Sunday, 18 October 2020

Ay Corona

Hey there. Did you hear the one about the pandemic? 

Remember a year ago? When Corona was still a type of beer, ‘social’ and ‘distancing’ weren’t words that belonged together and facemasks were something that women wore in the bath. 'Furlough' wasn’t a word I could define, and isolating wasn’t something that everyone did. 

If you’d said then children wouldn’t be able to school, that theatres would shut down, that I wouldn’t be able to step inside my parents house or hug my brother, or that we wouldn’t dream of leaving the house without hand sanitiser, who’d have believed you? 

School’s out - again

I never realised how much my child’s right to go to school mattered, until it was taken away. I felt so sad as I took her in on her last day before lockdown. School symbolises so much - the opportunity to learn, to discover talents and interests, to build relationships, to have independent experiences, away from your family. 

Photo by via Flickr Creative Commons

Education is a hard-won right. Laws were made banning children from working in factories so they could get an education. It’s hugely important for their life chances - children from the most deprived backgrounds may be disadvantaged, but school gives them a chance at a better life. Without school there would be no social mobility and women would find it much harder to work. 

And without teachers there would be no school. Teachers work incredibly hard and this year they’ve worked harder than ever, as well as putting themselves in danger so that children could still get an education and people with essential jobs could go to work. 

Last weekend I had an email from my daughter’s school to say it was closed. Staff had tested positive for Covid and others had to isolate so there weren’t enough adults to run the tiny village school. Since then three out of the four classes have to isolate as they had been exposed to someone who tested positive. So we’re back to home educating. And I feel totally desolate, that she can’t have this so basic thing, of getting up and going to school every day. 

So what did you do during lockdown?

When this all started, I tried to approach it positively. I would likely have more time on my hands. I could do more writing, learn some new violin pieces, improve my tech skills.

Photo by Chi Wai Un via Flickr Creative Commons

Next time I hear someone say they used the time to learn Italian or write a novel, I may punch them, except that’s almost certainly in breach of social distancing. 

Louis Theroux, in his Grounded podcast, said that the pandemic had divided people into roughly two camps: those who had too much to do  - working, families and those who didn’t have enough - people living alone or furloughed not working. Neither is a whole lot of fun. 

The worst thing for me about combining work and childcare is the feeling of inadequacy. Whatever I do, I can’t give my work or my child 100% attention. I think I overcompensate, working more than I should. And my daughter is happy and healthy and hasn’t forgotten how to read. She’s also very adept at giving technical support to her grandparents over Skype. But I’m followed around by the feeling that I’m failing at everything

What did you do during lockdown? I tried to survive. I’m still trying. I’m one of the lucky ones. I’m healthy, I don’t live alone, and currently I still have a job. I’d take that over the alternatives, any day. But I’m seriously stressed. I’m actually so stressed that at night and during work I clench my jaw to the point that it’s so damaged I can barely open my mouth. I stopped taking my inhaler because it hurt too much - not a good idea in a pandemic for a virus that affects your lungs. 

When it’s over

I miss my parents. I miss my friends. I miss my colleagues. I want to sit in a crowded bar with sticky tables and stinky people. I want to dance and sweat and not care that I can smell the person next to me. I want to stop telling my daughter to wash her hands and keep her distance from people. I want a desk that isn’t the kitchen table. I’d also like to eat a sandwich without it being excruciatingly painful.

We lost all this stuff in an instant - the instant we left offices and locked down into our homes. It will come back, not all at once, but there will come a time when life starts to settle down again. One day I will wake up with a thumping headache after drinking and dancing too much, full of regret until I realise what I just did.

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...