This was the week. The week I could no longer ignore the incontrovertible and mounting evidence that I had well and truly lost the plot. There will be some who assert (somewhat unfairly) that I never had a tight grip on it to begin with, but the fact is that weeks of lockdown have finally loosened whatever grip I had and the plot has drifted off like a helium balloon. Goodness knows where that thing will end up.
It happened on Sunday. I finished my run and wandered over to the local coffee shop, mask now firmly in place. As I always do, I ordered a small skinny flat white with one. I waited patiently as the barista weaved her particular magic until my name was called and I stepped forward to collect my caffeinated prize. It was then I made the mistake that I’d successfully avoided making the entire pandemic – I raised my take away coffee to my lips and attempted to drink it through the mask.
Skinny flat white immediately cascaded down my face and splashed across my chest. Others turned their faces away in abject disgust as coffee began to land in big, dark drops on the footpath. Even the barista looked horrified. I did what any reasonable person would do under the circumstances – I continued trying to suck flat white through my mask. For something thin enough to allow you to breathe, a mask is surprisingly resistant to liquid. Soon, what had been droplets turned into a veritable waterfall as coffee tumbled down my front before splashing across the footpath.
I can’t have been the first. Surely others have experienced the ‘forgot I was wearing a mask and attempted to drink a coffee’ syndrome? There are many different types of mask. I’ve stuck with orthodoxy and have been wearing surgical masks. It makes me feel as though I fit in as well as suggesting I’m more qualified than I actually am. However, a light blue surgical mask really highlights coffee stains around the mouth region. Essentially, it ruins the mask forever. It also makes you easy to spot – passersby are left in no doubt as to what’s happened.
Possibly as a result of feeling humiliated, possibly because I was under-caffeinated, I over-reacted by deciding to spend the day gardening. If, as I suspected, I had lost the plot; there was some chance I might find it buried somewhere in the back yard. Those who consider gardening part of their routine probably can’t appreciate how bizarre it is for me to be in the garden. Besides mowing, we’ve mostly left each other alone. A respectful distance if you will. But here was I, violating the very neutrality that had kept us all safe up to now.
I’ve not lived at this address for long. To that extent, this particular garden is a mystery to me. There are some raised garden beds completely overrun with grass and weeds, which seemed like a logical place to start. Using the wonder-mattock I bought just before lockdown, I ripped up the garden beds and fished out as much of the grass as I could. It was then that I started to discover more surprising artifacts.
In an ideal world, this would be the part of the story where I told you about the gold doubloons, diamonds and other treasures I discovered. But if the past eighteen months has taught us anything, it’s that an ideal world doesn’t exist. Instead, I found a menagerie of random household items. A foam ball, a toy car, tinsel (leading me to speculate that previous occupants may have grown their own Christmas tree, decorating it ‘in situ’ rather than dragging it into the living room) and, somewhat alarmingly, bones.
The more I dug, the more bones I discovered. There were moments when I thought I’d soon be calling in Forensics before it became obvious that these were animal bones. In lockdown, you’re supposed to start new hobbies, and for an instant I considered trying to re-construct the skeleton into a museum display before deciding that skeletal modeling was not a skill I wanted to take into the post-pandemic world.
Then it struck me. With all the force of a skinny flat white with one that you’ve inadvertently attempted to drink whilst still wearing a facemask. These were, most likely, the remains of a cat. In fact, these weren’t raised garden beds at all, but a shrine to a revered family feline that I had inadvertently managed to desecrate. Other cats would be out for revenge. I would have to go into hiding – which is hard to do when you’re already in lockdown. I’m not sure how, precisely, but the cat-kingdom will exact its revenge. I now live in fear that there’ll be a knock on the door and I’ll open it to find Mr. Mistoffelees standing on the porch before punching me in the nose and storming off.
In the middle of the week, there was a knock. Naturally, I was nervous. But rather than finding an angry Mr. Mistoffelees bent on wreaking vengeance waiting for me, I found a box. In that box I found food. Coffee, milk, donuts, cheese and a pizza. Sent by a family member for no reason at all other than to make me feel better. I rummaged around the bottom of the box before pulling it out. And there it was – the plot. Just when I needed it most. Thanks.#