Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Panic buying

There's been a lot of talk about people panic buying the things they might need to get through the next few weeks, particularly if the supermarket shelves start to empty. 

This worry made lots of people rush out and buy a load of stuff to make the supermarket shelves empty, thereby inducing panic at their emptiness. Surely we will reach a point when people realise they have enough taglietelle and toilet roll?

I'm afraid to say, I did my own version of panic buying. This was my shopping list
  • Jeeves and Wooster books (because when the going gets tough the not-so-tough stay home and read books about posh people in massive houses)
  • Boxing pads and child's boxing gloves (because when the going gets tough we need to get tougher)
  • Yoga mat (you never know when you may need to adopt the lizard position)
My corona shopping list is slightly weird, but there are two main themes which bring it together - trying to stop myself from panicking and keep myself fit.

The self-isolating warrior
Photo by cmwruby via Flickr Creative Commons

I have mild asthma, which probably put me at slightly higher risk than others my age, but the 'mild' makes a big difference, and for once in my life I'm taking all my meds. The thing that has most kept my asthma in check is being really fit. This approach definitely won't work for everyone (see 'mild'), but it has worked for me. I work really hard to keep up my fitness, going to the gym twice a week and doing a weekly yoga class. I can't do these things now, and will miss them. But more importantly, I need to find way of keeping up my aerobic fitness to make sure my asthma stays at bay. If I catch this scary virus, this is what will give me the best chance against it. I can't just go for a run - I have dodgy knees. So I'm going to be relying on exercise videos and turning my tiny living room into a gym for an hour occasionally

I'm not a keyworker (it turns out that theatre web editors aren't considered critical to the running of the country), so the only way I can do my bit is staying in my house, out of everyone's way. So here I am, saving the world once yoga pose (and a few punches) at a time.

Sunday, 22 March 2020

The show must go on

I work at a theatre and last Monday evening, as a result of out Prime Minister's announcement, we found out that the show would not go on, for a long time. 

I said goodbye to my friend that night - maybe we would see each other the next day in the office, or maybe it would be weeks and weeks.

The whole world is in the grip of a terrible thing. All we can do, is take the advice our government and medics give us, and try to adapt our lives to this new world of encroaching fear.

'The show must go on' has taken on a new meaning. We must go on, living our lives as well as we can, caring for our children, doing what work is available and trying as much as possible to do the things we used to do, without going outside our front doors.

Photo by Dillyboase via Wikimedia Creative Commons

Staying home

Working at home used to be a once a week luxury - I'd fire up the coffee machine, listen to Popmaster and blitz through the most difficult tasks in my working week without any distractions. But I'm a social animal, and I need to get out and about. It's going to be hard to adjust to not going out every day.

When the announcement came that the schools were closing, it felt like the bottom had fallen out of my world (again). Education is my daughter's right, and I value it. She complains about going in every single day, but she comes out bright, happy and having learned something wonderful. Watching her learn to read and write under the guidance of her lovely teacher at the tiny village school has been an amazing privilege. And now we don't have that.

Plenty of people choose to home educate their kids and there are lots of advantages, and many children blossom with the individual attention and flexible learning approaches that parents can provide where teachers can't. But what they don't generally do is home educate their kids whilst completing near full-time hours of work.

The next few weeks

When this started to happen I imagined I would have a lot of time on my hands. But at this point it looks like the opposite - work is busier than usual as the theatres fight back to show that the arts are still here, that we can entertain, educate, distract, and make sure we are still here for the future.

This next few weeks our society will divide into people who don't have enough to do, who are isolated and lonely; and those who have too much to do, whether because they are combining childcare and work, or because they're on the front line, doing the essential tasks that will keep our society running.

A lot of people are going to be very stressed. And while I know I'm lucky to be in the best camp for me (busy), and I'm grateful for that, it makes me unbelievably sad that as an only child my lovely little girl may not see another child for weeks and weeks.

Come back tomorrow and I'll tell you all about my panic buying...

Saturday, 15 February 2020

How did we get so grown up?

"They grow up so fast" - you hear it from the mums around the playground regularly. But if there's one thing more puzzling to me than my daughter's gathering maturity, it's my own.

It really does seem that yesterday I was worrying about leaving school and heading off for university. Would I be able to work the washing machine? Would I remember where I lived? What happened if I lost my keys? How would I eat?

And somehow, here I am, 41 years old. And I'm not worrying about exams and how to find my first job. Looking back, those things were fun things to worry about, although they didn't seem it at the time. The things my friends and I worry about today are divorce, redundancy, miscarriage, cancer, addiction, caring for children with disabilities, caring for sick parents. Horrible big dark things that change your life and not in the way you want.

These things have been building, but when I hit 40 they seemed to multiply. Everyone I know has faced or is facing something terribly, terribly difficult. If I think about it too much, it takes my breath away and I wonder how I will get through the day.

2020 has so far been a pretty shocking year. Those moments when it feels like someone has just pulled the rug from under you have come thick and fast - moments that used to be few and far between.

Now that I am 41 I know that in what seems like a matter of minutes I will be in my 50s and my tiny dependent baby girl will be spreading her wings and flying away to experience life outside my protection.

Women's responsibilities

There's a quote or proverb, which is pretty unpleasant:

"A son's a son 'til he takes a wife, a daughter's a daughter all of her life."

It suggests that often women will stay closer to their parents in adulthood. Men do of course take on caring responsibilities, and can be just as fantastic about it. My Dad is an only child and when his parents needed help he made sure they got it, with little help from anyone else. But often when there is a brother and sister, she is the one who takes on most of the caring load.

I play the violin in a small community orchestra populated by nearly all women, mostly of my age and upwards. Attendance is very erratic. One of the few men commented on it. He wasn't complaining - he noted that this group of women have so many responsibilities to other people, that they rarely find time to do this single thing for themselves. It's a situation that you don't generally see replicated in groups of men. They too have caring responsibilities, but when the chips are down it's far more likely to be the mothers, daughters and wives than fathers, sons and husbands.

If the orchestra was made up of men, I'd bet it wouldn't have the same attendance issues as we do. Men are, by and large, better at putting themselves first, and there are undoubtedly times when we'd all benefit from following their example. Women's way isn't always the right way (naughty feminist).

I haven't written this blog for a long time. Largely because the weight of all this pain is wearing me down. And I'm sure there are many people in my age group who feel the same.

I think, maybe, these things were all there but they were masked by to very important things: 
  1. The selfishness of youth - in my 20s, I was just so busy having a nice time. I barely spared a thought for anyone else. Is this the right job for me? Do I want to live here? Shall I go travelling? 
  2. Our parents protecting us: My parents never burdened me with the problems of my ageing grandparents and they largely shielded me from horrible things happening to people they knew. When they did tell me of tragic illness and sudden deaths these people seemed so remote from me and my life. I couldn't really comprehend it.  
I could breeze into my grandparents' lives for cups of tea and meals out, have a bit of a chat and breeze out again, safe in the knowledge I'd done my granddaughterly duty. Few of my friends now have any grandparents left, so it's our turn to help our parents if they need us to. 

We're all grown up. And I still don't know how it happened.