From inside locked-down Italy, reflections on family life in Verona
Wake up bright and alert. No problem getting out of bed these days. I'm sleeping less than normal but hop out of bed anxious to know what's going on.
The house is still and quiet. I open the shutters. It's already bright outside.
I spend half an hour catching up on the news and social media. Confirmation that yesterday Italy recorded it's slowest rate of new coronavirus infections since the outbreak began last month, hopefully a sign that the isolation measures are working? A tiny glimmer of hope for a nation that has sacrificed so much in the last week or two. On the other hand, notification that the army is to be deployed on the streets of Verona to enforce the lockdown is a sobering indication of just how seriously the authorities are taking the issue here in Verona.
In better news, MOTD have announced the launch of a new podcast. My appetite for football has perhaps understandably waned of late but perhaps this is just what I need?
Sebo (5) wakes. Introverted and self-contained, I get the feeling that he quite likes the lockdown! Mrs H. goes for her morning workout. We're up and running!
First task of the day is some emergency repairs on his Panini sticker book which has seen better days. Must remember to add sellotape to the shopping list!
My eldest (Leo, 11) has got an online maths lesson at 14.30, so I wrestle with the passwords for the platform that we'll need to access the lesson. His school were completely unprepared for a crisis of this nature.
Coffee and cake on the balcony. We're lucky - it's east facing and we get some glorious sunshine in the morning.
Ten minutes behind schedule, School of Dad is up and running. History of Art for Leo to kick things off. Sebo is happy browsing our Tintin collection, so we leave him to his own devices, while we familiar ourselves with the key features of Gothic design and architecture.
Sebo joins us for a short video that summarises the Odyssey. Leo then reads him a synopsis of La Maga Circe, a fleeting moment of harmony, coherence and endeavour that teachers must live for!
We take a thirty minute break for coffee and snacks. I try unsuccessfully to entice the boys onto the balcony for some sunshine, but they're quite happy with the Tintin library on the sofa. I reflect on a missed trip to Berlin (I should have been taking the train tomorrow). We've provisionally rescheduled for October, but that seems like a very long way away.
Maths (never my strong suit) and the multiplication of fractions. I'm a bit rusty, but with some prompting it comes back to me. Leo's maths teacher is the most proactive of his teachers and the only one who has scheduled video lessons with his class.
Technology - the history and properties of paper (!). Sebo is quite happy doing his own thing (and who can blame him?).
With lessons finished for the morning I enjoy the last few minutes of sun on the balcony before it passes over to the other side of our building.
Mrs H. prepares lunch. All culinary tastes and dietary requirements are catered for, with a choice of vegetable risotto, pasta in bianco and tortellini in brodo. To satisfy the current appetite for the plucky Belgian reporter, we watch Tintin in America as our lunch hour draws to a close.
A few anxious moments waiting to be sent the meeting information for Leo's online lesson with his maths class scheduled for 14.30. It's only the second time he's had contact with his classmates and a teacher since the school holidays on 20 February (nearly a month ago), so we're all anxious that he is able to participate.
While Leo's doing his maths lesson, Sebo and I sneak off to watch another episode of Tintin.
As Leo's lesson is winding up, we have a tidy-up and prepare to head outside for the first and only time today.
It's shorts and t-shirt weather today as we catch the last of the afternoon sunshine in our communal garden. We've come to an arrangement with the other families in our block to ensure that the kids aren't in the garden at the same time, in order to comply with the prohibition of children congregating in public spaces.
Perhaps it's my imagination, but I notice an occasional expression of sadness on Leo's face - and who can blame him? He'd much rather be playing with his friends than with his old dad and five-year-old brother. I remember how important my friends were at that age and feel really sorry for him. Despite everything, he's behaving with admirable good humour and grace (most of the time anyway).
Our match is interrupted with an inevitable tantrum (another marginal offside decision), perhaps a necessary release of pressure, but we leave the garden in good spirits.
I prepare for a quick trip to our local supermarket to pick up a few provisions. Leo settles into an online game with a friend who has contacted him out of the blue. It's something I would have normally frowned upon, but in these circumstances, I'm just grateful that he has the opportunity to play with someone!
The short cycle to our local supermarket is a surreal experience. The cycle path that passes between playing fields and vineyards and connects our street with the neighbouring village is deserted. At the supermarket there are few customers. The shelves are incredibly well-stocked. Even the meat counter is full of freshly prepared produce and I exchange a few pleasantries with our butcher who is curious about how the UK is dealing with the crisis. It's a small family run supermarket. They are tired, bewildered even, but stoically provide a crucial lifeline service.
Back home and it's time to start thinking about dinner. I wait anxiously for news of the official casualty figures for the day. The news isn't good. Today's death toll is high (475), the largest daily coronavirus death toll anywhere in the world, bringing Italy's grim tally to 2978. Sad news also from Parma, where there have been 34 deaths in 24 hours. A sliver of hope is that the daily upturn in cases is just 13.4%, compared to 25% a week ago.
Chips and cotoletta for dinner. Sebo's not a big fan of chips so he gnaws on a massive carrot with a remarkable gusto. For our daily dose of adolescent nostalgia, we watch an episode of The Wonder Years.
The kids adjourn to the sofa for Guess my Age (another family favourite).
With barely a whimper the kids go off to bed. It's time for a glass of wine.
Available now on Amazon:
From wartime Italy, a true story of resistance and heroism.
A short collect of reflections on family life in locked down Italy
Richard Hough writes about history, football, wine, whisky, culture + travel.