Focussing on the micro: some thoughts during COVID-19

I felt compelled to write this morning. It’s been an extraordinary few weeks.

‘Extraordinary’. ‘Unprecedented’. I haven’t seen a business statement this week that doesn’t include those words. They often get bandied about in corporate writing, but for once, they’re absolutely bang on.

Speaking to my seventy-plus-year-old parents, the only comparison they can draw is the World Wars. Rationing. Shortages. Rallying.

We’ve been in isolation for a week so far owing to a fairly insignificant cough of mine. I feel fine otherwise, but we know we need to be careful as it’s no longer about us. It’s a moment to protect the vulnerable.

Occasionally, the kids have ventured on to the street on their scooters to get fresh air and keep us sane, flying up and down the street gleefully ignorant. We invented a game that if they saw anyone approaching, they had to swiftly retreat to the house and a safe distance until they had passed. Today’s duck and cover.

Rewind a month and, like most people, I was being flippant about it all. I’m fine. We’ll be fine. It’s no worse than flu doing the rounds. Four weeks later, and we’re stuck indoors with no schools, limited food, and no social outlets. I don’t think anyone could have predicted this.

So, the world has gone to shit, for a bit at least. We cancelled our holiday to the US at Easter. We’re faced with working at home while looking after the kids (one with SEN) indefinitely. My mum’s about to start chemo at the worst possible time. There’s a lot to feel depressed and sad about. Yet, part of me feels OK.

Coming together

Over the last two weeks, I’ve seen NHS, carers, and teaching staff working flat out. I’ve seen neighbours volunteering help for those in need. People trying desperately to support local, independent businesses. Corporate companies offering their services for free. And we’re all communicating more.

Diversification

Never was Darwin more apt. Diversify or die. Yet, adversity breeds innovation. Businesses are swiftly delving into uncharted territory. No time for deliberation, planning, or risk analysis. The likes of BrewDog making hand sanitiser from its alcohol. F1 switching its tech to make ventilator parts. Restaurants delivering for the first time. Non-contact payments for those isolating. Annual events being shifted to unfamiliar times of the year. All just… doing.

Amazing tech

Technology has come into its own. We’ve done a Facebook Live rave in our living room with Boomchikkaboom. Yoga classes through Zoom. We’ve downloaded a load of free academic resources through Twinkl. We’ve looked at Edinburgh Zoo’s webcams. Seen The Dolly Show from my kitchen (she’s incredible – check her out, Fridays, 6pm, Facebook Live). We’ve watched a YouTube Story Time from Space. Wow. Aren’t we lucky to have all this?!

The small stuff

Life has become a lot more micro than macro. I took an inventory of my freezer and planned meals for the week. That’s never happened. I’ve cut the end of bread into circles to make burger buns, and do you know what? They were fine! Sunshine feels like a tonic. The kids are learning more life skills from baking and washing clothes to having more resilience when faced with disappointment or uncertainty.

Keep it local

I took delivery – left on the steps – of my first fruit and veg box, and it was incredible AND reasonable. Our local milkman has been a blessing. We’ve had so many offers of help, and my neighbour left an essentials pack on my door to replenish stocks and some flowers to lift the spirits. As food reserves are low, we’re also planning on supporting a lot more cafes and restaurants offering a delivery service. Then I don’t need to cook burgers with bread ends. Win, win!

Culture and people

My background is in the arts, so I’m already there when it comes to culture. I think, however, this has been an incredible wake-up call for others. Losing sporting, social, and cultural events and venues leaves us with not a whole lot. Work and family are great, but arts, sport and culture – being with others – adds the zest.

Oh, and the minor detail of work…

Work? Well, that’s likely to dwindle for now. Some work has dried up, some has increased a little. Some clients have been brilliant, making sure I’m still paid and working. Whatever happens, it’ll be OK. If it gets quiet, I can spend more time with the kids instead of plonking them in front of CBeebies! We’re fortunate enough to manage, and I know it’ll pick up again after this.

We have a lot to be grateful for, and as one neighbour shouted over to me:

“All of our gardens are going to look bloody amazing by the summer!”

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