Lockdown with Doris

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Note: I wrote this some time ago. It was supposed to be for the Love The One You’re With event. But, somehow, I managed to misplace it before I got around to posting it. And then I found it again a few days ago. Ah, well … better late than never. Hopefully.

‘Have you heard? We’re going to be locked up,’ Doris said.


‘All of us. It was on the news. The government is going to lock us up.’

Marko nodded. ‘Oh, that. Yes. At least no. They’re not going to lock us up, they’re going to lock us down.’

‘What did I say?’

‘You said “lock us up”, Marko said. ‘If they locked us up, they’d have to feed us.’ And Marko laughed. ‘As it is, we’ll probably all starve. There won’t be any food on the supermarket shelves. Once we’ve eaten what’s in the pantry, that’ll be it. Goodnight nurse. We’ll all fade away to nothing. But at least we will be Covid-free.’

‘Baked beans were on special at Tescos last week,’ Doris said. ‘I bought six tins. I should have bought more. But there’s a limit to how many you can carry. You know … along with everything else.’

Marko nodded again. ‘Pasta,’ he said. ‘That’s what we are going to need. Pasta … rice … and flour. It’ll be like it was during the war.’

Doris frowned. ‘Which war?’

‘The second one.’

‘The second war?’ Doris laughed. ‘You weren’t even born then. Gosh, I wasn’t even born then.’ And she laughed again.

‘No. But my granny told me. I think Granny quite liked the war. I’m not sure why. But she was always going on about it. She and her sister – Aunt Maggie – they were just little kids. They got sent to Cornwall. To a little village on the coast. Granny liked Cornwall.’

‘Oh well, we’ll just have to go to the pub,’ Doris said. ‘Get something to eat there. I don’t mind a bit of pub grub now and then.’

Marko shook his head. ‘No pub grub. Pubs will all be closed.’


‘Yep. Closed.’

‘They can’t close the pubs. Can they? They’re an essential service.’

‘Midnight tonight.’


‘Social distancing. We all have to stay in our bubbles,’ Marko said.

Doris nodded. ‘And what if we don’t have a bubble? What then? What if we live alone? Like me. Well … like you too.’

‘Not sure,’ Marko said. ‘But anyway, the government doesn’t actually want us to be on our own. Not totally. We all have to look out for one another. Check on one another. Make sure that we’re OK. Make sure that we haven’t faded away due to there being no food in the supermarkets, I suppose.’

‘How can we do that when we have to stay away from each other. Typical! They never think things through, do they? And what about Bruno?’

‘Bruno? What about Bruno?’

‘You can’t keep a dog like him locked up all day. He’s got the little backyard. But he needs a proper walk. We’ll be having the RSPCA around.’

‘Oh, you’re allowed to take him out for a walk. You just have to stay away from other people.’

‘Does Bruno have to stay away from other people?’

‘Umm … not sure. I suppose so. There’ll probably be something on the website.’

‘And that’s another thing,’ Doris said. ‘What if you can’t see the website? What if you don’t have a computer?’

Marko frowned. ‘You’re OK. You have a computer.’

‘I do. Yes. But there are quite a few people who don’t. Our Margret doesn’t. She doesn’t even have a proper thingy phone.’

Marko nodded. Doris had a point. Not everyone had a computer. ‘Well … I should go on up,’ Marko said.

Doris had the big flat on the ground floor and first floor. Marko rented the flat upstairs from her. Marko had only stopped off at Doris’s door to give her her post.

‘What will you do?’ she asked. ‘You’ve got your studies.’

‘We’ll be having tutorials online. And I’m going to be doing my other stuff – my bank stuff – from home. When people contact the helpline, they don’t know where I am anyway. I could be in Timbuktu for all they know.’

Doris laughed. ‘I suppose so. Mind you, I’m not even sure where Timbuktu is.’

‘Somewhere in Africa, isn’t it?’ Marko said. ‘Mali, I think.’ Marko described an anticlockwise circle in the air with his hand. ‘Somewhere like that.’

‘You don’t hear much about Timbuktu these days,’ Doris said. ‘My dad was always going on about Timbuktu. I don’t think he ever went there. He went to quite a few places when he was in the Navy, but I don’t think that he ever went to Timbuktu. Is Mali on the coast?’ And then Boris arrived and butted Doris’s leg with his head. ‘I suppose I’d better take Boris out for a walk then,’ Doris said. ‘Give him a chance to uncross his legs.’

Marko smiled. ‘OK,’ he said. ‘I’ll … umm … see you later.’

‘We won’t be long,’ Doris said. ‘Go up and take your coat off, and then come back down. I’ll find a bottle of something. We can launch our bubble.’

‘Our bubble?’

‘Well … we live under the same roof, don’t we? Technically.’

‘Yeah. I suppose we do.’

‘Boris and I will just go up to Churchfields and back. We won’t be long.’

‘Yeah. escort gaziantep evi olan bayan OK,’ Marko said.

* * *

When Marko graduated with a degree in Media Studies, the GFC was just getting into full stride. Jobs were scarce. Jobs in media were especially scarce. Even getting the job as a Customer Service Officer at the bank had been a bit of luck. But it wasn’t Marko’s idea of a job for life. Almost from day one, he started keeping an eye out for something better. Preferably something a bit more … well … creative.

Funnily enough, it was one of the bank’s customers who had suggested that Marko think about digital games development. She even put Marko in touch with a chap she knew who ran a development studio. Marko and the chap had a long chat. And the chap got Marko to do a couple of tests. ‘Yeah. I think you could be good,’ the chap said. ‘Your brain works in the right way. What I’d suggest is that you do a Graduate Diploma in Creative Technologies. After that, you can probably come and work here – if you want to, that is.’

‘How long does it take? To get a Graduate Diploma, I mean,’ Marko asked.

‘A year. Well … less really. About nine months from start to finish.’

‘More student debt,’ Marko said. ‘But, yes. I suppose it might be worth it. Being a Customer Service Officer for a bank is a bit of a dead end.’

The games chap nodded, but then he said: ‘That said … why don’t you talk to the bank about some part-time work? They know you. You know them.’

And that’s how Marko ended up manning the bank’s helpdesk for 16 hours a week. The remuneration was hardly a king’s ransom. But it all helped.

* * *

Marko heard the downstairs door closing, followed by Doris calling up the stairs: ‘We’re back! Come on down. When you’re ready.’

Marko wasn’t exactly sure how old Doris was. Fifty perhaps? Fifty would make her a good twenty years older than Marko. Apparently, her husband, Rick, had been a plumber. He’d done quite well for himself. He’d built up a good business and then he had sold it on to one of the national firms. His plan had been to work on for another five years and then take early retirement. But then, about six months after the deal had been done, he woke up one morning feeling a bit unwell. A couple of weeks later, he had died.

‘Rick’s plan,’ Doris told Marko, not long after he first moved in, ‘was for us to get place somewhere down on the South Coast. Rick liked the South Coast. But then, when he died, I thought: Why would I want to move? I quite like Harrow. Well … I like Harrow on the Hill, anyway. The Sudbury part, not so much.’

* * *

‘I hope you like wine,’ Doris said, when Marko went back downstairs. ‘Rick used to like beer. Lager usually. And Scotch on high feast days. But since he’s gone, I don’t tend to buy beer.’ Doris took a bottle of Tesco brand Pinot Grigio from the fridge and got a couple of glasses from one of the cupboards. ‘We may as well go through to the front room,’ she said. ‘It’s nice to get out of the kitchen from time to time.’

Marko had never been in Doris’s front room (as she called it). Whenever he came down to visit her, for whatever reason, they invariably gathered in her spacious kitchen-cum-diner, a room with all mod cons but nary a hint of pretension. At some point in the Georgian building’s past, the kitchen-diner would have been something else. But the front room, the sitting room, would have always been the front room.

Marko followed Doris into the room and waited while she looked around. ‘I suppose that we have to have social distance,’ she said. Marko was about to suggest that that might not be necessary – if they were going to share a bubble – but Doris made a decision. ‘Perhaps if you sit in the red chair … and I can sit on the couch.’ And then she handed Marko the wine. ‘Perhaps you can do the honours,’ she said.

Between the couch and the red armchair there was an exotic-looking ottoman. And, resting on the top of the ottoman, there was a sheet of lightly-smoked plate glass, turning the ottoman into a serviceable coffee table. Marko opened the wine bottle, poured some wine into each glass, and placed the glasses on the ottoman. ‘You have some nice things in here,’ Marko said.

Doris looked around the room as if she too was seeing it all for the first time. ‘I used to work for an antique dealer,’ she said. ‘Monty only dealt in proper antiques, items that were at least one hundred years old. Several of the bits and pieces in this room are items that came Monty’s way but didn’t meet his strict criteria. That chair you’re sitting in is from the 1930s. Even today it wouldn’t meet Monty’s rules. I didn’t care. Monty let me buy them for whatever they had cost him. Which was usually not very much.’

Marko nodded. ‘Well … it’s certainly comfortable,’ he said. And then he raised his glass. ‘Cheers,’ he said. ‘Here’s to our bubble.’

Doris raised her glass. escort gaziantep fetiş bayan ‘You hear that, Bruno? We’re now in a bubble.’

Presumably Bruno did hear, because he got up from his position, guarding the door, and went and made himself at home on Marko’s feet.

‘Bruno likes you,’ Doris told Marko. ‘He likes having you in his bubble.’

Fortunately, Marko quite liked Bruno. ‘How did Bruno acquire his name?’ Marko asked.

‘When he was a puppy, Rick thought he looked like a small bear.’

Marko could see that. ‘Yeah. He does a bit, doesn’t he? Perhaps a bit like a Sun Bear.’

‘What’s a Sun Bear?’

‘A sort of fatter version of Bruno.’

‘Bruno would be a fatter version of Bruno if I didn’t keep an eye on what he eats,’ Doris said. And she laughed.

Something happened that evening. Yes, the whole Covid and lockdown thing was definitely worrying, but having accepted that they were going to be confined to their own bubble for several days, possibly even for several weeks, Doris and Marko, landlady and tenant, got down to learning a bit more about each other.

‘This thing you’re studying,’ Doris said, ‘I suppose it’s like learning a whole new language, is it?’

Marko thought for a moment or two. ‘In some ways,’ he said. ‘But it’s mainly about learning to think in certain way. Machines are pretty fast; but they are also pretty dumb. They can only do things one step at time. The trick lies in working out how to get from A to Z in the least number of steps.’

‘Glad it’s you doing it and not me,’ Doris said.

After their second glass of wine, Marko suddenly realised what the time was. ‘Gosh. I have to go,’ he said. ‘I have to have an online chat with my tutor.’

‘At this hour?’

‘It’s a twenty-four-seven world,’ Marko told Doris.

‘OK. But we must do this again. It’s been fun.’

It had been fun.

* * *

The following morning, Marko ‘attended’ a Zoom lecture, worked on one of his assignments, and then, from one until five, he became ‘Hello, this is Marko; how may I help you?’ With two-thirds of London and the Home Counties suddenly working from home, the helpdesk was a lot busier than usual.

Shortly after four o’clock, just after Marko had talked a particularly-flustered woman through down-loading a series of driver updates, Doris knocked on his door. ‘I’m going to make a chicken curry,’ she said. ‘I’m hoping that you’ll join me.’

‘Umm … yeah. Chicken curry? I’d love to,’ Marko said. ‘What can I do?’

‘You don’t need to do anything,’ Doris said. ‘Just come down at about six. In fact earlier, if you like.’

‘Thank you. I’ll bring some wine. I’m on call until five, but maybe if I come down about half past, I could take Bruno for a walk. I feel that I need some fresh air.’

‘Bruno would like that,’ Doris said. ‘I’ll go and tell him to get ready.’ And she laughed.

* * *

When Marko stepped outside his door onto the landing, he felt as if he had just stepped into a spice emporium. Oh, yes! There was ginger in the air that night. And garlic. And cloves. And toasted coconut. And chilli. And turmeric. And cumin. And something sharp. Vinegar, perhaps? Or was it tamarind?

‘Something smells great,’ he said, when Doris answered her door.

Doris nodded. ‘Mmm. I hope so. Although I’ve decided to leave out the coriander. I hope you don’t mind. I don’t think that I like coriander anymore. Perhaps I never liked it. Or perhaps it never liked me.’

‘I’m not sure that I particularly like it either,’ Marko said.

‘Oh, good.’

‘I’ve brought a bottle of dry Riesling,’ Marko said. ‘It goes quite well with curry. At least I think it does.’

‘Try anything once,’ Doris said. ‘Well … most things, anyway.’ And she laughed. ‘I’ll put it in the fridge until you two get back.’

Funnily enough, Bruno seemed to understand that he was going to be taking his evening walk with Marko that evening, and he was already beside the door, waiting for his leash to be attached to his collar.

‘We shall return,’ Marko said.

‘I hope so,’ Doris said. ‘And be careful out there.’

* * *

Bruno seemed a bit confused when Marko put his mask on. Or was that just Marko’s imagination? Anyway, Bruno soon got used to the new masked Marko, and the bubble companions set off in the direction of Churchfields. Considering that everyone was supposed to be at home unless otherwise required, there were quite a few people out and about. Some were walking dogs; others were brisk walking, jogging, or riding bicycles. But there were hardly any cars. It was all a bit like something out of a post-apocalyptic movie.

* * *

‘How did it go?’ Doris asked when they returned.

‘Fine,’ Marko said. ‘Although it’s a bit weird out there. A bit … well … spooky. Hardly a car anywhere.’

Doris frowned but nodded. ‘Oh, well,’ she said, ‘hopefully it will be all over before we have a chance to get used to it.’

Doris’s bayan escort gaziantep chicken curry – served with perfectly-cooked rice – was brilliant. She had also made a dark, tangy, tamarind-and-date chutney, and some naan flatbreads. Delicious.

‘This is excellent,’ Marko said. ‘You could open a restaurant.’

Doris laughed. ‘I don’t think so,’ she said. ‘I cook because I like to. If I had a restaurant, it would become too much like work. No, I think I’ll just keep cooking what I like, when I like.’

The dry Riesling went perfectly with the curry.

‘Rick always liked a good curry,’ Doris said. ‘He used to say that chilli was the best aphrodisiac there was. Lead in your pencil, he used to say.’ And she raised a finger in a suggestive way.

Marko laughed. Not that he disagreed. It just wasn’t something that he had expected Doris to say.

‘You don’t seem to have a girlfriend at the moment,’ Doris said. There was no hint of criticism in her comment. It was just an observation, pure and simple.

‘No,’ Marko said. ‘Not at the moment. Marion moved back to Toronto.’ And then he added, hastily: ‘She was Canadian. We met at university. She and I were never really that serious. We were never going to get married or anything like that. It was just … well … you know.’ And Marko smiled.

Doris nodded. ‘Oh, well,’ she said. And Doris smiled too.

Was it warm? Did Doris have the heating cranked up? Or was it just that they had been eating curry?

When they had started their supper, Doris’s button-front shirt dress had just had the top button unbuttoned. And then, at some stage – and without Marko really noticing – she had unbuttoned a second button. And now that they had finished eating, and they were just chatting and enjoying the wine, she somehow managed to have three buttons unbuttoned and Marko found himself looking at more than a little of her ample bra-clad breasts.

‘I have some ice cream in the freezer,’ Doris said. ‘But perhaps we should enjoy the wine first. What do you think?’

‘It sounds like a plan to me,’ Marko said.

‘Perhaps in the front room?’ Doris said. And without waiting for a reply, she gathered up her glass and the half-empty wine bottle, got up from the table, and led the way across the entrance hall to the sitting room. Marko followed.

Doris placed her glass and the wine bottle down on the ottoman. ‘We should have some music,’ she said. ‘Rick used to like to have music. Now that I’m on my own, I tend to forget to put it on. Do you like Scott Walker? And The Walker Brothers?’

‘I’m not sure,’ Marko said. ‘The name sounds sort of familiar.’

‘I’ll put on one of their records.’ Doris walked across to a cabinet with a bookcase above it and opened the doors. ‘Somewhere,’ she said. ‘Ah, yes. Here we are.’ And she opened a CD case, took out the CD, and slipped it into the CD player. ‘See what you think. We can always find something else if you don’t like it.’

The cello-rich string introduction sounded vaguely familiar. And very pleasant. And then there was a rich, mellow voice with just enough edge to it to save it from being yet another mushy crooner. And then the refrain. Yes, Marko recognised it now. There’s no regrets. No tears goodbye. ‘Oh, yes,’ Marko said. ‘Yes. And, yes, I do like it. I can remember my parents playing this.’

Doris smiled and nodded and returned to sit on the couch. ‘Come and sit beside me,’ she said. ‘We’re allowed to sit next to each other. We’re in the same bubble now.’

Marko went and joined her on the couch.

‘Is it warm?’ Doris asked, flouncing the skirt of her dress and letting fall so that it showed a hint of her stocking tops. ‘Or is it just because we have been eating curry?’

‘Warm? I would say it’s just about spot on,’ Marko said. ‘Although the curry probably helped. And very good curry it was too.’

‘Thank you,’ Doris said. They both took a sip of their wine. And then Doris said: ‘Do you miss having a girlfriend?’

‘Miss? Umm … I’m not sure,’ Marko said. ‘Actually, it might be a bit of a blessing at the moment. With everything else going on.’

‘You don’t miss it just a little bit?’

Marko smiled. ‘Well … yes. There are some things, of course.’

Doris nodded and took another sip of her wine. ‘Yes,’ she said. ‘Yes.’ And she nodded again. ‘I, umm, could … help … you know,’ she said. ‘If you would like me to.’


‘I could give you a hand,’ she said. ‘Rick used to say that I was very good at giving a hand.’ And she sort of laughed – the way that people sometimes do when they are remembering something pleasant from another time.

Give him a hand? At first Marko wasn’t sure what she meant. But then he thought … But, no. Surely that wasn’t what Doris was suggesting. Was it?

‘It’s been a while now. But I’m sure it wouldn’t take me too long to get back into the swing of things,’ she said. ‘They say that you never forget.’

‘When you say give me a hand …?’

‘Give you a hand,’ Doris said. ‘You know.’ And she placed her hand on Marko’s crotch. ‘We could at least give it a try.’

And then it was Marko’s turn to laugh. Not because he didn’t want Doris to give him a hand. It might be rather nice if she did. It might be very nice if she did. It was just so unexpected. ‘Are you serious?’ Marko said.

‘Oh, yes.’

‘You want to …?’ And Marko mimed masturbating his cock.

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