I know I am adding a small voice to a very large pond of chatter about the current situation we find ourselves in. But – despite the fact that my blogging is no longer as proficient as it used to be – it would be remiss of me to not type down my thoughts and experiences. At the very least by way of release if not for any benefit to any readers who are still out there.
Suffice it to say, I feel a little bewildered. I am extremely fortunate in that I live in a beautiful little village in the countryside, and so the peace and quiet is the norm rather than a strange post-apocalyptic world. However, last week which when I was still working in my Manchester city centre office, there was a decidedly eerie mood in the air as the streets slowly but surely emptied over the rolling days. It meant I got two great swims in a near-empty pool at my gym, and the traffic was reduced to a trickle. But nevertheless, with a frown Miss Clavel would be proud of, something was not right.
We had just got back from a 5 day skiing holiday in France – things were starting to get serious in Italy, and the world was getting tense, but our break went ahead with no real impact. I’ll admit we all still felt pretty blasé about the whole thing. Our chalet in a sleepy little French village was a bubble of relaxation. The pistes were busy, the weather glorious, and the company excellent. It was only landing back in the UK – 2 hours before France closed down all ski resorts – that we realised just how lucky we were to have had that last trip away.
I’d expected work to be busy, but I was not prepared for the sudden barrage of additional tasks and stress. Having only recently had crisis management training, this was very much trial by fire as myself and my manager were suddenly faced with a proper crisis and 2500 households across the UK to communicate with. Combine this with our assistant being on leave for a few days and my manager herself needing to isolate on only my 2nd day back at my desk, all memories of that relaxing French chalet were distant indeed.
It took a few days for it all to sink in beyond the madness of work, but then the reality of our situation – the staff members slowly but surely tearing down their desktops in order to take monitors home – started to hit by the end of the week. I felt at sea, with no direction, no clear rules of engagement, no idea of what this was actually going to mean.
I took my monitors home on Friday night. On Saturday, we set up a home office then went for a bike ride – beautiful weather, gorgeous countryside from our doorstep. On Sunday, we went for a long hike, taking in hills we’ve not explored as we tried to avoid the inconceivable crowds that had descended on our little corner of the Peak.
So now I’m at the end of day 3 of this bizarre isolation. Working from home has its perks – no longer an hour’s commute in the morning, the cat is loving the extra attention, I can drink gin from 5pm (that’s slowly becoming common). Technology on the other hand is unsurprisingly struggling to cope, and conference calls with robotic colleagues sadly looks to be the future for the time being.
I broke down watching the Prime Minister’s speech on Monday, where he announced restricted movement outside of the home. I knew it was coming, but to sit on the sofa with my husband and watch history unfold in ways that I studied back at school was daunting. The saving grace was knowing I was still allowed outside for a run (for now) – never before have I felt more keenly how privileged my freedom has been up until now.
I am fully aware that I am extremely fortunate. I have a warm, safe home with a beautiful view to base myself. I’m not alone, but have a loving husband also working from home, and a cat thankfully more inclined to nap next to me than cause a fuss. We are able to spend our one daily dose of outdoor exercise in a stunning village surrounded by nature and countryside. Tonight, we’re having a virtual pub quiz with our friends in the village. We are safe, healthy, financially stable. I know so many people aren’t. But I also know that my times of panic are justified – in fact, this is the only time in my life that my bouts of anxiety are actually appropriate to the situation. By and large I’m content, but feeling grief for a lost freedom, uncertainty for the future, fear for those I know and love – this is all to be expected, and not belittled.
Through this all, I hope that we come out of it stronger. Not just as a community or a country, but as a planet. The cynic in me says perhaps not, we’re not the best at learning lessons – but we are already seeing how the earth is healing herself with this small respite from human activity. At the end of this, let’s think back to what we lost, but also what we gained. And hopefully find a way to a future where we treat every day like the first day out of isolation.