Coronavirus diary Week 1 March 23rd-28th March

Strange times.  What to do?  What to say?
I have written a blog on and off since 2007, less frequently in the last couple of years.  Who knows how long this crisis will last and what will happen but I have decided to record these strange days, for myself as a way  of ordering my thoughts, for my family and for anyone else who wants to read.  With luck it will be a reminder of how we lived in the time of coronavirus which we can look back on and wonder at from the sunlit uplands of a return to normal life.

Monday 23rd March and the government makes an unprecedented declaration: "stay home", "protect the NHS", "save lives".  It had been clear for a week or more that this was coming.  Coronavirus had been spreading since it hit China in January.  We had been advised to "social distance", to "self isolate" if we had symptoms and we had watched the news reports as the virus swept through Italy and Spain.  Other countries in Europe were in lockdown.  Our friends in the south of France reported being confined to their house and needing to carry an "attestation", a self certificated form to explain the reason they were out. Surely it was only a matter of time before it hit the UK.   Over the weekend we watched in disbelief as the television showed people flocking to the beach and the countryside in their thousands.  Snowdonia had its busiest day ever.  Advice to stay home was clearly not enough.  It would have to become a requirement.  On the previous Friday the schools had been closed.  Now here it was :Stay Home.  Life as we know it was shutting down.

We are lucky.  We are retired so there is none of the pressure of trying to find ways to work at home.  We have each other so we do not have to cope with  the isolation of those who live alone.  And we like each other!  Imagine being shut up with someone you couldn't stand!  We live in a beautiful place with a little bit of land so staying home for us does not mean being confined in a flat, or struggling with small children or bored teenagers.  We live on our pensions so unlike so many we do not have jobs to lose.  Thinking about how to stay home we reminded each other of how lucky we are.  If we can't do this who can, I thought.  We are lucky. We are grateful.   Let's just get on with it and try and do a good job.

You can't quickly walk to a shop from here or pop out easily for something you have forgotten so we normally live with a well stocked freezer and a full pantry.  We had shopped the previous week when it was clear that being confined to home was coming.    I looked in the fridge and the freezer and began putting things on the shopping list for later in the week.  No need to go out yet so we would simply and completely stay home.  What else did we need?  We had our prescriptions and Ian ordered some more.  On Friday the man from Majestic had left a box of wine on the kitchen doorstep.  So far, so good.

What to do?  All my normal activities had been suspended: no Welsh or Spanish class, no yoga, no Pilates, no choir.  I thought I would try to keep some sort of shape to my week to maintain something of the rhythm of normal life.  While I was musing about what to do a message popped up in the the Whatsapp group of my lovely Welsh class: because there was no class at the moment, Bill was going to think in Welsh every Monday morning!  What a brilliant idea.  So there was the first piece in the jigsaw: Monday morning Welsh.  My Spanish conversation class had already moved online the previous week and was happening through a Skype session so there was another piece, Thursday morning would be Spanish as usual without even needing to drive to Broughton!  And a couple of years ago I discovered my language exchange which allows you to look for people who want to learn your language.  You can then exchange time helping each other.  Luz and I had set up a weekly skype call.  For half an hour I help her with her very good English and then we swap over and for the second half hour she helps me with my much more basic Spanish.  This might be an online friendship but she has become a very dear friend over the eighteen months or so we have been working together.  She is in the third week of being confined to her apartment so we quickly agreed to do our sessions twice a week, Tuesday and Friday mornings.  I began to feel some sort of shape to the week emerging.

Ann, friend and Pilates teacher, put together a weekly Pilates session on another Whatsapp group.  Thank you so much Ann!  Now I just need the self discipline to do it, on Wednesday morning or whenever! That Whatsapp group has itself become another place where people connect and support each other.  If you don't use Whatsapp I would really recommend it.  It is such an easy and quick way to share ideas, thoughts, a joke or a video and to make you feel in touch.  It's free.  It is straightforward to install and to use and it is a lifeline.

So there were most of my usual activities, transferred online.  I found an online yoga course on Youtube with Adriene and thought I would add that to the mix.  Weirdly I have found it hard to fit it all in!  I know, daft!  But there is the garden and keeping in touch with friends and family and trying to get out once a day to walk or run.  And there is cooking and knitting and keeping in touch with what is going on.  How can it feel that the days are full?

So that is what I am doing, but how does it feel?  That is a hard question to answer.  In some ways it feels not too different from normal life.  Our lives have not been overturned in the way so many people are experiencing.  In our own family, all our children have children of their own who are suddenly at home or in a much reduced school for the children of key workers.  So their lives have changed hugely, as have the lives of so many.  We are just here, where we always are, doing what we usually do.  And yet at the same time it feels very strange.  While the days are full they are also weirdly slow.  I look at the clock and find it is only 11am.  I miss our children and grandchildren with a feeling of pain in the heart but I push that sensation down.   We are OK and they are OK.   We are in touch via facetime or whatsapp.  I am proud of them for what they are doing: their jobs, their help for others and the energy and determination with which they are caring for their children and keeping everyone safe and happy.

How much news to follow becomes a running challenge.  I have always been a news addict, listening to the radio, watching television news, reading the paper from cover to cover.  A year or so ago I decided to deliberately cut that down to give myself a quieter mind.  Once a day of news was enough and sometimes I would stop watching television news for a day or two and rely on the newspaper for my knowledge of what was going on.  Now I feel I need to know how coronavirus is spreading and I want the latest figures and to understand how the country is coping.  At 2pm every day now Public Health England issues figures for all the home nations of new confirmed cases and deaths.  I check that online and then try not to engage with the media again until the daily press conference from Downing Street.  We watch that and the following six o' clock news.  I want to know what is happening in the NHS and I want to see what the government is doing to protect the population and try to preserve the economy.  I don't read social media, good though it is at delivering breaking news.  I don't want hysteria or anger or people using this crisis as a soapbox for their political views.  As far as possible I want facts not opinions.

I am trying not to look ahead and imagine and catastrophise.  A few years ago my father died the slow and difficult death that accompanies Motor Neurone Disease.  Until she died suddenly, my mother was his carer.  She did it with great grace and good cheer and seldom allowed herself to talk about how hard it was.  One rare day we were talking about how she was managing and I asked her how she did it.  "Every day when I wake up  I lie in bed and I think what can I do today to give Graham and me a good day"  she said "and then I do it".  Simple to say, unimaginably hard to do but she did it.  So that seems to be the best advice to myself for now, and for every day, but particularly for now.  What can Ian and I do so that we can have a good day?  Gardening, a walk in the sun, a good meal, a glass of wine, keeping in touch with friends and family.

I think about people in the NHS and about people who are struggling with the isolation.  I try not to think about how things will play out.  None of us know. I  think we can do it, all of us together.  I think we will come through this, however changed the world may be.  How about you?  How are you managing?  In these strange and difficult times are you finding ways to have a good day?

Take care everybody.  Life is precious.

Comments

  1. Hello Elizabeth - Lynne Quinney here.
    I have just read your blog on the first week of living through Coronavirus and am moved to say thank you.
    It's a lovely gentle piece of writing which carries many resonances for me; a maelstrom of emotions mixed with pragmatism and a real sense of what it is to be a wife, mother and grandmother just now.
    I'm already looking forward to the next instalment.

    Love to you bothxx

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    1. Thank you Lynne and it is good to know you are reading. There will be so many different experiences of this time depending on our circumstances and I know many people will find it very hard. I just want to pin it down while it is happening because I know I will not remember clearly after this is all over!

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  2. I am doing a lot of the things you are doing and I am also grateful for being retired, living in a big enough house with plenty of garden - even if alone now -, having music, books ,writing, cooking, eating and drinking and no worries apart from avoiding catching the virus. We are lucky, for us it’s doable, there are so many for whom this must be a nightmare.

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    1. I am sorry to hear you are alone now Friko. I remember very clearly visiting you and your husband and your hospitality although I am not quite sure how long ago it was. Maybe ten years ago? I have blogged much less over the last year or two but blogs are the ideal place for reflection so I shall probably be both writing and reading more in the coming weeks.

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  3. In lockdown the divide between in rich and poor is grindingly obvious here . We need the 'brave new world' after to be different, a kinder place for the poor.

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    1. I could not agree more Diana. The pictures of hordes of people in India trying to get home after the lockdown declared there are a stark reminder of the impact of poverty. I wonder if it will change? I am not optimistic but I hope so!

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  4. My life and circumstances are similar to yours. I am grateful for what I have and know how much better off I am than the younger people who are experiencing much more anxiety about their health and future than I. We have been isolated from people for 19 days now and have have gotten into a routine. I miss my family so much and worry about them. I wake up and hear the birds outside and see the trees in bloom. It makes me hopeful when I see that, but then I am reminded of the dreaded virus and my body tenses up and my stomach feels like there is a huge stone it it. I wonder where we will all be next year, will I lose people I know and love, will life be changed forever? I don’t listen to the daily briefings because they upset me so. The leaders lie but the doctors give it to us straight. Both are hard to hear.

    Stay safe.

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    1. And you! I think we all have to find our own way of adjusting to this strange new life. What works for one will not work for the other. Partly I think it is knowing yourself. I know I prefer some sort of structure to my week, hence the planning and trying to give it a shape. My husband doesn't work like that so he is happy deciding what to do every day depending on how he feels. And as you say, we are fortunate is so many ways! Take care!

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  5. I have a daily attitude of gratitude and joy yet I have some relatives with severe diseases. Some of them I can´t see because of the lockdown here in Spain. I´m getting through this period of "strange" time with patience and resilience. Besides I have changes at work but I have assumed that life takes many a twist and turn.
    I´m optimistic by nature and I know after this period of time we will become stronger and more conscious.

    Gracias Elizabeth por compartir este blog. Cuidaros todos y disfrutad.
    Gracias Elizabeth por compartir este blog.

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    1. Thank you for commenting Luz. I admire your determination to come through this with strength and positivity.

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  6. Lovely read as ever Elizabeth. :)
    So important to keep a diary in times like these.

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