I have ordered many things over the course of lockdown, not because I need them, but because I find it easier to get up every morning and carry on if I suspect something might be delivered that day: a book, some seeds, a multifunction pull-out kitchen faucet spray head replacement part. It doesn’t matter what it is, as long I am there to open the door and find the package on the doorstep, and the masked delivery man waving from the pavement.
Often, though, that’s not what happens, because I can’t hear the doorbell from my garden shed. Instead, I get a text that says, “Parcel was handed to resident.” I think: but I’m the resident! Then I meet the youngest one dragging a large, flat, heavily taped box into the kitchen.
“This just came for you,” he says.
“Did he wave?” I say.
“He did,” he says. “What is this thing?”
“It’s a plywood circle,” I say.
“OK,” he says.
“I found this company that will cut you out a circle of plywood of any diameter you request,” I say. “In this case, 80cm.”
“What for?” he says.
“Oh my God,” I say, rending the cardboard into strips. “They sent me the square they cut it out from as well!”
I ordered a football pump, some spray paint and a lap steel guitar. I ordered a podcasting microphone, because I saw other people using them in Zoom meetings, and when it didn’t arrive after five business days, I instigated one of those unattractive “This simply won’t do” conversations on the website’s help chat service. They sent me a transcript of it, so I can relive the shame whenever I want. “Thank you for that, Tim,” says a man called Gamaliel, over and over, in response to my petulance. In my defence, it wasn’t ever about the microphone. It was about those five business days of crushing disappointment.
I ordered a gym mat, because I have done no exercise in three months. The day after it arrived, the oldest one took it up to his room and I didn’t see it again for two weeks. At first I thought: problem solved. But later I complained about it while trying to distract my wife from one of my other failings, and she ordered another gym mat. If the weather is good, I drag it out on to the grass in the morning. I close my eyes and wince as the bones in my spine click and grind. When I open them again I find myself nose to nose with the tortoise. He seems to be deciding where to bite me.
“Not the face,” I say.
“Doing your little exercises?” my wife says, from the kitchen door. She’s holding a package.
“Is that for me?” I say.
“No,” she says. “It’s just some plants I ordered.”
“Plants,” I say, trying to sit up. “Boring and stupid.”
“Speaking of boring and stupid,” my wife says, pausing for effect. “What are your plans for that plywood circle?”
“The plywood circle forms the base of my mosaic table top,” I say.
“Yes,” she says.
“I think you may be referring to the plywood square from which the circle was cut,” I say.
“Correct,” she says.
“I haven’t decided,” I say.
“It’s in the way,” she says.
“Would you like me to make a garden mirror out of it?” I say.
“No thank you,” she says.
“I’ll bet there’s a place that would cut out a circular mirror of any diameter,” I say.
“I don’t want a garden mirror,” she says.
“But then we might get left with a square mirror with a big circle missing from the middle,” I say. “Essentially the same problem.”
“I’m taking it to the dump,” she says.
“Fine,” I say.
“I bought plane tickets, by the way,” she says. “They were cheap, so I risked it.”
I am reminded that the world is reopening so quickly that our long-booked holiday might actually go ahead. Lockdown is basically over, with so many things left unordered.