It’s 2pm, and I’m lying on my bed, staring at the ceiling. The wind is whistling down the street outside; it’s not park weather, which I’m secretly pleased about, because it provides us with the perfect excuse not to leave the house all day. In the early stages of lockdown, we were desperate to go outside; we crammed long bike rides, walks and runs into our hour of daily exercise. What were we thinking? It’s so much nicer and less tiring just to stay at home.
As I gaze up at the familiar patterns of cracks and bumps, I congratulate myself on the fact that I am not wearing my pyjamas. It’s important, I feel, to get dressed in the morning, even when you don’t, strictly speaking, need to. The day we don’t get dressed at all will be the day we know lockdown has finally beaten us, and all standards have been abandoned. But for now we are firmly on top of things. I even brushed my teeth this morning. Or did I?
It dawns on me that the kids haven’t made any noise for a long time. This is puzzling. Especially as the iPad is on my bedside table, so I know they can’t be sneaking in a gaming session. What are they up to? Eating all the biscuits? A decade of parenting has taught me that silence is usually a bad sign. I dutifully heave myself into a vertical position and trudge to the doorway.
“Larry?” I call. “Moe?”
No answer. Definitely the biscuits. I head downstairs to the kitchen, where I find seven-year-old Moe sitting at the table, hunched over a notebook. He doesn’t seem to notice me come in.
“What are you doing?”
“Writing my book,” he replies, without looking up. “It’s going to be published by Bloomsbury.”
This is a blow to the heart. The deadline for my own book was supposed to be the end of May, but I’ve been struggling to summon up anything like the focus required, what with the global crisis raging around us. Quite clearly, nobody can write a book under these conditions.
Except Moe, it seems. I peer at the page in front of him. “The Viking Bible”, it says at the top, in his laborious joined-up writing.
“Hmm. Nice title,” I observe.
“I know,” he says. “It’s going to have eight chapters.”
“Good number.” I still don’t know how many chapters my book is going to have, and I’ve been working on it for two years. Planning has never been my strong suit. “What chapter are you on now?”
He leafs back through several pages. “Seven,” he says.
Well and truly shamed, I slink off to make myself a cup of tea. We parents like to think we know our kids, but the truth is we don’t have a clue. Moe has always had a chaotic physical energy; he has never particularly liked reading, let alone writing. At school he struggles to concentrate; his teachers always say he lacks confidence, and he’s needed special help with maths. I’ve reassured myself that he’s just not the kind of boy who likes sitting at desks; he’s built for running around in the woods.
But by the time I have finished my cuppa, he has scribbled “THE END” at the bottom of the page and thrown his pencil down on the table in the manner of a Wimbledon champ tossing his T-shirt to the crowd. “We can send it off this afternoon,” he announces.
I pick up the book and give it a skim. It’s a ripping tale of two Vikings, who have long blond hair, wear shades and fight their enemies using bone nunchucks. Sure, it’s a little trippy and disjointed in places, but it definitely has more commercial potential than anything I have come up with. I mean seriously, could The Viking Bible be the next Game of Thrones? Perhaps, if I handle this writing craze right, Moe could be the one to make this family millions. He could buy Husband and I our golden-years house in the country; clear up the tricky business of our total lack of pension planning.
You heard it here first: lockdown could be where it all began…
This article appears in the 20 May 2020 issue of the New Statesman, The Great Moving Left Show