• Tilly Rivers

Easter in Lockdown


When the Queen ended her coronavirus address by saying ‘we’ll meet again’, was I the only one that thought she meant on the other side?

That was the first thought that came into my head as Mum and I sat in front of the telly watching her speech. Christ, I thought. She means when we’re all dead! She knows something we don’t! While I was gripped with a horrid foreboding, Mum was pondering over why the Queen’s hairdo looked so smart when she was social distancing, and did she set it herself in rollers or have a hairdresser in full PPE?

But then that’s the difference between me and Mum. She has rose-tinted glasses and I have mud-tinted ones. Or did. I’m working on it.

I wake every morning thinking ­­­– right, get up and get at ‘em – this isolation is the ideal period to do all those things you never had time to do! Like write poetry, sculpt an amazing bust of Heath Ledger, write more books in your serial, publish them, market, market, market! I leap out of bed, rush downstairs to make a brisk cuppa, switch on the TV, switch off Piers Morgan because, well just cringe, flick through all the papers online on my phone, read the latest gobsmacking news from Trump, all while making Mum her porridge and tea.

I think Mum was disappointed by this year’s Easter. She always has hot cross-buns, she always makes a simnel cake and she always goes to church. Unfortunately, on my cautious fortnightly foray to the supermarket, I somehow managed to buy chocolate-filled hot cross buns (Mum can’t eat chocolate) and mistook a packet of margarinei for marzipan. I was also far too busy forging my online career to hook her up to her local online Sunday service (for which the vicar had left many email instructions which I never quite got around to,) so Easter was a bit of damp squib for her. For the first time in ninety-two years.

I left her on Easter Monday with the crossword, thinking that since my heart was pounding with frantic anxiety about all the things I had to do that day, I’d better get some exercise first and calm down, so I went powering off on a walk through the nearby woods. And in order not to waste precious lockdown time I was reading The Biology of Belief, urgently telling me that for the sake of my physical and mental health I must live in the now, be positive and relax into mindlessness – yes, yes, yes!

‘You should look about, love instead of down at that phone. S’bootiful now. Proper spring day.’

‘What?’ I glanced up, annoyed to see an elderly passer-by sneering at me. Or perhaps he was smiling.

‘Been watching you walking all the way up the path with your nose buried in it.’

I narrowed my eyes at him. Alright for him. He’s got a bloody dog. What excuse do I have in lockdown for walking except to improve my mind?

I marched grumpily back home to find Mum finishing the crossword.

‘Since it’s such a lovely day I wondered if you could give me a quick hand in the garden?’ she said, putting down the paper and looking up brightly.

‘Actually, Mum, sorry, but I have a whole list of things to do. Like setting up my website and collating all my data and doing um… research.’

‘Oh, how exciting. Of course, you must do that.’ She didn’t exactly say I’m so proud of you, but I could see it gleaming in her eyes.

So, there I was, sitting at the laptop while Mum, (recently recovered from the head-on car collision I got her into) was pottering happily around the garden hauling her trug and a hosepipe around and – damn! Why don’t I have somewhere to work which doesn’t have a window?

‘Alright, Mum. Five minutes. What can I do?’ I say, trudging sulkily out into the sunshine.

‘Are you sure? Well, the dandelions pop their cheeky little heads up every five minutes, so perhaps you could dig them up? And any other obvious weeds you see.’

Twenty minutes later I gestured with false modesty at an impressive pile of uprooted weeds. Mum started visibly.

‘Oh! My Beauty of Livermere Poppies.’

‘Your what?

‘Beauty of – never mind, dear. It’s nice of you to offer to help.’

‘Hang on,’ I said, ‘they’re flowers? Not weeds? But they look like weeds. How was I supposed to know?’

‘Of course, you weren’t. You’ve never had a garden,’ she said peaceably as I frantically attempted to stuff them all back into the dry earth. ‘Don’t worry. You go back and get down to your work.’

I shuffled back into the house, mortified as I watched her getting down onto her knees on the gardening mat to do the weeding herself. Hmph. I’d show her, I thought. I quickly downloaded an expensive app on my phone which identified any plant that you photographed and marched back out.

‘Right. Wonders of modern science, Mum, I will now tell you exactly what plants you have in your rockery. Stand aside.’

‘How clever, darling!’ she exclaimed.

‘So.’ I bent down over a thuggish looking spread of leaves, clicked a photo and waited for the result.

‘This is an evening primrose! Who would have thought?’

‘That’s Lady’s Mantle. Lovely yellow flowers. The leaves are quite similar though.'

‘No, it’s not, Mum,’ I say patiently. I paid £4.99 for this app. ‘It’s an evening primrose.’

But of course, three photos later, Mum turned out to be right. I bit my lip and stalked back into the house to write poetry. And delete the app.

I want rose-tinted glasses instead of muddy ones. The Biology of Belief says it's all down to creating positive pathways. But why do I have to go to the trouble of creating them, when Mum has them already? Maybe it's because she's from a generation that was brought up to always look on the bright side of life?

Rather like the Queen, who said in her Easter speech: ‘as dark as death can be, light and life are greater.’ That was a relief then. Not meeting on the Other Side after all.

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