The news was delivered to me in the garden, after my youngest had finished an unusually earnest phone call.
‘I’ve got something to tell you,’ she said, coyly. ‘And I don’t think you’re going to like it.’
‘What’s that, Littl’un?’ I asked, with a kindly smile, but ready to kill if appropriate. A thought – ‘I’m going to be a grandad’ – flashed through my mind. Perhaps I should act cross, I thought, but to my surprise I felt a momentary thrill. That might be fun.
‘I’ve tested positive for Covid-19,’ she said. ‘I have to self-isolate. And so do you. For 14 days.’ And with those words, my world fell apart.
After all, I was supposed to be in the pub that afternoon.
This is my story.
I sleep fitfully and when I awake I feel a little discombobulated. I inform my wife that my mind is fuggy. And I think I might have a pain in this leg. Or is it this one?
‘Oh God, I think I’ve got it, babe,’ I cry.
‘If this is you with Covid,’ replies Mrs Raider, ‘Then you’ve had it all your life, that’s all I’m saying.’
I let my friend Slates know that I won’t be able to visit the East Kent riviera and the ghost of Broadstairs Folk Week next week, as planned.
What to do? Finally, I think, I could build that crazy golf course I’d always promised myself. Or that bar in the garage, like Dirts. I just need to get creative. Maybe a little nap on the chaise longue will help me get in the mood.
On awaking, I devise a yard game called Bucket Ball from which I am forced to retire when I stub my toe. Or could it be Covid Toe? I go in search of medicine.
In the wine cellar (also known in these parts as the utility room), I count 14 bottles of wine. Perhaps we can get through this. I order a camping chair with an integral footstool.
I plant some hop seeds that I was given for Christmas. The instructions say they take two years to flower. If it turns out I have to be cooped up for two years instead of two weeks at least I will have hops.
My doctor stops by and throws me a quarter of an ounce of weed over the garden wall. ‘Take as prescribed!’ he advises as he jumps back into his motor. What a guy. What a healer.
‘Isn’t it muggy?’ says my wife.
‘No, it’s Tuegy,’ I reply and she doesn’t speak to me again for five hours. But it’s too late, I now have jokes sorted for Weggy, Thurgy and Frigy. We both know that.
While clearing out the garage I find one of the children’s glitter balls and plug it in while listening to some old music tapes. A little while later, there is a knock on the garage door and a head pops round. It is the postman, who finds me topless, tripping on Eighties house under the whirling lights of the glitter ball.
‘I’ve got your haemorrhoid cream,’ he says.
I spend the day defragmenting and organising my hard drives. This is the life, I find myself thinking. While reconfiguring the iMac Photos app library, I discover an accidentally bosomy shot of my wife, which I immediately send away to be made into a 1000 piece jigsaw.
A beguiling Octopus girl in full face visor comes to the door. That is to say, she is a young woman who is working for the renewable energy company, Octopus, as opposed to an eight-limbed foot-fetshist’s fantasy.
I explain to her that I am with Bulb, who, while they may not be the cheapest, sponsor my local football club, Dulwich Hamlet, which seals the deal as far as I am concerned.
This doesn’t seem to be enough for her and she proceeds to ask me how long I have been with Bulb, the name of the tariff I am on and how many units of gas and electricity I use on average, per year. I tell her I have coronavirus and she goes away.
It’s magic mushroom night with the family. I set up the TV in the garden for snooker. Watching O’Sullivan and Ding on shrooms is like watching gods rolling planets around. Quite mesmerising.
That night I dream a two-legged, six-armed octopus girl wins the Snooker World Championship. Even Ronnie O’Sullivan is impressed.
My new camping chair arrives and I test it on the porch. As a couple pass in the street I overhear him say to her, ‘It’s got a flip up footrest’.
I may be under house arrest but my status as an influencer remains undiminished.
My youngest, otherwise symptomless, reports that she has lost her sense of taste and smell. Concerned, I hastily arrange a tasting session to check mine is still intact. Result: IPA 8 Covid 0.
Hungover and at a loose end, I decide to complete my tax return. The crushing boredom and low level stress I feel while completing it is compounded by the realisation I now owe HMRC some dollar. Seems very unfair, somehow, like a double jeopardy. Gin saves the day.
Jigsaw arrives. Rather than using the picture on the box lid as my guide I have my wife sit in front of me in the same top she was wearing in the photo, which she is perfectly happy to do as long as I feed her sherry and Viennese whirls.
A heatwave is in full swing and I alarm the family by wandering around the house in Speedos while avoiding direct sunlight, like a sexy Dracula.
I conceive a novel featuring a new, sexy version of Dracula and relay it to Mrs Raider while jigsawing.
‘Aren’t all Draculas sexy?’ she replies.
Crushed, I turn my attention to scavenging the ingredients of sangria. To red wine, I add lemonade, limes, kiwi fruit, satsumas, gin, muscovado sugar and sea salt. It is surprisingly delicious. Fuck Count Fuckula.
Slater gets back to me regarding Broadstairs.
‘Sorry for slow response, phone under sofa with flat battery,’ he texts. ‘Finally found it yesterday while searching for missing remote control (still missing). Maybe I should get out more.’
Slates has basically been in quarantine for years, barely leaving the house except to walk the dog and sing in a pub twice a week. Not because of pandemics, just because he likes it. An inspiration.
For me, though, Covid prison syndrome has kicked in. Despite booze, snooker, football, video games and a chicken dinner I find myself yearning for the outside world, for the simple pleasure of drinking a tinnie in a field. Pompey Dunc sends me a picture of him drinking a tinnie in a field. I call him a cunt, which makes me feel much better. Friends are important in trying times.
Jigsaw completed. Phwoar.
My hops have germinated. Maybe everything’s going to be OK.