by Laura Stokes, aged 44
COVID-19. Not a word that existed even 4 months ago yet now it’s everywhere we turn. There’s no escaping it and, statistically, we will all eventually know someone who has been infected with it.
The news of the nationwide 'lockdown' came when my family and I were on day 12 of 14 days' isolation (as I had shown symptoms), we had marked the 15th day with little stars and hearts on the calendar as the day we could go back to normal, but suddenly that was taken away.
Along with the financial worry there was the added worry of whether my youngest daughter would be able to see her father during this lockdown; he had called me in a panic after the announcement but I couldn’t reassure him as I didn’t know any more than he did. I didn’t sleep much that night but it gave me a chance to research the new guidelines and I was able to let my ex husband know that under 18 kids could travel back and forth between separated parents. In a way it was scary because we’d been self isolating for a couple of weeks by that point so we’re 'safe' but he is still working and so is in contact with other people but now, more than ever, co parents have to communicate and trust each other, so if one is unwell they don’t put the need to see their child before the risk of passing on the virus.
I wept on Saturday, mainly because I don’t know when I’ll see my son again, he lives with his girlfriend so is isolating with her. For a few hours I was devastated by the longing to see him and hold him but then I pulled myself together and reminded myself that we are all missing someone. We are all affected by this. I reminded myself of how very lucky we are. Not only do I have a safe home for myself and my children but we have food in the cupboards and we can access more food as needed (note to the panic buyers: there really is no reason to buy more than you need!), we have the internet which brings us not only entertainment but also keeps us connected to friends and family, we have pets to amuse and occupy us, we have each other to talk to, to be near, to cook with, to enjoy a meal with, we have electricity and heating and running water.
We have the NHS to heal those who are sick, we have the wonderful key workers; supermarket staff, postal staff, delivery drivers, teachers, care workers, refuse collectors and more, who are keeping everything going, putting their own health and families at risk so that we have what we need.
The more I focus on what we do have the more I notice; the way this virus has brought communities together, whether that’s being moved to tears by the whole street coming out to clap and cheer for the NHS or the teams of volunteers ensuring that vulnerable groups are able to get food, medicine and supplies delivered. The happiness I feel when I see rainbow drawings in people’s windows as a symbol that we’re all in this together (is it just me or does anyone else burst into the High School Musical song every time you hear the phrase?). The buzz I felt yesterday as I walked home from the shops having found everything I needed…
A few short weeks ago life was ‘normal’. We went to school/work, I was always rushing around, constantly checking the time, constantly trying to keep on top of everything. I would drive home from work wondering what I could cook that only takes 15 minutes because we were all so hungry. I would dash from one thing to another and never felt I had any time for anything. Now I have nothing but time. I’ve rediscovered a love of cooking, creating meals from what we have, being inventive with the ingredients and we’ve all enjoyed the results. I’ve spent hours drawing and colouring with my daughter, music playing in the background, just chatting about stuff as we go.
I’ve watched movies I hadn’t seen, rewatched those I’d forgotten I loved. I’ve spent time watching the garden come to life, noticing every blossom and bumble bee.
I’m still worried about my financial situation, but we are lucky enough to live in a country that has a benefits system as well as the government coming up with plans to support as many workers as possible. Yes, I know some aren’t happy with what’s been offered and yes, I know our children’s children will probably still be working off the debt in taxes. But, for now, we will manage. I think that’s the biggest change that COVID-19 has brought to my life so far - it’s all about now. This moment, this hour.
(Though, like most of us, I have grand plans for when this is over!)
Laura Stokes, The Cheltenham Cleaning Company