Climbing down from the ceiling

In some ways life over the last week has been both stressful and disagreeable – but in others it’s also been just what I needed.

On Wednesday last week I awoke at about 5.30am with an oddly persistent dry cough that just didn’t seem to want to go away.

It lasted well over two hours and by the time to I needed to leave for work rolled around I was beginning to panic.

What should I do?

The NHS 111 site that’s my partner was checking said clearly if I had EITHER this kind of cough (over a two hour plus period) or a temperature that I should not go out and begin to self isolate.

I didn’t have a fever – but I did seem to have the cough and also generally didn’t feel well.

Additionally my neck hurt and my head ached. Perhaps more worryingly there was a noticeable tightness (and pain) in my chest when I breathed in.

On any normal day I’d take some headache tablets or a Lemsip and just get on with life (and work) but it’s no longer a ‘normal’ world that we live in.

So – after speaking to my boss I began my seven days working from home in self isolation.

To begin with this was stressful.

Much of my job needs hands on work with physical devices – and me being at home instead of in the office has meant that my colleague had even more to do in my absence than he normally would.

I instantly felt guilty – but I genuinely also felt physically crappy.

My other half looked concerned – and although I tried to hide it so was I.

Was it the start of something worse?

What would we do if I was hospitalised?

Had I infected friends when I’d got bits and bobs for them in my shopping a couple of days before?

Furthermore had I brought this home to the person I care most about?

As I tried to focus on my job (despite the awful internet connection I was suddenly faced with) this was rolling over and over in my mind – and what work I did manage to complete was in many ways a welcome distraction from my pounding headache and stiff neck.

Virgin Media appeared to be struggling at times as much as I was.

As I tried to work around this technical nightmare every so often a glass of water and some paracetamol would magically arrive on my desk.

They were accompanied by a gentle hand on my forehead or on my chest to check my temperature.

I was reportedly warm it seemed – but not overly so, and although my chest still felt unusual my cough (as the days passed) slowly abated, leaving behind it an annoyingly sore and dry throat.

It didn’t feel serious though – although it’s hard to tell when you and the rest of the world are compelled to descend into hypochondria.

If this was Covid -19 then it was the lightest variant of it known to man – and my worries about who I’d infected quickly began to shift to deeper feelings of guilt about not going into work.

My absence from the office was not something that could be helped though.

Just ploughing through like an idiot and potentially passing something (or nothing) on to others would have been an epically stupid thing to do.

I’d also like to think that in making the choice I did I’ve been more responsible than some of the people I’ve seen passing my window returning from the nearby corner shop.

Whilst I’ve remained cautiously indoors they’ve strolled by carrying with them such essentials as a bottle of iron brew, a packet of crumpets, or even an individual packet of crisps.

Even more annoyingly many seem to have broken the lockdown for little more than a few cans of beer and some cigarettes.

It’s the height of irresponsibility to potentially spread or catch a virus just for the sake of such irrelevant things – and I feel that with each passing idiot I’m becoming someone that’s infinitely more judgemental than I previously was.

I used to be annoyed by my elderly neighbour watching the bin men like a hawk every Friday – but now I feel as if he’s an irritatingly kindred spirit.

I suppose it’s not up to either of us to evaluate whether passers by have a good reason to be outside or not – but when there are so many with ‘essential journeys’ going on during what happens to a sunnier period than usual it’s hard not to grind your teeth a bit.

I tried to get on with as much work as I could and not think about it – but late on Thursday afternoon the situation was taken out of my hands.

My Internet connection fell over entirely.

This just added to my stress and worry.

I forgot about nitwits with bottles of Iron Bru and my mind turned again to what my colleagues would think of me. Would they think I wasn’t working and just chilling out at home for fun?

My broadband didn’t recover until way past the end of my working day though, so regardless of how I thought I might be perceived I had to just accept that there was nothing much that I could do.

I eventually shut the lid on my laptop, went downstairs sat down on the sofa and breathed.

The TV was useless.

The broadband was unavailable.

My phone’s data allowance was practically on its knees after a brutal two weeks of abuse.

There was nothing to do but have a coffee and relax – and relax I did so until Friday morning – when I logged into my laptop and once more said good morning to my colleagues.

At this point I was informed (unexpectedly) that the managers had collectively decided that I wouldn’t have to work over the bank holiday (as originally planned) and could instead have Friday and Monday off to recover.

There’s a LOT of work coming up for me and others on the horizon and they thought it would be better to have a short break before it started rather than during its peak.

This still came as something of a surprise – and it simultaneously deepened my guilt but (if I’m honest) also left me feeling relieved and happy.

The rest of my Friday was mine to do with as I pleased.

Since this I’ve been recuperating and taking it easy – whilst very much enjoying both the weather and my time at home with ‘er indoors (a nickname I’ve discovered that she clearly loves).

It wasn’t until Saturday rolled around though that I noticed the pain in my chest was almost gone. I then began to wonder just how much of this sensation was stress rather than illness related.

I’m guessing quite a bit if I’m honest.

I’ve missed epic amounts of sleep over the last few weeks and in doing have become a ball of worry and stress. I’ve all too often felt like a cat in hot bricks practically every time I’ve left the house.

When I wake up at 3am dreaming about work or the apocalypse (which has been practically every day lately) I can’t stop myself from immediately checking the news and looking at rising death tolls around the globe.

In the new world order that’s bizarrely not what freaks me out the most though.

Shopping (now a worry for an entirely new reason since I can’t leave the house to do any for a while) has become something that I can barely bring myself to do.

Before I fell ill (specifically because I was getting so jittery and losing sleep) my partner and I had started exercising really early in the morning (when there was no one around) so that she could then give me a lift to and from work to stop me from walking in.

There are quite a few ‘choke points’ on the way to my current office that mean I can’t avoid people coming in the opposite direction – and as they pass me by I’m always struck by the thought that if I can smell their perfume or fabric softener (which I do all the time) I’m almost certainly breathing in the air they’ve breathed out.

I don’t want to be near them – regardless of how much I previously loved being around people.

I’m becoming more shut in and insular as the days go by – and wanting to venture out less and less.

My lunch breaks (before I fell ill) have been spent making up for this by pacing in circles around the car park like a zoo animal.

I’ve become increasingly aware that this physical behaviour is mirrored in my thought processes.

I’ve been pacing back and forth in my head almost as much as I am in real life.

What if this happens?

What if that comes to pass?

How will we cope if blah blah blah?

I’m not alone in this – and after catching up on a video call with some fellow bloggers last night I was encouraged to hear that the constant ‘low level fear’ that has been humming away in the back of my head for weeks was not at all unique.

We’re all finding our own ways to cope – and they’re apparently no different.

In my house food has admittedly become an increasingly unhealthy crutch that’s all too regularly pulled out to help with the added burdens that life delivers on a daily basis.

Sigh.

Food.

You can’t live without it – and I hate the way it still controls me in so many ways.

If I’m not thinking about eating it these days I’m worrying about where it will come from next – and the concern about whether shelves will contain what I need or be instead be devastated when I try to buy things.

For the time being though we have enough to eat for a while and I’m glad that I’m not having to stress about trying to remain socially distant in Tesco – and instead sitting in the garden writing a blog on this fine Sunday morning.

Frankly it’s a blessed relief – and if not going to that horrible place means I have to live on Weetabix with water for a week that’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make.

My previously elevated heart rate (related to this activity) is relatively normal currently at around 48bpm – but even this practically glacial level (compared to others) tells me two things.

Firstly that it’s around 10bpm higher at all times than it has been for the last few years.

Secondly I have to admit this is partly because I’m not as fit as I was before.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why.

Less steps and more food = tubbier Davey.

Everything about me is cuddlier at the moment and I have to admit that my favourite trousers have been replaced with a pair bought online that are ‘a bit more forgiving’.

I know at some point that I’m going to have to face up to reality.

What has been done to my waistline in this time of crisis has to be undone.

However that day is not today and I refuse to add it to my list of current mental burdens.

What’s left in the cupboards and freezer needs to be rationed for a while since I do not plan to go shopping at all this week.

That means (despite my guilt for not being diabolically ill after all) I’m gradually climbing down from the ceiling and relaxing.

I’m just focusing on the garden.

The weather is glorious – and as I’ve been dragging this year’s endlessly growing ivy out of the lawn I’ve noticed that once again it’s filled with birds and butterflies.

Since they appear to be getting used to my presence once more they are also chilled enough to allow a picture or two to be taken as they go about their daily business.

As well as the gentle fluttering of butterflies in the periphery of my vision the continual soundtrack of chattering sparrows never seems to abate.

It’s something I’m infinitely grateful for – because the wonderful variety of life that my back garden presents every day is just delightful – and I’m so glad that I have one to sit in during the current lockdown.

It’s also the perfect place for my partner to focus on her creative side – and I’m simply blown away at how industrious she’s been with her chain maille jewellery making.

This morning after breakfast she talked me through all of the different kinds that she’s made recently and showed me pictures of styles that she wants to attempt in the coming weeks.

From left to right the ones she’s already attempted are:

Byzantine

Box weave (this has an extra ring to join the European four in one pattern)

European four in one

Full Persian

Half Persian

European four in one with half Persian

Double barrel weave

Mobius ring (the earring)

2 x helm weave with different colours

Dragon scale

Just watching her join ring after ring together with her pliers relaxes me and it clearly helps her reach her own place of zen too.

Sooner or later I hope life will begin to return to something resembling normality and when this happens I hope that everyone and everything I care about has remained intact.

Further more I hope that people still have jobs, can pay their mortgages, go to the shops without fear, and begin to share good times together once more as well as hugs and laughter.

In the meantime hopefully we can all just take a moment to look around, enjoy this all too brief respite for what it is rather than focusing (like I tend to do) on all of the stresses it embodies.

I want to just breathe in the (noticeably cleaner) air whilst whilst I savour the lack of ambient noise from traffic and aeroplanes.

I can trim my fluffy head and beard another day – maybe when I’m not so content to sit in the garden wearing PJ’s and enjoying the sunshine.

Davey

‘Er indoors

This week I’ve made a concerted effort to stick to the guidance outlined by the government – and when I did my (rather large) shop at Tesco last Sunday the aim was to not leave the house even for a pint of milk until the following week.

Prior to that I have to admit I’d been popping into the Co-op near my workplace a couple of times a week on the way home to get cow juice and other small ‘necessities’. However – when you weigh the need for a packet of hot cross buns against the danger of catching something potentially deadly such tasty treats somewhat lose their appeal.

Therefore this week I’ve only left the house to go to work and to exercise.

One thing I’ve realised lately though is that now the fallback tactic I’ve been using for dealing with stress, life and weight issues for the last four years (namely going for a ****ing long walk) has been rationed I’m really struggling.

Working every day in an isolated and unfamiliar office without people around me can be a lonely and stressful affair. As you might imagine at the moment anyone that’s in the business of enabling or supporting home working solutions is in high demand from their users.

The pressure to not only provide quality but rapid support is ever present.

It’s a never ending challenge – and I go home a lot of the time feeling like I’m somehow not good enough or that I should know more or be better in some way. I’m still new at what I do and it’s difficult having no-one around me, regardless of how industrious I try to be.

I try to throw myself into my job but with no-one to talk to I find my breaks either get later and later, missed altogether, or taken at my desk reading work e-mail in an attempt to catch up.

It’s mostly because I’m a people person who has no-one nearby to bounce off that I’m struggling.

I’m only a couple of weeks into the current working arrangements (which show no sign of returning to normal any time soon) and I’m already preoccupied with wishing it will all end ASAP.

However I’m not completely alone – there are other people dotted about in other rooms elsewhere in the building. Also, once a day I get to say hello to a cheerful cleaner that comes in to disinfect all of the contact surfaces on doors and work tops nearby.

He’s a nice fellow – and has been keen (since I first engaged him in conversation) to share funny texts that his friends send him, as well as amusing songs he’s found that parody the current lockdown events.

On Wednesday he showed me something that I knew I had to take home – especially given the current national obsession.

Andrex Puppy

As soon as I saw the picture on his (2 metres away socially distant mobile phone screen) I knew my other half would be tickled pink by them – and I immediately googled it on my own phone – initially intending to buy a pair for her.

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The moment passed however and I was pulled back into my work.

When I returned home I remembed what I’d seen and showed her the picture from my search (the above pair are from Etsy – the link to the page is here) and to my surprise she matter of factly said ‘I think I can make those myself.’

Really?‘ I said.

‘Yes – I think I have the beads upstairs…’ she replied.

She’s got loads of craft supplies in teeny little drawers – and loves making jewellery so I guess this shouldn’t have taken me aback – but in some respects we’re still learning about each other’s talents.

Making little trinkets is definitely something that she’s really good at, and although my other half still buys earrings and necklaces all the time (we have several special storage areas set aside in the house) she also makes a lot of her own – such as this chain maille bracelet and pendants.

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I remember visibly gulping back when we first started thinking about eachother romantically – becuase she admitted over text that she had a quite a thing for jewelery.

I have always associated this kind of preoccupation with a love for gold and precious stones – and (maybe wrongly) viewed ladies that wear a lot of jewellery as ‘high maintenance’.

We all have our own likes and loves mind you – so who am I to judge?

If I’m willing to spend £1k on an Apple product then why should I expect other people not to do the same with things that they like? However I still find it really hard to dissasociate the ‘high maintenance’ stereotype in my mind from ladies that wear a lot of expensive finery.

Pleasingly none of what my partner chooses to wear is something that you’d find in a regular jewellers shop – and neither is it particularly expensive.

Instead her tastes are really funky and unique and she’s genuinley changed my perspectives on the subject.

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Over the last couple of nights I’ve watched her in spare moments re-create the earrings I showed her and make the design her own,

I’ve been taking occasional pictures along the way – until today when she finally finished them and popped them into her ears to ask me for my opinion.

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How cool are they?!

They’re flipping awesome not just because of how funky and fun they are – but because she made them – and thats sooooooo cool!

Part of life under lockdown is that (perhaps for the first time since we met) my (currently) captive Geography teacher has had time to herself in the evenings that is usually denied to her.

There’s currently no 90+ minutes of travelling followed by at least two and a half hours of marking and lesson preparation every day.

In its place is instead an early start and a reasonable finish time in a home office looking out onto our garden that (at least from the outside looking in) seems to be infinitely less stressful than wrestling classes of teens into submission face to face.

It’s still a lot for her to do though – and I think that we’re both sitting well outside of our respective comfort zones. It’s difficult to adjust to a completely new setting at the best of times – but I’m pretty sure that from a career perspective she has always had a much tougher time than I do on a day to day basis.

Being a teacher is damn hard work – and a month or so back (when we discussed the pressures related to her profession) I worked out that she spends at least 60 hours a week working.

At the moment (although she’s essentially locked up in the house) things are slightly different – and we’ve managed to spend a little more quality time with each other in the evenings and weekends.

When we’re not doing things together we’re pursuing our own interests side by side on the sofa.

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A mutual friend (commenting on her own enforced lockdown with her husband) remarked how awful it would be to be trapped indoors enduring a bad relationship – and resenting the time you’re compelled to spend with a person that you’re no longer in love with.

I’m sure over the last few weeks that many couples all over the world have been re-considering their life choices – but not me.

I genuinely love spending every moment of the day with my partner – and since we became romantically involved we’ve not managed to fall out, annoy each other or funamentally disagree on anything .

I’m not saying that arguments are the sign of a bad relationship – because in the right context a disagreement aired can be a healthy thing – but it just doesn’t seem to happen between us.

This is something I’m still bending my head around – because all of my previous relationships led me to believe that compromise and falling out over mundane things (such as the loo seat being left up) were just a fact of life.

It seemed like every relationship was destined to be this way (all of mine were) but now I realise that it was just the fact I wasn’t with the right person.

As nice as life with ‘er indoors‘ is though – there’s still nothing I’d love to do more today than to go for a long, languid walk and sit on top of a hill with a picnic for two. However spending any time together is thankfully something that makes me happy.

Even doing the gardening together cheers me up.

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I genuinely thank my lucky stars that we met one another almost two years ago – and if the current crisis tells us nothing else it’s that we damned well have to appreciate what we’ve got while it’s there becuase you never know what’s around the corner.

Although there are no picnic capable hills near enough to where we live (to meet the government’s requirement to exercise ‘locally’) we did manage to get out for a walk around the park earlier today.

The sun spent its time periodically creeping in and out from behind cloud cover but our time there was still lovely.

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Maybe becuase the traffic is so reduced on the roads surrounding the park there was a strong scent of flowers in the air as we passed the daffodils and formally planted beds.

I might be wrong but I think this lovely odour hung in the air for a good quarter of the distance around St Nicholas’s ‘measured mile loop’.

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If nothing else – having a sense of taste and smell in the current climate is a positive indication of good health!

By the time we returned home we had around 3 miles in the bank.

It’s not much distance (compared to my previous standards) but it’s better than nothing and I’m grateful that the weather was good enough to wander hand in hand – and pretend for a few minutes that the world wasn’t imploding around us.

I’m also pretty damn grateful that I have a garden – becuase the little tweety birds are industriously busy building things.

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They’re doing this at exactly the same time the television informs us moment by moment that everything is falling apart so it’s nice to have a counterpoint to focus on.

As the grim statistics just got worse and worse (a five year old just died…) this little fellow flew back and forth for about twenty minutes as we watched it (and it watched us) from a respectful distance.

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Again and again this delightful little creature ferried materials back and forth – turning random bits and pieces into the building blocks it needed to create a nest full of little eggs and eventually new life.

I’m going to support it as much as I can – and will be filling my bird feeder to make sure that it’s chicks get the start they deserve.

On that (hopefully upbeat) note I think that it’s time to get something to eat. I should have started cooking ages ago – and my little jeweller looks like she’s in need of a chicken salad.

Who am I to deny her such a simple pleasure?

Of I trot!

Davey