I watch my mum lovingly wrap a package of art supplies for my sister who is sheltering with her boyfriend down in Leeds. Postage is taking twice as long as usual. We have another family WhatsApp call today at 2pm, though there is nothing new to talk about. These check-ins have become rituals for small talk. Maintaining which things stay the same in this period of change.

I want to be alone in the garden, under the forsythia, pulling out stubborn tendrils of ivy. I want to make sure the sparrows are feeding on the fat balls we bought when the garden centres reopened. There was a man whose sole job was wiping down the trolley handles with disinfectant. Was he happy to return to work, or would he have liked to stay in bed another week? The tomato plants looked past their best. Most had withered leaves and a funny, sweet smell surrounding them. Nobody kept to the two metre rule because there wasn’t enough space in the aisles. A cheerful woman was chatting to everyone she passed, exclaiming how happy she was to be allowed in her favourite place again. When we got back in the car we squirted small dollops from the travel size hand gel smelling of strawberries, part of a toiletries gift box from Christmas, a miracle find with nothing left in the shops.

My empty days are thirsty for reading. I am ordering on average one new book a week, despite the shelves in my bedroom filled with books yet to read. We are selling those we don’t want any more on Ten pence for a world atlas, last accurate in 1992. Furlough pay from my two part-time jobs, both started within the last six months, will only get me so far. Otherwise, I am getting by on pictures of cats forwarded on from my dad, who I can’t visit because, even though he works from home, his girlfriend is a teacher turned childminder for key workers and thus battling on the front lines daily. The hedgehog is still visiting though, and is now bold enough to scream at them when they are late putting out the food.