Quarantine Questions

Having been subjected to stay at home restrictions (to one degree or another) over the past six months, would you say that quarantine has made you a better person? If so, in what ways? If not, why not?

Hmmm. Has this pandemic made me a better person? Different, certainly, but better – no, overall on balance probably not…

Lockdown began with a deep fear of what might happen if I or anybody I loved caught the virus. Scared, I stayed at home for the duration as instructed, and enjoyed being a loner home-maker and a gardener for a while. But as the weeks passed I became increasingly disheartened, disconcerted, distressed. I missed people, and places, and soon it seemed like partisan politics got in the way of everything else and none of it made any sense any more.

As the infection rate and death toll here in the UK first rose alarmingly and then gradually started to fall week after week, I questioned the lack of testing, the lack of track and trace, and seriously struggled with the free-fall never-endingness of feeling trapped in a groundhog-day-style lockdown limbo. It felt like as a collaborative community we could not simply hold our collective breath forever, and that sooner or later something somewhere would have to give.

And eventually when the time came I went back to work. New rules, new restrictions, new possibilities for potential infection to get my head around. People to see and places to go, granted, but cautiously, carefully, all masked up and keeping our distance, dancing around each other delicately as if surrounded by an invisible forcefield like repelling magnets of similar polarity. Social contact, but still without any physical contact. Together but apart. The new normal.

To date thankfully my family are all fine in that none of us have had Covid, but other long-term ongoing health problems have become far more difficult to deal with across the months and the generations. ‘Protecting the NHS’ when it comes to Covid seems to have meant forfeiting so much else health-wise for so many of us, even now that first peak has passed. The importance of continuing family connections definitely means more to me now – I know potentially there is a lot to lose for all of us if things go pear-shaped.

Six months on I now feel frustrated as well as fearful. I still don’t want to catch this damned virus but I also want to live, not just continue to exist: I want to enjoy life again. What I miss most is the freedom to just be, without having to think about it. Go out where I want, see who I want when I want, socialise or not as the mood takes me. Now we no longer have that freedom I do appreciate what we have lost – perhaps temporarily, perhaps forever.

But whereas before I tried hard to be someone with a ‘live and let live’ mentality, I currently find myself far less tolerant of those selfish individuals amongst us who choose to demean, debunk, disregard and blatantly dismiss the scientific reality of our current global situation. I feel like saying to those self-important ignorant idiots – well, screaming at them, anyway – it’s not fake news, fuckwits, get with the program!

So on one hand I’m more grateful for what I have, but on the other hand I’m definitely far less trustful of others. Some of the time I’m wary and weary, emotionally exhausted, easily irritated. The rest of the time I’m just happy to still be alive…

Fandango’s Provocative Question

Excuse My Absence

Excuse my absence for the next few days, family life has inevitably intervened again.

Mum (Dad’s main carer) is back in hospital just now (another asthma attack) so my brother and I are doing our best between us to juggle the necessity of someone always staying with Dad and us both having to work. Usually emergency respite care from Social Services would kick in for Dad while Mum is in hospital but with the Covid situation that’s not an option just now. So my brother’s been staying with Dad for the last couple of days and now it’s my turn – I’m going straight out there after work tonight and probably won’t be online again until after I get back.

Take care everyone, see you soon 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Excuse

Starting September – One, Two, Three, Go!

Seriously, I need to sort out my eating.

Comfort eating, emotional eating, over-eating – whatever I choose to call it, I do far too much of it far too often and have done my whole life, and lately it’s really beginning to worry me. I already have far too many niggly ongoing health issues with my digestive system these days to let it continue – high cholesterol, gall stones, fatty liver, and reflux.

I have three months until I turn 57, so have decided that for all of September, October and November I’m going to try to break a few bad habits of a lifetime by changing the way I eat. Three months, and then I’ll see how I feel about it all. Some things I need to cut out completely, others I need to cut down on, but whatever it takes I really do need to do it, and I mean it.

It’s no longer just about vanity, about wanting to look better (although that would be good too), but about looking after my internal health because I need to start to feel better in myself. I know I’m overweight and unhealthy and it’s time to admit I feel really crap, both about myself and within myself. So I have a list of things I’m saying goodbye to, starting tomorrow (but with an initial trial run today)…

No more chocolate, sweets, ice cream, crisps, chips, or takeaways – no exceptions. Less processed food, pre-prepared food, packet food – stuff with too many hidden ingredients. Minimal alcohol (none at all is not realistic for me). More fresh food cooked from scratch, more fruit and vegetables . It’s not rocket science, it’s basic common sense and I’m too old to mess around any longer – my future health depends on it.

I’m hoping above hope I’ll soon start to feel more energetic, that my weight will maybe start to drop slowly but surely, that my skin and hair will improve condition and I’ll simply feel less of an unhealthy slob as time progresses. I know I’ll never look or feel young again, that ship sailed a long time ago, but I can perhaps start to age more gracefully.

I’ve no idea how much I weigh and have no bathroom scales (nor do I wish to own any), so it’s not going to be about numbers but more about how I feel internally, including in my aching joints. So watch this space, because for the next three months I seriously need to sort out my eating once and for all, starting September – one, two, three, go!

Fandango’s Dog days of August: Plans for September

Hanging by a Thread

I’ve been feeling sadly out of sorts this week, both emotionally and physically. Ironically I’d actually been given this week off work (annual leave accrued over lockdown to be used up), and had so much planned to get done at home, as well as visiting family members socially.

But I’ve clearly picked up an annoying summer cold from somewhere – sneezing, headache, ear-ache, sore throat, tiredness – and as ever it’s gone into my chest so I’m currently waiting with tight wheezy breath to be coughing up gunk in my usual fashion once it all loosens off and starts to pass, probably in another day or two. As an added precaution (in the current circumstances) I’ve been checking my temperature religiously, but thankfully it remains decidedly normal.

Also no irritating dry cough in major long-lasting coughing fits, and no obvious loss of smell – everything tastes a little bit metallic just now but there’s nothing odd in that for me, having a crappy cold as I do. None of the notable specific symptoms of Covid, so as I’ve not recently been travelling anywhere that requires quarantine on my return, according to the NHS website there is no test required. But even so I’m not visiting anyone anytime soon – I’m staying home alone.

I hadn’t actually considered until this coronavirus pandemic hit this year just how unwell I’ve felt a lot of the time over my whole lifetime – not properly ill as such, just always under the weather, not quite firing on all cylinders. Niggly things, nothing huge, causing inefficiency rather than inertia. Just over five and a haf decades of ongoing health-related baggage I carry around with me all the time, weighing me down a bit more than normal when the life-going gets tough.

But right now I seem to be almost paranoid about it – every cough or hot flush or ache or pain freaks me out in a way it never has before. And I’m not sleeping well just now either, so that magnifies everything by about 100%, giving me even more time to lie there in the dark and fret about everything. I felt so isolated during the height of lockdown, but since going back to work I feel far more vulnerable and exposed than when I was stuck safely at home.

It still scares me so much to think of catching a virus I might not survive – or worse pass on to those I love and potentially kill them. How could I live with myself if that hapened? In my area there have been three new cases this week adding to the five from the week before – the latest a member of staff in a business not more than 100 yards from the building where I work. Yes, the numbers here might be small, but without caution they can easily grow out of control and before you know it a local lockdown is necessary.

Maintaining constant vigilance of face covering, social distancing and hand sanitising is stressful and so emotionally tiring, but is oh so necessary now more than ever – especially at work. Right now I just wish I could start to feel a bit better both in body and soul, so that everything stops feeling like life is hanging precariously by a single thread, just waiting to fall into oblivion with only the slightest infectious touch.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Survive

Schools of Thought…

This week’s Provocative Question from Fandango asks:-

Do you believe that children should be required to return to school for the new school year?

Of my six grandchildren, the eldest is 18 and has already left school and the youngest is not quite two years old, so has not yet reached school age. But by the time our schools return here in Scotland on 11th August, we will have two five-year-olds due to make the important move from nursery to their first year in primary school, a seven-year-old with ongoing health problems beginning his third year, and a nine-year-old starting her fifth year in primary school.

All of our school-age grandchildren are really looking forward to attending school in person next month, but are understandably worried about the virus. They’ve missed their friends and have missed their teachers but know that lockdown happened to everyone to help stop people getting sick and dying. They have been keeping up as far as possible with schooling online, but it’s inevitably been a bit patchy over time and not quite the same as being full time in their purpose-built learning environment.

Scotland has chosen to have a much longer period of lockdown than England before starting to ease restrictions, and thankfully for now our levels of new infections and deaths are relatively low so we are in a position where schools returning full time is not such a contentious issue as it may be in some other countries. However contingency plans are still in place to allow for a differently organised ‘blended learning’ approach if this becomes necessary due to a resurgence of infection in the future.

So right now I must admit I feel pleased that schools here are returning soon, and as long as adequate safety measures are in place for all students and staff I think it is definitely the right thing to do here in Scotland. The children are keen to be back in their usual learning routine, five months has been a long time for them to feel like they have been missing out. They are happy to be at home, but are happy to be out at school too. They like their little bit of independence and the support of their peer group.

Too much longer away from school and I would probably fear their emotional health might begin to be seriously compromised, but children are generally resilient creatures with an elasticity of expectation and experience leading to an easy adaptability and acceptance of ‘what is’ that we have somehow lost as adults. The hope is they will catch up as their schooling progresses, make up for lost time, start to feel secure again in life. Hopefully lockdown will have provided a different type of lesson to be learned long-term.

But would I be feeling the same if I lived elsewhere? Probably not…

The New Dinosaurs

Over the last few months, since this coronavirus pandemic so drastically altered the way we experience almost everything we hold dear to our hearts, when it comes to considering the future of humanity my mood regularly vacillates between hope and despair.

On my positive, optimistic days I feel charged with hope, and feel sure we’ll all (eventually) pull together as one people across the globe, committed as a species to get through this difficult period of adjustment and re-alignment in the knowledge that life will adapt as ever to the necessary changes Covid-19 brings. Current frustrations will inevitably ease as familiarity spreads and we find new favourable ways to have fun without fear.

We’ll learn to live together in a far more careful, cautious, respectful way within our own cultures and communities and moving out across the world. We’ll socialise in smaller groups spaced comfortably apart, and perhaps soon enough we’ll look back on historical images of mass gatherings in close proximity and wonder how we could not have foreseen the potential health hazard of seeking out such uncomfortably close contact and spending extended time with seething hoards of strangers.

I mean, when smoking restrictions were first introduced here in the UK it felt far too much to expect society to accept, and yet here we are today shocked that people used to smoke so easily and thoughtlessly on trains, on planes, in offices and shops yet no-one at that time found it odd, because it was simply how things were. In the wake of HIV we now practice safe sex without question, because these days we understand the potential dangers of not doing so. And not having seat-belts in cars seems unthinkable nowadays.

But on my negative, pessimistic days I feel doomed to despair at the self-destructive set of the human race. We consistently rape the natural world with an entitlement borne of ignorance and arrogance and when she finally gives birth to a novel coronavirus gestated in our own greed we create convoluted conspiracy theories based on an inability to understand basic cause and effect. Mother Earth is having her ‘Me Too’ moment and much of mankind stubbornly refuses to accept what she is telling us.

Too many of us are the new dinosaurs, drifting towards extinction with our heads in the clouds and our fingers in our ears, telling each other with puffed-up pride filling our tiny brains in our thick skulls that these so-called destructive giant meteor showers are a hoax perpetrated by our powerless prey. They are nothing more than little shooting stars in the sky, we say, re-affirming our self-belief that we are the biggest, the best, the greatest animals ever to roam the earth and nothing will ever take away our right to be right.

But we all know how well that one worked out last time… boom… bye-bye! Mother Nature – One, Big Dinosaurs – Nil 🙂

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Vacillate

Weird But Wonderful

Yesterday was my first day back at work with real customers as well as just us staff in store (I work in the women’s wear section of a local department store), and to my relief it went fine – woo-hoo! On the whole customers wore reasonable face coverings, warily kept their distance, and calmly followed the correct procedures at the till without complaint. I felt a bit apprehensive to begin with, but as my usual sales-assistant work-mode kicked in I soon got used to the initial strangeness of it all.

We’ve been provided with full-face visors to wear at work, or we have the option of wearing our own masks if we prefer, and thin blue gloves are provided if we choose to wear them. Hand sanitiser is readily available for staff and customers to use, and we have perspex screens in front of the till points in use. I’m not fussed with gloves, I’d rather just maintain good hand hygiene, but face wearing some kind of face covering in all shops is mandatory here in Scotland.

In practice I found the visor to be really good to wear in regard to ease of breathing and still being able to see people’s faces when standing still or walking about, so fine when at the till point but not necessarily so practical for the inevitable lifting and bending and reaching when moving stock around – it got caught up and fell off or at got least shunted uncomfortably out of place far too often and I spent a lot of time yesterday adjusting it or replacing it, so the perspex became smudged and soon gave me a headache to be looking through it.

Hmmm… how best to overcome that little difficulty? I’m not generally great at having my mouth and nose covered directly for long periods of time – being asthmatic I tend to freak out at the feeling – but today I think I’m going to try to wear a face mask instead of my visor on shift. I’ve got used to wearing a mask when shopping myself, but coping for ten minutes here and there in and out of a shop is different than breathing through fabric for hours at a time at work. But it’s definitely worth a try.

Or I might take both visor and mask onto the shop floor, and change my face covering as necessary depending on the task at hand? The thing is, everyone’s in the same boat, no-one finds it easy because it feels decidedly odd for all of us. But we’re doing it because however restrictive and frustrating it is in the short-term it is helping us as a country reduce ongoing infection in the long-term, and that makes prefect sense. Sometimes we all have to do what’s difficult for the greater good, and that’s all there is to it.

Overall, though, even with my constant fiddling about with my face covering I really enjoyed my first ‘proper’ day back at work, and however tentative a beginning it may have been it is still a return of sorts to a normal life, or at least to whatever is going to count as normal for the next few months or so. Customers, too, were on the whole relieved to be out and about and enjoying a physical rather than virtual shopping experience. It felt good to have the normality of interaction with others again, even if at a safe distance.

Weird but wonderful is probably the best description of my day yesterday. It does feel weird to have to be avoiding yet accommodating a silent but deadly virus in every part of our daily lives, but at the same time it feels wonderful to have the opportunity to begin to end our lockdown limbo at last. Life goes on, cautiously and carefully, one small step at a time. But I’m taking nothing for granted, the threat to us all is by no means over yet. This virus is clearly here to stay, and the sooner we all accept that stark reality, the better for mankind.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Tentative

A Toss Up

I found out the other day that I’ll be going back to work very soon, and I feel very much in two minds about it all. On one hand I’m delighted to be beginning the process of creating a new normal to get back to, but on the other hand… the reality of risk is rearing its ugly head along with the fear of the unknown.

Intellectually, I know that the country – the world – cannot go on forever effectively hiding from Covid 19, holed up in hope of a miracle vaccine that can make us feel safe again. At some point in time we all have to face our fears, adapting and making the necessary changes to society that allow us all to live with Covid 19 in the community rather than potentially die from it.

But emotionally I feel decidedly anxious and wary, because however much I’ve found it frustrating at times I’ve got used to feeling snug and safe in my own home and it seems crazily counter-intuitive after months of a very successful ‘Stay at Home, Stay Safe’ campaign to now be told it’s OK, it’s safe out there too even though the virus hasn’t gone yet – basically it has to be OK because the economy is collapsing.

It’s all about finding a precarious balance, isn’t it? We balance the risk of going out into the scary world where a deadly invisible virus awaits by wearing some kind of protection from infection, and because full Hazmat suits are not practical daywear for most of us in our daily lives, we compromise and stick to wearing a simple face mask and using hand sanitiser and keeping our distance from others to keep us safe.

We have to balance the risk of catching a virus that might kill us against the risk of having no future income to live on, which in a very different way also might kill us in the end. So somewhere along the line we have to meet in the middle. It has to be done, and I know it’s almost time for me to get back out there and get on with it. And in a weird way I’m quite looking forward to it, except for when I’m not.

The department store I work in seems to have created a well-managed environment for both staff and customers to move around in, with plenty of safety measures in place to protect everyone as much as possible. So I can’t help but wonder how I’ll be feeling on my first day back, smiley and safe or frowny and fearful? Right now it feels like it could be either, and it’s going to be a toss up as to which actually wins out on the the day… 🙂

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Cranky

I feel cranky and grumpy as hell

But what ails me I just cannot tell

Heavy chest, feeling rough

Yet no fever or cough

And a perfectly good sense of smell

I’m so tired of feeling this way

Short of breath on and off through the day

Tightness tugs as I breathe

Getting old, I believe

Childhood asthma returned? Who can say…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Cranky