Terry Prone: It's 25 weeks on, and now I'm firing frozen food at the tiles. How's your lockdown going?

5th Apr 2021
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Originally published in The Irish Examiner

Terry Prone: It’s 25 weeks on, and now I’m firing frozen food at the tiles. How’s your lockdown going?

Between microwaving T-shirts and doing a bit of violent food storage remediation, I’m having an entirely normal week, okay?

Day 178

If I could find the person who first said “fail to plan, plan to fail,” I would choke them, because it doesn’t change behaviours — not mine, anyway — but sings like an earworm when you get caught out, as I do when I ring the Bank of Ireland helpline and get Jasmine.

I tell her my troubles.

I have sent money from my current account to my credit card account, and it has left the first but not arrived in the second. Jasmine asks for my bank account details, to which the answer is “how can I give them to you? Amn’t I on the phone that contains them?”

Then I realise they would also be on my iPad and head to the kitchen, forgetting the bizarre signal in my home, which ensures that every time you change rooms, your call drops. I lose Jasmine and have to start the whole caper all over again.

This time I get Eoin. Or maybe Owen. Eoghan, even. He points out that it’s Sunday, and things don’t happen the same way over the weekend, but he can see my money hovering in a holding position so not to worry. The relief is disproportionate, as is my transient affection for Eoin/Owen/Eoghan.

Day 179

My confession, last week, to possibly owning a flea evoked a surprising number of emails, none of them particularly helpful about my flea, but instead discussing the most shameful experience each writer had gone through, including one who suffered in early teens from impetigo, which seems to have marked him psychologically for life. Which isn’t surprising because, according to online pictures, it looks as if the sufferers had at themselves with Brillo pads. I’m sorry for their remembered troubles, but mine are current and inflamed. I am covered in red swellings and have failed to get flea powder on the cats.

Thwarted, I devote some time to microwaving my clothes, except the ones with zips. I figure no flea can withstand being microwaved — that is, if I have a flea, which is still, like that Scottish court verdict, Not Proven. Then a parcel arrives from a friend who has form when it comes to parcels, and this one is full of Easter goodies. As I unload them I find in the middle an aerosol can the size of the O’Connell St spire. His note says this comes from his wife, who promises it will de-flea my home.

That’s just the start, according to the can itself, which boasts its capacity to take on everything from a cockroach to a dust mite.

Having met his wife, I would have expected so gentle a person to negotiate with dust mites rather than spray the hell out of them, but I spray and then retreat to the garden with the cats.

Day 180

Wedding ring back on. It had to come off on that day, several months ago, when I fell off a barstool in the kitchen and broke/dislocated my hand and elbow. Swelling all gone. Back to normal.

Day 181

Funny, the way people start telephone conversations. One caller always asks, in a hushed voice, “can you talk?”

At first, I liked what I saw as the implication: That I was so busy taking care of business that I was as uninterruptible as a resistance operator in WWII France. The third time, though, it began to sound like I needed remedial teaching. This may be true. Every now and again I have a brainfart rendering me spectacularly incoherent, which for some reason happens mostly when I’m on TV, so everybody gets to share. Although, now I think about it, these brain farts probably happen on TV or radio because that’s where the most talking happens for me in the pandemic.

My husband used to ring me constantly when I was in the car, inevitably beginning with the question “where are you?” Which might sound a little controlling and restrictive, except that my husband knew I was ever on the verge of being lost, and he wanted to get out in front of the problem.

Another variation surfaces today as a friend, when I accept his call, demands to know what I’m doing.

Because I believe in transparency, I tell him I am on the first floor of my bizarre old home, firing frozen food over the railing onto the tiled floor below.

“I don’t believe you,” he says.

I invite him to listen to the crash. The first, I promise him, would be the frozen mashed potato, the second would be frozen parsnip and carrot. He is stunned into believing me, adding that the main reason for his regular calls is that he never knows what he’ll catch me at — it may have been a mistake to tell him about microwaving my T-shirts — and wants to know why I’m tossing frozen food from a height.

Because, I admit, I always forget to divide up mashed vegetables into single-person portions before I freeze them, so concussing them into smaller segments is the next best thing.

Day 182

A friend text-suggests “the country has lost its collective mind with self-righteousness… It makes The Valley of the Squinting Windows look nostalgic.”

A woman protesting outside the execution chamber in Terre Haute, Indiana, in December of last year, as Brandon Bernard was put to death after his conviction for the 1999 killing of two youth ministers. Picture: Austen Leake/Tribune-Star/AP

Day 183

Two books for you, if you’re interested in real crime. The first, Let the Lord Sort Them: The Rise and Fall of the Death Penalty by Maurice Chammah, published by Crown, examines America’s most enthusiastic state when it comes to executing evildoers. Chammah looks at Texas’s murderers and rapists, their families, their prosecutors, and their executioners — as well as their frequently inadequate defenders, and the families for whom they caused unimaginable suffering. Despite the grim subject matter, the book comes to a hopeful conclusion.

The second is Troubled: The Failed Promise of America’s Behavioral Treatment Programs. From the blurb about its writer, Kenneth R Rosen, it’s clear he’s a success, published in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, and The Atlantic. Yet, to his parents, when he was a teenager, he was the quintessential failure.

“I was admitted to three therapeutic treatment programs for adolescents in New York, Massachusetts, and Utah,” he writes.

He calls what happened to him “a brutal, forced redirection of wayward teenagers.”

Focusing on a handful of people in their 20s and 30s who survived these and “wilderness” programmes for which parents paid enormous sums of money to have their kids “straightened out”, Rosen’s account of the terror, abuse, and destruction of life and possibilities exemplified by these programmes makes the Irish reader glad that this nation has no equivalent.

Day 184

Anyone who doubts the lethal possibilities of new variants of Covid-19 has only to look at the Easter Bunny. Because nobody took the Easter Bunny seriously when it first came in from America: It was allowed to develop and morph into a variant of Santa Claus, demanding presents and celebratory food nobody ever thought of, back in the day.

The country has lost its collective mind with self-righteousness… Again, it makes The Valley of the Squinting Windows look nostalgic