Do you remember where you were when you first heard Princess Dianna had died? Or when you first heard the news of the terrorist attack on the World Trade Centre in New York? Or when Michael Jackson died, or the Manchester Arena bombings happened, or when our future king Prince George was born? These were all big news, and if we all think hard enough we can probably remember what we were doing and who we were with when the news broke. I don’t remember the first time I heard the word Coronavirus, or who I was with or what I was doing. Yet, now every time I turn on the television, pick up my phone or speak to a loved one, it is the only thing being discussed. Not only is Covid19 big news, it is global news. It is life changing news.
Our new life- thoughts, feelings and fears about Coronavirus
Yesterday my two boys had their last day of school. They haven’t hung up their book bags and lunch boxes for a couple of weeks for school holidays, my boys and thousands of other children are now out of school ‘until further notice’. At the beginning of 2020 I had never heard of Coronavirus, now it is half way through March and our way of life is completely different because of it. School children are now missing out on their education to keep themselves and their families safe. More and more employees are working from home to try and stop the spread of this invisible killer. Last night pubs, clubs, theatres, cinemas, gyms (basically, everywhere people meet for fun) closed their doors at midnight with no knowledge on when they will open them again. These changes to our lifestyles are essential to keep as many people safe (and more urgently, alive) as possible.
Across the world the population of several countries are being told to stay home, to self-isolate themselves when necessary and to socially distance themselves from others. Hugs are no longer offered up as freely as they once were. Handshakes are being swapped for the Namaste gesture. Shops are emptied daily of soap and alcohol hand gel as everyone is now terrified of their own hands, scrubbing at them more than ever before as they try to make sure not a single germ is left, waiting to wreak havoc on their respiratory system.
The weekly food shop now feels like survival of the fittest, mixed with a game Where’s Wally as you search for the last loaf of bread or packet or toilet roll. There’s also an anxious buzz in the air, will this be the shopping trip where I touch something that’s not been cleaned? Will I involuntarily touch my face after grazing my hand over a Coronavirus covered chest freezer handle? Everyone is panic buying and we are resisting following suit but it’s hard. When you go to the shop one day and there’s no bread but you go the next just when the shelves have just been restocked, it is tempting to take an extra couple of loaves for the freezer. Now is not a time for selfishness though, we need to look out for each other.
The British public are becoming a laughing stock, buying enough toilet roll for months when Covid 19 is not a disease that will cause more frequent trips to the toilet and the self isolation period is only two weeks. Why do people think they need over 30 toilet rolls for two weeks? I can come out of the supermarket these days feeling a whole range of emotions that never usually arise after a trip to Aldi: confused, scared, disgusted at my fellow humans and fearful for the elderly and vulnerable who can’t get what they need. At a time when we need to be working together, it feels like too many people have adopted an ‘every man for himself’ mentality.
I am scared. I am scared on so many different levels. Thanks to the panic buying, I am scared I am not going to be able to feed my kids. I am happy to eat anything but when you have children who only really want the foods that are hardest to find right now (bread, pasta, freezer food: the beige stuff, basically) it is hard not to worry about how you are going to get them to eat as this crisis continues. I am worried about Oli, he works in an elderly residential care home. his residents are extremely high risk and there is a staff of over 40 people. As our biggest source of household income and his commitment and dedication to his job would never allow him not to, Oli has to go in every day, making sure to follow all the strict safety guidelines now in place. A pandemic does not mean residents in care homes can just be abandoned and left with out the care they need.
If Oli gets poorly then we are probably all going to follow suit. We don’t have a spare bedroom where he can hide away in and someone please tell me how you tell a three year he can’t go near his Daddy for a while? In terms of this illness, Oli and I are low risk. He is 35 and healthy and I am 28 and healthy, it is important to remember though that people like us are not invincible. I am scared we could be added to the rarer cases cropping up in younger people across the globe. Us getting seriously ill isn’t likely but it also isn’t impossible. I am scared also for my elderly relatives and for my Dad who has an autoimmune disease and lungs that are already only kept functioning by literal handfuls of medication every day. One of my sisters is out of touch with me (I won’t be airing that dirty laundry here) and I don’t know how she is, or how her kids are or how she is coping with this new life we’ve all been thrust into.
Every day I watch the news and the latest death tolls are announced on the television while we try to stay cocooned in the safety of our homes. Listening to the news reporters reel off the latest numbers reminds me of when the anthem of Panem sounds at the end of each day in The Hunger Games, broadcasting the latest casualties of their fictional battle against each other. Except here in the real world, names are not reported, we are not given a face to these numbers. Instead we are shown a graph with a steep curve, growing higher and higher each day with no idea when they day we will come where we see the line making it’s desperately needed decline. Whenever I hear the latest numbers the realisation that this crisis is actually happening and I am not trapped in a film hits me all over again. Every day, with each new broadcast from the Prime Minister, each news article we read and when the rising death toll is announced, we are left wondering how this is happening and when it is going to stop.
All any of us can be certain of is that, for now at least, life as we know it has to be put on hold. Some of the things we love to do we cannot do again for a while. Some of the people we love can’t leave their houses or be around us right now. The children can’t go to school and some of us can’t go to work. Cafes are closed so I can’t go for coffee dates with my mum friends, cinemas are closed so the kids will have to miss out on that new Pixar film they wanted to see and restaurants are closed so the date night Oli and I were so looking forward to will have to be postponed. These things are so trivial when you look at the bigger picture though. You can’t go out on the lash anymore? So what, at least your Nan will have a better chance of not contracting this disease. By having your weekends full of shots at the bar and throwing shapes on a crowded dance floor taken away from you, you are giving your friend with a compromised immune system thanks to cancer treatment more hope of staying safe. We have to stay at home more than we are used to but by doing so we could prevent our NHS from completely collapsing under the strain. When you look at it like that, surely you should feel relieved that these measures have been put in place?
It is important to try and focus on the things we can still do. Going outdoors hasn’t be banned, we are not on total lockdown (yet). I plan on taking the boys to the beach and out for walks in the woods. I am going to use this time as an opportunity for us to explore new places, to learn more about nature and to finally teach Leo to ride his bike and get Alex actually scooting on his scooter as opposed to me having to push him along on it. I am putting zero pressure on myself to home school Leo. We will do some of the work school have sent home, we will keep reading lots and practising spelling and times tables but, in an opposite move to most of the mums on Instagram, I don’t have a timetable prepared or lesson plans or a snack tuck shop set up. It is a scary uncertain time and I want my boys to forget about all the anxiety and enjoy themselves. With a three year old, six year old and a baby to look after, I know it’s going to be hard but if I have to spend my days breaking up fights between the boys while trying to change a nappy at the same time in order to help the global effort to stop Covid19 then I am more than willing to do so.
Life is weird right now. Every day comes more news of more deaths, followed by more government guidelines and life is changed all over again in the space of 24 hours. The only thing that makes this whole situation better is that we are all going through this together. None of us have been alive during a pandemic of this scale, we are sharing this experience together and although it is a terrifying experience, at least there is some comfort in knowing we are all in it together.
There’s a meme doing the rounds on social media, it goes along the lines of ‘They were asked to go to war to save us/We are being asked to stay home for them’. I like to think about this whenever I am having a wobble. I know things are bad and the situation feels out of control but to help make things better we just need to stay home as much as possible. Parent’s aren’t having to send their young sons off to a battle field, wives aren’t having to kiss their husbands goodbye with the knowledge that there’s a huge chance they won’t make it back home again. Yes, it feels strange, it feels like we are being kept under house arrest, there is constant anxiety that someone we love might get sick, there’s the fear we ourselves might get sick but, in comparison to life in the trenches, hiding out at home for a little while isn’t really so bad.
This post has gone on for way too long, I just have so much on my mind right now (as does every other person on the planet). I haven’t written this really for anyone else to read, blogging just offers a lot of catharsis for me and getting the thoughts out of my head helps me cope. When this is all over and life is back to how it was, I will read back through this and remember what living through a pandemic was like. I can’t remember when I first heard about Coronavirus but I do remember when life completely changed because of it; it was March 20th 2020.
Keep safe everyone. Let’s do as we are told and do all we can to save our vulnerable, elderly. friends, family and the NHS. Please feel free to share your thoughts, anxieties, stories and hope in the comments, we are not alone in this.