So, there we were, the world and Jersey, getting along fine until a crown-shaped virus threatened to destroy life as we knew it. First came the cancellations, then the obligations. Parties over. Holidays finished. Offices banned. Home is normally where the heart is, not the entire family. It was like Christmas, Easter, and the Summer Holidays, all rolled together without the presents.
It’s only really now it’s under control, or at least we’ve been temporarily reprieved, and are allowed to get close enough to friends to have a decent conversation, or sit long enough to drink enough wine with them, that the truth about people’s relationships is coming out.
By relationships, I don’t mean purely the husband and wife sort. Or even the parent and child kind. Rather our relationships with the space we occupy, with our attitudes to ourselves and to others.
The lockdowns have made us spend a lot more time in one place – not just in the same house, but the same geographic location. How many of us would normally spend over three months here without even a day in the UK or Guernsey? 12-weeks and counting without the sniff of a little Jet-A1 or ferry diesel?
Anyway, now we’re back on gossip terms with more than 1% of Jersey we’re finding out what has really been going on behind all the domestic bliss of #bananabread and #DIYdays.
We assembled in the garden one afternoon when the weather was behaving itself. Wine chilled. Crisps in individual bowls. Four girlfriends ready to set the Island, or at least our families, to rights.
One of the girls, let’s call her Molly, because she’s generally quite jolly and at least it rhymes, confessed she had to ban her husband from snacking.
“The crumbs were driving me crazy.” She said. “I’d clean the kitchen after breakfast. Go out for groceries or a walk, then come back to a total mess. He was always snacking. A slice of toast here, a handful of olives or hunk of cheese and crackers there. Always things that left bits on the worktops.”
At least Molly’s husband has a study to munch snacks in. Browse any of the property websites and you will see ‘offices’ set up in the most inconvenient spaces. You’ve got to feel sorry for the parent who commandeers the windowless utility room as their WFH space, double screen computer set up above the washing machine. Although maybe it counts as CPD if you’re a MLRO (Money Laundering Regulation Officer)!
But back to Molly, and her hubby; yummy when they met, and now so crummy.
“How many snacks does Henry eat?” I asked, expecting the sort of numbers you need to work in Finance to understand.
“Three or four.” Molly shot me a look. “It’s not the quantity. It’s the fact that he eats bits here and there, literally here, as in, here in the kitchen, and there, in the study. Without a plate. Because he ‘doesn’t want to create lots of washing up’.”
The opposite of a husband who snacks too much is a husband who is trying to lose weight. And who gets a little bit obsessed about it.
“It began with the Fitbit.” Natalie said, pouring a second glass of rosé. We were in the garden at her house in St Aubin’s, high above the bay, admiring the view and trying to keep seagulls out of the crisps. “We’d been doing that 10,000 steps a day thing for over a year. That was fine. Then when lockdown happened, he decided to step it up.”
“How many steps a day did he start doing?” I asked, taking on the role of data analyst, imagining at least Natalie wouldn’t have to worry about crumbs if Matt were out roaming.
“Oh no. He’s not counting steps any more than usual. He’s counting calories. Every meal. Every mouthful. I have to weigh all the ingredients and stick to certain recipes. He has worked out exactly how many calories per day he can eat to lose 1kg of fat per week.”
Slim and trim, despite avoiding the gym and eating at least one slice of cake per day, Natalie is a woman who has never had to count calories in her life. Handbags perhaps. But not calories.
“It’s getting tedious. I’ve been incredibly supportive for weeks. But now I’m so bored eating poached chicken breast and broccoli every night I could just murder a Big Mac.”
“Murder a Big Matt you mean?” Molly quipped, jolly again now she was no longer thinking of crumbs.
Francine pulled a face, which was a lot easier now the Botox had worn off. “These English men are either, beefcakes, as you say, or twiglets. With zee legs that are too skinny.”
“You can’t exactly talk, Mrs Frenchy-pants. Your legs are only ones that could get anywhere near size zero trousers.” I said, thinking of a pair of divine leather leggings we had all coveted on a girls’ trip to St Malo last year.
“I have the French metabolism.” Francine shrugged. “We are designed to consume croissants and Chanel.”
“And wine. And cheese. And husbands.” Natalie added, topping up our glasses. Francine had started getting married in her 20s, trading in her husband for a new model each decade. She was now into her 50s with a fourth husband in her sights.
“Well, what can I say?” Francine reached for a crisp, then picked up her cigarettes. “What is the worse vice? Junk food or these? If Covid-19 is more likely to kill people who are obese, maybe this is not so bad right now.”
“Bad is relative.” Natalie said. “But not all relatives are bad.”
“Because relatives are relative?” Molly sounded confused. Or slightly tipsy. Thankfully, she could walk home. “Because rellies are related. And can’t be relegated?”
My phone beeped and a message popped up.
“Right girls. That’s Pippa. Something is up with Theo so she won’t be joining us.”
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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events, locales, and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living, dead or undead, or actual events is purely coincidental.