A Bit of a Rant

Spot the deliberate mistake – yup, my Stream of Consciousness Saturday post is being posted on Sunday evening! Sorry, been busy at work this weekend, so this may well turn out to be a bit of a rant. It’s now been a whole month since I went back to work and in some ways it’s been good but in others, not so much.

Positives include still having a job to go to, and earning a full pay instead of the 80% wage we received on furlough (for which I was extremely grateful, as it was a million times better than earning nothing for the duration of lockdown). And seeing work colleagues regularly, that’s definitely good too. It’s also nice not to feel stuck in limbo any more, life is at least on the move again, even with the inevitable restrictions still in place.

And I must emphasise that most of the customers we serve over the course of the day are absolutely delighted to be out shopping for clothes in person again, are simply happy to see us and appreciate that we are out there doing whatever we have to do to make it possible, and understand that the store may be open again after a fashion, but any real sense of how things were before is still a long way off.

Negatives, however, include the very few inconsiderate customers who clearly seem to resent the lack of normality to their shopping experience and who choose to take their frustrations out on stressed-out staff who are simply doing their best to make the most of a difficult situation, by at least providing a limited service where possible. Reduced opening hours, reduced staffing levels, reduced options, granted – but at least we’re open.

So no, you can’t try clothes on in store, but you are free to buy them, take them home and return whatever doesn’t fit. We are not trying to inconvenience you, we are trying to keep you safe. Returned clothing then goes into quarantine for a couple of days before being replaced on the sales floor. And no, you definitely can’t have a bra-fitting – hello, social distancing, people! Bra fittings are well and truly up close and personal!

We may only have two till points functioning on a normal four-till pay desk, but that is to ensure we too can keep our distance from each other, so you may have to wait a little longer than usual in line to be served. And once you reach the till point we may ask you you to stand in a specific place behind a perspex screen while you are paying for your items and for the rest of your family to stand back for a very good reason.

Oh and please have patience with us as we regularly sanitise our hands and key-pad and everything else we (and you!) touch between each customer. Speed of service to your own satisfaction is not the only consideration. There is still a deadly virus out there, it may be on the wane but it is not yet gone, and we still have no available vaccine. So while we are happy to serve members of the public day in, day out, we will do whatever we have to do to keep all of us as safe as possible in the circumstances, like it or not.

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Spot

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Inevitable

Hope not Fear

I’ve been stuck in a self-pity moan

Like the grumpiest grumpy old crone

Now I’m making a choice

To add hope to my voice

And adopt a more positive tone

This pandemic is causing such grief

Stealing life as we know it, this thief

Takes our freedom to roam

Keeps us all close to home

Tethered tight with no sign of relief

Though we’re facing a future unclear

Things may not stay as dark as appear

Look for life’s guiding star

Let our minds travel far

Never give up or give in to fear

I hit a real crisis of confidence the other day, so thank you to everyone who commented on my rather embarrassing pity-post I’d probably have been better not to post at all – you’ve all helped me see things so much more clearly, and such caring interaction is always much appreciated.

I’ve been catching up on my blog reading this morning and saw Geoff Le Pard’s limerick prompted by Esther Chilton’s Prompt word of ‘moan’, so I decided to try to counteract my errant whininess by taking a more creative approach to voicing how crap things can feel just now – hence my triple limerick above πŸ™‚

Still Here…

I’m still here, all is well with me but in the same way as it took me a while to get used to being in lockdown, now it’s taking me a while to get used to being back at work part time in a local department store.

We have opened with restricted daily trading hours, and without a full complement of staff in store – many are still on furlough until footfall and sales figures warrant a more complete return to business as usual. Fitting rooms are closed, as customers cannot try on clothing for size – they are required to buy the items first, try them on at home, and return them later if necessary. Returned items are then quarantined for several days before being replaced on the sales floor.

Visors and masks and perspex screens around till points and sanitising your hands regularly and keeping your distance, and to keep smiling at the occasional customer who thinks its OK to want to behave as if there were no coronavirus out there, who doesn’t like the inconvenience of the restrictions imposed and who wants to take it out on you verbally just because you’re there in front of them, doing your best to get on with life and in doing so, helping others get on with theirs.

But then usually behind the disgruntled cutomer in the queue to be served is someone who gratefully smiles back at you, genuinely and with feeling, and who thanks you for being at work in this pandemic at all and therefore allowing them to be out shopping in person, in public again, even with all the necessary restrictions in place. Most customers are wonderfully patient and understanding, but inevitably there are always one or two who are not.

Life is certainly not back to any kind of normal, but it is moving forward towards what I hope with all my heart will be a better place for all of us in our coronavirus-infected world. We all have no option but to accept, adapt, assimilate, like it or not.

And in the meantime I continue to wake up every day and smell the roses in my garden, grateful still to have a job at all in this global economic as well as health crisis. So I might not be around so much online just now, but don’t worry, I’m still here… πŸ™‚

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…

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

Hugs, Hope, and Happiness

Today my youngest daughter, her partner and their three children came to visit, and to my delight I was able to have grandchildren hugs for the first time in four months!

It’s been a beautiful sunny day so we pretty much stayed in the garden, apart from the kids nipping in to use the loo or for one of us to make a cuppa, but now that lockdown restrictions here in Scotland have eased enough to allow us to meet indoors as well as outdoors (with adults still social distancing, but children not having to any more) it makes a family visit so much easier.

And I’ve been back at work since Friday, helping to get the store set up for customers returning when the business re-opens tomorrow, so altogether this week it feels like we have some forward movement in life at last – not too much too soon, but about right for where we are in the pandemic. I’m hopeful all goes well as lockdown lifts even further, and we can begin to find our way out of this coronavirus crisis as a community without causing any more harm to our health.

So my weekly smile this week consists of huge hugs, a heart full of hope, and the happiness of taking a cautious step or two in the right direction at last. Sending peace and love to all of you, because right now I feel like I have more than enough to share πŸ™‚

The Sweet Taste of Solitude

After fifteen weeks of mostly my own company for much of the time during our Covid 19 lockdown, I find that after an initial resistance in coming to terms with my new reality, to my surprise I’ve become comfortably used to it.

My husband has continued to work throughout, so he’s here sometimes and at work sometimes. But me, I’ve been mostly staying at home, doing housework, gardening, going for occasional solitary walks, and have only visited the local supermarkets etc. for essentials as necessary. Thankfully my husband and I always have plenty to say to each other, reminiscing over the past, forward-planning for our future and putting the world to rights.

My eldest daughter and her partner and two youngest children came round for a logistically awkward yet really enjoyable garden picnic a few weeks ago, and I’ve spoken to various neighbours across the garden wall a few times, but other than that and the ships-that-pass-in-the-night polite small-talk with cashiers as I pass through the checkout, that’s about it for me for real life face to face communication.

I do use modern technology to keep in touch with my parents and my children and my siblings now and again, but although it’s much better than nothing it’s not quite the same as seeing them all three-dimensionally in the flesh. So I’m really looking forward to the relative freedom to visit family indoors that will hopefully come at the end of this week with the start of Phase Three of lockdown-lifting measures here in Scotland.

Honestly I don’t think I’ve ever spent so much time on my own in my whole life, and now I’ve got used to it I find I’m quite content with my own company. I do like seeing other people occasionally, but I’m absolutely OK on my own.

Of course I’ve had periods of time when I’ve been a stay-at-home housewife before, but that’s usually been mixed with motherhood or intensive job hunting or with some other important activity that acts as a useful distraction from looking too closely at viewing myself as my sole source of companionship. Lockdown has been a very different experience, because all the usual distractions have necessarily been in lockstep lockdown too.

Inevitably I have had a lot of time lately just to think, to let my mind wander without censure into those shadowy no-go areas, drag dark difficulties into the light, sit with them awhile and start to work stuff out. I find I’m learning a lot about myself, about who I am now and who I am not any more. As a result I’m feeling more at peace with my past than ever before, which makes my present feel OK, and bodes well for a more peaceful future, too.

It feels like now I’ve experienced the sweet taste of solitude, and even now lockdown is ending, even once I return to work and start to see my family regularly again, I’m going to try to keep some of that quiet, self-containedness I’ve grown so comfortably fond of…

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Taste

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… πŸ™‚

Stream of Consciousness Saturday: Toss

Sitting Tight

Stuff is starting to open up again here in Scotland. Lockdown is unlocking, bit by bit, slowly but surely.

From today all non-essential shops can start to open again as long as they have doors opening directly onto the street – so not indoor shopping centre shops, therefore not the store I work in, fully enclosed as it is and accessible (at least customer-wise) only from within the shopping centre itself. That final level of all shops opening up here should be happening from 13th July, all being well.

So what exciting stuff do I have on the horizon for today? Frenzied spending spree, celebrating freedom at last? Milling around mindlessly in the melee, just because I can? Nope, not in a million years. Today finds me sitting tight at home, just like yesterday and the day before and the day before that. I’ll be doing some housework, cooking food and eating it, and spending time with my husband, who has a day off work.

Somewhere along the line it seems I’ve got used to the smallness of my life at home, and suddenly I find I’m ok with biding my time. I certainly haven’t spent the last 98 days staying safe in and around my own space just to blow it all in a potential virus-fest free-for-all. Of course it might not be that bad out there, but I’ve seen all the crazy-crowd de-mob-happy images from England, from America, and I think I’ll pass today, just incase.

My plan is only to go out when I need to go out for something, but not before. For now, knowing that lockdown is unlocking at last is enough… πŸ™‚

Expectation and Disappointment

I’ve definitely been feeling decidedly pensive over the last few days…

I hadn’t realised how much I’d been looking forward to Scotland moving to Phase 2 of easing lockdown restrictions from yesterday, with the expectation that the original roadmap plan set out weeks ago would be followed. But although we have indeed moved on to a Phase 2 of sorts, the initial tentative plans have now had to be altered and it feels like nothing offered has helped ease my particular situation, or at least enough to make any practical difference to where we were before, and I’m so disappointed.

I listened with mounting hope to Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon making her update statement live on television on Thursday, but as the new reality of her words slowly sank in, instead of celebrating as I’d expected, I sat and cried. I do understand exactly why things are as they are – outdoor transmission of Covid 19 is low, but indoor transmission is still problematic so for most of us, indoor gatherings of any size are out – but still, it hurts.

I’d hoped at least to have a fixed date for returning to work – but sadly, the store I work in is enclosed within a shopping mall, so no re-opening for us yet. And although I’d really hoped for a move towards being able to meet family members indoors, that’s still not happening yet either. Outdoor garden visitors are now allowed to come in to use the loo as long as they touch nothing else, and we can meet up outdoors with more than one household a day but groups can still number no more than eight, social distancing is still required as before, and overall travelling distance is still restricted.

It’s not the end of the world, I know, but it really shocked me to be so overwhelmed with disappointment at the minimal changes possible for me – I hadn’t realised I was holding on so tight. I know it’s excellent news for single people and single parents with young children to be able to create an extended household with no social distancing required, but I’m not in that situation. I know it’s excellent news for all shops opening directly onto a street to be able to open again at the end of this month, but I’m not in that situation either.

So in the meantime I’m left alone with my brooding thoughts much of the time while my husband is at work, and I just have to get on with it all as it is… I watch as new infection numbers rise across the world where many places have re-opened too soon, and on the whole I feel relieved that here in Scotland we’re playing a cautious waiting game, but still… I’m tired of everything feeling so stuck and stagnant, and I just want it all to be over so we can feel safe again, meet up again, be together again with hugs and laughter…

One day we’ll get there, and if all this self-sacrifice and social restriction means I can get through this pandemic without losing any family members to Covid 19, it’ll all be well worth it in the end. But until that time, what we can’t cure, we must endure… Sigh! 😦

Fandango’s One Word Challenge: Pensive