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High and dry

As the coronavirus pandemic bears down, our mum finds herself marooned with four children, five laptops and a super-size bottle of Dettol.

I have come to the conclusion that I did, actually, used to have a really fun life. Not an A-list celebrity or Duchess of Cambridge sort of fun life, with unlimited frocks and really quite nice jewellery, but a fun life in a “let’s go on holiday”, or “let’s go out for dinner”, or “let’s just meet some friends for drinks,” kind of a way.

It’s true, you never truly appreciate something until it’s gone. These days my horizons have shrunk to getting through Year 6 maths and twice daily (sometimes thrice daily) trips to the local Fusion supermarket.

The pain starts early. I am currently held hostage in my own home by four constantly ravenous, home-schooling children.

These days I don’t dare leave my bedroom until I’m fully showered, dressed and made-up. The perils of Zoom are everywhere and I no longer dare to roam mascara-free in my own living room. There are rumours that a couple of our primary teachers have seen a little ‘more’ of certain parents than maybe they should have done in recent weeks. So these days my rather baggy M&S nightie is very firmly relegated to the confines of the master bedroom.

In the kitchen the Sporty Child is ‘live’ with her science class. At the dining table the Boy Child is in ‘Home Room’ (or registration as we used to call it).

I’m greeted with much “shhing” and muttered whispers of “can’t you stay in your bedroom, mum?”

Every surface in the kitchen is covered in dirty utensils or bits of food. There’s some sort of indistinguishable green sludge congealing at the bottom of the Nutribullet cup (the Teen Child). Remnants of burned bacon litter a discarded frying pan (the Boy Child). Spilled milk, rogue Shreddies and a banana skin lie scattered across the workbench (the Blonde Child).

I decide it might be easier just to slip out for my morning coffee. I know we’re supposed to be avoiding restaurants and things these days but the thought of a nice latte in a relatively empty cafe with nobody shouting into a laptop is almost too much to bear.

Just as I’m casting around for my jacket on, the Blonde Child’s dulcet tones ricochet down the stairs. “What does corruption mean?” she yells, appearing at the top of the stairs in a pair of my yoga pants and one of her dad’s old hoodies. I suspect it could be her who filched my conditioner yesterday.

“And who’s Pope Alexander X?” she continues to shout. I lead her back upstairs to spend the next hour-and-a-half desperately trying to conjure forth my A-level History curriculum. It’s a bit patchy, but at least by the end of it she knows what a corrupt pope is.

I slip back downstairs to escape for my coffee, but as I pass the Teen Child’s bedroom door,

I notice she’s still in bed.

“Morning!” I wave.

“Oh my god, this tik tok is sooo funny!” she guffaws.

“Are you not supposed to be working?” I tentatively ask.

“Oh yeah,” she says, looking up momentarily from the phone. “We had this mental health thing in class yesterday, and they said if we were feeling a bit, you know, like stressed and stuff, we should take it easy.”

“Oh right,” I muster. “Well, no, you shouldn’t let yourself get stressed.”

Oh my god, I think. All the Teen Child does these days is lie around on her phone, or lie around on her phone at her best mate’s house. And when they’re not making tik tok videos, they’re watching back-to-back episodes of Gogglebox. How can she possibly be stressed?

“Do you think you might find cleaning up your breakfast things a little bit meditative, perhaps?” I suggest.

“What?” she grunts, giving me one of those teen looks that basically says ‘are you completely mental?’.

“Don’t worry,” I sigh, continuing down the stairs.

I glance at the calendar. Right now, in another world, or another universe, I would be packing for a holiday in Perth. The Sporty Child would be playing netball in Shanghai and the Teen Child would be on a language immersion week in France. The Boy Child would be happily kicking his lunchbox around the school playground in Kowloon Tong and the Blonde Child would be safely packed away at boarding school in England.

Wearily, I wash my hands, hook on a face mask and mentally add another bottle of Dettol to the Fusion shopping list.

Expat Travelling Mum lives in Hong Kong with four travel-loving children and a weary husband. In the interests of good family relations, she prefers to remain anonymous.


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