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How to be Married

I really like my husband. He once made me laugh so much that just thinking of it now, many years later, makes me snort with mirth until I’m wheezy. He’s so kind that our eldest two kids have launched a campaign called #FreeDad because they claim that his selfless service to me in providing endless cups of coffee and basically whatever else I want, is actually a form of slavery. He – in his typical understated manner – just shakes his head at them and refuses to be goaded. He once drove round town in the middle of the night to get me a slush puppy because I had a pregnancy craving for one. This is just who he is. When I started theology college and had to be up at 6am to catch an early train, he would get up at 5:45 so he could make me coffee to take with me.

Now, in case you’re now rolling your eyes and making the puking gesture with your fingers, let me help you out by saying that some nights I also lie next to him in bed and imagine smothering him to death with the pillow, or ramming my thumbs up his nose; anything to stop the god-awful noise he sometimes makes whilst sleeping. This is marriage ladies and gentleman: a match of two wildly distinct halves. Lockdown marriage? An entirely different game altogether.

We have spent every single day of the past year together. Every boring, interminable, endless one of them. Apart from brief solo forays out of the house to walk the dogs or visit the supermarket, we are together every waking moment. Next to each other at the dining table as we work. Next to each other on the sofa of an evening. Bumping into one another in our narrow kitchen. Sleeping next to each other every night. We are not separate individuals anymore with distinct, autonomous personalities but have instead merged into one seamless, fusion couple, like a hideous Poundland Brangelina. This is marriage, lockdown style.  

We finish each other’s sentences, or sometimes we don’t even bother with words because we’re raising four kids on our own during a global pandemic and words are a lot of effort. For example:

Me: “Oh gosh, did you remember to –“

Him: “I did it.”

Me: “Even the?”

Him. “Yes.”

Or:

Me: <Raises eyebrows> “So.”

Him: <Raises eyes brows back> “I KNOW.”

Both: <Laughs in smug married.>

This symbiosis is the payoff you get for no longer having the extreme sweetness you had when you were newly weds and still did all those things that were important when you first got together: getting excited about Valentine’s Day, buying thoughtful presents for one another, wearing sexy knickers (me) that look like dental floss and feel like cheese wire; noticing the sexy knickers (him.) Then one day, you realise that over 16 years have passed and you’ve settled into a rhythm as roomy and comfortable as the sensible drawers you now inevitably wear.

Now you’re constantly surrounded by all the children you’ve made (note to self: unprotected sex gets people pregnant) so now it’s silence in the bedroom as if you still live with your parents, except your parents are surly teens and pre-teens who recoil in disgust if you so much as look at one another in an amorous fashion, and they are awake all the time for the sole purpose of nuking your sex life. So it seems.

Now, please don’t think that the passion in our marriage has all gone, far from it! Things are still very exciting, in their own way. For example, I occasionally like him to talk dirty to me in Italian: “Spaghetti alla Puttanesca…ragu alla Bolognese…” Or “Pizza margarita.” You know, sexy stuff like that. Romance is not dead in this marriage! Sometimes we even mouth kiss, but only if there’s no children watching (which is for approximately 3 minutes out of every 24 hour period.)

I know of so many relationships that have hit the skids since the pandemic began. Relationships with fault lines or even hairline fractures, have discovered to their cost that lockdown was a strain too far. Maybe that’s a good thing, maybe not. I wonder how many relationships might have made it if not for the enforced closeness and pressure of lockdown. It’s an unnatural situation that not all personality types and relationships can comfortably handle. We are one of those couples who are sufficient unto ourselves, and this has been a great blessing to us during lockdown. I recall discussing our plans for one New Year with my hairdresser; my husband and I were going to have dinner at a local hotel, just the two of us. “But won’t you get bored?” my hairdresser asked. To him and his wife this was anathema, for they only ever spent time together with other couples, whereas me and my husband love spending time together just the two of us; a preference that has undoubtedly served us well during lockdown.

We’ve needed each other like never before, because lockdown has presented some of the harshest challenges to our marriage yet. We’ve experienced the worst kind of grief and pain and we’ve had to do it without support (I’ve written about some of that here.) Some memories of this lockdown will never leave me; his utter collapse at discovering he’d been made redundant again, and me not knowing how to comfort him or make right a really wrong situation; our 10 year old asking in a tiny, quavering voice from the doorway, “what’s wrong with Daddy? Why is he crying?”

Or the day I came home from the gym and had a complete meltdown on the living room rug because I’d heard a song on the radio that reminded me of our daughter and every awful stinking terrible thing that had been done to her, and the pain was so bad I thought I was bleeding inside and so I fell to my knees and screamed with my face pressed into the shag-pile like a wounded animal, and then we held each other until it stopped. We held each other. That’s what we’ve been doing since this whole thing began. That’s what marriage is.  

Jamie Fraser said that marriage makes a sacrament out of the things you’d otherwise have to confess[1], and I also think it makes a sacrament out of the awful, the tedious, the painful and the monotonous. It weaves them together with threads of love, faithfulness, devotion and fidelity, and creates a blanket of grace, large enough to throw over and cover even a family as big as ours. Our marriage is a blessed counterpane of grace that covers us and keeps us safe from the missiles this world throws at us. We add extra stitches to it for every year we’re together and so it grows bigger.

That’s marriage. It’s looking at the other person and wondering whatever did you do to make them love you. It’s profound gratitude. It’s relief after a lifetime of loneliness to finally recognise your own self in someone else. It’s the pleasing hum of hitting the note after years of discordant din. It’s lying awake listening to your partner snore and not actually jamming your thumbs up his nostrils, because you fall asleep holding hands every single night, like a touchstone that says, deep still calls to deep. This marriage is the soul and song of my life and the living prayer that God is always with us.

Here endeth the lesson.  


[1] Gabalden, Diane. Outlander (London: Arrow Books, 1991.)

How to mend a broken heart

CW: Self harm.

My eldest daughter (often referred to as The Teen) has an inch-long scar on her chin; a dubious trophy from a trip taken long ago to our local park with her dad. She lost her footing whilst climbing up a metal climbing frame; a piece of equipment so old and decrepit that I’d scaled it myself at the same age. She hit her chin and cut it open, necessitating a panicked run back to our house by my husband, our daughter in his arms, and culminating in sutures.

Any parent will testify to the stomach flipping fear of seeing your child bleed. Oh, the sickening panic that ensues, the worry and the fussing that takes place. The rush to soothe, apply anti-septic and plasters and make it all better. The joy of being able to do so! To the frightened toddler who has seen blood and fears the worst, you are their person, their rock and their shield. Mummy and Daddy can always make it better.

Thirteen years later, I confess that neither of us can take comfort in the knowledge that I can make it better. When your child takes a razor blade and makes herself bleed, there is no comfort for anyone. Now there are other scars. Neat, linear marks that tell their own story; they speak of inner turmoil that can’t be spoken aloud, or expressed any other way than by the clinical, methodical marking of her once perfect, unspoiled skin.

To the parent (note the disassociation here) there is agony in knowing that your precious child bleeds at their own hand and you, once so influential and integral to their well-being, are absolutely powerless to prevent it. Indeed, to some there is the horrid suspicion that you might even be the cause; when a hospital stay due to illness means that an insensitive Junior Doctor heartlessly takes hold of your child’s arm and demands to know why have you done this? Then coldly enquires if she’s under a social worker. Oh yes. The guilt and sense of responsibility is immense. I tried to keep her safe her entire life. Somewhere along the line, I failed.

This has been our painful reality for about a year now. Lockdown, as you can imagine, has made things so much worse. Despite this there have been unexpected blessings, the constrained circumstances meant that she was with us all day, every day, with no negative outside influences. This meant that for the first time in a long time we’ve been able to keep her safe. We’ve been able to keep the one who damaged her far, far away from her and start the long process of healing, starting with de-programming her from all the negative ideas about herself that she’s been poisoned with. Without the lockdown, she might have been lost to us – and herself – forever.

I’ve learned lessons that I never wanted to learn, but through tears and as an anguished listener, learn them I have. Until I witnessed my child’s acute emotional distress and listened to her recount it in hideous detail, I’d never known deep parental pain. Until I’d abandoned my principles of privacy and forced myself to search her room and removed razor blades, I’d never realised how I could break myself continuously to protect her. I would do it over and over again. Until I’d listened to my child talk about all the ways she has been hurt, I didn’t know the strength of my own rage.

The world opening up again has brought fresh anxiety and yet new avenues of hope. We can no longer keep her locked up in cosseted isolation as it’s been since the lockdown descended, and that’s a scary thing to accept. We’ve watched with our hearts in our mouths as she’s left the house without us to meet friends, not knowing if she’ll be safe and having to take it on trust that all is well. This process of re-parenting her has been a challenge; just when you want to cling and hold on tight you know that it’s necessary to let go. She can’t spread her wings if we’re keeping them pinned to her sides.

She has met her many challenges with grace and courage. It’s horrible to admit that the qualities that we so admire in her; her compassion and kindness, her empathetic and forgiving nature, are exactly the qualities that left her vulnerable to being mistreated. Despite it all she still remains someone of huge character who makes us laugh every single day. She’s one of the bravest people I know.

Lockdown has tried us in new and painful ways. It has taught us things that we never knew we needed to know; things that we shouldn’t have to know. I will be forever grateful for lockdown, for its limitations and its lack of routine, for its enforced isolation and its compulsory closeness. God bless The Lockdown, for keeping us together and for keeping us safe. I shall always be thankful for the good that has emerged from the direst of circumstances, from a period so out of and yet seemingly wasteful of time, through it all has emerged new life and new hope. The lockdown gave us back our girl.  

Here endeth the lesson.

~ Shared with permission.

How to be a parent.

Me and my husband don’t know what we’re doing. There: I admitted it. I’m 41 and he’s nearly 50 (oh my God) and even though this should mean that we are fully functioning adults, we are still unaccountably clueless much of the time. I can’t be the only person who looked at adults when I was a child and assumed they knew how the world worked and how to navigate their way through it. Now I am the adult I realise what utter folly this thought was. I have been a parent since I was 24 and have been adulting hard ever since and yet in my head I am still that child looking to other grown-ups to see how much more competently they are doing life than me.

We have four children who range in age from just turned 7 to just turned 16. Two girls, two boys. They are all strong-willed, loud, opinionated, smart mouthed, and mostly hilarious. We simply can’t fathom where they all get it from. While it’s undeniably fun much of the time, it also makes parenting quite a challenge. Each child is determined to be treated as the distinctive individuals they absolutely are, while simultaneously being treated exactly the same as each other, lest the fires of sibling rivalry burn ever hotter and consume everything in their path.

You see our problem perhaps, for to respect their unique personhood whilst also treating them all the same is surely a metaphysical  impossibility. And yet, here we are; trying to carry out this Sisyphean task; explaining the difference between equality and fairness to four young people who have an over-developed and keenly felt sense of injustice and who have been taught to always advocate well for themselves.

We don’t always get things right. We lose our tempers. We get tired and fall into lazy parenting traps where we don’t actually care who started it, we “just want you all to shut the hell up!” We sometimes let them eat the crap/sit and look at a screen/go to bed late/sleep in…whatever. We sometimes do it all ourselves because it’s easier than getting into a debate about whose turn it is. Parenting is hard at the best of times, and as we have already established, this is not the best of times.

It’s still rather disconcerting to remember being sat (gingerly) on the edge of my hospital bed, post-birth of the youngest watching the midwife fill in my discharge notes, whilst being told, “You don’t need any advice from me do you!” when she discovered I already had three children. It didn’t seem to occur to any health care professional that despite having navigated the exhausting, sleep-deprived, anxiety ridden newborn waters before, we had still never parented four children under the age of 9; three under 5. For that, we were pretty much on our own.  

So you do what most people do. You muddle through. You get by. You have good days and bad, you make mistakes, you screw everything up and wonder what the hell you were thinking imagining that you could do this impossible task – keeping them all happy and well-adjusted. You go on Facebook and quickly realise the error of your ways as you sink into a funk deliberately created by the parents who post only to showcase their child’s triumphs, which we’re absolutely to understand reflects only upon their skills as a parent. You begin to convince yourself that everyone else is doing so well at this parenting thing:

“Why is he grade 8 on the sodding piano, when we can’t even get ours to play the recorder?!”

And you become sorely tempted to respond to the status update about a child’s extra-curricular achievements in Latin by writing how your own 7 year old has been taught to say suck yer mother by your teen. Hashtag blessed!  

Either way, comparisons usually lead to two things; bone-deep resentment and crippling inadequacy. It solidifies your opinion that Facebook is indeed the work of the devil.

So for your own peace of mind you check out of the race and you stop comparing. You stop making yourself and your kids miserable by encouraging them to participate in an extra-curricular hell that merely serves to wear everybody out and makes us all grouchy. You disembark the hamster wheel of endless childhood activities which seem more designed to prepare your children for a future in the Avengers rather than just a perfectly average and healthy adulthood.

And then a global pandemic comes and decimates normal life as we know it; all the swimming lessons, all the after-school clubs, all the things to achieve and be the best at. All gone. Now there is just you and him and them, day after day. And you finally realise that the goal of parenthood isn’t a goal at all; it’s not something to achieve or be good at. Parenting isn’t something you excel at, for what on earth is our measure of ‘success?’ When they’ve graduated from Oxford? When they’ve won a Nobel prize? When they’ve made their first million? When they’ve won their first Olympic gold medal, or sold out the Royal Albert Hall? When? When can you sit back and bask in the reflected glory of a parenting job well done?

For this is the type of success that so much of modern parenting seems to be wanting to prepare young people for. Quantifiable, status driven, economic, easily observable success.  

Well, balls to all that.

It has been 117 days since we locked down as a family and every one of those days has been spent together, all six of us. When you boil life down to its basics like this, you’re reduced to the things that really matter: Laughter. Hugs. Games. Stories. Meals together. Shared experiences. Splitting up fights and sorting out arguments, because, you know, we’re not the Von Trapps (though let’s be honest: I’m pretty sure they often gave each other a roundhouse kick to the head too when no one was looking.)

Our main goal as parents is to love these children as hard as we can and to keep them safe, we know this, but we allow ourselves to be corrupted by prevailing parenting folklore that says our kids must partake of every activity going and learn every skill imaginable lest they be left behind. But we are parents, not trainers or boot camp sergeants and they are gloriously unique individuals, not mirrors to hold up to reflect our own glory.

If you’ve got to the end of lockdown after having kept your children safe, fed and watered; if none of you have completely lost your minds; if you can greet your children at the break of every day and still, somehow, not be sick by the sight of them, and can tuck them in at night and have the privilege of hearing them say “I love you” then well done fellow parent. You are a success.

Here endeth the lesson.

How to keep laughing

I am especially glad of the divine gift of laughter: it has made the world human and lovable, despite all its pain and wrong.

W.E.B Du Bois.

My gran died in 1995 when I was 16, but she should have died the year before. I say should have because when she became unwell in the winter of 1994, we were able to gather round her bed to swap stories, provide gruff comfort for one another, and in our own way, say goodbye. Instead, she made an unexpected recovery and died a year later, when no one was really expecting her to and when we were ill prepared to deal with it. Inconsiderate really.

I have a clear memory of us gathered at night in the hushed half-light of her hospital room, my mother, brother and one of my uncles perched uncomfortably on orange plastic chairs around her bed, listening to her increasingly incoherent ramblings, brought on by renal failure. At what was supposed to be a tender and sombre time, my brother and I were instead reduced to helpless tears of silently suppressed laughter as our gran earnestly taught us the best method of herding goats.

“You must find a big one, a big billy goat. Carve off his head and then go goat herding.”

My gran was born and bred in inner city Manchester which isn’t really famed for a tradition of goat herding, thus her conversation was as nonsensical and baffling as her yelling accusation that the ward was “overrun with paedophiles!”

I maimed my stomach muscles in a failed attempt to suppress my mirth; an insensitivity that wasn’t just the product of being an inconsiderate teenager, but was entirely due to being the product of a like-minded family of similarly insensitive fools, who by the way, were all in barely concealed hysterics too.

When the doctor (“PAEDOPHILE!”) popped his head round the door to check on us all, we struggled to compose ourselves into the touching tableau of a grieving family around a death bed that he doubtless expected to see. My family rarely do the thing that is expected of them, a trait that I’ve inherited, often to my own detriment and the detriment of the people who have encountered me over the years. As you grow up and move outside the familial bubble, you discover that many people don’t share that instinct to find humour in just about anything.

As I’ve aged, I have tempered my love of all things silly, irreverent, and downright profane with the sensible Christian desire to be sensitive to the feelings of others. At least, I try. I’m still convinced though that having a sense of humour and maintaining the ability to see the funny side even when faced with all manner of grim or tedious circumstances has been one of the greatest blessings of my life. Indeed, it is essential.

Never has a need for humour been thrown into sharper relief than this year; this ultimate annus horriblis. As a family we began 2020 with our mental health in tatters due to a combination of job redundancy, extreme financial stress, and a number of other factors that kept me up at night, worrying endlessly. We were just starting to improve our situation when the pandemic hit and cast us – and everyone else – into previously unchartered trauma.

We’ve found much to be grateful for during these strange and strained times; an income, each other, our good health, a safe home, but most of all our ability to keep on laughing despite the sheer horror of it all.

After all, lockdown life has provided endless comedy:

What’s that you say Boris, the schools are shut, probably until September? What larks!

My husband has to work from home, at the dining table, where the kids are also trying to do their school work? No problem! “We’ll just work around you, it’s totally fine. I don’t mind that I can’t see your face while we eat because there’s a giant monitor between us.” <waves at husband from behind the screen.>

The supermarkets will only let us buy one 500 gram bag of pasta because of panic buying and that’s literally one meal for a family of six. Oh, and my husband (our nominated shopper and canary in the mine) has to visit every supermarket in town just to be able to buy enough food for us for seven days and is gone for four hours. We see him off at the front door like he’s departing for the Western Front, lovingly handing him a small bottle of hand sanitiser with all the ceremony of swearing on the King’s Shilling. What a hoot!

The Teen’s GCSE exams are cancelled. Hurrah! “Thank the Lord. Your prayers have been answered. You weren’t planning on doing any revision anyway were you. HA HA HA HA!”

Daily outings with the dogs have taken on a macabre unreality, worthy of the opening credits of Stephen King’s The Stand. The roads, once so busy and difficult to cross easily, now eerily empty and the air portentously silent. Every few yards we encounter fellow walkers (this auto-corrected to something actually far more appropriate) and we bellow “BUBBLE!” at our two boys, which makes them freeze then obediently dash back to us, to cling and cringe away from the strange people, who are doubtlessly germ laden, making our youngest exclaim loudly, “Ew, that man coughed! He’s probably full of covids!” MASSIVE LOL.

Every day brings new fodder for my children’s future therapists: “Daaaad! Mum is crying in the downstairs loo again!” What jolly japes.

Did I mention that I’m an introvert who finds constant noise and companionship absolutely intolerable and that’s basically my life now, ALL THE TIME? Please excuse me while I laugh and laugh and laugh (maniacally, in a Jack Nicholson style.)

I am either not sleeping; lying awake until dawn, crippled by existential stress and anxiety, or I am asleep and plagued by horrific nightmares where life takes on an unfamiliar hellscape, where I find myself trapped with five other people, four of whom are demons who I can’t escape from and who are driving me and each other slowly mad, only to wake and realise that I am trapped in a house with my four demons – sorry, my four children – who are driving me and my fellow inmate – sorry, my husband – and one another slowly mad. Oh, the endless hilarity!

Ok, so maybe it hasn’t all been shits and giggles. Maybe this extended period of global madness has tested even my indefatigable sense of humour. But we are alive and we are well. Lots of people haven’t been so lucky, and God be near those poor souls. Even so, I like to imagine that Forty years from now my grandchildren might be gathered round my death bed, leaning in close to hear my final pearls of wisdom, gleaned from a life well lived.

“What did you do during the Great Global Pandemic, Grandma? Did you make lots of sour dough bread? What new hobbies did you take up?”

“Absolutely none my dears, but I did laugh about it all from time to time. Thank God I could still manage that. Now, come closer my darlings. I’m going to tell you all about the wonders of goat herding.”

Here endeth the lesson.

How to keep fit and stay sane.

In news that will probably surprise people who are familiar with me in the flesh (spoiler: I’m well blessed in the flesh department) I’m actually a passionate gym goer. Not so much a gym bunny as a gym sloth – I like to move but I’m not in any rush when I’m doing it.

In my pre-lockdown life I was a regular visitor to my local authority gym, which I tried to attend during the U3A hour on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons, mostly so I could feel superior by being faster on the treadmill than all the septuagenarians who were present. (Look: I’m not an athletic woman. Allow me my petty pleasures.)

Unfortunately, amidst the U3A crowd are at least three people who attend my church, which means I also run the risk of enduring the mild humiliation of encountering people I know when I’m devoid of poise and am least capable of appearing gracious. What a demeaning juxtaposition it is to be seen on a Sunday morning fully robed up, swathed from head to toe in black and white cotton, then encountered two days later dripping in sweat with a face as enflamed as a baboon’s posterior. It is a check to one’s vanity, for sure, to be stumbled upon at the gym, when I’m enrobed in a sheen of skin-tight and deeply unflattering neon. It’s a similar dignity stripper to the hairdressers, where I’m to be found wearing what can only be described as an adult bib, with tinfoil in my hair. Always a delight to bump into a casual acquaintance at such times when I’m at my most vulnerable and humble.

If I looked lithe and fit in my gym gear then I suppose being spotted by unwary parishioners wouldn’t be quite so humiliating, but as is obvious to anyone who has had the misfortune to bump into me, I clearly don’t exercise to improve the appearance of my body. At my age and after having birthed four humans, I am under no illusions about the shortfalls and indeed, excesses of my corporeal reality. One of the blessings of being in the middle season of my life is a lessening of the obsessive hyper-critical inner monologue that has haunted me since I was ten years old. That bitch is easily silenced these days, if only by me shoving a handful of Twiglets in her (my) face.

Now I hear my daughters (11 and 16 respectively) figuratively pick at and worry over their bodies like dispassionate anatomists pouring over a cadaver; turning their bony arms this way and that, pinching thin thighs and taut stomachs, finding fault where fault is a fleeting fabrication; an instagrammable construct. I look at them and all I see is beauty and youth, which has its own particular loveliness. I refrain from telling them this because my words (unlike my body) carry little to no weight. They won’t listen to me; I know this because I didn’t listen either.

At just turned 41 I find that I while I don’t love my body, I have accepted that I don’t have to love it in order to respect myself. Part of that respect is moving my body in order to feel good. I have become an endorphin junky, addicted to the swell of mild and pleasant euphoria that follows an elevated heart-rate and an extended period of breathlessness (cheeky wink.) If exercise is absent from my life for too many days I feel sluggish and heavy and before long I succumb to lethargy, my lowered mood drags me down and I find it all the harder to get moving again. Apathy breeds yet more apathy.

With the gym closed and with no prospect of safely reopening soon, I have had to find other ways to exercise. Walking my dogs is an activity as everyday and monotonous as eating three meals and emptying the dishwasher, and while I enjoy our daily meanderings, I don’t consider it to be exercise as such.

Early on in Lockdown my husband dragged our primitive cross-trainer out of the shed, where it had lived a lonely and forgotten existence ever since we’d moved house and unceremoniously dumped it there alongside the miscellaneous boxes we’ve still not unpacked. After a sponge-down to rid it of four years’ worth of spiders, cobwebs and dust, I proceeded to pedal away on it in our playroom-cum-junk room, ignoring the high-pitched squeaks of protest that may or may not have been emitted by the cross-trainer.

A combination of boredom and lockdown inertia has forced me to branch out into other avenues of exercise. I’ve gone old school and have started working out to DVDs that were released in the Noughties, creating an exercise regimen that is both eclectic and embarrassingly Karenesque. For example, my favourite DVD is by Rosemary Conley, the Mary Berry of the diet and fitness world; fitspo Royalty if you will, years before that was even a thing and before anyone had dial-up internet, let alone broadband.

I suspect she may actually have super powers, because Rosemary never even breaks into a sweat; her beautifully coiffed hairdo remains solid and perfectly teased at all times, such is the power of Elnett and middle-class respectability. She never loses her breath, nor does she pause in offering gentle encouragement and tender cajoling. One feels almost bad for letting Rosemary down; after all, I first bought that DVD back in the late 90s (I had it on VHS first – to any Gen Z-ers reading this, VHS is a relic from the dark and distant past that will make little sense to you) and I’ve still never managed to “do wonders for my hips and thighs” as Rosemary assured me with home counties confidence. I’m so sorry Rosemary – salty snacks and beer have been and had plentifully, and my hips and thighs pay testimony to that fact.

I don’t quite know how to break it to Rosemary – or to any other people hoping to flog their exercise DVDs by peddling promises of miraculous weight loss – but I don’t work out with them to lose inches. I work out with them to stop myself from losing my mind. I care far less about bingo wings and spare tyres than I do about having the emotional energy to get through each long and increasingly exhausting day. I care far less about my flexibility and metabolic rate than I do about remaining calm and unflustered enough to not flip out entirely, using my dumb-bells and new-found biceps to beat myself into oblivion.

This isn’t about working out to lose weight, it’s about working out how to survive. If, like me, your idea of a balanced lockdown diet is a bottle of Kopparberg in one hand and a sharing bag of Doritos in the other, then have at it. The gyms will open again one day, God willing, and those neon exercise clothes might not be flattering but they sure are stretchy.

Here endeth the lesson.