Wednesday was April Fool’s Day, but there was a distinct lack of humour in the air. In fact, I woke up half expecting a carpet of white outside my window, and having to don my coat, gloves and hat and having to clear the garden path, as our building’s honorary Schneeräumungsdienst. March 2020 had one last surprise up its sleeve, a snowstorm, although the snow didn’t settle. April was ushered in, as I aired the flat, with a cold and fresh breeze. And while the sun shone during the day, and there was a clear blue sky, the mercury struggled to rise to double digits.
My elderly neighbour had been in touch to ask whether I would drive her to the bank to allow her to collect her pension money as I do every first day, or first banking day, of the month. I admire her spirit, in that she gets dressed up to the nines for her monthly trip to the bank to collect her pension. Pearls, a blazer, sometimes a cameo brooch, and an elegant walking stick, and a cavernous handbag. This time would doubtless not have been any exception, had it not have been for my enquiry whether she really needed to go to the bank, and suggested she have a think about whether it was essential to go or not and to call back once she had made her mind up. Before she had much chance to put too much thought into the issue, I had hastily called her son, who agreed with me that his mother probably wasn’t down to her last few Euro, and besides didn’t have anything to spend it on, as her shopping, which I have been doing for her and leaving outside her door in a wheely shopping bag, is unlikely to dent her bank balance by much, given that she enjoys a widow’s pension courtesy of her departed retired Beamte husband, who was probably among the echelons of Austria’s Luxuspensionisten.
But this month was different. Vienna after all remains in lockdown, as we approach the end of the third week of nothingness. And after a word with her son, who also then called her, my neighbour rang back (she felt suitably chastised). When normality returns, her son is promising to sort out her accounts in such a way that her monthly bank trips become superfluous. Of course, since social intercourse is essential, I have promised her that I will gladly instead drive her off to visit friends once the current lockdown is over.
Over in the UK, my brother has started twelve weeks of self-isolating and seems to have taken his house arrest on the chin, while his wife has been less stoic and seems more worried about how it has disrupted her plans. My brother received a government notification letter saying that he was considered “high risk” and for him a twelve week period of isolation has duly begun.
Fortunately he has a bit of a garden in his leafy corner of suburbia, so he’ll be kept well amused with that – possibly his wife’s expectations will keep him occupied to an unprecedented level. His retort about the letter from the government was that “Mickey Williams got a shorter sentence for when he stole that milkfloat that he drove into a ditch!” I try to keep spirits up by having promised when normality returns that we’ll have a few days away somewhere, not Lincolnshire (although another trip there will also be on the cards), but the frustration is that we can’t plan anything.
I’ve been trying to keep myself amused by assigning daily tasks to do. Every day goes by quicker when I realise that I have achieved something. Some of the models for the model railway club have been made. We share pictures with one another and we have a virtual team of us currently glueing, painting and preparing some of the parts for the next large layout we are working on. I’ve serviced and cleaned a lot of engines, and also been busy building signal gantries.
Nephew has managed to find a way to eke out a temporary living and has been doing shifts as a takeaway deliveryman – a pizza place near him, where a friend of his works, fortunately gave him some work to do, as the co-working space he was working at is shut still and unlikely to reopen at earliest until the end of April. Nephew’s girlfriend is also feeling the squeeze, as her hair salon (or rather the one she works at) is naturally closed. I have been surprised about nephew’s resourcefulness. He realised that he needed money and has found a way to have some coming in, although his “day job” is up in the air. Reassurance is there in that landlords are currently not allowed to evict their tenants and nephew have squirrelled away a little bit of money, that he was saving for a weekend away with his girlfriend, to keep him on a relatively even keel.
And with that, this little vital sign draws to a close. I am longing to get out, but am behaving myself. I feel a duty to my wife and my host nation to behave myself and not cause unnecessary bother.
To everyone out there reading, stay safe, take care and hopefully this will soon just be a memory. And when it is, don’t overdo it! Until then, keep applauding all the nurses and doctors, and the people who are keeping us going.