Day 50: ‘Over the weekend I saw a few articles, one from Italy and one from Greece – both of which made me embarrassed for our country’

Contributor: Jennifer

I haven’t written on here for a little while, as each time I went to write something I found it to be a rant of disbelief or I dint see it as being noteworthy – i.e. nothing is different. However, I’ve just noticed that in itself is different. We have all become used to the way that things are now – the Teams’ meetings and video chats with family and friends have become a part of our lives for 7 weeks now. Time in lockdown hasn’t been measured in days for a while now, and at the end of this week we can count it in months. On a personal note, I think we are still coping well, there are few days where we need to be in seperate rooms, and there are more then enough pet projects that we can work on individually.  Socially we have been busier than ever, with friends from different friend groups wanting to chat or catch up. After the 4th late night in a row last week, we are feeing as tired as our busiest weekends feel. 

Over the bank holiday, there was a build up an anticipation as to what Boris may announce; some hoping for change and others desperate for things to stay as they are for a bit longer. In my mind it is simple – we have China and Italy as roadmaps of how the virus may progress and the timeline that may follow. Now the UK having the largest death rate in Europe, I feel that we should take the Italian model and apply caution to it – but what do I know? However, it feels like Boris’s vague and conflicting speech has left people more unclear as to what is expected of them, and his all too frequent comments on how we have successfully overcome is leaving the public with an air that this is over. In contrast, the policies and changes that may be coming in the weeks ahead such as closing our borders (!) feel like the virus hasn’t yet hit. 

Over the weekend I saw a few articles, one from Italy and one from Greece – both of which made me embarrassed for our country. The Italian article was a man talking about the lockdown being lifted and how they were just coming out the other side (interesting to note the timing since the Italians were seen as being two weeks ahead of us). He was commenting on how they couldn’t believe the details coming from the UK to do with death rates and PPE issues, and how when they were in the grip of the virus, they saw the relaxed and delayed reaction from the UK government. The next article came from Greece – a country whose financial issues have been widely publicised for some time and yet they have had 150 deaths total – we are still getting more then that daily! They recognised early the impact that the covid virus was having around the word and acted so that their health service wasn’t at risk – knowing that their fragile economy was only just recovering. Both of these articles were a shock – not that long ago we were looking at ‘poor Italy’ dealing with that terrible virus and now that is us to other countries. Hopefully ‘poor Greece’ and their fragile economy won’t be the next thing for us. 

I think this is Boris’s view too – that the economy cannot take much more of a hit, but I fear that will be something we have little control over now. At the point where we had the control, the time where the actions would have made the biggest impact; we as a country delayed and looked on in horror at the wave of illness that was about to hit us. The Boris who got stuck ziplining over London for the 2012 Olympic games was a bit of a joke, but as PM it just isn’t funny anymore. 

Day 25: ‘In situations like this, a holiday isn’t to explore far flung places, but to be selective over how available you are and break away from being a slave to email’

Contributor: Jennifer:

This is a chance to break away from being a slave to work emails

We have had a couple of days spending the bank holiday for the things that we need – a bit of quiet from the outside worlds event and time to focus on what we need. 

With everyone in a state of lockdown, people are looking to connect in different ways – in WhatsApp, through phone calls, texts; and at points it has felt with all these groups that there is a pressure to be constantly connected to people. This is a pressure echoed by work – as we are all working from home (and not as yet furloughed) there is an element of trust that you are working; and to feel like you have to be shown to be constantly accessible and responding to emails and Teams chatter. As a new starter, there is also that additional pressure of showing who you are as a character and being able to add something to the conversation.  During a group meeting before Easter, we were encouraged to consider using our leave during this time and not to just save it up until we return – an idea which at first, I thought was a daft suggestion but one now I am starting to consider. Maybe the way that holiday is viewed needs to change in situations like this – that the holiday isn’t to go and explore or travel to far flung places, but an opportunity to be selective over how available you are, and to have a break away from the self-discipline of being a slave to the email/Teams. 

Today, I caught up with my friends from school – the ones I had the group chat with a few weeks ago. Growing up we have cooked together as a social event and today was no different, except it was held through Zoom. It was an interesting mix of Wi-Fi dropping out and several 40-minute meetings later we have a ‘group prepared’ meal. The inane chatter of what we had been up to in recent days, what we have been able to find in the shops (or not, as the case may be) and the distractions of trying to follow a new recipe were reminiscent of the teen years and a reminder that not much has changed – we could have almost been in the room together. The hunt is now on for next week’s recipe…

Day 16: ‘Seeing the countries that are ahead of us and behind us in the timeline of this virus’

Contributor: Jennifer:

All over the world, people are analysing the effects of Covid-19: banks are watching the stock markets, civilians are watching graphs of deaths that day, governments are watching other countries responses. In some ways these ways of marking and measuring the affect is a way of looking into the past and future, by seeing the countries that are ahead of us and behind us in the timeline of this virus.

I read an article from The Guardian with an update of how the virus is progressing in New Zealand and I was intrigued to read that they had shut their borders 25 days after the first infection. This decision as part of a hard-hitting response has seen a quarter of the cases that the model had expected for the weekend gone. I then thought about the UK and our response, with the first case being seen on the 31st of January and our lockdown starting on the evening of 23rd March. Looking at the difference in response to the threat between us and New Zealand, and the stark reality of proactive measures over reactive measures – I hope we have done enough.

Yesterday it was announced that after two weeks of self-isolation, that Boris Johnson has been admitted into hospital following his doctor’s advice.  I hope that with this, Boris can see first-hand the impact on our NHS and how hard they are working to keep people alive and the measures used to keep others safe. Sadly, a video resurfaced, of the press conference Boris held where he proudly announces that he was shaking hands and would continue to do so – a daft thing to announce. I hope that from his new perspective he may be able to see the change in policies that needs to happen, and that he and other MP’s present and in the future start to see the NHS for what it really is – a proud achievement of the UK and not just a bargaining chip. I hope that he makes a full recovery and that the NHS can show him that their value isn’t a number on a spreadsheet or a demographic chart but a wholesome ‘business’ that is full of people that care. I may have an idealistic view on the NHS but when I look at America, I am so grateful it’s there.

NB Last night, an announcement was made that Boris has now been moved into ICU, like many others it seems our PM is struggling with his personal fight with this virus.

Day 11: ‘This freedom of working from home has let me tap into the other learning resources. Maybe this is the work/life balance that I never made time for before’

Pecha Kucha – a great way to present and learn

Contributor: Jennifer:

‘Today I have realised that I have slipped into a new way of working. With this extra time I have found that I have been able to find loads of online networking and question/answer programs, where I can either be a visible part or watch back. 

This is fantastic – I feel that this extra time has meant that events where I would have been at work and unable to attend or even not have noticed it has now changed to a resource that I can tap into. I have been part of a Pecha Kucha on Tuesday, with listening back to an artist interview this morning and now part of another seminar. This freedom of working from home has let me tap into the other learning resources out there. Maybe this is the work/life balance that I have personally been missing, and I never made time for before, since there was always someone to meet up or yet another job in the house to do. If I take one thing away from this, it will be that I need to put more time into my side projects and interest. 

What is out there for tomorrow – who knows. 

This is a contrast to how I felt yesterday, I found myself intensely frustrated at being stuck inside, irritated at a computer system (turns out it wasn’t my fault) and overall feeling a little disheartened. I have thought today, and have come up with projects that I want to create and smaller bite sized things that I can put the time aside to learn. I didn’t like the feeling of yesterday so I am fixing it. Typical Wednesday…

We had our work group chat and the inevitable chat around how long this is going to last came up. Some were wondering if it was going to be longer then three weeks, others estimated 6 weeks and then others were saying its until September. People were planning and pondering what we would need to get ready for returning to work, discussions felt like we were talking about next week, and busying our minds with discussions over trivial matters – were computers off, would they have the updates, would summer workshops happen, would the workshops have the materials they needed if we came back straight into the new term. It struck me as strange that we were in a sense trying to plan for every eventuality. With a quieter week online, I feel that people have in a sense almost started to try to find something to be concerned about – thinking about life after Covid-19. Its understandable in some senses to return to what you are used to and can plan for, as for at the moment we are all walking in the dark waiting for someone to have an answer or solution. One lady was talking about the beer she saw in her fridge on Monday morning and had considered it… and its only week 2.’

Day Eight: ‘I made my first nervous foray into hairdressing today – if it was truly terrible it would grow back before anyone else saw it.’

Contributor: Jennifer:

How we think the new haircut might look

For the first time in lockdown, we woke up to rain on the windows and the sky having that look like it was set in for the day. Most other days it has been bright and sunny, a little chilly but still a good day to be in the garden; so its nice to have a day where I’m not particularly bothered about going outside. 

As we start Week 2, I realised just how much we had adapted to this new routine.  Who is sorting breakfast with a cuppa and then opening laptops for another day in paradise – well our dining room.

With an unproductive Sunday, came a refreshed Monday. Catching up with co-workers and making plans for work, the day passed quickly – a chat with my line manager assured me that urgency to produce work that I have been feeling all week wasn’t necessarily needed or sustainable since with only a few days in the job and in a practical role there is a limit to the work that can be done. It seems that expectations for working from home are reasonable and understood – we are all facing the same challenges. We also reflected on the announcement that was made by the university, stating that they don’t foresee the face-to-face teaching commencing before September. In this I feel for the students who are trying to make improve their education and develop their knowledge, but now having to do it via Microsoft Teams; you can’t develop practical skills via laptop. But they are trying and who knows, they may come out more resilient and learn things no university course ever could teach. 

I made my first forays into hairdressing today – well unless you count me cutting my fringe behind the sofa in my parents living room when I was about 8. Everything about his request made me nervous – especially since we are almost 24/7 together with current circumstances; the only benefit would be if it was truly terrible it would grow before anyone else saw it. With Ben’s tightly curled hair- it was a nightmare – fighting against the indecision, curls and that feeling that I shouldn’t be doing this. It’s strange that we have only been in this situation for a week and yet it feels like these dramatic measures are needed. However, we have come out the other side, with our relationship intact, no cuts and only a little mistake (shhh…).

 I think we will count today as a success. 

Day Six: ‘That feeling of being helpless against the virus is frustrating. So for now, the plant at the bottom of the garden is getting it!’

Contributor: Jennifer:

We spoke to Bind Weed yesterday outside its home yesterday. It refused to comment.

Today we discovered that the bind weed from the church at the bottom of our garden was starting to make its first appearance of the year (oh yes neighbours – it’s back).

 So, Saturday was spent digging a channel for us to put old paving slabs against our fence to slow the onslaught of this over ambitious plant. It did occur to me that here was a plant that was doing what is does best – a survival technique where it was multiplying and branching out; are we really that different? At the times of Cristopher Columbus, great sailing expeditions were going out to explore the furthest reaches of our planet, probably for the financial benefits rather than for survival but human nature isn’t that different to the plant invading my back garden. 

Then my thoughts turned to the virus and its behaviour. It isn’t visible like the plant; you can’t plot a route that it will follow like a map; but we can estimate its behaviour and how it may spread. We are fighting an unseen rival, where the best weapon against it is time and social distancing. You can’t bargain with it, or rationalise with it – you can’t send teams of trained negotiators to work it out. All other threats have had an assertive solution or reaction, whereas for this issue it feeling like passive solutions are our only choice. 

It is a frustrating period with a lack of knowing and a lack of doing. 

We don’t know how long this situation may last, or how bad things may ultimately get. We know that keeping distances with loved ones, work colleagues, friends is our best chance to reduce the impact; but that feeling of being helpless against it is frustrating. So for now, the plant at the bottom of the garden is getting it!

Day Five: ‘If I’m being honest, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the length of this’

Contributor: Jennifer:

And like that, our first working week is over. I know for many others that this was week 2 or 3 and if I’m being honest, I’m not sure I’m looking forward to the length of this. Maybe if I had been in my job longer it would make this easier, I’m trying to balance expectations of myself, my new work colleagues and all the things that I would hope to accomplish within this time. But we are doing this, and we are ok. 

Ben pointed out that he isn’t looking forward to Saturday, as it will feel like the days gone by; so, as an effort to change that we are setting new routines – one for the week and one for the weekend. I’m hoping that way we can get a magic back to the weekend and some reasonable expectation for the weekday. 

People’s reactions are completely understandable to this situation, but in reality all that is being asked of us is to stay at home. 

That’s it. 

No extra measures. No extra effort. No extra cost. No extra time.

So we stay in, keep ourselves occupied and out of trouble. 

Day Four: ‘Tonight we clapped for the NHS, we heard streets around us erupting in cheers and our house didn’t feel like an island any more’

Contributor: Jennifer:

The street joined in Nationwide cheers for the NHS on Thursday night

Day Four, 

Yesterday was about as Wednesday as Wednesdays could get. Even with this new timetable it acted the way that all Wednesdays act – lingering on the times that you want to pass and skipping past the points that you want to enjoy. With all my inductions complete for work (to the surprise of my line manager) and a virtual meeting planned in for Thursday, the worry set in about what work they were expecting to see. 

So Thursday comes, and I have a few things that I have been working on and am ready to share with the team. However, when the meeting starts its clear the focus was more on checking in with each other and seeing how we were all doing. Work was discussed obviously, but discussions were more about the students and how we could support them through this. The sense of community – even for people I have only physically worked alongside for 2 days was lovely. Where I was anxious in the lead up to the meeting and questioning had I done enough, I didn’t even discuss the work that I had done. There is something about this situation where we are seeing the people come together and try to be the best that they can for each other. Discussions were around what we could do to help, and if there was the option for access to the universities resources – with 3D printers people are making equipment for the NHS, our health and safety stores have equipment for the term, for now they are out of reach but people are asking questions and we will see. 

From that meeting I realised that everyone is just muddling through as they can – there is no guide on working around these situations. All you can do is try to look after those around you and wait for the pandemic to pass. 

Ben ventured out to the supermarket, a few things for us, a few for a neighbour and sent an image of people queuing around the store. The one person in, one person out system seems to be working for keeping things calm. Thankfully there was more available in shops now then before the lockdown – proof that the panic buyers had done their thing and that stock levels were reaching stability. 

Things are starting to feel more real, a chat for Ben with his boss confirmed what I thought may be coming. Without shops being open and clients needing to update their physical advertising, work is drying up; and the company has applied for the government grant. It strange, we knew the situation was serious and going to last a while but then having those conversations shows you that it’s the reality for now. The concern isn’t for the financial implications, more what will be left at the end of this pandemic – are companies going to survive and how long can the government help to support. With more companies joining the grant scheme, how long will it be before they aren’t able to offer that help out; and what may be suffering as a consequence? Students apparently are petitioning for tuition fees back, and who can blame them. However all things considered – where is the money coming from?

At 8pm tonight we clapped for the NHS. Familiar faces on our street came out and we all stood there in a moment. As the noise fluctuated on our street, we heard streets around us erupting in cheers, with whistles and claps; and at that point the house didn’t feel like an island any more. 

Day Two: I'm enjoying the opportunities to reconnect – like the Venice canals there is some healing that I can do in my personal life.'

Contributor: Jennifer:

“As we start today (the first day of lock down), I find myself thinking about the wider implications of the Corona virus and how that could have an impact on the environment. This thought was sparked by the refusal of reusable cups at coffee shops – a campaign that has been growing in strength for many years however reached a new intensity last year. I am fully supportive of the reasons behind it but it struck me as interesting that something that people were so passionate about has been so easily revoked and almost forgotten as soon as the threat to health is there. It IS for the best, and it WAS a necessary move – but I wonder if the people who felt most passionately about it changed their habits so as to not go back on their beliefs. Maybe something we could take from this that its ok to slow down and see the harm that invariably comes from a takeaway nation. 

There are other impacts from the virus – we have seen reports of dolphins back in the Venice Canals, wild animals roaming the streets and the reduction of pollution clouds; and I can’t help but feel that there are some serious positives that can be seen in this awful situation. We as a human race have a lot to be accountable for and have put a large strain on the environment we live in – maybe while we fight this virus there is time for the world to heal even a little bit. 

It had me thinking about the other positives that could come from this situation – and how at day 2 some of them were already being seen. A group chat with my friends from school has shown how this is a situation where we  can make good things come from it – as a diverse group we try to meet up where possible but when one is on shifts as a paramedic and one lives in Australia it has meant that a full group catch up probably hasn’t happened in almost 3 years. With a suggestion of a new app we were all chatting and laughing and playing stupid games like we were teens again. I have also reached out to other friends who have been thought of but I’ve never contacted as most times life just gets too busy. Now I am enjoying the opportunities to reconnect and have those longer conversations – maybe like the Venice canals there is some healing that I can do in my personal life. 

As for work, Ben and I continue to find the pattern that works for us – as the person who has already found heir work from home mojo, I left Ben to have the dining room table and have been in the living room all day. This space has been good for reducing the distractions, but its still nice to know that I can still shout if I want a cuppa! My thoughts turn to those who are self-isolating on their own and I hope they have a group of people to chat to just to keep the sanity

And so, with that ends day 2 – with a quick call to Mum and Dad where we argue about the socials isolation policy, the NHS and Boris; it feels just a bit like a standard day but with a few perks.”

Day One: 'Presents of loo roll and offers of recycling bags are now a thing…'

Contributor: Jennifer:

“Together we are going into this self-isolation on a positive note seeing it as an opportunity to be able to achieve and explore projects that were on a list to complete or as an option for self-growth.
Having stated a new job on Thursday of last week at a university, I
feel in a bit of limbo. The evening before they had told the students
that the workshops were now closed to them, so naturally some
were in and collecting work, advice, photos equipment and
materials; and then we made sure the workshop was shut down for
‘the foreseeable future’.

Such an odd phrase and not one that was commonly heard before,
maybe, a couple of months ago, most times there is a vague idea of
how long something should take – our society is run by legislation
and contracts stating start dates and end dates – even your
takeaway pizza has a timescale attached it! Food has best before
dates, roadworks have boards with an end date (not that it means
much sometimes), and then to meet worried students for the first
time, try to convince them that I am a good hire and come out with
something as woolly as ‘the foreseeable future’ – safe to say the
strangest start to a new job.

So today is Monday 23rd and the Day 1 of isolation.
After sending a photo of myself to my new workmates – a
recommendation from my line manager since I met about a fifth of
the team and we don’t know when we will be back. Then on to the
new starter online inductions – time consuming and boring, but if
ever there was a time to do them

At lunch I found myself in the garden with the neighbour’s cat,
enjoying the sunshine and contemplating whether I tackled that
weed that was taking liberties now or later (it didn’t last long, the
weed is gone). Having only my previous workplaces to compare to, I found myself realising that at this point I would have just been on my
phone, pointlessly scrolling waiting until I had to return to work –
maybe self-isolation had more potential then I had realised. And like
that without the need for a long car journey, it’s the end of the day
and I am home.

I can’t help but feel that today has been good – a work life balance
where small jobs in the garden that would get forgotten and would
go unseen were started. Or maybe I have spent too long recently
talking to my nan, who seems to think when this calms down, she
may need some extra bits from the shop – that sense of optimism is
contagious. However, in my head I know from Italy, China and Spain
that things have yet to get worse, and this is just Day 1 of Isolation.

I find myself thankful for the WhatsApp group on our street and the
people that are on it, as all the daft messages that come through
remind me that we are a community of people who are looking out
for one another. That presents of loo roll and offers of recycling bags
are now a thing, and concerns about vulnerable neighbours are
discussed. Its so easy in this time to become an island and just look
after your own, as shown in the behaviours around food shopping
displayed currently by Britain; but I hope that when this passes that
people have a look at how that behaviour is damaging and try on
some level to adjust their thinking. Having seen the video of the
Swiss supermarket, pictured above, we know it is possible to have a calm response to
uncertain times.”