I don’t know why the weekend still feels like the weekend, but it does. Having never done a regular Monday to Friday job, my days have never neatly divided themselves into weekdays and weekends, and in lockdown there is even less to differentiate them. And yet, some pattern laid down during the school years means that the weekend arrives with a fanfare, trailing a faint and ancient atmosphere of holiday.
Friday evening is where it all begins. I’m too young to remember Ready Steady Go! on the TV, but its opening line, “The weekend starts here!” is burned into my brain. Nowadays, as I try not to drink from Monday to Thursday, Friday night means booze; a loosening of the rules; a sinking into the relaxation that the end of the week brings.
Saturday morning, I often do a little light admin, and this week my Covid vaccination letter has arrived, so I set about trying to book the appointment. Any sense of weekend relaxation vanishes pretty swiftly as the online booking site repeatedly fails to find me. Being told my date of birth is incorrect makes me feel slightly mad, so I phone the helpline and speak to a friendly man who enters my details into the system and gets the same result. This makes me feel less mad, but also deeply frustrated. Somehow I have become invisible to the NHS, just when I least want to be. Helpline man sympathises, and we agree that I’ll have to call my GP surgery on Monday.
Saturday having now become a bit stressy, I go for a walk, and then get on my exercise bike while watching Babylon Berlin. That gets me through to 1pm, which is a highlight of the week, marking the moment when the building work next door has to stop. I won’t tell you how long this building work has been going on, you wouldn’t believe me, but for Saturday afternoon and all of Sunday, they down tools. Drilling, sawing, hammering, shouting, the mechanical beeping of a vehicle reversing – all ceases. Peace descends. I begin the proper weekend work of doing nothing.
Doing nothing at weekends feels more guilt-free than doing nothing on a weekday. I have less of a niggling feeling that I ought to be using my time more productively. I idle away the afternoon, making cups of tea, flicking through a gardening magazine, looking at Twitter. I water the seedlings on the windowsill; I listen to the new St Vincent song; I read a bit of the paper.
I look at the fading light, and I think, Saturday is most itself at dusk. Images of late afternoons in Hull cross my mind, shopping trips into town, and coming back on the bus, an evening ahead. Then scenes from further back, childhood memories of Saturday tea, with salmon paste sandwiches and Kunzle cakes in front of the telly. The football results and Dr Who. The evening arriving. I think of teenage Saturday nights at home, in front of Kojak, and Starsky and Hutch, and then later teenage evenings out, at gigs and house parties.
The thought of a party makes me melancholic. I wonder if it’s nearly time for a drink. Sometimes you want a drink, just to give the day some shape. To cheer us up, I order a curry, then Ben and I watch another episode of The Wire. And the weekend is half done already.
On Sunday I go for an early walk, then spend the rest of the day doing more nothing. In the late afternoon I sit upstairs for a while, reading Tobias Wolff’s In Pharaoh’s Army. The sun is sinking, slowly and languorously. I look out at the golden reflections from the windows of the school opposite and remember that tomorrow the kids will return. Normally, at the end of a school holiday for instance, I greet this news with resignation, as it means traffic, but this time I realise that I am looking forward to it. They will appear with a rush of energy, crowding the pavements, talking intensely to each other as they always do, and the thought makes me happy.
Monday arrives, I call the GP surgery, and discover that somehow my date of birth had changed by one digit on my records. With the correction made, I am back in the system, and my vaccination is booked. It’s going to be happening on Friday. A nice way to lead into next weekend.
This article appears in the 17 Mar 2021 issue of the New Statesman, The system cannot hold