You know when you’re in a pandemic when your bin goes out more than you do.
Excursions from rural Fyne Place have been so rare this year that when I eventually poked my nose out the door this week, I faced burgeoning bugophobia, the dreaded fear that the outside world is alive with evil microbes waiting to pounce on any unsanitised hand or unmasked face.
Not surprisingly, life in the two-person Fyne bubble has largely been preferable to mixing with those who still seem to think Covid is a myth or politically motivated scare campaign for reasons they can’t explain.
But when it dawned brightly one morning, Mrs F and I excitedly set off for some sun, sea and sandwiches, something we haven’t been able to do for ages.
It’s been especially hard for me, born and raised so close to the coast that we moved upstairs whenever the tide came in and our house windows were broken by me proving that it was just a stone’s throw from the shore.
Perhaps reports that Kinbrace in Sutherland had suffered the coldest-ever May Day temperature, plummeting to -5.9C overnight, should have alerted me to our folly.
When we arrived at the seaside, the sun was shining brightly. Our picnic blanket was spread out, but as the flasks and sandwiches were opened, so did the heavens.
When my cup filled with hailstones that stung more painfully than a dozen Covid jabs and I was afflicted by that distinctly uncomfortable feeling associated either with sitting on wet grass or suffering an embarrassing bladder breakdown, we packed up and headed home.
Not much good has emerged from the past year’s lockdowns, but one side-effect has been mildly beneficial. No one could turn up at our door unexpectedly and expect to be invited indoors for coffee.
This struck me when I was sitting in my favourite armchair after our aborted away day, surrounded by the wrappings of an Amazon parcel I’d just received, the remains of my tea on a tray, an empty cup at my side and wearing jumper, jeans and socks that collectively were holier than the Pope.
I made Compo, Onslow and Rab C Nesbitt each look like James Bonds in comparison, but as there was no prospect of anyone crossing the threshold to see me, I was unmoved.
From May 17, that’s changing, though. No more can we dodge irritating intrusions by citing Covid restrictions. This realisation hit Mrs F like a high-speed hailstorm. Urgent action was needed, she ruled, so a minor Fyne Place makeover is under way in preparation for our “re-opening”.
This might delight PM Boris’s partner, Carrie, but while she commissioned A-list interior designer Lulu Lytle for their works, whose signature is bold styles, rattan furniture, gold wallpaper and marble bathrooms, we’re using brushes and paint from our local ironmonger.
The refurbishment of the PM’s Downing Street flat includes Persian rugs, cream walls with gold hangings and gold chandeliers, apparently. Our revamp might stretch to cream-coloured emulsion, but forget the fancy rugs and chandeliers.
Without a benevolent benefactor funding our accessories, my bank account can underwrite only a new bulb for the kitchen light.
While contemplating our impending painting pandemonium, I saw that Bill Gates and his wife, Melinda, are divorcing after 27 years of marriage. The Microsoft billionaires said they can “no longer grow together as a couple”.
So what? Mrs F has been trying to stop us growing any further here, too, which is why sausages have given way to salad, and pies to pasta, but we’re still together.
I can’t help wondering if the Gates’ union was actually ended by disagreements about what colour to paint their kitchen, or kitchens? Mrs F is obsessive about finding exactly the right paint, but not being an interior Einstein, I’m more concerned about price. It’s a potentially explosive mixture.
Currently, she’s adopted a minimalist matchpot stripey style. The walls resemble a tiger that’s been rolling in flour and they have more shades of grey than a saucy novel.
Melinda and Carrie, or Bill and Boris, might not be impressed, but I’m keeping quiet.
One careless colourful comment from me and my next outing might be inside our wheelie bin.