Saturday 28 March 2020 – London.
So here we are; week one of the half hearted lock-down. Stuck inside for the best part of each day on what has proven to be the nicest week of the year so far. Glorious sunshine, though cold, all week.
Confused messages; a confused and confusing government; an ill-informed, populist, journalist come prime minister, who is now sick; death rates rising (as expected); a health system underfunded for a decade struggling to cope; morons breaking basic hygiene rules all over the place. Panic shopping, which now seems to be abating. Welcome to post-truth, post-pre-Brexit, covid19 UK; and we are in some respects a fortunate country.
Last night (Friday 20 March) the prime minister announced that all UK cafes, bars and restaurants are to be closed to eat/drink in customers until further notice. It was also the final full opening day for schools, though some could stay open to allow key workers to go to work. As you would expect there was a lot of confusion about who is a key worker, something that has yet to be fully clarified. I am apparently a key worker, as is Eleanor. Though we do not have children and are now both working from home anyway. As I said in my last post, we are lucky, very very lucky.
In fact everything is confusing, the messages from the government and the press, contradict each other on a daily basis; what was the thing to do yesterday, is not thing to do today. The only clear message up until this week was ‘wash your hands for 20 seconds’. It is still the only clear key message, and the most important.
Stay at home is the new message this week, though who has to stay at home and what does stay at home really mean are constantly confused and contradicted;
- We are told that we can go to the shops for essentials; though up until mid-week most shops were open, and what is essential?
We are told we can go for one exercise walk, run or ride per day, but only with people who live in your house, staying two metres away from anyone else. There is no one to enforce this. This is not a metric country; there is confusion as to how long two metres is, apparently.
What does social distancing really mean? A newly made up phrase lobbed around casually as if every English speaking person knows exactly what it means. I don’t. I dread to think what those where English is a second language think. Self isolating; the same. Come on government, use clear language; it’s almost as if you want to hide behind this loose language when the inquiry comes along and the lawyers get involved…
I got back from the flat mid-afternoon on Saturday and with no plans for the afternoon, or for the foreseeable future decided to make a cake. I haven’t made a cake in a long time. I may have made one since I came left NZ in 2011. It was OK, it didn’t last long.
The son of good friends of ours has covid19, luckily he has only been mildly ill; compared too many others anyway. Though, I suspect he would say it has not been mild, no flu ever feels ‘mild’. Under the new guidelines the whole household are self-isolating for 14 days. On Sunday I made them suffer more and baked a banana cake which I delivered, leaving it on the doorstep and calling it in.
By the end of the week one of our social group was also taken down with, and again thankfully, not a serious bout, of the covid19 flu.
It was good being back with Eleanor, I found it much less stressful being in the house with her. We work well together, and having regular human contact is very much under–rated; by me at least. As I touched on in the last post, I love being by myself and have had a few really enjoyable weeks at the flat on my own. This time it was different. After three days alone, and with the potential for weeks, maybe months, of forced aloneness if I stayed at the flat looming I am glad I came back to London.
Work wise, I found the start of this week tough. Monday morning was OK as I re-arranged my desk and got myself physically sorted for working. We are all set up to work online, as at least one of us works from home most days sharing and banter online is part of our normal day. I was really struggling with motivation by Monday afternoon and Tuesday was pretty bad. There is a lot going on in the world and in my head, and the work I was doing was dull and I just was not interested in it at all. By the end of the week I had gotten rid of the worst of the work and the feeling has subsided a bit. I am hoping that come Monday I will be back fully engaged in it all again, and there will be some interesting things to work on. The department I work in is doing some important work supporting the nation in its struggle to cope with this disease. My team support these people, what they do is critical, though it feels like what I do is less so.
Last Tuesday we started holding an online divisional meeting each morning; to keep in contact, share work plans and make sure that everyone stays well and engaged. On Wednesday one of the team said he had started going for a walk in the morning before work to replace his commute, creating a clear break between home mode and work mode.
I thought this was a great idea and started doing this the following day, though walking along the St Leonards sea front made the ‘commute’ much nicer than walking the busy and dull streets of suburban London.
Eleanor and I are now doing a ‘commute’ walk around Lloyd Park in the morning. It does help make sure we get up, get dressed and get ready for work in the same way as we did when life was normal. I start work at the same time, take lunch at the same time; the only thing I am not doing is ironing shirts.
When I was in St Leonards I bought a new monitor, which I was going to leave there, but knowing I might not be back for a while I bought it up to London for Eleanor to use, though she ended up using my old one as it fitted her work space better. Monday morning I took half an hour to set up my desk. It is small and in a corner of the bedroom, fine for a day a week, but not brilliant for long term, luckily the chair is excellent. With a full rearrange; and with the benefit of a wireless mouse and keyboard I bought a few weeks ago, I seem to have a work space that works and is not too uncomfortable.
The view out the window to one side of my desk is nowhere near as good as the view out the window at the flat.
We didn’t do the walk on Tuesday, El had an early start and I couldn’t be bothered doing it on my own. A mistake. It made a massive difference to my day and I massively struggled with getting going and remaining motivated. I resolved to not make that mistake again, and for the rest of the week I managed to get out. Admittedly it has been really nice out, it will be harder next week when the clocks have been turned forward and it will be darker, and the weather is forecasted to be not so nice.
As the message of staying at home starts to sink in to the general population and more businesses shut their doors or allow employees to work from home by Wednesday the streets around home are getting more deserted. On our walk that morning I was surprised to see not one single moving car at the main intersection at the end of our road. I have never seen the roads so empty. Unsurprisingly reported pollution levels have gone right down…
On Friday I walked alone, though I didn’t walk as far as normal. I took the little camera with me to take some photos of the spring flowers in the park. I find photography very therapeutic, and knowing that at any time there could be a proper ban on going out with an enforced curfew, I wanted to at least make use of the time I had. There will be more next week I hope.
On Friday night we attended an online quiz the son of one of our friends put together. There were close to 20 households taking part and it was a hell of a lot fun. Joe did an amazing job of herding this group of noisy, drinking people through the quiz online. The questions were tough and El and I did not do that well. El is brilliant at quizzes, has a vast general knowledge, though I let the side down by being a bit rubbish. Online socialising was OK, all things being considered, though not the same as sitting in the pub.
Saturday we walked for a bit and picked up some small items of shopping, the shopping madness seems to have abated,, at least in the smaller shops and most of the things we wanted were on the shelves. It is important to us to keep sourcing fresh food while it is available and not outrageously priced. I am not sure if it will remain that way. We also did a massive pantry reorganise, looking to see what we had lots of (pasta) and what we had little of (rice), things to make note of next time we go shopping. We also sorted things so we would use the stuff that was close to its best by date sooner rather than later. This was a good use of time. We have a lot of it now, and have plenty more coming.
I also made another cake, my first carrot cake. I discovered after committing to make the cake that we had two round baking trays, just different sizes. I am also a lousy cake icer, so this will not win any awards for its looks. It tasted good though!
Week one of lock down has passed, mostly successfully, mentally I slumped mid-week, but managed to pick it back by the weekend. Walthamstow remains calm and it is quiet out on the street. Who knows how long this will go on for and what adjustments we have to make. All being well, and if everyone plays their part, we shall get through this.