‘ears in’ (as she calls her hearing aids,) her walking stick, her hankie and her inhaler, I settled her in the car and guiltily drove half a mile out of town to a remote country lane, hoping the police wouldn’t stop us.

‘We need to pump oxygen into our brains,’ I said, parking up and helping her out of the car. ‘Stress triggers heart attacks, strokes and suicidal thoughts.’

‘What was that, dear?’ asked Mum beaming vaguely around at the sunny lane brimming with wildflowers.

‘Never mind,’ I said. ‘Take my arm.’

No sooner had we set off on our slow procession, when a family of five on bicycles, thundered around the corner and veered towards us. I grabbed Mum, shielding her from them but they were immediately followed by two earnest men who had American fit bits or something telling them how fit they were and then, with a frantic ringing of bells another family swerved at us from behind.

‘Goodness, I’ve never seen it so busy,’ quavered Mum, clinging to me.

‘Me neither. It’s like being caught up in the middle of the bloody Tour de France,’ I said crossly. 'I thought people were supposed to stay at home.'

'We haven't,' she pointed out.

'We're different,' I snapped.

We battled on for another five minutes, but the cavalcade of walkers and bikers didn’t let up for a single second.

‘Perhaps we should go back to town?’ suggested Mum. ‘It’s quieter there.’

Back in the town centre we walked through the empty high street as Mum recalled the epidemic of scarlet fever in her youth when her own mother had fallen ill, and she’d been left at home by her father and two brothers to nurse her.

‘Why wasn’t she in hospital?’ I asked, startled.

‘It was too contagious to go to hospital with. And it was before penicillin, so you often died of it.’

‘Crikey. How old were you?’

‘About twelve I think.’

Twelve! Weren’t you worried that you’d get it and die?’

‘Not really. You’ve always got to look on the bright side of life, haven’t you? What a lot of birds there are about now, have you noticed?’

‘Yes,’ I agreed. ‘Well, we’d better get home, I’ve got lots of healing and painting and… and meditating to do.’

As I drove back, keeping a wary eye out for police road-blocks, I couldn't help thinking it's a shame that all I’ve inherited from my infinitely calm and cheerful Mum, seems to be her nose.

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