The new way, Week one.

Saturday 21 March 2020 – St Leonards-on-Sea.

And so it begins. A new but, hopefully temporary, stage of existence. Something so utterly predictable, yet something we are all so utterly unprepared for. A global pandemic. The Corona virus, Covid19.

I have been following the story since it was first reported in Wuhan, though not with any particular dread. I knew it was coming here and was going to impact us, and have been, on reflection, kind of just hanging around waiting for it so I can move on, to here. Now.

I am one of the very lucky ones.

  • I am fit and well (I think) as is Eleanor.
  • I have a job that allows me to work from home; I work for an organisation that encouraged us to not to come in to the office.
  • Eleanor has just started a new three month contract two weeks ago, and can work from home too.
  • I have some where to live that is comfortable and secure; in fact I have a choice of two places to live.
  • Eleanor and I have no at risk family members living with, or near us that we could possibly infect. My dad and both Eleanor’s parents are dead, and mum is in NZ.
  • Having my mum, sisters, son and grandson in NZ, a son and granddaughter in Australia and my daughter in Sri Lanka is stressful, and at times worrying, but there is nothing I can do about it. At this point in time they are all well and safe, and it is easier to not worry about them knowing this.
  • Both of Eleanor’s sons are living elsewhere and we have the house to ourselves. This means space for us to both work and not get in each other’s way. We can look after each other and it is easier to be cautious when it is just the two of us.
  • We had stocked up a little on non-perishable food a while ago; we have a ‘Brexit’ box. This means that we did not have to buy much, and certainly avoided the panic buying madness. Food wise we are good, at least for a while.

Last Tuesday we had a test work-from-home day with the whole department out of the office. Most of us work from home at least one day a week, but never at the same time. This was a test of the technology, and how we could all use it at the same time and how it would work for those who have not regularly worked from home. It was pretty successful. This was fortunate; later that day we, along with 2000 other colleagues, were advised to not go back to the office until further notice. Perhaps 12 weeks in the future.

Eleanor had at least one more day of working in the office, so on Wednesday I decided to drive down to St Leonards and work from the flat for a few days. I was hoping to be able to share working between London and St Leonards over the work from home period, though realistically expected this to not be achievable, and I was right with that. While there are no enforced travel restrictions yet, unnecessary travel is advised against and I can see there being a proper locked down ordered. I did not want to be left stranded away from Eleanor for a long period.

Working down there was the right thing to do. I got to experience being on my own ALL the time for three days, and I didn’t particularly like it. I can cope perfectly well being on my own, just having contact and the odd cheery word with someone in a cafe, shop or bar. Without even that small amount of face to face human interaction things felt different, weird and uncomfortable. I also worried that if I got sick I could get stuck inside for a few days on my own, if I got really sick then that could be dangerous.

Everything is very different now. Though things are yet to fully be locked down, a lot of places are shut, most of the cafes and some of the pubs and restaurants in St Leonards and Hastings have closed. My go-to bar, 1200 Postcards shut the doors, hopefully not forever, before I got down to the flat. I stayed in Thursday evening, cooked and took a photo out of the bedroom window. Gloom settling in.

I finished work at 4:00 on Friday and took a walk into Hastings to pick up a book I ordered. I took a couple of photos on the way.

The council have been grading the beach after the all the winter storms, I love the patterns made by the tracks of the diggers.

Back in St Leonards I popped into Graze (only two people in there, so I could stay 2 metres from  the other punters) for a glass of wine, suspecting it would be my last time in a bar for a while. Soon after I arrived at 5:00pm the government announced that as of tonight all bars, eat-in cafes and restaurants had to close. I don’t disagree with the decision, hard as it will be on the places I frequent and support, and I will miss going out for a drink and for coffee. My bank balance will be less displeased.

Saturday morning I went for a final quick walk, it was a glorious day, though cold. I love how Goat Ledge have chalked boxes on the ground for customers to stand in while they queue for a takeaway, and keep the required two metres apart.

I also popped into Lucy Bell Gallery, a photography only gallery to look at an exhibition based on, and to raise funds for the preservation of, Prospect Cottage. The late Derek Jarman’s cottage on Dungeness Beach.

I ended up buying a print of a Richard Heslop image. ‘Adam and Eve’, taken from the Jarman film ‘The Garden’, which was shot at Prospect Cottage, by Richard.  The print arrived here in London this morning, a week later. It will look great, framed, on the wall back in St Leonards.

I drove back to Walthamstow, knowing I will not be back at the flat for possibly a long time. I found, and still find this quite upsetting.