It’s curious, but when I see words on the page or on the computer screen or written anywhere, to me they look like what they mean.

Take the word ‘look’ that I have just written.  The double OO.  Two eyes, looking.

The word ‘curious’ has a curious look about it.

SHOCK is another word that looks exactly like what it means.

The ‘O’ in ‘shock’ has a wide-eyed look of surprise, followed by the hard ‘CK’, replicating in sound form an exclamation mark!   Even an exclamation mark looks like what it represents.  A visual ‘So there!  Stick that in your pipe and smoke it!!’

And ‘wide-eyed look of surprise’?   Don’t you think those words convey exactly what they mean?

There was a particular word that started me on this weird thought process – ‘Weird’, there’s another!  Is it me, or does the word ‘weird’ look like what it means?

This is what happens when you’re not a great sleeper.  You’re lying in bed, the mind wanders and these are the random thoughts that go through your brain in the nocturnal hours.

 What about ‘bed’? 

Bed, for me, looks like a BeD.  There are the bedposts at either end and the ‘e’ between is the mattress.  Maybe I should ask the doctor for something to help me sleep?

The specific word that started me on this odd – sorry, I’ve got to say it, doesn’t ‘odd’ look odd? Anyway, the specific word that started this train of thought at God knows what time o’clock in the morning is: ‘gobsmacked’.

GOBSMACKED: Astonished, astounded, thunderstruck, staggered, flabbergasted

All excellent visual words but not in the same league as…

GOBSMACKED!

The ‘O’ in ‘gOb’, like a wide mouth reacting to something shocking that has just been uttered.  You can almost see a pair of hands clutching each cheek in horror.  Followed by the onomatopoeic ‘smacked’ that knocks you off your guard.

‘Gobsmacked’ describes perfectly my reaction to various events of the past week that are going though my mind as I lie wide awake, listening with envy to the even breathing emanating from the peacefully sleeping body lying next to me.

I thought dogs slept with one ear cocked and one eye open.  Not the hound of Laytonia. Woody is occupying the warm spot vacated by Moya. Unable to sleep because of her on-going shoulder pain, she has gone walkabout.

Moya should by now be recuperating from a long-awaited operation but due to Covid that has been put on ice.  Along with her shoulder.  She returns with a pack of frozen peas neatly perched in the crook of her neck to alleviate the nightly pain.

Moya: Come on, Woody, move!

Woody, sleeping the sleep of one without either intense shoulder pain or intrusive gobsmacking thoughts, refuses to budge and Moya heads for one of the kids’ rooms. 

Never the spare rooms, always the kids’ rooms even though none of them have lived here for nearly 20 years.

I’ll go’, says George gallantly.

Note to self as I wander off:  must get some frozen peas from LIDL.  Waitrose Petits Pois are a bit pricey for anaesthetising shoulders.

Postscript to self: you’re a heartless, merciless bastard!

I slip into another bed and the freezing cold sheets sharpen the gobsmacking thoughts that have been keeping me awake…

There was a wedding held in North London last week attended by 150 guests.  First reports on the lunchtime news said 400 guests.

Whether it was 400 or 150, what were the bride & groom thinking of?  What were the parents on both sides thinking of?  What were the caterers thinking of?  What were the 150 guests, getting dressed up in their glad rags, thinking of?  It beggars belief.

I soften my gobsmackedness with the thought that perhaps the two families had sent out 400 wedding invitations and 250 of those invited had, either out of civic respect for lockdown rules or the fear of a catching Coronavirus, graciously declined the “kind invitation”.

Forget the flouting of lockdown rules for a moment.  Speaking as one who doesn’t step out of the door without a mask, let alone go into a shop or a supermarket, didn’t any of those 150 who did attend, worry about catching Covid 19?  Or, perish the thought, worry about spreading the virus?

Of course not.  These clowns are so selfish and arrogant, it wouldn’t occur to them.

                                                       * * * * * * * * *

I’ve also been thinking about a friend of mine during these wakeful hours. 

He’s not in my small circle of very close friends but he’s far more than an acquaintance.  We’ve known each other for years.  We’ve seen each other’s kids grow up and much of our conversation revolves around our respective growing families.

My friend is good company. I like him.  He makes me laugh.  He’s kind, he’s generous.  He goes out of his way to be helpful.  I enjoy chatting to him. We are like-minded. 

Or so I thought.

During the first lockdown we had a long-distanced chat about the situation.  I voiced my opinion that Boris & pals had been slow; lockdown should have been actioned weeks earlier. I added that – in my opinion – our borders should be closed.

I was more than a little taken aback by both his reply and the ferocity with which he expressed it.

It’s all bollocks.  Totally unnecessary.  This Coronavirus is no more serious than the usual seasonal ailments.  There are no more people dying than normal at this time of year. It’s all overblown…’

He appeared to have a lot of stats at his fingertips and I’m not the best at arguing on my feet.  I lamely suggested that surely Boris needed this lockdown like a hole in the head so why would he go to the lengths of imposing one?

My friend had all the answers and I slowly retreated…

We’re into November and the 2nd lockdown.  During one of our ‘how’s the family’ passing chats, I casually but confidently ask if his views on the pandemic/lockdown have now altered.

It’s all bollocks.  Totally unnecessary.  This Coronavirus is no more serious than the normal seasonal ailments.  There are no more people dying than normal at this time of year. It’s all overblown…’

Or words to that effect.  I retreated again, but rather more quickly this time.

It is the 20th of January.  President Trump is heading for Mar-a-Lago and I’m taking Woody for a little constitutional before settling down to watch the inauguration of Joe Biden.

I’m in buoyant mood as I anticipate some sanity and statesmanship coming our way from across the pond.

How’s it going, George?

Terrific,’ I call back to my friend.  ‘We’re seeing the back of that lunatic Trump, how could it not be terrific?

My friend’s eyes darken.  As if, out of the blue, a black cloud suddenly hovers overhead.  I hear some muttering about Biden followed by something about Trump, only far more complimentary. 

Over 74 million Americans voted for Trump.  Of course he is going to have supporters over here.

Our friendship will continue.  He is still the same kind, generous guy.  He will continue to make me laugh.  I hope. 

But like-minded, we ain’t and I’m gobsmacked!

                                                            * * * * * * *

I sigh.  What time is it?  Is that all?  I sigh again…

I lie in the dark and think about another lockdown incident…

It involves a couple that is close to us.  Very close to us.  We love them.  We respect them.  They are family members, actually, but in the interests of confidentiality, I’ll leave it vague.

This time I was the ‘gobsmacker’ and bearing in mind that these two people are highly intelligent, informed and well read, the gobsmacking incident was quite amusing.

Having been on what Moya & I call the ‘goodies’ run, namely leaving a bag of food on our younger daughter’s doorstep together with a few treats for the grandchildren, we decide we’ll drive past where our relatives live for a socially distanced hello.

We call them and by the time we arrive, they are standing on the doorstep.  We stand at the gate and whilst we generally speak on the ‘phone every day, it was lovely to see them.

We chat about this, that and the other.  Namely, their health, our health and ‘the other’ being the grandchildren.

Our relatives are very excited about the impending arrival of their latest grandchild.  A little puppy.

Hubby: It’s a Christmas present for the grandchildren.

He pings over a photo on WhatsApp.  Moya & George ‘ooh & ahh’.

Moya: Gorgeous.  I bet the kids are excited.

Hubby: We’re excited. We’re picking her next week!

Moya: Lovely.  Where from?

Hubby: A kennels in Norfolk.  We’re driving down to get her.

A beat.  George & Moya exchange a look.

George: But you can’t drive to Norfolk.  It’s a 200 mile round trip!

Hubby: Oh, don’t worry about us.  We’ll take our time.  It’ll be a nice day out.

George: No!  You can’t drive to Norfolk. You’ll be flouting lockdown rules!

Hubby pales.

Hubby: (gobsmacked)  My God!  I’d never thought of that…

And that is when the ‘gobsmacker’ reverted to the ‘gobsmacked’.

If intelligent, well-informed citizens who have followed lockdown to the letter ‘don’t get it’ – what hope is there for the rest of us…?