Gareth Hutchins is a Welsh expatriate in Hungary. He lives in Budapest with his wife and children. Like so many other families and individuals in Europe and the rest of the world, they are ‘The Quaranteeners’. The Berlin Spectator recently interviewed Hutchins when he released his book ‘The Budanest’. This is his piece ‘The Quaranteeners – a.k.a. How to Survive The Apocalypse…With Kids’.
“I think my acid reflux is coming back a bit”, I say. “Feeling a bit belchy.”
I know what you’re thinking. As opening lines go, can it get any sexier?
“Then why are you drinking?”, Zsuzsa replies. “You know alcohol isn’t good for it!”
“Why am I drinking?”
“Why am I drinking!?”, I repeat for emphasis.
“I’m drinking, because I’m trapped in a flat in Budapest with two children during the biggest global viral pandemic for more than a century, and I have dubious health cover.”
Zsuzsa shrugs and wanders off, probably towards our kitchen to sneakily down another cheeky shot of palinka. Yeah I’m on to you sugar pie! Don’t think these eagle eyes haven’t noticed that you’re seeking sanctuary at the bottom of an alcoholic beverage too!
I imagine many of you out there are also currently sharing our desire to drink heavily through this tedious apocalypse. And I’m not talking to you lot out there who are stuck at home on your own, or with a partner. I don’t want to hear a single whine from you lot, you lucky, lucky bastards, so take your pity collection pots elsewhere! You lot can stay in bed till mid-afternoon, binge watch Netflix from cover to cover, learn how to make exotic meals, partake in the odd spot of rumpy-pumpy, learn frigging Japanese if you want to! No, I’m talking to those of us in society who are currently imprisoned with our children. Let’s call them, The Damned.
We love our kids with all our hearts, we care for them, we adore spending time with them, we’d take a bullet in the eye for them if push came to shove. That’s never in doubt. But, oh mighty Satan, everyday is like Groundhog Day! You can replace Sonny & Cher on the radio, with tiny feet kicking you awake at six in the morning, or little fingers prising you eyelids open whilst bellowing “MILK!”, but it is. It’s Groundhog Day! Wake up, struggle desperately through the day indoors, fall asleep within seconds when they’ve finally gone to bed. Repeat.
The cruelest part is that for a split second every morning you think that everything is normal. You think it’s just another day. You think that within the next hour you’ll be trying to force some clothes upon a toddler whilst getting ready for work, but then it hits you. The dystopian present. You have to stay indoors, entertaining your two adorable, but insanely high-maintenance ladies for the whole day, whilst somehow also managing to work.
Glued to Table
Zsuzsa lets out a little yelp from the other room.
“What’s wrong?”, I ask.
She doesn’t reply.
I put my glass of nuclear strength Hungarian spirit down and wander over to see what the fuss is about.
Lola has glued herself to the table. Of course she has.
“How has this happened?” I ask.
“We were making toilet roll animals!”, Zsuzsa exasperatedly exclaims.
We have a lot of toilet rolls.
“And?”, I ask.
“I only turned around for a split second. When I turned back, here she was. Glued.”
I help to prise Lola from the table then we both set about the cleaning process. I’m attempting to remove glue from her hair with a piece of kitchen roll while Zsuzsa tackles her tacky hands.
“Don’t worry honey. I’m sure households all over the world are currently accidentally gluing babies to tables.” I say.
We release a de-glued Lola back into the wild.
“Sure!”, I say. “It’s 2020! People getting to grips with home schooling. Babies glued to all sorts of stuff I’d imagine.”
I look up and notice that Lola has found our remote control and just ordered “Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.” I sigh, but then seek solace in the fact that at least it’s not “Richard Hammond’s Big Machines”, a programme that she purchased last week.
“Fancy watching Harry Potter?” I ask.
Half an hour later, Lola is asleep and Mila is absorbed in the magical world of Hogwarts. We sit and saviour a rare moment of serenity in our daily lives.
“Of all the people on this Earth, I’m glad I’m quarantined with you”, I say, smiling at Zsuzsa.
“Me too.” she replies, before adding “Did you know that the clocks are going forward on Sunday?”
I did not know this.
“So that means we get an extra hour of daylight to spend indoors everyday?” I ask.