Today’s Lockdown diary piece comes from Ross Sinclair, Wellington, New Zealand, for whom the term ‘essential service’ has spawned a whole range of new responsibilities.

My day starts early.  Usually woken by a ping from my wife’s phone or her tapping answers to one. It is usually around 5 am, sometimes as early as 3 am. Odd numbers. I find odd numbers much worse to wake up to than even numbers, as if they are going to somehow throw my whole day out of kilter. 

With these loud little noises, my wife is clearly breaking our pre-Covid-19 pacted of no work phones inbed.  

But lots has changed. 

And this is the least of it. 

I get up and make her breakfast and a coffee. I know she knows how to drive the espresso machine but when I am in residence, she insists she can’t stretch the milk. 

I am an essential service to an essential service. 

It is nice though, some early morning time together. I don’t see her much during this lockdown. She usually gets home late. 

She calls herself a public servant. She’s working on the policy response to Covid-19 as a shift worker because they have so much policy to shift. She tells me they used to take weeks to write a cabinet paper, stressing over where to place a verb in a sentence. Now it seems they have only a few days to stress over where to place masses of potentially infected people.

My wife leaves for work with all the other early-rising essential-workers, but rather than their day-glow vests and sports utility vehicles or buses or trucks, she’s wearing a power suit and driving a small EV. 

Very Wellington. 

My wife is so grateful that I’m looking after the kids and cooking and cleaning and tears up when she tells me this. She’s saving the fucking world while I’m vacuuming and she’s thanking me!

I tell her I’m proud of her and I feel empowered by supporting her to do what needs to be done. I don’t worry about it sounding condescending or cheesey because it’s genuine and one of Zoe’s many talents is taking a compliment.

The kids get up later but don’t expect coffee. They do expect sugar-coated cereal, somehow conflating lockdown with holidays and an increased chance of breakfast indulgence. 

If it has been a 3 am start to the day, I tend not to sugar coat my responses to their requests.

I think the neighbours would report lots of shouting from our house, if they could hear anything over the din of their incessant power tools. The fervour with which they are doing it themselves suggests they don’t realise that we’re in this lockdown for the long haul.

Of the five residents in our house, Luna the dog shouts the most. She’s just not used to sounds coming over the fence during the day. I recognise them as sanders and grinders and water blasters. She doesn’t recognise them at all, so she barks at them. And she barks a lot.

We are home schooling during lockdown. We had talked about me doing this if Zoe got a posting in the Pacific. Now I am getting to practice, and slowly getting better. I started off being more a janitor and manning the canteen, but slowly I am working my way towards teacher’s assistant. My ambition is, of course, principal. 

When the kids are busy, I catch up on emails and news. I find my way to a ‘human interest’ clip from CNN on YouTube. I cry and so does the interviewer. The news is not supposed to be like this. I stop it before it ends, like stopping a bad dream before it becomes a nightmare. I sit there remembering why I don’t watch TV. 

The day goes on: morning classes, lunch, afternoon classes, exercise.

The day ends how it began, just Zoe and me and her phone in bed. We listen to a podcast of radio news.  They say the Easter road toll was zero. No one could remember when that had last happened, or if it had ever happened before. If it had, I bet it was during the Spanish Flu. 

Ross Sinclair