Day 43: An Adventure Beyond The Front Garden

Contributor: Chris:

So week 7 of lockdown begins and I guess it’s time to reflect on the days gone by and the impact they have had on my psyche. I try not to count down the days until shielding may or may not end as it only causes frustration for myself and those closest to me that I miss seeing face to face.

The big news from week 6, I actually got to leave the house twice across two days… Hoorah!!!

Sadly not, the two day trips that I talk about were in fact visits to A&E at Leicester Royal, not the outings I would have chosen for a bid for freedom from Shielding but in hindsight a change of scenery anyway. Please don’t panic, I wasn’t there for anything Covid related thank goodness so no need to cast me off to the caves with the other lepers.

I wanted to talk today about my experience of my visit to A&E and how it left me feeling around both my own personal battle with health issues and also of the constant struggle that Key workers face day to day. The first difference from what was before was the initial contact at A&E, gone is the stroll up to the reception desk in the smart new £48 million unit. Instead I was guided by a multitude of signs and barriers to a portacabin in the area in front of A&E. I have to wait outside (luckily alone) as another person is already in the cabin being assessed, but after only a couple of minutes I am greeted by a HCA who takes some personal details. I am then led into the portacabin to be interrogated by a Nurse Practitioner around whether I have any symptoms of Covid-19 at all. The Nurse assessing me has a sense of relief that my issues are not Covid related and immediately the atmosphere changes from one of caution to friendly conversation in the blink of an eye. On questioning the nurse, she explains that the new A&E department is only for Covid admissions and is off limits to everyone not currently placed there. I am then directed to follow a series of yellow arrows spray painted on the floor and various signage which all takes me on a long walk over to the old A&E department in the Balmoral building.

On arrival at the reception in the old A&E, it is quite a shock to see all of the staff wearing so much PPE. All the nurses are wearing aprons, masks, goggles and gloves. The doctors go for the masks, goggles and gloves but instead go for white plain T-Shirts that can be changed and disposed of throughout their shifts. Prior to visiting I hoped that all staff would be properly protected but seeing this image in the flesh is very daunting and fills me with so much fear that I shouldn’t be in this environment. I ask the receptionist if I am allowed to take some photos of staff and the department for our Street Diary but my request is declined due to Data Protection Issues. The photos on here don’t involve the faces of any staff or patients.

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Due to being high risk I am provided with a mask and gloves which gives me a minimal sense of comfort in this environment. The staff are constantly monitoring the Waiting Area to ensure that all patients are following social distancing, alas there are still many that don’t follow the guidelines and have to be directed like a young child on a school trip. It is frustrating to see the health professionals being pulled away from their duties to have to manage people in this manner and I witness numerous instances of ill feeling to the staff across my two visits around maintaining safe distancing (Humans can be such ignorant shits sometimes).

Upon my first visit on Monday, it was decided by a consultant that I require an ultrasound, but this can’t be completed due to it being late in the evening so I am booked to return on the following day. I had an awful sleep on Monday night and this was only down to the fear of having to return to the same setting again and putting myself in harms way. I also feel that I am burdening the staff in some way, they don’t have a choice whether they attend work or not and they are put in the firing line both physically and emotionally every day they step across the hospital threshold.

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My return visit on Tuesday alas does not go to plan and due to some inter-department political issues, what should be a few hours there turns into a nightmare 7 hours. The staff are very positive throughout and keep me up to date as much as they can. One of the consultants made my case her own personal mission and she devoted so much of her time to ensure that my procedures were completed and I got the treatment needed. She was also very caring in regards to my Crohn’s and the need to eat and drink, there are no shops or cafes currently open at LRI so there is no option at all for patients to purchase food. Due to me being high risk, the consultant took the time to source water, crisps and biscuits all from newly opened packaging  – I don’t believe I have ever taken so much satisfaction from a bottle of mineral water and a packet of Skips.

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On the Tuesday afternoon at 6pm there is loud applause coming from the end of the corridor and I can see many staff surrounding another staff member. I asked one of the staff what the applause was for thinking perhaps a birthday or leaving a role, but the staff member explains that the person being applauded is finally taking a day off after working 12 hour days for 12 days in a row – what more can I say around this other than dedication at its highest level.

Finally at 7pm on the Tuesday, after 7 long hours, I have been tested, diagnosed and treated and am finally allowed to escape. Leaving the hospital feels such a relief and I go home to reflect on the impact the two days have had on me. I understand now more than ever how important the NHS is not only to the nation but to me personally and how different my life would be without it.

Across my two days at the unit I have had the pleasure to come across such amazing doctors, nurses, cleaners and receptionists. They are working under such pressure due to the Covid beast but do they show any strain in front of the public? No, they are smiling, polite, energetic and dedicated more than ever to ensure that each and every one of us gets the best possible care from start to finish.

Today’s entry has not be political at all, only a huge shout out to the Backbone of our country now and hopefully many years into the future!!!

Day 37: I’m having a crisis at the moment.

Contributor: Tony:

I’m having a crisis at the moment.

Not one that’s going to stop my world turning, but one that is a strong factor in my thinking presently.

I have been accepted to do a MA in Creative Writing at DMU this coming September, but I am now not sure that I want to do it.

It’s not a crisis of conscience, but simply a practical matter.

When I was accepted we were in normality, and I expected that in the autumn I’d be strolling down to the university to attend my lectures in the company of other students; many of whom will be young enough to be my kids – or perhaps not good for the ego, maybe in some cases my grandkids.

After doing my BA in Literature (but with a distinction in Creative Writing) by distance learning at the Open University, I was looking forward to being a proper on-site student.

But, of course, C-19 has now thrown everything up in the air and word has it that DMU may not have students back in September and, you’ve got it, undertake the course by distance learning on-line.

I might bite the bullet I suppose were it not for the fact that all the uncertainty has made me start to think what do I want a MA in creative writing for anyway?

I am a working writer with some poems and short stories published (in minor and charity gratis publications, nothing too outstanding) and I have had six of my plays performed, which is in itself a form of publishing to my mind.

So why do I want an academic endorsement for what to me is a very practical craft?

It has made me look at other courses and I have been attracted to one at the University of Birmingham through its Shakespeare Institute based in Stratford-upon-Avon on Shakespeare and Theatre.

Now you can do this course through distance learning, but even after talking to Institute academics I still can’t get my head around how you can teach theatre on-line, especially when the academics also enthusiastically tell you that the theatre element is very practical and hands-on utilising the nearby resource of the Royal Shakespeare Company and their theatres, currently in furlough.

What?

Are there any mathematicians out there who can more simply explain how you square a circle because I think I’m losing the plot?

But, in any event, it may all be academic (I know it’s a pun) if, like DMU, Birmingham decides its courses go on-line from September, and then we really see how you teach practical, hands-on theatre in cyberspace.

So, if I’m honest, I’m starting to think that wanting to re-start studying this September is a very bad idea and I was interested to see a comment from a Facebook friend of mine this morning, who is already a DMU MA student, advising me that he wouldn’t start a course in these C-19 circumstances.

Oh well, there’s always 2021.

It’s what we all seem, with increasing regularity, to be saying for all the different things we want to do, but that we have on hold for now.

Day 36: time to stand and stare

Contributor: Jo:

In these days of COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, I have repeatedly walked the same routes, and watched the daily unfolding of spring around us, both in my garden and on my walks to the local parks. I consider if I have ever previously had time to take note of each stage of the blossom trees moving through flower to leaf, of new plants and flowers springing into life, watching the small changes in detail within the same scenes.

It may not be much compensation for the restrictions now imposed on our lifestyles, but it is an opportunity I would never otherwise have had.

It made me think of this poem…

“What is this life if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs

And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,

Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,

Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty’s glance,

And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can

Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,

We have no time to stand and stare.”

W.H. Davies – ‘Leisure’

Day 26: Incremental moments of letting go

Contributor: Jo:

-The slow, poignant, incremental moments of letting go of my pre-COVID-19, ‘normal’, expected, intended life – 

Walking boots: still with the mud on from my last country walk (around the Langtons and over the Caudle) – I never was very good at cleaning them regularly! About to be cleaned and put away – when will they next be up to the laces in a muddy field or tramping across a moor?

Weirdly we only ever did walk about once a month, often less, but knowing I can’t go again for another month seems a bigger deprivation than it is…

Swimming bag: my swimming bag usually hangs on the end of the ironing board, ready for my weekly swim. I have found a new place for it, high up and away at the back of the wardrobe, as I will definitely be using the ironing board long before I get chance to use my swimming kit again…

Calendar: crossing off the meetings with friends and family, and social events we had planned as we began social distancing for safety.  A friend told me her little boy did the same, saying with the wisdom and resignation of someone far older ‘Billy’s birthday party isn’t going to happen now is it?’ Somehow even sadder still in the mouth of a young person…

Train tickets: having cancelled our Easter holiday abroad as soon as it became obvious that we would absolutely not be able to go, I have been loath to actually do anything with the now useless, printed out tickets. They are finally re-purposed into ‘things to do’ and shopping lists…

Shower tiles: under no other circumstances would I have either the time (or the inclination) to scrub clean the grouting in between the shower tiles!

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Day 25: Revelation

Contributor: Richard:

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The end of the road is worn. The end of the road is wearing through. Our inscriptions and markings are fading away.

What-was is being revealed. A different life. Different lives. Emerging from under our friable, careworn present existences.

I think of our forebears walking the cobbles. I think of the labour that went into digging, shaping, baking, laying the clay. All those years ago.

Revelation.

Day Zero: Introducing this project

Dear Resident,

As we enter an unprecedented time in our history, we invite you to be part of a project that seeks to capture our experiences as we attempt new ways of living and working to stem the spread of Coronavirus (Covid-19). From tomorrow, we offer you the opportunity to be Citizen Scientists, writing daily online diary of what is going on and how this crisis is affecting you, both positively or negatively.  Participants are asked to complete daily or regular diary updates, capture photographs of their experiences and express themselves creatively through video clips, podcasts and creative writing. You can be a named participant or be anonymous. We intend to publish the street’s outputs daily on this bespoke blog site. It is not clear how long this period of change will last. Our blog site, driven by Citizen Science, will hopefully serve to demonstrate how a street of people reacted and coped during a unique crisis. It will stand to be a record of a snapshot of time which will potentially become one of the most studied phenomenon of the 21st Century. The majority of people will be observing some sort of social distancing or isolation from Monday March 23 as it is the first full day of school closures, therefore we intend to start the online diary and blog posts from tomorrow and continue for as long as it takes. 

If you are interested in becoming a Citizen Scientist for this project, please email streetdiary2020@gmail.com  and we will send further details later today.