“For a contribution today, I thought I’d provide what I hope is a bit of entertainment. These days, I am a self-employed creative writer and to keep my brain alive I often indulge in one hundred word pieces of Flash Fiction. I thought I’d share a topical one with you.”
Correct Distance by AnthonyL Church
“Granddad, what did you do in the great Corona outbreak?” I smiled proudly. “I got on with it my dear.” The little face thought for a second. “Did life really change forever?” “Of course not, my darling.” It was time for them to go, so I bumped my elbow with my son-in-law and virtually kissed my granddaughter through my new-age smarterphone. The other half was already in bed when I went up. “Did they get off ok?” I nodded and then got into bed ensuring that our trusty bolster would keep us at the correct distance apart throughout the night.
“It won’t be Coronavirus that kills me, or my daily blast of PE with Joe Wicks, but probably the massive bender we are all going to go on when this insane period of our lives is over.
I always assumed Day Three would be a day of reckoning on this survival project we’ve all been signed up to and it did not let me down.
For clarity, I’ll try to break this down into four themes and the changes so far. I say “for clarity” because nothing much makes any sense at present.
Work: I’ll be honest, working from home seemed like a golden opportunity to cram my work into a 2-hour window and spend the rest of the time basking in the glory of putting an intense shift in. Today has proved it doesn’t work like that. Work starts at 8.30am and is still going at 9pm with video calls in the working day window of 9-5. I suspect everyone is doing the idea of the two-hour blitz, just not at the same time, and as a result our days are now filled responding to people working in a different time zone – like when the London stock market notices America is waking up and everyone starts flapping about.
News: The news is depressing and I don’t trust it anymore, yet during the day the news channels now pass as entertainment – there is no football, so Sky Sports isn’t an option. I haven’t got time to binge-watch a series and daytime TV is still eight hours of middle class white folks competitively buying antiques (see picture above).
Being at home: I like my house, but there’s something about leaving it I really miss. And if I don’t leave it, coming back to it, therefore, it is not the same.
Pub: I realised that now I can’t go to the pub and that I am now living my own pub. The bar could open, in theory, after my two-hour blitz that actually lasts 16 hours. Anything after 11am could be fair game, just keep the bottles out of view on video calls and I’d be fine. OK, it hasn’t come to that but the past two days I’ve noticed I’m looking forward to celebrating another day of survival as soon as I’ve passed 5pm. This is not what I’d normally do.
When I said I might die from the massive bender we are all going to go on after this is over, I mean I probably won’t, but I am missing the idea that I could go out if I wanted. So when we get the chance, in three months time, let’s all go out and go crazy.
I guess the takeaway from today’s brain dump is that working from home is not as liberating as the idea of working from home.”
“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.”
“Let’s rewind back to mid-november, I’m having a quiet beer with friends on a friday night, but inside my body is giving me all the warning signs of what i had already feared was inevitable to come. Two days later and a visit to A&E with my wife confirmed my fears and another week in Leicester Royal was required. A week of being prodded, poked and scanned, an ensemble of injections, tests and medication all alongside daily investigations by doctors telling me that my body had once again ground to a halt.
Back in May 2015 I was diagnosed with aggressive fistulating Crohn’s Disease. Everything about that day changed my life which was no longer my own. An active life full of adventure and discovery became an existence of pain, exhaustion and social distancing. My family has been amazing from Day 1, especially my beautiful wife – she is my rock in every way and takes every difficult decision in her stride with a warm smile and a comforting embrace. My three children support me through laughter, comedy and chocolate and always know how to make me smile in the darkest of times. My youngest daughter finds it hard however to hide the worry that she feels almost daily around my condition, but saves her tears for when she is alone. My friends try to support from afar due to the rarity of social events and the distance between us now.
Since November I have been unable to work and thus long days home alone are often difficult, Netflix has become a frustration rather than a treat, long conversations with my cats are often one-sided and social media and news outlets provide little to stimulate the imagination. But I get through each day with a mixture of chores, sometimes adventurous cooking and small trips out into town or to the shops. Although the days are difficult, I still have some freedom to how I live my life and the choices that I make day to day.
Then in December a news story breaks of a viral outbreak in China that proves to be interesting reading. At first glance it carries no immediate worry and being 5,000 miles away, western society deems it an incident for the Chinese to handle and we return our focus back to drip-fed biased news that we have become so used to.
However as Christmas comes and goes and then Donald Trump flexes his sociopathic muscles with Iran, the story begins to dominate news outlets. All of a sudden the number of new cases is growing alarmingly and the mortality rate is creeping up. The virus spreads to China’s neighbours and then to Europe and by the end of January it reaches our own shores. Does our government look to take any action immediately to protect the people that live here… No they make capitalist based decisions to protect our economy and the elite that fund them in the background. Rather than planning for the inevitable onslaught on our already frail NHS, decisions are made instead to look to protect the listings on the FTSE 100 and alongside this, the companies that our government officials have links with are assured of their safety in the future.
Alongside the government doing nothing, our society chooses also to take a line of ignorance. We instead bury our head in the sand and use Seasonal Flu rates as evidence to argue that it will all blow over. The ‘Not In My Back Yard’ principal is visible across the nation and we go about our daily lives with no change whatsoever. The government chooses to ignore WHO guidelines to test as much as possible and isolate where we can and they use the media to convince us that it will only affect the elderly and infirm – we will be ok if we wash our hands and don’t sneeze around each other. Alongside this, the media are constantly updating us on the situation in Italy and yet we still don’t take things seriously enough to warrant significant changes in our day to day lives.
Then on the 5th March (which is also my birthday ironically) the Shit hits the fan – the news comes of the first UK death of Covid-19. As a nation we are suddenly like a deer in the highlights at night. The ensuing panic manifests itself in the aisles of supermarkets, we have no regard for others and have regressed into a pack of hungry wolves. Society finally realises that the NHS has already cracked, its staff are overworked and at risk of contracting the virus every time they leave for work. How does the government react… again by not doing enough!
Mr Prime Minister advises us to avoid pubs and restaurants but makes no decision on schools, universities or public transport which are all hives for spreading contagion.
Finally as of Friday 20th March, Boris decides to grow a pair, his hand forced by society not having the decency to follow guidelines of distancing and isolation where possible. This is again followed up by the lockdown last night which will allow some draconian powers to be enabled to attempt to stem the spread of Covid.
I took the decision to self isolate at the beginning of last week due to my health and the effect the medications i take have had on my immune system. A couple of walks with my wife and a brief visit to the GP to ensure all is ok were my only trips out last week. The realisation set in over the weekend that I won’t see my youngest daughter for 12 weeks as she lives with her mum in Grantham – a feeling in some way that I am deserting her and failing as a parent hits me hard. Last night at 7.03pm I received my government text message explaining that I am in the highest risk category and that I must shield for 12 weeks minimum. Clarity overtakes hope upon reading this message and a little voice in my ear lets me know that I just might not get through this. So now my choices have been taken away…. No more trips into town or to the shops, no pint in the local with friends, no walk in the fields with my wife. But I know this isolation will give me the best chance of seeing the new world months down the line and I can’t wait for the day to arrive where I see my daughter face to face and hold her tighter than ever before.”
“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.”
“If it wasn’t for the fact the Coronavirus is spreading rapidly across the United Kingdom and the death toll is rising, today will go down as a good day. In my first full day working from home and attempting to keep two 10-year-olds educated and entertained I think I have come through it unscarred and ready for Day Two. When I finally sat down to write my first diary Coronavirus diary this evening I wondered if events might be so unremarkable that this project might just end up being like Seinfeld – the show about nothing. Then I thought, if this whole experience does just end up being the blogged minutiae of daily life, with some ups and a few downs, I’ll take it.
Deep down I know it won’t be that straight forward. Any sense of satisfaction is clouded with worry about what happens next. I feel I’m off to a good start, but we have a long way to go. My friends in the NHS say we are two weeks behind Italy in terms of cases and Italy cannot cope. Worse still, the citizens of United Kingdom have appeared not exactly followed the idea of social-distancing to the letter and there is an expectation in the medical profession that we could soon be worse than Italy in terms of cases and the burden on our health service will be too great. As none of this has actually happened yet, my over-riding concern on day one is the fear of the unknown. I am worried for the people I’m closest to. I also don’t know if work will ever get back to normal or whether life can ever pick up where it left off. I can’t imagine I am alone in thinking about this.
These are the clouds that darken an otherwise good day working from home and looking after my boys. They have been well behaved. We started the day with the Joe Wicks’ PE with Joe at 9am along with 800,000 others. I have to say it was very good to get energised for half an hour and start the day right. Our day is mapped out so that boys are encouraged to do learning activities (pictured above) all morning and in the afternoon they have some free time while I catch up with work, before a walk around the block. I also had a video call with three people from work and it was good to see and hear my colleagues.
If you get the chance to use Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Skype, FaceTime or whatever please do – it is rather uplifting to chat digitally, even if not face-to-face. Boris Johnson says we can bring Coronavirus under control in three months. I am fearful about the weeks ahead, but I am pleased how Day One went. If we can hit Boris’s target to end the rising curve of illness we have just another 83 days to repeat this exercise, stay safe and make this the best new show about nothing.”
“I’m sitting here feeling like Nella Last, or Housewife 49 as she was known by the Mass Observation Archive.
Nella (pictured above) provided valuable information on what it was like for a married woman living in the industrial north-west of England during the years of the Second World War.
She was immortalised by the late Victoria Wood in a wonderful TV film, which I expect many will have seen.
And now like Nella, here we sit in the midst of another war, but this time with an invisible microscopic enemy.
Some may argue that life will potentially be more uncertain than it was in those 1940 war years.
This is officially day one, but to me it is day ten since on 13 March (the dreaded Friday the thirteenth), my soulmate advised me that as I am over sixty years old and have hypertension, even if it is controlled by medication, I should isolate in accordance with guidance from the World Health Organisation.
Neither my soulmate nor I had any confidence in the advice issued by the Tory government, and saw their seventy plus benchmark as simply an unwillingness to concede that making workers work well into their mid, and then later, sixties to get their state pension puts them at greater medical risk.
As it might appear, the prime minister’s adviser, Dominic Cummings, allegedly believes letting older people die is a price worth paying to keep the wheels of British capitalism turning.
The worse thing for me on this day one (ten) is that I am not able to see or talk face-to-face with my soulmate because although she is nearly two decades younger than me, she does have some chronic health issues of her own to manage.
This is going to make the coming days, weeks, months incredibly challenging, but I suppose resilience is forever tested and when we all come out of this the world will be forever changed.
Well, I for one hope that the political landscape does not return to ‘business as usual’.
Never more so than now do I understand what I was taught in those days gone by when I was just a young political activist; this being that a general election is only a snapshot.
In spite of that whopping majority Johnson was given (predominantly by those Cummings may think are expendable), the government are going to be under scrutiny and pressure the likes of which has never been seen before.