Just before we went into lockdown in mid-March I was picking up some last-minute supplies (OK, toilet paper) and something caught my eye: a Rubik’s Cube.

I’d never actually solved one, but on a whim I bought it. With 43 quintillion possible combinations and the fact that my mind isn’t geared towards 3D spatial logic and methodical planning, it seemed like it might be a good quarantine challenge.

Well, that was over six weeks ago, and I’m now able to solve a cube in about a minute and a half. Plus, my wife and daughters all like to scramble it up as soon as I’m done so I have ample opportunity to improve upon my record time!

While I am now at the stage of only fiddling with it occasionally, as I flit between solving it the beginner’s method, and trying to learn a more advanced ‘solve’ (yeah, I talk like that now), it keeps on giving.

Plus, as I felt no need to rush through the process, I slowly worked my way through learning how to do it, thanks to an app, some websites and a couple YouTube videos. I recently referred to working on solving a Rubik’s Cube as ‘ a virtuous waste of time’, and I think that’s accurate; it keeps my hands and mind busy and it’s not my phone.

Like many people, I had grand designs on making the most of isolation, improving my Dutch, meditating every day, and making solid progress on my latest non-fiction book. Very little of that happened. But now I can solve a complicated puzzle. It’s not an enormous accomplishment, but it’s also not nothing.

Finally, I like the idea that I will forever have the Rubik’s Cube to remind me of this period in my life; it’ll be my gateway into this moment of time when I spent months at home with my family. And it made that time go by a little smoother.