By TheOttawacker

The self-isolating tulip

Due to various financial constraints which may or may not be caused by my inability to write a novel and a commensurate inability to cut my cloth to suit my purse, Mrs. Ottawacker and I made the brave decision to remortgage our house. Well, it was either that or something drastic, like going back to work, and we don’t want that, do we?

Not a complete remortgage, you will understand, just a partial, and at a ridiculous rate (well under 3%, if you are really interested). It adds a few years onto our current agreement, but means we are able to ride out the present storm (provided it doesn’t become a hurricane) and I can pretend that the long curly finger of my cushy government job is not beckoning me back into the land of despair and misery.

It was for this reason that the entire Ottawacker family found itself in a car driving towards the laughingly named “Golden Triangle” of Ottawa, a location in which our affluent lawyer has his office and to which he had summoned us to sign papers. Despite being unhappy about this, in we went, and all passed smoothly. There were no collapsing Perspex glass barriers, so it was an upgrade on my last outing.

This is also the time of the much vaunted and slightly shite tulip festival, my comments about which caused so many feelings of disappointment and disbelief to WhiskyFoxtrot. I thought about this as Ottawacker Jr. and I waited by Queen Elizabeth Drive (there was no way we were all going in there together, so Mrs. Ottawacker and I stamped our collective feet and went in individually) and took in what was admittedly a reduced festival this year. Indeed, I think it might at one stage have been a virtual festival (it’s always been that in my opinion, but whatever).

The NCC had put out an early tweet, which made me laugh and caused a bit of confusion among the geriatric tulip groupies; the tweet essentially said there would be a festival this year (what else are we going to do with all the wonderful bulbs the Netherlands sends us in thanks for letting their royal family have sex in a hotel during WWII) but that people would not be allowed to stop and look at the flowers.

This, I thought, was the death knell for the festival. You see, this is what I do every year. I have a little five-minute walk by the canal, looking at the tulips and thinking either “that’s nice” or pretending to listen to Mrs. Ottawacker’s future vision for the garden. I always feel guilty about it afterwards (ignoring the flowers, not Mrs. Ottawacker). But if the festival itself is giving out blanket permission to ignore the tulips, then that’s me done. No need for expiation or atonement or whatever the word is, I don’t have to follow the floral stations of the cross to please anyone and make up for not changing the cat litter or cooking enough vegetarian meals or forgetting to lift the toilet seat. Result.

About 15 minutes after the original tweet came out though, the same thought must have gone through the minds of the festival organisers, because a second tweet was proffered. Of course we want you to stop and admire the tulips, it said. Just make sure you maintain your two-metre distance and act responsibly.

Oh well, it was nice while it lasted.

Anyway, thanks to Covid19, I have managed to avoid any form of tulip-enforced passeggiata this year. So was pleased to have an opportunity to not look at the tulips today. Indeed, while waiting for Mrs. Ottawacker to copperplate her signature, Ottawacker Jr. and I wandered down to the canal and had a good ignore of them while looking at the ducks floating on the canal, diving for whatever form of nutrition has returned while we humans self-isolate. 

But then, while wandering back to the car, we both noticed this straggler. By itself, alone in a field of green. A beautiful beacon of red, of defiance, of individuality. It looked as if it had escaped from the tulip beds and had made its way across the road to safety. I liked it, and so did Ottawacker Jr. 

“How did it get there, dad?” asked Ottawacker Jr.

I toyed with the idea of saying it was thanks to a bald eagle, swooping down and feasting on the bulbs, only to poo it out as it flew over the flowerbed (he’s done how seeds propagate in school already, so he might have bought it), but was too slow to work it out the details. So I blamed the squirrels instead. Which also worked well, as écureuil is his word of the day in French.

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