‘It’s hard to admit you’ve had a bad day…’ A Poem:
I’m incredibly lucky. Still working full-time safely at home with a garden that’s mine. Vitamin D breaks beside feline workmates and deadlines to occupy quarantine dates. I’m categorically not entitled to say I found it pretty tough going today.
Doctors and nurses deployed to the frontline in a battle to save us, in a fight against time. Five hundred thousand civilians say yes, enlisting to bolster our ravaged NHS. I have no command to fire negative shots about isolation and losing the plot.
Elderly parents doing everything possible to get through this “without causing trouble.” Frightened. Frantically learning new rules, firmly gripping a life no one wants to lose. I drop off the stuff they can’t do without, go home feeling sick and just want to shout.
Essential workers help our nation survive as food and deliveries continue to arrive, hoping latex gloves and tape on the floor can keep them safe as we order yet more. I only have thank yous and gratitude, to feel sorry for self just seems f***ing rude.
I guess that we all find things to do whilst we’re mainly (or in some cases solely) confined to barracks.
Yesterday, courtesy of being a Curve (theatre) member, I watched a recording of Memoirs of an Asian Football Casual.
Powerful political stuff about a past age in Leicester’s local history, and, of course, football.
And today (courtesy of being a member of the Royal Shakespeare Company) I signed up for a three-month free trial with arts channel, Marquee TV.
I suppose I’m lucky as I’m not working from home on account of being retired; although I’m supposed now to be plying my trade as a writer, but somehow, I’m not writing much at the moment.
Everything that goes through my head presently is pretty dark and when we come out of this, I don’t particularly want to look back on a portfolio of dark stuff.
Reality is bad enough as it is, and the media seem much better at writing the ‘disaster movie’ pitches currently.
Of course, I do get to write the odd piece for this diary, so I’ve not given up completely.
But what I have found I’m doing a lot of is going through all of my digital photos.
Perhaps it’s one of those life flashing before your very eyes moments, but I hope not.
I have posted some random ones on my Facebook page and when I say random, it’s exactly what I mean.
I think I’ve tried to avoid one’s that are too personal, too painful.
I’ve also found the ones taken from the shows that I was in as an actor for the company I most recently finished writing for.
I had some good roles from Sergeant Hanley (plus others) in Private Peaceful, Graham in Alan Bennett’s Talking Heads piece, A Chip In The Sugar and a wonderful one as King Claudius in Hamlet.
So, you do have to keep busy in these awful times, even if you haven’t got an employer checking up on what you doing.
But, most of all, what I’m looking forward to is being able to get back to some sort of normal life, although I know that the world I withdrew from on 14th March is not going to be the same as the world we will return to at some stage in the future.
“This weekend the weird and sometimes somewhat abstract situation of the coronavirus pandemic came home to us.
Beloved Aunty Bunty died on Sunday.
She had been taken into A&E on Saturday, while there her heart stopped and although they resuscitated her, she was just too poorly and died on Sunday. It’s difficult to find the words to express the shock and sadness that has accompanied this news. Multiple times per day we read and hear the news of the huge numbers of people who have already died and the projected numbers who will die around the world and we’re all hoping (& trying) not to contract the virus, but when someone in your own family becomes one of those facts and figures, suddenly everything seems different. Bunty was only one of an unguessable number of Global deaths that will be marked in history books, but she was special to us. She was a Londoner, the youngest of 9 – Andy’s Dad had been the eldest of that tribe. Along with her sister June, as GI brides Bunty & June moved to the States after the war. Having been widowed in the last few years, Bunty leaves five children, 14 grandchildren and a few great grandchildren too! Along with one remaining brother and sister and 17 neices and nephews (I’ve lost count of how many great nieces and nephews etc) the extended family of the Smiths is, joking aside, a massive family. Aunty Bunty was a happy, bubbly, funny and cheeky person, but we won’t be able to go to her funeral to celebrate her life and remind each other amusing anecdotes. All we can do is send messages of love and sympathy, and hope that maybe next year, god willing all of those listed above can gather and be grateful for the lives we will be leading.”
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…).
“Mark and I had a chat on Skype last night, which I recorded. This morning I stripped the audio out and edited it on Audacity (if you want more details so that you can create a podcast, let us know), and then uploaded the edited project as an mp3 to my site.
In the podcast we discuss the orgins of the Street Diary, why we are so tired, the idea of the common good, Ethel Merman, and the 1973 FA Cup Final.”
“The weekend is coming to an end and as usual I feel exhausted on a Sunday night. I thought with an enforced opportunity to do less, I would have more energy. Turns out it doesn’t work like that. I thought weekends might feel longer without the distraction of work. Yet the days are passing steadily.
I have spent a lot of time on my PlayStation playing FIFA 2020 to feel like football is still here. I’m going to be a grandmaster by the end of all this. I took my designated exercise slot and went to the Tesco Express to get some essentials.
The shopping rules have intensified. Yellow and black tape now marks the two-metre gaps, inside and outside the store, which must be observed between each shopper. I had to queue to be let in and the shelves aren’t as full as they would normally be. People look at each other sheepishly as if they are thinking: “I don’t have it…” or “I wonder if you have it…”. I didn’t really get what I needed either so it was a bit of a stressful waste of time and not a happy experience. Apparently Boris is sending a letter to us all tomorrow. I don’t know what it will say but I am not sure how seriously I can take a message that presumably tells me how not to get coronavirus, from a man with er… coronavirus. Still, week two starts tomorrow and things might start to make sense.”
“In theory, weekends should feel like any other day in this circumstance. The truth is they don’t. If there is a void created by working from home (or WFH as it is now known in emails from bosses to your inbox) between Monday to Friday, then the void certainly grows on Saturday.
Our beautiful distractions simply aren’t there. Sure we are on our toes in the week, doing our duties to our employer (for those who are in employment) but Saturdays are deeply engrained in our lives as a special day.
Saturdays to many are freedom, so much so that it takes most of Sunday to get over it.
I always knew I liked football. I had no idea it was such a valuable distraction. I watched a film called Bromley Boys about the perils of football addiction to try to fill the hole. It made me miss it more, I’m now watching Saturday Night Fever 1) because I do a brilliant Barry Gibb impersonation and 2) it’s the nearest thing to a party I’m going to experience for a while.
The freedom currently lost on Saturdays, I am sure, is worth the effort. The Covid-19 death toll in the United Kingdom passed 1,000 today. I took my daily allowance of exercise jogging in the park. While I ran, I wondered what was becoming of this isolating period.
These things came to mind:
Are more people trying to exercise daily as per the allowance?
Or are more people going to increase their health risks by doing even less than they did before?
Are the social events we have after this is going to be bigger or better than they were before?
Are too many people on the brink of mainstream celebrity trying to digitally stream themselves into our lives by showing off what they do for free?
Is the amount of recycling going up? (I’m putting more orange bags out. Maybe waste is just going up in general as we are all at home, creating waste).
Carbon in the atmosphere is reducing. Can the world (politicians) learn from/ capitalise on this?
More questions than answers. Which is possibly everyone’s experience of the world right now.”
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!
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.
No extra measures. No extra effort. No extra cost. No extra time.
So we stay in, keep ourselves occupied and out of trouble.