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Invisible matters – Lockdown life 2020

Remember those early days; confined to barracks but full of vim and vigour for tackling the jobs you’ve “been meaning to do for years?”

Yup. Us too.

Physically demanding, mentally satisfying, slap-on-the-back tasks that made the forehead prickle with tension and brought a warm glow of contentment to your evening with Friends, episode number 94.

A recap on early baby months when everything was new, strange and exhausting, but you gave it your best shot anyway.

Back in early April, mucking-out a bedroom was our first big achievement; the heady transition from childhood to early teens finally acknowledged with the removal of horsey posters and Harry Potter memorabilia.

It was a noisy, turbulent week of indecision and angst as the merits of treasures like Enid Blyton compilation sets yoyoed between ‘in’ and ‘out’ piles.

Pretty attire - but stylishly wretched to the discerning child, apparently – was brutally cast into wardrobe wilderness. Boxes and boxes of time-sensitive early riches no longer required. Clear spaces appeared; acres of cream walls – pock-marked with years of Blue Tac of course but you can’t have everything – and, to boot, an ‘age appropriate’ bookcase appeared, perfect for the backdrop to straying Zoom interaction!

Success was achieved and certainly more than would have had it not been for lockdown.

Job done.

Power-hosing patios and walls was another early big hitter. A real ‘get stuck into it’ devil of a task, reaping rewards, together with a feeling that all had not been lost from those structure-lacking days.

Gardening, also a headline-grabber. The best Spring weather for a century giving us the chance to wade into weed patches and reconfigure to our hearts’ content. Like a nation of moles, flowerbeds were rearranged en masse, compost delivered to every corner.

The achievement continued during Easter, this time planning ahead. With no summer holidays to organise, evenings rapidly became the go-to point for cruising glamorous outdoor exotica; lusting after prohibitively expensive patio sets, fantasizing over a summer with that all important ‘multi fuel pizza oven’. A steal at a couple of grand.

I wish.

But now the garden’s looking quite good (even without the adornment of heavy-weight Italian cook wear). Really, the great outdoors, bar the occasional ‘dead head’ tweak and whoosh across the grass, is taking care of itself; ‘grown up’ into self-sufficiency and independence.

Most of us, at some point in our lives, have been at home all day, beavering away, ensuring food on the tables, sheets in the ironing cupboard and a diligent tally of tinned tomatoes. Dull, but necessary tasks.

Then someone comes home, innocently asking what you’ve been doing all day?


As the domestic touch-light is ignited, suddenly, “Your dinner’s in the oven!”

But that’s where this household now finds itself on a daily basis. Vital - but invisible - labour that makes the world go round, but is never discussed.

Tasks like wiping down light switches (yawn); weaving cloths in and out of balustrades to remove hard-to-reach grime (I ask you); washing out waste bins, removing spider webs. They’ve all got to be done but, frankly, at the moment, if it’s not about feeding or educating someone or earning a crust, all this work flies under the radar.

It reminds me of the plight of care home employees. An army of subliminal worker-bees, taken for granted but rarely discussed over a night-cap.

So, in celebration of the ‘small guys’ we’ve started the list of little achievements. Daily responsibilities, done with our eyes shut (I can personally vouch for this one!) which need their moment in the sun. Chart-toppers include, pet water bowl refilling; fridge shelf cleaning and bird-feeder washing.

Ensuing conversations might not be Debating Club material but they have provoked detailed reaction and, not-infrequent, heated tea-time discussion. If nothing else, it’s certainly highlighted routines often taken for granted, which can be a lesson for us all, especially at the moment.

Mairi Fraser

19 June 2020

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