23/3 Self-shielding

I wrote the blog entry blow last week when I first moved into the hobbit hole (my writing shed) five days ago, but due to technical problems (both digital and human) it didn’t load properly so I’m posting it now by way of backstory so I can continue charting what its like being in proper isolation during these weird, weird times. As I now have more time on my hands I plan to blog more, by way of therapy as much as anything.

Day (and Night) One – 18/3/2020 – Dreaming of Hilary Mantel

Me and my nine year-old pug, Booboo went into a sort of isolation last night up our garden in my writing shed (also known as the hobbit hole). The reason for this in-house isolation is that I’m a chronic asthmatic with a dodgy immune system and so am vulnerable to covid-19. As I live at home with my husband and twenty-year-old son George and his partner Paulina, and as both the young folks are still working in offices full time (for now) in the virus riddled outside,  I have adapted the hobbit hole so I can live in it, virus-free, for the foreseeable. It’s not just to keep me safe though. If (when) the young people and my husband come down with the virus I will be able to keep the house running, do the shopping, make sure the ill have all the necessaries, take the bins out etc and help my near friends and neighbours and elderly relies without actually coming into contact with them, by doing their shopping too.

As I write this I’ve got the radio on and its saying that London is a couple of weeks ahead of the rest of the UK virus wise and that the NHS is already seriously feeling the strain there. It also says that the Govt aren’t going to stop people leaving the city, hoping to rely on people doing the right thing (whatever the right thing is.) I really hope people do start behaving more responsibly. Last week I was ill with a non-covid tummy bug which George and Paulina had the week before, so on Monday I realised we’d run out of paracetamol. I went out early yesterday morning to buy some and after going to the village shop, then the adjoining village shop, then the local Tesco then our local Morrison’s, there was not a single paracetamol to be had (or eggs, or pasta or loo roll).  Came home and tried to do an internet shop. The Ocado site was in total meltdown and unusable so I went to Morrisons and managed to book a delivery for 3rd April. I know panic buying is often caused by anxiety but people really do just need to buy what they need and not stock pile. I’ll try to get paracetamol again when I go out later… and gin I think! Here’s a link from a blog page from someone living in Italy which details what she wished she’d done before they went into total lockdown. Maybe we can learn some lessons? https://www.insider.com/coronavirus-italian-mom-and-these-are-the-mistakes-we-made-2020-3?amp&fbclid=IwAR0YMlWFWuVM-TFFfhC5cwEUHZB_bjUiHOGF0YCFqf-e5vm0sZApdP9KQ9E&__twitter_impression=true

The radio just said there will be no exams this year, no GCSEs or A levels which more than anything drives home to me how this pandemic is changing normality – way more than the FTSE plummeting, the shops being empty,  the grounded aeroplanes and shutdown European cities. The world today, one without A levels and GCSEs feels like a totally different place. I’m trying to look on the bright side though. That’s why I’m starting this blog which aims to document how we manage to keep things normal, or make a new normal in the face of changes. I began creative writing 5 years ago as a sort of therapy for anxiety and grief so writing this blog is a sort of self help too. As part of my creative writing journey I did an MA delivered online by the Open Uni, so I know that delivering education and testing knowledge doesn’t need to happen in classrooms. Maybe its time to make some educational changes to help us through this so the kids don’t lose out entirely. And Brightside wise, staying put both locally and globally will defo help the planet. It’ll reduce carbon emissions no end and halt climate change which may well end up saving gazillions of lives in the long term.

Anyhoo, getting back to last night – I didn’t sleep very well at all up here in Hobbit-land. It was all so weird and noisy.  I decided to listen to The Mirror and the Light by Hilary Mantel on Audible. I’d downloaded it just before I got the tummy bug and had played it on and off as I tossed and turned in feverish half-dreamland when I was poorly. As I’d been too ill to follow the plot, I decided to start again last night and dozed off to it by way of not listening to the jack-booted wildlife partying all night long up our garden. My broken, shallow sleep was full of strange Tudor-related dreams and imagery – headless strangers and threads of story when everyone I met morphed into Hilary Mantel – my husband on a park bench on a wintery snow covered walk changing into her mid conversation; my dead step-mum morphing into her on a picnic chair in a layby in 1970s July; a stone garden sculpture of a Roman goddess morphing into her as she foretold how to create a better, non-pandemic future which I forgot the moment I woke up. If I was a sensible person I’d listen to something a little more floofy tonight but I’m not going to. I’m going to start from the beginning again, hold on tight and see what happens. No prizes for anyone who spotted the all-too obvious metaphor there.  Right this pug won’t walk herself and I have gin to source.

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