16 March, Norfolk, UK

By Francesca Wolf

Here I am in the cottage alone. After a weekend with the children, their partners and the four grandchildren I am again alone. Not unpleasant. It was lovely to see them all scampering on the beach. We gave each other Japanese bows and hugs from a distance.

This morning I went to buy a freezer. The Indy headline was “Over-70s will be told to stay at home for four months.” We don’t have a freezer, only a tiny fridge. I had to choose between one barely bigger than a large shoebox and one my height ( 5 foot) , which seemed huge. I got the latter, to be on safety’s side. 

Then to Budgens. Toilet and kitchen roll, tinned soup and pasta in the basket. Toothpaste, miso sauce, cheese, lentils, crackers. I wonder now if I’ll eat these sensible basics or should have bought gin, vodka, chocolate, a few tasty delicacies. The shop is filled with old people, clutching a stick in one hand, basket in the other. It is 11.30am and we are all late-comers. Last week at Aldi, it was families in their 30s and 40s, giant  trolleys piled high and shelves stripped bare of soap, toilet paper, hand wipes.  

Suddenly I am one of the elderly, over-70s, vulnerable, weak, needing care and protection. I feel threatened with losing my independence, autonomy, freedom. With being prevented from leaving home, even for a short walk or to go to the shops. For my own good. Will I be allowed to go out in the garden? Will the neighbours report me to the police when I get in my car or walk out to see the sunset? The young shop assistant said I didn’t look 70. How absurd to be so ridiculously pleased.

Only last week I was working, caring for grandchildren. Seventy, but only just, and reasonably healthy despite ‘underlying conditions’. Suddenly I’ve been shunted forward a generation. .How will they know I am not 68? I will re-dye my hair. Put on make-up. 

All this uncertainty drives one crazy.