Saturday 18 July 2020. Day 533: On 26 February 2020, I received a text message from the NHS. It read that ‘there have been a number of confirmed cases of Coronavirus (COVID19) in the UK. If you have been abroad in the past few weeks and have concerns, please do not attend the surgery or A & E’.
In all honesty, I thought this was as relevant to me as the NHS advertisements advising the general public to have a flu jab if you were elderly or in the at risk category, neither or which applied to me. Yes, I had seen the news stories from China and subsequently Italy and Spain, yet I still was under the illusion that this wasn’t going to affect me.
Two weeks later, I was at Center Parcs on a family holiday, where we were stunned and somewhat annoyed that the online grocery delivery we had booked, did not include pasta or toilet roll.’Madness’ we said, ‘we’re talking ourselves into a crisis’ we cried, ‘we will not subscribe to this crazy bulk buying’ we protested. Three days later, we finally turned on the TV so hear our Prime Minister announce that large gatherings would be cancelled and that children and students may not be able to attend nursery or school for a few weeks. As we handed in our holiday hire equipment at the end of our 5 days, the staff mentioned that their Ireland centres were closing that weekend.
The following Monday I returned to work where the main topic of conversation was ‘the virus’ and yet still I refused to acknowledge that this was going to affect me. One week and several daily government announcements later, I packed up my laptop and monitor and took them home to set up my temporary home office. Another week later and the whole of the UK is being told to stay at home and only go into work if there was no other option. I googled ‘furlough’. Shit was getting real.
This was the week that the anxiety kicked in. Every time I turned on either the TV or radio, the number of people being affected in the UK was rising fast. Italy and Spain had people dying in hospital corridors with medics openly crying that they couldn’t cope and that the rest of the world had no idea what was going to hit them. I turned off the TV and listened to Spotify instead.
Thankfully I wasn’t furloughed and so I concentrated on work, because to some extent, I had control over that, and focussing on something dependable, eased my anxiety. Those first few weeks of working from home were actually quite fun – a novelty. I could turn on my laptop at 8.30am, put the kettle on, get a load into the washing machine and be ready to start my working day by 8.40am. I could cook eggs for lunch and I could leave my hair unwashed. It felt liberating to be make up free and wear jogging bottoms on a work day.
Whilst I seemed to be smashing the working from home set up, the reality of the pandemic was having a huge effect on my family life. I’d gone from regularly from seeing and hugging my mum to talking to her through her lounge window on my phone – mum can’t stand for too long and her hearing isn’t what it used to be and neither of us fancied shouting to be heard. The days of popping to the supermarket to get her goats milk and organic eggs then calling in at the pharmacy to collect her medication, turned into a military style exercise. Somehow I miraculously secured Waitrose online delivery slots for mum as she was considered by them to be vulnerable (of course she’s vulnerable! She’s 80, can barely walk and has COPD but the NHS states she’s fine to pop to the supermarket!).
At the other end of the family spectrum, my precious granddaughters had gone from nursery days, Rythmn Time music sessions and play dates with friends, to being at home all day long with a mummy who was freaking out at what she was going to do all day, every day for three weeks with a three year old and a baby, and a daddy who had been furloughed. One day my daughter needed to drop something off to me (she was scared the police would stop her to ask why she was out) and my eldest granddaughter, who is used to jumping out of the car and throwing herself into me, stood at the garden gate ready to run to me, when she stopped in her tracks with a look of fear on her face and started crying as she knew she wasn’t allowed near me, let alone be enveloped in my Mama hugs. It broke my heart.
Somehow, we all managed to fall into a new routine. As a self confessed loner, being away from people wasn’t a massive issue for me. Friends however, though being in lockdown with partners and families, were feeling isolated, and began reaching out and arranged Facetime cuppas which made me realise that I do need human interaction sometimes. Grocery click and collect orders became the highlight of the week, with the added Russian roulette delight of what the supermarket would substitute for my usual food choices. I baked (an avid baker, I always have supplies of flour and sugar), I exercised with the aid of an online instructor (clearly the gym subscription is a massive waste of money), I joined online family Zoom quizes (who ever heard of Zoom before now?), but above all this, my biggest achievement was watching a whole 15 seasons of Grey’s Anatomy on Amazon Prime over three months, because I could!
And there it is. I was finally allowed to fully induldge myself in the singleton life that I actually love. At last it felt acceptable to do whatever I wanted in my spare time without feeling judged. Pre pandemic, friends and colleagues would always ask what my plans were for the weekend; they all appeared to be partying and travelling to fun venues and events, whilst I would rather sheepishly confess that I had no plans, other than the usual domestic chores which included the Saturday supermarket shop whilst listening to a podcast, potter about in the garden, cook a lovely meal to share with my youngest and have an early night with trash TV. I’m absolutely fine with that, yet at times I was made to feel that I should be getting myself out there meeting old friends and new because ‘it’s not healthy to be on your own so much’. Says who?! Lockdown has given me friends who I’ve probably seen more of via online meetings; time to connect with amazing meno warriors via Instagram; time to connect with neighbours who live metres away from me yet I rarely conversed with as I was too busy rushing backwards and forwards to work.
Thankfully, the lockdown easing has given me back my most treasured gift; my family. My ‘bubble’ includes my daughters and granddaughters and now when I visit mum, I am able to go into her house and following a negative Covid test for me, I was finally able to hug her. Because of this, my anxiety has decreased. Life feels good again.
I won’t be rushing back to the office; I still walk to work everyday, albeit a good brisk 15 minute walk around my neighbourhood which ends at my kitchen office table. I won’t be booking a slot at one of the many bars in town; I gave up going out to them a year ago and I have not missed it one bit. I won’t be looking for a man in my life; I have a vibrator. I will be meeting up with my friends for a walk and a cuppa; I miss talking to them face to face. I will be slowly redecorating my house; I love my home and I am blessed and happy to be in it. I will always keep a few extra loo rolls, tinned tomatoes and flour in stock because this virus IS the new normal and we have to learn to live with it for the foreseeable future. I will be grateful and I will take time to smell the roses because that bluebird of happiness is in my own garden.
Until next time lovelies, do plenty of what makes you feel good and in good old (new) pandemic fashion, stay safe!
50 year old mum and grandma juggling children, grandchildren, love, work, and the menopause!