I haven’t written much during the coronavirus pandemic. I don’t know whether that’s because I haven’t wanted to, haven’t felt able to or what. I just know that this place has been far from my mind. I think there have been so many voices speaking that I haven’t felt the need to add to it. Tomorrow, I’m back at work for the first time since March 17th.
I’ve been on furlough for about nine weeks, with the three or four weeks before that being a “work from home” type of scenario. Despite the fact that it’s near impossible to do my job from anywhere other than my workplace. I’m asthmatic, so my manager and I had made that decision based on risk and me not having my own transport to get to work. I would have had to take the tube, and I don’t know how many of you have seen the images from early on in the lockdown when the tube service was low, but it wasn’t a pretty sight. It’s quite scary to be on a list of people who are “vulnerable” to something viral. I know the research has come to a point now where mild asthmatics are not considered as vulnerable, but that initial “I am on that list” was quite scary.
One of the last days that I was at work (March 16th) was the day the theatres shut. That really got me deep in my tummy. For me, London’s theatres are part of its very heartbeat and knowing that every theatre in London had gone dark was horrifying. It hurts that they still remain closed now. I went out to pick up some food and on the way there a couple walked behind me who were excited about seeing a show at the Vaults, which is next to Waterloo Station. While I was out, I read the announcement about theatres and on the way back I saw the same woman crying and saying “what are we going to do now?” At the time I thought it was a little overdramatic, but I realise now that I don’t know her story. She could be one of the many people employed in the theatre industry who find themselves out of work for yet another month.
I still think March was the longest month on record. Each day was fraught with anxiety and it just felt like the world was changing around us. I remember the utter stupidity of people rushing out for “one last hurrah” when it was announced that bars, clubs and restaurants would need to close a few days later. I remember Aiden saying “why are they having a daily briefing? Do they think we’re all going to gather around the TV and watch it nightly?” and we both laughed and rolled our eyes. Needless to say, we spent the end of March and a lot of April tuning in every single day, before reading the more sensical updates from Jenny at The Brick Castle. Mid way through April, I ditched the briefings and mostly got my information from Jenny’s Facebook Page updates.
Despite the anxiety of the whole situation, I think there have been good things that came out of being furloughed. I have probably twenty bags of clothing to donate as soon as we are able to. Washing through them all and sorting them has been a real pain – especially the four years worth of Eden’s clothes – but it’s nice to get rid of the clutter and I know it will bring joy to people. I feel like Aiden and I are closer. We’ve actually had time to be in the same place at the same time, and it’s been refreshing. We’ve had time to do some training with the dogs and Loki isn’t as bothered about the yappy shit next door any more. For the first time in quite a few years, I haven’t been tired all the time. I haven’t been as stressed. I haven’t been constantly worrying and my mind hasn’t been racing. We’ve just been at home. No throwing Eden between us because we need to work. No night shifts. No worrying about getting shift swaps for childcare reasons. No trying to plan everything in life at least six weeks in advance. That side of it, to be honest, has showed me what I’m missing by having to work.
Eden has struggled. Her theatre school Zoom meetings on a Saturday were getting her through near the start. She was putting on shows in the living room and learning dance routines from JoJo Siwa’s Youtube channel. Every so often she would ask if we could go somewhere or do something and we always had to say no. We did explain to her why, but I think it’s hard for a four year old to digest. Especially when we are saying no to her friends coming over, yet others in the neighbourhood seem to have a steady stream of visitors coming to play with their kids. I remember one day when she broke down. She literally laid on the floor and screamed and shouted about how she has no friends and nobody wants to play with her. That was bloody hard. It was hard to say “you do have friends, but they can’t come here. We can’t meet them at the park. We can’t see them at all.” She’s struggling less since being back at the childminder on a Monday and Tuesday, but it was hard going for a while.
Highlights for me, except for not feeling stretched as thin as a person can be stretched, have been many. I’d almost forgot about Tiger King until I saw my “Carole Baskin did it” window sign and laughed. Who could forget that utter cluster fuck? I sorted out my hair. Lockdown meant that I had time to get through the uber frizz phase and let my curls do their thing. My hair feels healthier and looks so much better now. I know it’s a small thing, but it’s taken me thirty two years to properly own my curls and I’m intending to stick with it this time. I started writing again. I haven’t written fiction really since my mum died in 2007, so that’s a big deal. I found an old draft and couldn’t shake the characters out of my head, so I decided to rewrite. I’m not going to say it’s been easy because it hasn’t, but it’s certainly been satisfying. In the last two weeks I’ve started doing 16:8 fasting and I’m down 3kg so far. If only I’d started at the start of lockdown!
Lowlights have been realising exactly how selfish the human race is and how much our government don’t act with their people in mind. Chief Cheeto in the US has provided me a good few laughs, but I don’t discount exactly how dangerous he is. Some of the things he has said and done during this pandemic are almost criminal. Much the same as Boris “herd immunity” Johnson and his cronies. I’m sad that my former NHS colleagues have had so much of the burden of this placed on them. I’m sad that we’ve lost so many essential workers because of this virus and the government’s lacklustre response to it. We’re one of the richest countries in the world and yet we couldn’t provide those keeping the country moving with enough protective equipment to keep them alive. IT’s a travesty. Not to mention the amount of people who have seemed to ignore the rules from the start, only to them go out and clap for the NHS on a Thursday night. I will say that we only did it a couple of times, because I just could not bear the hypocrisy of it. The fact that people were breaking rules, having parties and making it harder for the very people that they were clapping loudly for was not lost on me.
I’m hoping transport is ok tomorrow. Most people are still working from home where they can, and I have a 6.30am start. I’m hoping public transport will be kind to me and that my fellow humans will wear their masks and keep out of my space. I’ve been amazed (although I shouldn’t be) about how our government have made mask wearing mandatory on public transport, but have completely failed to educate the general public on how to properly wear a mask. Chin straps and noses out all over the place. Almost seems pointless.
Anyway, that’s my roundup of what has been both the longest and the shortest couple of months ever ahead of going back to work. I don’t think we will ever face something like this again, but I hope that if we do we are better prepared. I know this isn’t over yet – it’s far from it. But I hope that we all have a little more armour going forward. The next couple of years are going to be tough, but if we all stick together (Whilst 2m apart!) we will get through it.
Wish me luck! I’m going back to the real world…