Roll with it

I’ve never taken much notice of toilet roll other than to consider it’s strength or absorbency – but this week I’ve been considering it in terms of longevity.

I was amused (somewhat darkly I might add) by a news article about a Scottish pensioner who (when frustrated in his attempts to find any local stocks of his preferred wiping material) resorted to a more ‘make do and mend’ approach (link).

His innovative solution was to cut his old shirts up into strips that were (post ablution) dropped into bleach and water and left for a day or so before a rinse and repeat procedure the following day.

I guess he’s lucky that in pre-cataclysm years he’d chosen to spend a little more on a soft oxford weave when shopping in M&S – and (probably because of this) reported that the comfort levels associated with this DIY approach were unexpectedly high. 

Furthermore he vowed never to go back to being held hostage by Andrex or their competitors.

There’s an imbedded video on the page in the link above that I haven’t had the guts to click on – but if you’re feeling intrepid and not eating dinner then be my guest.

Mostly because this man reminded me of my own father (who has for many years ripped sheets of toilet paper into strips to make it last longer) I couldn’t help but laugh.

As I mentioned in a previous blog this appears to be something of a global preoccupation – and the current apocalypse seems to have uncovered a primal fear that people seem to have about being unable to wipe their bottoms.

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In my case I’m bemused.

If I got caught short I would frankly just moonwalk to the bathroom and resolve any pressing issues during a nice hot shower.

Despite this overall lack of concern I realised that I had no idea how long a roll would last in my house – just that since my partner moved in a packet that used to last quite a while now went down a bit quicker..

It made sense.

One roll – two bottoms.

#buttmaths

So – on Tuesday morning I ripped the inaugural sheet from a fresh roll and decided to see what happened.

I would at no point be trying to cut down – and if anything I’d flagrantly disregard any thoughts of sheet economics. My derriere would receive the same intimate attention that it always had – and all due diligence would be applied to the task at hand.

By the time Sunday afternoon rolled around (pun intended) there was still a teeny tiny bit left – meaning that in our house a toilet roll lasts almost a week.

One has to ask in this case why on Earth anyone would need 48 toilet rolls (I’ve seen trollies being pushed out of Aldi with four packs of 12 in them). This trolly would last almost a year in my house before I had to resort to ripping up my shirts and filling a bucket with bleach.

I have to admit that thinking about things like this (and the amusement it causes me) is one of the unexpected side effects that the current crisis has had. 

For all the horror and worry surrounding Covid-19 there are certainly things that are capable of making you smile – and I’m probably more likely to see the lighter side of things than I otherwise normally would have today because I’ve had lots of glorious sleep.

Last night I passed out at around 8.30pm and didn’t awake again until around 6am this morning – at which point my beloved and I elected to take our daily exercise in the park during the early morning instead of going out in the late in the evening.

After all – if you’re only allowed out once a day for exercise then it might as well be uplifting – and I’m sick of walking circles around the local area in the cold and dark.

It meant that I was rather sunny side up when I arrived at work today – and since I’m sitting in an empty office on my own for the majority of my day I embraced an approach that I’ve never used before during support calls.

Facetime support.

Although it’s not always appropriate there are times when being able to see what a user is doing when you’re trying to talk through a problem is absolute gold dust – so I unleashed the power of my iPad.

It also had another side effect. 

You can look people in the eye, smile, interact and gesture to them. It also makes all the difference when you’re talking to someone who’s been stuck at home with no-one but the dog to talk to for two weeks whilst they’re self isolating. 

It cheered up me and I think it cheered up the users I spoke to as well.

I was still smiling whilst walking home – and that smile was still there when I got back and plonked myself in front of the telly. Furthermore I actually found myself laughing out loud when I saw this.

The whole of Llandudno is in lockdown – and in the absence of human beings the local goats appear to be making hay whilst the sun shines.

Watching them on YouTube clamber over garden walls to eat the bushes of local residents really made me giggle, and reminded me that even in the darkest of moments there are shafts of light that peep through.

So I guess the message is ‘only buy what you need to wipe’.

(….)

Or it could be ‘there is more than one use for shirts’.

(…)

Or it could be that ‘goats shall inherit the earth’. 

(……….)

I’m not sure what I was trying to say except that goats don’t worry about wiping their asses – and maybe thats why they’re happy to stand on a garden wall, have a poo and just carry on munching the privet.

Maybe we should all just be more goat.

Davey

Not resting heart rate

I’m trying to focus on the positives – because although it’s been at times stressful – today has been very very worthwhile.

It didn’t start so great though – because I think I came about as close as I’ve ever been recently to a fight or flight state.

Those who’ve been reading for a while will know that one of the consequences of my push into fitness and health was that I ended up with an absurdly low heart rate that averaged around 40bpm.

I was really proud of this fact – and I knew that it was related to not only eating better – but moving more.

Over the last few months I’ve slipped (through stress and worry) into some old eating habits – but even though I can’t swim at the moment I’m still walking back and forth to work to get daily exercise.

This was all going very well – until the last few weeks – because lately whenever I look at my resting heart rate it’s been hovering in the high 50’s.

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It’s clearly not this way ALL the time – but the above graph shows quite clearly what’s happening this month to my (and probably many other people’s) state of mind.

This is the physiological impact that worrying about COVID-19 is having on me – and this morning – lying flat on my back in bed (worrying about being around people when I went shopping) my watch told me the grim truth of what this was doing to me.

 

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At the moment my partner is in an ‘underlying health condition lockdown’ so I’m the only one shopping.

To be clear I want it to be this way.

I want her to be as far out of harm’s way as humanly possible – so it has to be done – and I have to just be as careful as I can to make sure we’re both ok.

Shopping loses any joy however when you don’t worry about silly things like whether or not you’ve remembered all of your bags – but instead have to stress over whether or not you can get into the supermarket car park – and who you’ll have to interact with when you’re there.

Thankfully I found some decorating latex gloves this morning in a box under the sink and I couldn’t have been happier.

I grabbed our last bottle of sanitiser to take with me and took a deep breath.

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This was shopping – apocalypse style.

At 9am (on a Sunday) in contrast to last week when it was complete chaos Tesco’s car park was rather quiet (about 1/3 full) – and as I walked to the door I saw an unfamiliar sight standing in front of it.

Several security guards standing alongside a Police Community Support Officer.

‘Are you NHS?’ One of them asked.

“Yes.’ I replied.

‘Can I see your ID please?’ he said – looking at me sterny.

I showed them my (almost brand new) pass, they nodded and waived me in.

As a start to a shopping trip it’s not the best user experience – but it’s encouraging that compared to last week Tesco are now taking things very seriously. Once I’d gone past the guards things started to thankfully chill out a bit. The next hour (the length of time you have to gather items before the checkouts open) wasn’t too bad at all – and I was thankful that I was sharing the store with people involved in healthcare because everyone was keeping a respectful distance.

It did make for some comically polite moments though as we all offered to let each other past and got jammed in aisles where three people really didn’t want to pass too close to one another.

The only downside with this NHS hour is that the people shopping can’t go through the tills until 10am – which means that by the time you reach the tills everyone is already queueing – and that means (since you’re standing two metres apart on the hazard taped lines on the floor) you’re bizarrely about 1/3 to 1/2 of the way back into the store.

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Staff are continually checking these lines to make sure there’s no bad behaviour (which is very reassuring) but it isn’t without its problems

While queueing you are of course standing in front of items that people need to get at – so the whole time you’re waiting there are people (who by now are now now just normal customers filling the store because it’s past 10am) attempting to reach around or over you to get what they want.

It was probably the hardest thing to deal with about the whole experience – particularly because I had unexpectedly been asked to go into work today and on top of this I was clock watching.

Normally if someone suggested working a Sunday in previous jobs I’d have to think long and hard about it – but in this case when my colleague called me the night before I hadn’t hesitated to say yes when he’d told me why.

He needed some support deploying a technological solution that would enable users in palliative care to talk to loved ones at a distance.

Imagine that.

I got offered the chance to help make sure that someone in their final moments gets to speak to their loved ones – and all I had to do was give up my Sunday.

In truth when I went in it was a grind of a task (many technological jobs are simply endless repetition) and took a long time – but by the end of it we had a box full of kit ready to go on Monday morning.

It’s really rare that there’s a task in my IT roles over the years that’s been so satisfying.

It’s wasn’t a rush job because of a corporate complaint or escalation. It wasn’t something to enable more stocks to be sold or provide an office with a video conferencing facility so that their execs could speak face to face in HD.

It was for real people near their end – and I got to have a hand in (hopefully) making their final moments better. After six hours of boring configuration work I checked my resting heart rate.

It had dropped to an average of 48.

It’s not where it should be – but at that moment in time it was a welcome change.

Hopefully I’m going to get used to all of this locked-down-ness soon – and when I do I’m going to fall asleep like a baby and just take it all in my stride.

Until then I’ll just carry on doing my best to move through the world being respectful of other people’s health and space and providing help wherever I safely can.

Stay safe everyone.

Davey

Ballet

If there was ever a piece of plastic that held significance it was the one that I held in my hand yesterday.

It wasn’t a credit card, a games console, a blu ray, or even a laptop – it was my ID card for the NHS – which for obvious reasons I can’t show you but – but you can have a look at my fetching laniard.

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For one reason or another, since I started my job I’ve never had more than a basic door pass that said ‘contractor’ on it – and I’d never really questioned it or been overly concerned by that fact until recently.

I’d just assumed that if I ended up having a more permanent role one would materialise with a picture of my face on it.

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There’s a browsing hour for NHS staff at Tesco on a Sunday morning, where you get to choose your shopping before the tills open – and whilst chatting in the office on Thursday I’d jokingly asked my manager whether I’d ever get photo ID so that I could take advantage of this.

He seemed aghast that somehow I’d fallen between the cracks, and never been given one – and immediately went about sending off a form to the right people. ‘You’ll have it tomorrow.’ he told me and left me with instructions about how to collect it.

I was quite happy.

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After last week’s scenes at Tesco this would be a real help.

So – on Friday I walked through the (eerily quiet) hospital grounds to the support services so that I could have my photo taken and my pass issued.

As I walked back to my office with this I couldn’t help but think about the other words my manager had uttered after my comment about going shopping – because the reality of what this pass really meant had slowly begun to sink in.

You’ll need it if you get stopped by the police and they ask you why you’re out…‘ he said – before pressing ‘send’.

I’d laughed at this – but the truth is that we’re probably not that far away from this happening in the UK. Italy’s lockdown is becoming so tight that there are police checkpoints everywhere. You have to have a seriously good reason for being out and about (Link) and their coppers aren’t messing about.

The UK is almost certainly on the same trajectory – and here people are already being fined for breaking the rules (link). Since human beings will always be idiots – and there are invariably those in our society that really couldn’t give two figs about public safety (or anyone else’s health) I can only see the fines imposed on thoughtless behavious going higher.

When I got back to my desk I looked around the room.

Apart from one other person (who left shortly afterwards) I was alone with little more than a phone, a PC, and a queue of tickets – in which person after person needed some kind of urgent help.

Some it was really pressing – some of it seemingly irrelevant – but all of it in some way shape or form was stopping someone focusing on patient care.

It all needed to be looked at as quickly as possible.

There was little else to do but ignore the fact that I was in a strange building, out of my comfort zone, and just try to get on with my job – which (as regular followers will know) is still relatively new to me. Even without the stress of the world falling apart I still have an underlying worry that I will make mistakes or screw something up.

Despite how unsettled I felt though I just have to do my best and get on with it like everyone else. If I make boo-boo’s (I made a doozy on Wednesday) I just have to quickly learn from them, move on and do better next time.

Usually, in times of stress even a new job would be a comfort.

It can be a safe space where you can throw yourself into a task and avoid worries at home or with family – but in my case practically everyone I talk to, and every piece of work I undertake is for one purpose only – and that’s to support the fight against Covid-19.

Less than a mile away from where I sit people are fighting day and night to save patients who are affected.

As much as I love what I’m doing (I really do) and I know that it’s worthwhile and helpful I wish I could get away from Coronavirus chatter for just five minutes.

I thank heavens I’m not a front line nurse or doctor – because I don’t know how I’d cope.

They have my unending admiration and respect.

The uncertainty and the worries I have about just getting up, walking through the world and going to work with other people (all of whom have now become an abstract threat that needs to be navigated around) is more than enough to cope with.

When there have been people in the office there’s an almost comical dance being played out that I’m either watching from a distance or personally involved in.

In this carefully choreographed ballet unexpectedly nimble dancers are trying to maintain social distancing whilst walking through a narrow corridor, in and out of a little kitchenette, or avoiding holding door handles that others have just touched.

They take a squirt of hand sanitiser after almost every journey they make.

Attempting to go about normal life in spaces that aren’t designed with social distancing in mind causing us all to move and behave in ways that we normally wouldn’t. Suddenly everyone is taking odd routes from A-B that require conscious thought and effort.

You’re suddenly hyper aware that every surface has been touched, every tap has been held and every toilet flush previously pressed by someone else.

You can’t just zone out any more.

Every step has to be planned on the fly and every unconscious hand movement suppressed.

I’m sure that I’m not alone in realising that I’m finding the sting of alcohol based sanitiser comforting as it hits the cracked skin on my eczema ravaged hands.

Nothing is normal about any movement or choices that we’re all currently making.

I watched a woman walking along the pavement with her dog on Wednesday – and then unexpectedly a bus pulled up in front of her.

She froze as people got off and immediately turned to walk the other way, then stopped because she realised that she still needed to go the way she was originally heading.

She waited for a moment.

The passengers headed the same direction that she was originally walking on the narrow pavement, so (at a safe distance) she began to slowly follow them.

Until that is one of the disembarked people changed their mind, turned, and started walking toward her.

She panicked, turned again and walked faster in the opposite direction – pulling her (now rather confused) little dog with her out of the path of danger.

Then to her horror she spotted someone else coming along the pavement in the other direction. She was now hemmed in with someone bearing down upon her from the left and right.

She then stopped dead.

Unable to decide what to do (and surrounded by what she perceived as threats on all sides) she scooped up her little dog, stepped off the pavement, and walked around four metres firmly into the middle of someone’s lawn.

She didn’t look like the kind of lady who approved of standing on random lawns – but her need was great – and she stayed there motionless for a few moments, holding tightly onto her terrier and watching the passers by until the danger had passed.

When there was no-one in sight and she’d looked up and down the pavement a few times the lady placed the dog back on the ground and continued briskly on her way, all the while checking over her shoulders for threats.

I’m sure if it was videoed and set to music (Bolero?) that all of this would make an amusing YouTube video – but I for one don’t find it funny.

I felt sorry for her because (probably because of her age) she felt so vulnerable – and I understand her concerns completely.

I’m a people person that loves working in teams, is tactile and friendly – and all of a sudden I feel like I have an invisible exclusion zone all around me. If people get too close my tension ratchets up and I want to tell them to back away.

At the same time I’m meeting new colleagues and trying to form workplace bonds with people that I need to distance myself from.

It’s like one of those bizarre dreams where you find yourself without any trousers in public, or unable to find a toilet – yet it’s all real – and it doesn’t seem to have any end in sight.

If Italy (and Spain) are an indicator of how bad things are going to get then we’re in this for the long haul, and I just hope that this new normal is something that eventually I’ll settle in to.

I’ll probably get used to moving to people moving desk positions around me or upping sticks to new buildings and unfamiliar desks to ensure we have the appropriate segmentation of support functions and social distancing in place – but I doubt it.

Some time ago, before I was made redundant (from rather a large company who loved making you do largely pointless online training courses) I remember completing a learning objective about ‘stress budgets’.

It was a very ‘American’ way of looking at things – and suggested that we only have a certain number of things we can overload ourselves with. Some stress points in life have a higher cost than others and we only have 100% of our ‘budget’ to play with.

Bizarrely it had broken down the percentages so that you could work out your own personal ‘budget’ and see how comically how much over 100% you were. In the office we all laughed about it – comparing our totals by e-mail and seeing who had the highest one.

Although I don’t remember all of it I do remember that one of the top stress inducers in this (clearly written in the USA course) was ‘changing church’ – which completely bemused me because it had a whopping 30-40% tag associated with it.

Pffft.

Church?!

Illness, moving home, a death in the family or marriage came in pretty close behind  with percentages in the 30’s and 20’s – but further down the list was one that really made my brain itch.

Moving desk.

I laughed at the time because it was all absurd – but deep down I knew that this was actually something that most people (me included) hate with a passion. Ultimately we’re all creatures of habit who find comfort in some kind of pattern.

In the case of all the major stress factors above the one common element is uncertainty.

Even people who like a free life wandering over hills and mountains (before they were told to stay indoors and not go out) tend to get up and have the same breakfast or cup of coffee.

As much as we like to think we can go anywhere, do anything, and be free to make choices on a whim there are always certain things that people don’t like to let go of. Regularity gives us all some level of comfort – and provides (an illusion of) structure in an otherwise chaotic existence.

I like knowing where I’m sitting and having things arranged the way I want them.

In the last week I’ve moved around a lot – and yesterday (whilst trying to support a user who was coming for an appointment) I managed to lock myself out of the (unfamiliar) building that I had been temporarily placed in.

I’d left my phone with the code for the door lock in it on my desk and I had so much going through my head that I’d completely forgotten to put it in my pocket.

I therefore was stuck outside trying to find a way in for about 10-20 minutes – but it just highlighted that my mind was all over the place.

I was trying to remember where I’d put all the things in the huge moving box I’d hurriedly filled with items to do my job – and also complete all of the tasks that I had to finish before the day was done – as well as prioritising them on the fly their order of importance.

My mind being in a million different places at once has also meant that my sleep is still suffering – and you may notice that this post is hitting the press early. 

That’s because I’m wide awake – and have (since 3am) been trying really hard not to look on the internet at any kind of news relating to death tolls as the sun slowly comes up.

This weekend (thanks to the lockdown) I can’t do much but I think I’m going to try and make the environment in which I live a bit nicer.

The garden needs some work and there’s even some decorating that I can engage in. Although my mind can’t currently turn off I’m going to attempt to force a an unexpected exception shutdown (CTRL+ALT+DEL) by wearing my body out.

Hopefully turning myself off and on again will work.

If nothing else I can take time off the ballet for a couple of days before it all starts again next week.

Davey

 

 

 

 

Hemp hand cream – a love affair

I felt almost guilty for being on the street today as I walked to work – but as a ‘key worker’ (a phrase that still somehow doesn’t sound real) I am still walking back and forth to my place of employment with the government’s blessing. I’m keeping a distance of two metres from people on the way – and standing as far apart as I can in my office when I’m there.

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For the most part I felt like rather a lonely figure at 8.30 this morning. Although there were some cars about the roads that I walk down (which are normally filled with often stationary traffic) today they were largely empty.

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It’s amazing what a difference a day makes – because yesterday afternoon I was shaking my head in disbelief as I watched the great British public temporarily give up on hunting for toilet roll.

Other people don’t seem to view the term ‘essential travel only’ in quite the same way that I do – and whilst I walked home from the hospital yesterday I was staggered to see how the customers of McDonalds were handling the news that their favourite restaurant would be closing.

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It’s difficult to understand how people’s minds work at the moment – and whilst these people weren’t leaving their cars I couldn’t help but think that they are almost certainly the same people who packed out pubs and chip shops last Friday on the last night they were allowed to open.

As a friend said to me today – I wouldn’t be surprised if there there’s a huge spike in confirmed cases in two weeks. This newly infected group will almost certainly have another completely incurable condition in common that will probably mean they suffer complications for the rest of their lives.

After all there’s still no cure for being an idiot and I doubt one will ever be found in my lifetime. One can only hope the strain on the NHS they cause is worth the pints and burgers they consumed or the beaches they packed out at the weekend.

Personally I doubt it will be.

It’s really not worth the stupidity – because the strain and worry that’s being caused in those being called upon to look after us in our hours, days, weeks and months of need is all too evident.

They’re without a doubt some of the best people I’ve ever worked with in terms of how much they care for each other and the patients that they look after – but today (not for the first time) I faced first hand just how much pressure these very human people are under.

I spent much of the first half of my day on the phone dealing with staff struggling to get to grips with the IT burdens that ‘working from home’ presents.

They’re almost all a workforce that are used to being in front of patients and speaking face to face. They’re often based solely at an office, a GP surgery or a hospital and technology is something that is usually incidental to their work – or in the worst cases a hurdle to overcome.

Often they defer problems to ‘someone techie in the office’ – but all of a sudden that person is no longer around.

It’s not surprising to hear again and again that people didn’t move into looking after other people for a living because they loved using a laptop. All of a sudden without one (and other mobile devices) they can’t do their jobs – and on top of everything else they have to deal with there’s a sudden and steep learning curve.

To compound this – since some are in high risk groups themselves they’re dealing with these problems on top of the unsettling loneliness self isolation.

To me IT challenges are just logical or logistical problems that can be solved with patience and persistence – but to others (who don’t view these as the interesting puzzles that I do) it can easily be the last straw.

They are trying against all odds to direct all of their efforts toward patient care whilst simultaneously being uprooted from where they normally work or even what they normally do.

They’re trying to do their jobs from their kitchens or empty offices whilst surrounded by children or sitting without the comforting voices of friends and colleagues.

One user in particular was in tears with the frustrations of it all – and although together we resolved their issue (and ultimately shared some laughs) I wish I could have waved a magic wand and made all of their worries disappear.

I couldn’t though.

All I can do is help where I can – and I’m glad (after a lot of worry and moral soul searching in my last blog) that I decided to stay and help the people who really need it. What I’m doing isn’t a lot in the great scheme of things – but it helps and I’ve begun to think once again that things happen for a reason.

I love helping people and furthermore I take a pride in it.

Also my partner agrees that I’m right where I should be, despite how much worry have about how this choice might affect us both in the long term.

I’m doing my level best to stay safe though.

I’m washing my hands all the time, using tissues on all door handles, steering well clear of close proximity to people – and wearing gloves when needed as well as anti bacterial wipes.

For someone with eczema however all of this diligence isn’t easy. My skin doesn’t do well confronted with lots of detergent – and at the moment Body Shop Hemp hand cream is my bestest friend in the whole wide world…

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So – for the time being I’m walking through a largely deserted world, feeling more than a little itchy to do what little bit I can.

I’m still eating biscuits though. Stress is still there and coping with it is still hard – but I’m trying, and I guess thats all anyone can do.

Keep safe all.

Davey

P.S. I wish NOW TV would stop sending me suggestions for things to watch during these troubled times…

This I could do without….

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Keeping my distance

Shopping during the apocalypse has it’s comic side (if you think about the absurdity of toilet roll hoarding) but it also has a far more serious one – and that’s becoming ever more prescient as time goes on.

Social distancing is all well and good if you can engineer a life where you’re not in constant contact with other people – but at the moment it seems to be practically impossible to accomplish. Supermarkets are no longer capable of meeting their online delivery demands and this morning (try as I might) I couldn’t find a single one of them that was capable of delivering a weekly (or even small daily) shop.

Practically the only thing even Amazon has left is pet food.

Moving as far forward to mid April on Sainsburys’ website still yielded no available slots – and others (such as Ocado) had over an hour’s wait just to get onto their front page.

That’s without having ordered anything or even determined whether or not there’s an available delivery slot.

I haven’t shopped online for years – and I really resent having to – because it reminds me of the period when I was a shut in recluse that couldn’t go outside for a walk even if I wanted to.

There are many uncomfortable parallels to my past life at the moment – but for very different reasons.

After a lot of discussion with both myself and her family (causing no small amount of emotional turmoil for both of us) my partner has agreed that – as someone with what’s classified as a significant underlying health condition – she should be following government guidelines and working from home for 12 weeks.

This hasn’t been an easy decision to arrive at – because she’s got a strong sense of civic duty. She’s a committed professional who cares deeply about the children she teaches – and it means a lot to her to be there for the key worker families that will still be attending school from next week.

She absolutely hates the feeling that working from home shifts the burden of this responsibility to others.

For my part I’d already said I didn’t want her to go in. The demographic of her peers is predominantly a youthful one, and her school has many teachers without any ‘at risk’ factors.

To my mind when I said this they will almost certainly weather the storm better than either of us if they come down with Covid 19. There’s no hierarchy in our relationship though and I would never tell her what to do.

I’d voiced my opinion and told her that the decision ultimately rested with her then left the subject alone.

I didn’t walk away from it in my head though. I can’t sleep a wink for worrying about her. She’s so important to me and I’ve only just found her. I can’t do without her any more and the thought of her not being there to give me a hug fills me with paralysing fear.

She’s her own woman though – diabetic or not – and I wouldn’t have it any other way. From the moment I met her pounding her way up a hillside at Cheddar Gorge I was attracted to her individualism and independence.

That’s never changed.

Both of us are free to do what we want when we want – and it’s important to me that there’s no control or emotional blackmail about anything in our relationship.

Consequently until late last night (where there were more than a few tears for both of us – but ultimately no disagreement) she was still planning to go into work next week.

Things noticeably changed though when I showed her the videos coming out of Sky News about what’s happening in Italy’s hospitals.

The cases in this clip seem to be affecting the young far more than medical experts expected – and it’s clear that the death toll is streaking past what anyone (in their very advanced and modern health service) was prepared for.

Yesterday alone it went up by almost 800 people and the climbing mortality rate shows no sign of slowing down.

So – she’s agreed it’s best to be cautious – but for all the relief this gave me it simply opened up a whole new can of worms.

I’m just as capable of catching Covid 19 if I’m out and about in the world every day – and if I do then I pass it on to her.

My mind is practically imploding with worry.

There’s no hand sanitiser, thermometers, gloves or masks to be had anywhere online or in the supermarkets, and that means (even if I’m in a lower risk category) I’m suddenly a continual threat to her health every time I go out – and that’s totally ignoring the worries I have that I might catch this hellish virus too.

My hands are raw from washing and I can’t bring myself to stop unconsciously toughing my face.

I hate all of the unconscious movements my body makes to scratch and touch itself – and when I succumb to it’s decades old programming and habits all I can think about is my mother suffocating in a hospital bed.

I know what this kind of death looks like and our home will make it next to impossible to avoid eachother.

We have one bed, one bathroom, one office, one kitchen, one living room – and although we could start sleeping apart, not touching eachother and tape off rooms  – we live so close together that it’s naive to think this would be enough.

So how do we deal with the situation?

I know I need to think long and hard about what it all means – because I have finally found a job I love – and I don’t know whether the decision she’s made qualifies me to be allowed to work from home by my employer.

I don’t want to lose my job – but not only because it means a lot to me.

I’m making a difference and it feels good (especially at the moment) so I don’t want to put it aside.

On a purely logical level just waving goodbye and leaving it isn’t a good idea either. It was hard enough to find something I felt happy with in the first place and there’s absolutely nothing in the current landscape (or near future) that makes me feel that finding another one like it (or unlike it) will be easy.

It’s no longer a question of finding a job that I enjoy.

The economy is already on its knees – and I think that the 2008 global financial crisis will look ridiculously insignificant in comparison to the final picture when we finally add up the human and financial cost of what’s happening around the world currently.

Finding any kind of job for the foreseeable future will be akin to getting hold of toilet roll or packets of pasta in a supermarket.

You might get something – but it probably won’t be what you were looking for….

(…..)

(…….)

What do I do if I’m not allowed working from home flexibility though?

How much are our lives worth?

(……)

(………)

I can’t believe that it’s all come to this.

I’m a tactile people person who all of a sudden doesn’t want to be within 10ft of anyone.

All this was on my mind when my partner stayed at home this morning whilst I headed off on my own to get our weekly shopping.

I’d decided against Aldi – since my last experience of this had proven to be pretty close quarters. No-one there was attempting to keep their distance – although to be fair in the confines of a relatively small store there aren’t many options open to the shoppers I ended up standing shoulder to shoulder with.

Today therefore I decided on a bigger, more spacious supermarket that was broadly comparable cost wise.

Tesco.

However – there wasn’t a single parking space left in the car park when I arrived at 9.50am.

People had even double parked on the petrol station forecourt over the road and the queue for the front door stretched around the building. There was simply nowhere to leave my car and even if there had been people still seemed uncomfortably close to one another.

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I don’t think I’m alone in suddenly feeling simultaneously exposed and vulnerable.

I don’t want to place my hands on a trolly, pick up a basket, or handle goods that other people have touched – let alone get anywhere near anyone that is likely to breathe on me.

Anything I might catch would travel straight back home with me to the woman I love and that twists my mind inside out.

Instead I turned straight around and went right back home until later in the day when things had quietened down. When I returned after midday most of the food was gone.

Even if you wanted nothing more a cup of tea there weren’t many options.

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I took the last packet of ‘biscuit tea’ (this always cheers my other half up) and tried to find other essentials – managing to get some rice, fresh fruit & vegetables (oddly there was a lot of this) a few cans of tomatoes, a loaf and a couple of boxes of oats for breakfast – but that was about it.

How on earth did shopping become so stressful?

Even though there were notes on the checkout asking customers to stand a couple of metres apart I don’t want to be anywhere near Tesco – or for that matter any other supermarket or public place.

If I’m honest at the moment I never want to see another gathering of people as long as I live.

I want to shut the door, throw my arms around the person I care the most about in the entire world and keep us both as safe as humanly possible.

Davey

 

 

Use the puppy

It’s 2am and my mind is racing.

I can’t sleep – and in any normal blog this would be the point where people would probably roll their eyes and say ‘he’s overthinking everything because it’s Friday and he has to weigh in tomorrow.’

However it’s not a normal blog. Nothing about anything is normal any more and I find that my mind has begun quietly screaming in silence as I’ve slowly watched things begin to turn both inside out and upside down around me.

I’ve internalised my feelings so much more than I have for many years lately because it’s been necessary. I can’t write with honesty and expose the lives and personal problems of others – and for the last two months this has largely been my issue.

Around the time I stopped writing (an unfathomable month and a half ago) a person close to me (not my partner) suffered a serious medical event that has had far reaching and long term consequences for their life.

They’ve moved from being independent to dependant practically overnight – and to see the deterioration whilst they fought to survive in hospital for two weeks was heartbreaking.

This was not just because of the pain and discomfort that they were experiencing at the time, but the emotional torment that it caused, both to them and those that care about them.

I started losing sleep almost immediately – and I’m not sure I’ve managed to sleep properly since.

Now in any normal blog this would be the root of my trauma, I’d talk through my feelings around how worried I am about them, why it’s meant I can’t talk, and why it’s de-railed my eating (which it has).

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Biscuits have been a thing. I’m not going to lie.

Like I said though – these aren’t normal times in which we live and a sudden impulse to indulge in snacks seems to be relatively insignificant – because this person is not just gravely ill now – they’re classified as someone with a ‘significant underlying health condition‘.

With the last two months heralding the arrival of Covid 19 and the world turning upside down this person is also no longer the only and most significant thing I have to worry about.

Since I last wrote, pubs, clubs, restaurants, bars, cinemas, and leisure centres have all been told to close down.

All of a sudden there are people I love with ‘significant underlying health conditions’ all around me – and they all have to self isolate for 12 weeks.

Furthermore in our suddenly virus obsessed world people with a persistent dry cough and a fever have to self isolate for seven days – and anyone in their immediate household for  must do so for 14 so they they don’t pass on the infection on to others.

I’m in a bizarre reality now where it’s a worry to myself and my brother that my 80 year old father is taking public transport to a launderette to do his washing.

The television and radio are drip feeds of fear and I’m not ashamed to say that I’m terrified for what this could mean for myself and those I love.

Day to day I manage to hold it together and I do my job – but when I get home things are different. My partner can see it in my eyes just as I can see the weight of it all in hers. We’ve been sinking into each others arms for increasingly long hugs filled with sighs and occasionally tears too.

I’ve moved from what seemed like relatively minor worries about not having a career or working direction in life to getting a temp job in early January which now (in mid March) places me on the government’s ‘key worker’ list.

This is because my new job (although I never said at the time) happened to be a supporting role for the NHS.

I’m far away from front line that all of the doctors and nurses are on – but I’m close enough to them to get a sense of the scale of what is unfolding in the UK. Like me they’re nervous about what it means for the coming weeks and months as well as what the cost will be for their families, loved ones and personally.

There’s no hand sanitiser left in the world – and even if there was it probably wouldn’t matter.

On top of this the (surprisingly large number of people) I know who are suffering from ‘underlying health issues’ have almost overnight become ghosts and now I have an insight into what’s developing I fear for their wellbeing like I never have in the past.

In our developed and modern world we’ve been in control for so long – and now it seems like that (illusion?) is slipping.

All of a sudden (if like me you try to shop after work) every shelf in every supermarket is empty – and even the most basic items are now seemingly out of reach to normal working people.

Furthermore they are fighting over toilet roll – and it makes my blood boil when every day when I walk past Aldi on the way to work at 8.30am I see people pushing trollies containing nothing but four packs of 12 roll toilet paper.

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Who seriously needs 48 toilet rolls?!!!

It’s darkly comical that in a world where every breath we take contains the possibility of ingesting a potentially lethal virus we seem to be far more concerned about being unable to wipe our asses.

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The memes are everywhere – and yet I’ve found it hard to laugh at the humour of it all.

Almost overnight (relatively speaking) I’ve moved from someone who usually wears his heart on his sleeve to being someone increasingly quiet and with the weight of the world on his shoulders.

I know I’m not alone in this.

As social media organises itself around the problem of sudden and enforced isolation for the majority of the population I’ve seen the words ‘looking after your mental health’ again and again wherever I look online.

There are tips for staying fit and healthy, ideas about how to cope if you’re struggling with the enormity of Covid 19 and online sessions where people are forming choirs, orchestras, self help groups.

There are now and even online weigh ins.

You know it’s serious when Slimming World cancels all groups.

I’ve been off plan for two months now and in this respect things have not gone well diet wise. Loads of bad habits that I thought were gone forever have crept back in and I’m struggling to eat properly.

It doesn’t help when there’s absolutely no fresh food in the shops – but I’d be lying if I said that’s the sole reason I’m not coping with my food demons.

It’s comfort eating, plain and simple.

The mad thing is that this (a situation that would have filled me with a sense of personal failure in the past) is so far down the list of identifiable concerns in my life that it practically doesn’t even register.

I’m walking to work (I still need to go in to the office) along increasingly empty roads, on ever more silent pavements and the people I’d slowly begun to recognise every morning have withdrawn from sight.

The elderly Sikh lady I with oddly bright and clean trainers I passed daily down the road from her temple (presumably on the way to help or pray) is now gone.

The man in a high visibility jacket who rolled past me on his mountain bike always looking hung over near Sainsburys every morning is no longer there.

The student who was always smiling to herself whilst listening to her tunes that I passed by the recycling centre is now no longer walking to college with her brightly coloured blue laniard and badge.

The father and his son who every day sported a cheerful orange anorak (and is always in deep conversation with his dad) no longer walk hand in hand together along the road by the guide dogs for the blind.

The lady by the pub who always seems late and rushes past me to open her garage to get her little red car out is no longer turning the key in her lock.

The girl who stands by her garden wall near my house in a school uniform texting her friends as she waits for them is absent.

There are some people – but the faces I know are gone.

Unknown

When I get to work there’s often barely anyone around – and I’m now sitting in a small room largely on my own (with occasional visitors) and working on the phone to try and help people who are just as worried and preoccupied as I am.

One area that I’m sure I’m not alone in though saying that I don’t know how to process what’s happening.

My partner is a teacher – and every single day that I’ve watched her leave for work recently (until yesterday when all the schools were closed to everyone but children of key workers) I’ve done so with a sense of dread and worry.

Five years ago I was alone, drunk, morbidly obese and flushing my life down the toilet. I didn’t have any fear of loss because I was certain I’d die through my own selfish and self destructive hand before anyone I loved.

Now that’s almost certainly not going to be true – and in the coming weeks things may well happen to reverse that stupid assumption in ways I could never have imagined back then.

Furthermore the spectre of my mother’s death suddenly looms large.

She passed away fighting for breath as her lungs filled with fluid – suffering from the side effects of chronic smoking.

Her hospital was calm, organised, well equipped and (despite what we may expect given political rhetoric about pressures on the NHS) well staffed and resourced.

She had a room to herself and the nurses caring for her appeared to be busy – but used to and capable of managing their workloads. They were able to respond to changes in her condition, and (somewhat amazingly) kept her alive much longer than I expected them to.

If what’s happening in Italy is going to happen here then we can expect a lot of very different outcomes and radically different care situations not just for people like her but everyone that needs support.

My primal fear of suffocation is (and has been for a few years) now inextricably linked to how she passed away – and the distress that I witnessed in her as she fought to breathe with her oxygen cylinders has never really left me.

Now it’s all back in my mind – because it’s on the horizon once more.

It’s real – and whilst I want to sit down and blog about positive things at the moment I just can’t.

I’m sorry.

I just need to start writing again, now more than ever – and share that I am struggling just like everyone else, but trying to find a way to cope. I want to reach out to the world once again and begin to talk openly about what’s going on inside my head, because it might help someone else as much as it helps me.

As we become more and more physically distant whilst we lock our doors and move into quarantine we must (as much as humanly possible) remain close and look after one another.

Plus – I’d like to finally blog at some point in the increasingly near future about the reality of what happens when the apocalypse arrives and there’s only one sheet of Andrex left.

Andrex Puppy

Let’s face it – the puppy is soft, absorbent, loves to play in the shower and is infinitely re-usable. Furthermore if you have one with a darker coat (especially a puppy that doesn’t moult) then it’s practically the perfect crime.

So I guess I’ll leave you all (with a no doubt delightful) mental image there. It’s now 5 am and I’m no closer to being able to sleep – so I’m going to play a video game.

Part of me feels better for writing all of this down but I know there’s a lot more to come in the days, weeks and months ahead and I’m probably going to get deeper as time goes on.

I want you all to stay safe, stay healthy, and keep going – if only for the purely selfish reason that it would be nice to have someone left to read what I write when the dust settles and life eventually begins to return to normal.

Keep yourselves safe.

Davey