It suited us to call it three more weeks. Leo made his announcement that we'd be in this state of lockdown until May 5, when he'd be back to us with a further update, and we all chose to think of it as three more weeks.
It wasn't really, of course. The three weeks to May 5 didn't start until last Tuesday, but after Leo stretched restrictions out in front of us two Fridays ago, we played one of those psychological tricks on ourselves, the kind at which we've become expert since March 12.
Call it three weeks.
And pass me the gin.
Within minutes of the May 5 announcement, my WhatsApp started to ping. People were having a drink earlier than usual.
It was Friday.
It was three more weeks.
It was all too much.
Gin seemed to be the drink of choice and people were able to explain why. We've a lot of time to work out the whys of things these days.
The ice in a gin and tonic provides a sensory hit, a little rush all of its own. The gin is sharp and arresting, the bubbles of the tonic are less dulling than the still smoothness of a glass of wine. Anyway, as friends, family and even acquaintances all said, you can have one G&T and then stop, satisfied. With the wine, you just keep pouring.
At the beginning of the school shutdown, it was a bit of a joke. However, as many of us confessed to each other last week that it was our worst week yet, we spoke about booze like a friend we needed to unfriend. It was a friend for whom we still had affection, even longing, but who did the opposite of make us feel good or glad or even giddy.
It seems like an excellent idea in the early weeks, a little drink to soothe the nerves. A reward for getting through the day in one piece. An effort to lift the spirits.
What follows now, however, is the inability to sleep, or waking in the small hours. The thoughts that you fight so hard to get the better of by day, leaking in and turning everything black.
Three more weeks the thoughts went at 3am over the last week, particularly if there was booze on board. Three more weeks and what if they tell us then that it's three more? For how long can I home-school? After these two weeks of nominal holidays, can I ever bring myself to home-school again?
There were no good thoughts, no location of the joy or the positive or the optimism at 3am with booze on board.
It was a bad week all round. Neighbours confided, in the street, socially distanced, that they were flat.
Fellow school parents that would only count as acquaintances said they were struggling, with the road stretching so far ahead. Friends sent texts saying they were having their worst days yet, mentally stretched too far by frustrated children one side and cabin-fever cocooners on the other, stuck in the middle telling both, unconvincingly, that everything will be OK.
On May 5, both generations asked, desperate for reassurance? Don't ask me.
"Do you think you'll go back to school at all?" the 12-year-old daughter was asked more than once by adults encountered during our exercise outings. Her eyes filled with tears, her face panic-stricken by the idea of having to start secondary without ever finishing primary. The adults realised their error immediately, mouthing apologies.
At home, the 12-year-old asked why adults kept saying that to her. I tried to explain how, right now, even the adults are desperate for answers. That people say these things, sometimes, seeking reassurance themselves, looking for someone to say, with authority, "No, don't worry, everything's going to be fine."
But no one is really able to say that right now, I clumsily spelled out. People are dying, and it's bad, and we all need to work together against that. She was more deflated by my attempt at reassurance than buoyed up.
That's how it was last week, a nation deflated. The weather was good, the children were, officially, on holidays. That brought little joy.
The days ticked by, with many of us unsure what day it was. The figures on the evening news made us sad and worried and weary. "It's Wednesday. I checked," my cousin posted on WhatsApp midweek.
The flood of hilarious video clips slowed down, there were cartoons doing the WhatsApp rounds of how overweight everyone would be at the end of this, along with variations on how delighted we are all going to be to see each other again.
There was a new kindness in the groups, an unspoken understanding that, last week, we just needed to keep each other afloat.
For how much longer?
Among parents, however, the week wound along and with it the awareness that more than staying simply afloat might be called for this week, as the children "return" to school. There was a panicked edge to the anticipation of the emails from the teachers starting to arrive again, along with their expectation that anyone has fuel left in the tank.
Parents confided in one another that they weren't sure if they'd be hitting the homework with such gusto post-Easter. They were weighing it up. The house had been less stressful during the 'holidays', and they weren't sure if they had the mental strength left to coax and cajole and force the children to sit down and concentrate again.
On the other hand, if the children weren't forced to sit down and concentrate again, would the children lose the ability entirely? We'd be letting them down in their preparation for life, surely, if we just let them skive?
Possibly, but last week, it proved mightily difficult to remember that life, to feel as a reality that it will return. The road to May 5 just stretched too far ahead, and we are, by now, too worn down to really believe it will bear good news.
Perhaps in recognition of the flatness of the nation, Leo said, last Thursday, that he's keen to lay out some future plans before May 5. It provided a fillip to our optimism, even as the nursing home fatality figures sank us low.
"When this is all over…" the nine-year-old started a sentence last Friday, using those words for the first time. The 12-year-old affected a cynical expression too old for her years. I think home-school will have to resume on Monday. If only to convince her that I believe. Then, of course, I only have to convince myself.