Yes, we know there's a pandemic going on, and if we think too hard or too much about it we'd never get out of bed in the morning. But equally, it's impossible to escape the fact that the lockdown is bringing with it some entirely unanticipated benefits. And if we were the type of person to keep a gratitude journal (we're definitely not the kind of person to keep a gratitude journal) this is what we'd be grateful for:
Birds. Who knew?
We can hardly hear ourselves think for the cacophony of birdsong these days. How did we never notice before that our tiny patch of back garden is basically an aviary? Now that we're stuck at home all day, with nothing to do but stare out the kitchen window, we're obsessed with the antics of the family of blackbirds who pop in and out of the hedge like they're in a pantomime. Not to mention the cheeky robin, who perches on the windowsill every morning for a birds-eye view of our efforts to combine homeschooling with working from home. He doesn't look impressed.
Given that crossing the road round here is usually a high-octane game of Russian Roulette, then the fact that we can safely wander the streets without so much as an angry van driver deliberately clipping us with his wing mirror is cause for celebration. The silence. The freedom. The space. The fact that you don't feel like you're at Mondello Park, and about to be mown down at any minute by an errant speedster. Is this what the 1950s were like, when hardly anyone had a car? Because it's brilliant.
Not caring about celebrities any more
All those years of keeping up to speed with the complexities of the Kardashians' domestic arrangements. All that time we spent wondering if Meghan Markle was an innocent victim of hateful bigotry or just a complete pain in the arse. Now, finally, thanks to Covid-19, we are free to admit what we long suspected - none of it matters. Celebrity culture is dead, or at the very least dormant, put to sleep by the carousel of idiots who thought it would be a good idea to record 'Imagine' as a pandemic panacea. Celebs: we have news for you. We don't need you any more. We need vaccines, ventilators and heroes in scrubs, not overwrought renditions of John Lennon songs. Go away.
Before the corona-crisis, we used to talk about it all the time. About how we wanted to spend more time with our kids. Well, here we are, spending more time with our kids. A lot more time. Maybe too much time. Perhaps this was not the precise set of circumstances in which we envisaged spending more time with our kids, but nevertheless, we'll take it.
And despite everything, our kids are hilarious. Even when they're writing their name in indelible marker all over the new sofa. Even when they're scaring the bejaysus out of us by scaling the 10-foot high fence in the garden and saying that it's a tightrope. Even when they're disrupting our conference calls with their detailed descriptions of what they just did in the toilet.
Yep, the kids are alright. Even when they're not.
Our new-found cooking prowess
Now that our cupboards are stocked with an array of highly unusual shelf-stable products that we would previously have scoffed at in Tesco, we have found ourselves reaching new heights of culinary inventiveness. Chickpea stews, lentil curries, risi e bisi - we have tackled them all, and found them surprisingly delicious. We are masters of our larders. Princesses of our pantries.
We are Nigella Lawson, Rachel Allen and Jack Monroe all rolled into one. And it's not just the grown-ups - our children have been roped into every job in the kitchen. The youngest has attained advanced sous chef level while the eldest has a promising career ahead of him as a pastry chef. We will never go to a restaurant again.
Not caring about our weight (or our wine intake)
Diligently counting both calories and our weekly units is now very much a thing of the past, when we had time to worry about such insignificant things. Now that we have far more serious things to preoccupy us, we have discovered that coping frequently requires a slice of (homemade) cake and a decent glass of red. Yes, we know that it's not great for the immune system. To be honest, we'll take our chances.
Before the crisis, we were dimly aware of our neighbours, in that we hardly ever saw them and could never quite remember their names. Now, neighbours are a lifeline - checking up on each other, the younger ones helping the older ones, smiling and chatting (at a safe distance) about how we're all getting through. We tear up at stories of balcony bingo and on-street coffee meet-ups. We promise one another that when it's all over we'll have a street party to end all parties. In the meantime, we smile and wave and chat, and still can't remember each other's names.