My mother is an epidemiologist.

I mean she doesn’t study epidemiology now, but look at what she’s up against. Hasn’t everyone got at least a second cousin with some convincing credentials creeping out of the woodwork? We put her up on the smart board on the last day and let the kids ask questions. Everyone left fits in one classroom.

‘I heard that if you can hold your breath for ten seconds, you don’t have it. It’s proof.’

‘Well,’ my mother says. ‘Let’s all try’.

We count down in our heads. We can all hold our breath for ten seconds.

‘And some of you almost definitely have it, so there’s your proof on that one. Not true.’

I’m joking, she didn’t say that bit at the end, they’re just kids, that’d be awful. I was thinking it the whole time, though.


I have a thing about clocks ticking. The thing is that I really hate it.

Somehow, the big faux-wood one with the Roman numerals survived until this afternoon when I erupted from the sofa like each stroke of the second hand was marking the imperceptible movement of tectonic plates.

We have an orange sectional sofa. The only good spot is the corner. I put my legs over the verge where the two parts are shoddily joined. Every day the crack widens millimetre by millimetre. In this metaphor, the sofa is the crust and when the gap widens just enough, a flow of auditory magma launches me into action, rising from the unhoovered centre of the Earth. Just like Mt St Helens in 1980, I blow my lid. My sofa is broken.

I claw the clock from the wall. Now the clock is broken. I put it in the bin twice because the first time, the plate glass front doesn’t crack.


Here’s the odds. 

Twelve kids left in school out of seven hundred.

Each teacher works one day a week.

We sit them two red stools apart and wash our hands and wash their hands and then wash ours again. It doesn’t feel like key work. It feels like watching the clock run down till three thirty. We paint, we colour, we draw with chalk, we ride bikes outside and say to each other ‘it’s almost normal’ like we’ve ever let them on the big bikes in the playground before.

I think about exactly which kinds of ignorance are bliss.

I put my arms around someone else’s daughter and help her thread the needle, I show her two different stitches. This, at least, isn’t wasting time. I tell myself skills like this can last into uncertainty. I lean down over the fabric offcuts to unpick the knot she’s gotten herself into and she sneezes directly into my open mouth.

There it is, there’s the bliss.