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 Educators.co.uk 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.

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