I really resent having to be classified by the United States Internal Revenue Service on my husband’s annual American tax return as a ‘Non Resident Alien Spouse’.

We don’t live there, have never lived there together and have no intention of EVER living there together. My only link to America is being married to an American Citizen – even though said American Citizen has lived here in the UK since he was 11 years old, was educated here, has only ever worked here, pays tax here, owns property here, got married here.

So I suppose what I resent more is that my husband has to pay through the nose for a UK-based US tax specialist to complete a convoluted, complex US tax return every year in the first place (even though we rarely actually owe any tax because we pay tax here) simply because he is an American Citizen, regardless of where in the world he lives…

Come on America, why not have a much fairer, sensible, residency-based tax system like everywhere else in the world!

Weekly Prompt: Alien

Behind the Scenes: Riding the Covid Rollercoaster

I must admit that so far, the first three weeks of 2021 have not quite gone the way I’d expected. All day long on New Year’s Eve I wasn’t feeling so great – not full-blown sick but definitely a bit under the weather.

We saw in the New Year alone, my husband and I, and spent a quiet although enjoyable New Year’s Day going out for a walk together in the fresh air then eating a lovely home-made celebratory roast dinner. At that point I felt as though perhaps I was maybe coming down with a cold or a touch of flu – sneezing, headache, dizziness, sore throat, tight chest, and an aching tiredness – but thought no more about it. I checked my symptoms online and it said that if you’re sneezing it’s not Covid, so I felt reassured it was just the start of a common-or-garden winter illness: Nothing remarkable for me at this time of year.

When I woke the following morning with the beginnings of a bit of a weird metallic taste in my mouth, and with my usual asthmatic cough sounding (and feeling) a little bit tighter, a bit more high-pitched squeaky than usual, I took my temperature but thankfully had no fever. I was still sneezing intermittently so again put it out of my mind. But by the next day the weird taste and falsetto cough were even more noticeable so I figured I’d best be sensible and follow Government advice to book a Covid test just to be on the safe side. I walked to our local testing station, did my throat and nose swab as instructed, and walked home again.

And my test result came back positive. My husband, who had also felt as if he was coming down with a cold, also booked a test but amazingly his result came back negative in spite of the fact we had spent a lot of time together in close contact since I’d been feeling unwell. So we temporarily changed our living arrangements at home accordingly to ensure we minimised the risk of me infecting him, and both immediately embarked on our individual self-isolation for the required period, strangely together yet apart for the duration.

At that point I didn’t tell people who didn’t need to know because I didn’t want anyone to worry unnecessarily – by now we were already all going in to full lock-down nationally and so there was nothing anyone could do anyway. Instead we simply got on with dealing with things as best we could alone, ordering online a delivery of groceries to see us through and hoping my symptoms didn’t get any worse as time went on. Thankfully, in spite of a lifetime of poor health and ongoing respiratory issues, they didn’t.

I’ve felt all along like I’ve had an ebb-and-flow mash-up mix of a really bad cold and mild flu, but nothing worse than that. My main symptoms have been sneezing, sore throat, headache, dizziness, earache, and a bone-aching tiredness. I’ve also had a bit-more-than-usual cough, a bit-more-than-usual tight chest, and a bit of an ongoing weird taste in my mouth affecting my sense of taste and smell. And still no fever throughout, just the chills. Even now I have continuing day-to-day highs and lows – ‘Riding the Covid roller-coaster’ my husband calls it. But the strangest thing for me has been the fact that there was absolutely nothing about how I’d felt in the beginning that screamed ‘Covid’ to me any more than any other winter-borne illness.

I’d always assumed that I would know right away if I caught Covid. That it would feel alarmingly different enough to be recognised immediately – in particular I naively assumed that a high temperature, top of the list of symptoms everywhere you look, would be an inevitable not-to-be-missed calling-card heralding its imminent arrival. That the dry cough, too, would be noticeably different from any ‘normal’ cough I might have – and that ultimately I would know my own body. But I didn’t. I knew I wasn’t well, I knew I was coming down with something crappy, but I certainly didn’t know I had Covid rather than anything else.

In my mid-twenties I had pleurisy, which was extremely painful and extremely debilitating, so I was expecting a similar level of debilitation with a lungful of Covid. But amazingly for me this particular infection seems to have settled more persistently in the ear, nose and throat area than buried agonisingly in the farthest reaches of my alveoli. I can still taste it and feel it scratching in the back of my throat, still feel it aggravating my ear canal making me feel dizzy now and again, still pounding in my head from time to time – and yes, it still catches abruptly in my chest after almost any exertion at all, leaving me out of breath and needing to rest for a while until everything settles again. But thankfully, incredibly, it seems there is to be no deep-level pneumonia for me – or not so far, at least.

So three weeks on I do feel as if I’m on the mend, recovering slowly but surely, and feel so hugely relieved not to have developed the extreme illness that knocks so many for six. Once I was past the required self-isolation infectious stage I let people know I’ve had Covid but am doing OK, just convalescing and taking things easy for as long as it takes. Symptoms for me have certainly eased a lot down the line but disappointingly have not yet disappeared entirely – it seems to be a really stubborn virus, not keen to let go once it has caught hold. Nevertheless I’m absolutely astounded to have got off so lightly and feel eternally grateful to have been so lucky.

Incidentally I’m not mentioning where I picked it up from because I feel that’s irrelevant  – I caught this virus myself, no-one ‘gave’ it to me. Like many people who test positive for Covid I try to follow the current regulatory advice as best I can. Suffice to say I now have first-hand experience of the stark reality that not all transmission of infection is due to large house parties or other major law-breaking activities. One small lapse in infection control procedures on one isolated contact occasion by otherwise responsible people is sometimes all it takes unwittingly to pass it on.

This is definitely not the path I expected to be walking along in 2021, but it’s the one I find myself on so I’m making the most of the unexpected detour as best I can, ultimately grateful still to be on any path at all, to be one of the walking wounded rather than lying prone in an induced coma in an intensive care bed, or worse, cocooned in a shroud. Looking on the bright side I’ve caught Covid and I’ve survived, and for now that feels like a really good reason to feel positive about having tested positive…

Weekly Prompt: Path  

Hands, Face, Space

To be honest I’m not a great Boris Johnson fan, particularly when he comes out with his population-alienating public schoolboy blustering fluff and guff stuff when standing on the pandemic podium, instead of being clear and concise in a no-nonsense everyday way like Nicola Sturgeon, the Scottish First Minister.

I believe that many polls show that when it comes to leadership many people in the UK think that overall, Nicola has been doing a better job at handling the pandemic population-wise than Boris.

However, one noteworthy exception in that general skew towards Scotland generally managing coronavirus things better than England (in my opinion) is the UK Government strapline of ‘Hands, Face, Space’, It’s nice and easy to remember and is the perfect description of where we all need to remain most cautious when out and about – keeping our hands clean, covering our faces, and keeping our distance. Simple but effective.

But meanwhile Scotland’s somewhat unweildy acronym for their public safety campaign in this Covid pandemic is FACTS which stands for… wait a minute… just hang on while I look it up yet again… oh yes, there it is…

F for Face coverings

A for Avoid crowded places

C for Clean your hands regularly

T for Two metre distance

S for Self isolate and book a test if you have symptoms

It may be more comprehensive, but to my mind the fact that I have to look it up every single time makes it a less than useful public information message – so top marks for Boris on this one topic, and it’s back to the drawing board for you, Nicola 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Noteworthy

Today is a New Day

Reflecting on my life experience always tells me a lot of things. Right now it tells me not to worry too much when I have a down day or two, or three or four or even more, because I know that this too shall pass – and sure enough, so far it always has done. Thankfully this miserable depression I struggle with never lasts for too long these days, and even when it does linger more than I would like I understand enough of life to know that now is not forever.

Understanding my life experience allows me just to sit tight and breathe my way through the dismal down days, to distract myself by looking for the inherent beauty in the natural world around me. On closer inspection even the simplest of red flowers in my conservatory where I sit shows such beautiful dark rivulets delicately threading the back of its throat, its finely-veined petals gently flushed with the deepest pink shading as if its life-blood also pumps through a vibrant beating heart. I listen intently until I almost hear its heartbeat mirror my own, and I feel strangely comforted.

Nothing in life is ever as simple as it seems, things are rarely starkly black or white, good or bad, and nuance colours us in a variety of shades with each hue bringing its own specific spectrum of understanding to our lives. I feel blue at times and I see red at other times, I have dark moods and bright moments and very occasionally find myself bathed in glorious rainbows of hopefulness. But however much I stumble or falter along the way in times of darkness, I always know I’m travelling along the right road and my still-beating heart, fragile as a flower, tells me I’m doing just fine… 🙂

Weekly Prompt: Reflections