In The Bleak Midwinter.

Thanks to Covid, the gift that keeps on fucking things up, I had a call from Freddie’s school on Thursday to say that his class were being sent home to self-isolate until the 21st. That’s the Autumn term finished for us, then. So, I immediately did what any other poor martyr would have done — with a shaking hand I poured a pint of gin and gulped it down between sobs, whilst penning a letter to Father Christmas begging him to bring me a nice, normal family instead. By Friday morning I was swivel-eyed and rocking in a corner.

Or, at least, that’s what Mrs. Clueless of Twitterland would have you believe. Do me a favour, Mrs. Clueless, stop shouting your ignorant drivel over those of us who actually know what we’re talking about. Make a New Year’s Resolution to shut up and listen instead.

In the real world, of course, I did what any other mother in that situation would do — I picked my child up, took him home and required him to change into his onesie so I could throw his school uniform and all the other possessions that had been in school with him into the washing machine. Then I made us all some lunch. By Friday we had carried the garden table upstairs and put it under the window in my room, and, while Freddie got on with some of the activities school had sent home, I was sat in an easy chair beside him with a cup of hot coffee, watching the rain outside and feeling as snug (and as smug) as a pug in a rug. The Guard Pug (who is still considering biting your face off, but still might content herself with giving you side-eye so bad that you slink away in shame), meanwhile WAS actually as snug as a bug snoozing under a rug on the bed.

Once Freddie had done a few sheets of the official school work, we went downstairs and, for a bit of fun extra maths, I got Freddie to work out how much flour, fat and sugar we needed to make a batch of shortbread. I showed him how to shape them into little buttons using two medicine cups and a chopstick. Once the biscuits were baked and cooled we filled a big glass jar with them and placed it next to the kettle, so even though we can’t actually go out to a coffee shop, we can still have a cuppa with a posh little biscuit on the saucer.

I shouldn’t need to point out that the reason we can’t go to a coffee shop is Covid — we live in a tier 3 area. I have no problem, in normal circumstances, in taking Freddie into a cafe. We used to go into our local branch of Caffe Nerd quite often, in recent years anyway, since Aunty Clara Beans sold her artisan establishment in town, turned her back on home-made chocolate cake and crusty-bread sandwiches, and in a dizzying career change that makes my head spin to this day, became a consultant for weight-loss club. After that Freddie became very partial to Caffe Nerd’s Ginger Giovanni biscuits, until they changed the recipe, that is. Then Giovanni became a revolting oaf who smelled of cloves. Being complete tarts when it comes to food we simply transferred our affections elsewhere — to a place that serves real chips made in a chip-pan, and uses proper china cups and sugar in cubes not paper sachets.

But they’re closed right now, and we’re self-isolating, so we’ll just have to make the best of things. All the school work will be finished by lunchtime Monday, so then we’re off to the panto — a panto streamed to the living-room TV, that is. We’ll close the curtains and pretend we’re in the theatre, only with comfier seats, better snacks and no annoying fellow patrons.

Yes, the Christmas holidays have come a week early to HMP Stripey, albeit with four-hourly temperature checks (just to be on the safe side).

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