All the time! Without even having to make excuses for it!
Here we go, the second weekend of lockdown, although it’s more like my fourth because I had a week off and was pretty much self-isolating out of choice before Coronavirus really kicked in. I mean, I’d got the new Hilary Mantel (wonderful conclusion to the trilogy, but I miss Thomas Cromwell now), and I was enjoying sleeping in a bit and having leisurely coffees, and watching trashy movies. I nipped into town a couple of times, and I did get out for a day of walking, Whitby to Robin Hood’s Bay, when I saw what was coming.
I didn’t expect to be going back to work in the office, so I’d tidied up my study, added a biscuit jar and hung a couple of pictures. And it’s been great. I love working from home. I love the extra half hour I get to sleep in, and the extra time I get to ease into my day. I’m at my desk by 8am and barring a couple of really busy days, I close the laptop down by 5pm at the latest. Work is busier and more stressful at the moment, and it really helps me that I’m at home, where it’s quiet and there’s a cat on the desk.
I know that some people are having a hard time, and I refuse to feel guilty that I’m not. Given that I’ve spent my entire working life adjusting to environments that aren’t great for me, I’m getting the most out of this short period when my work set up does suit me. My boss already knows it’s going to be difficult to get me back in the office full time and I’ve already said if I have to do it, I’ll need a phased return to readjust to the fucking noise. That is a way more stressful prospect, so I’m not thinking about it.
It seems entirely possible that this can be a really positive time. I’m trying to build on some of the good habits I started during my week off, and add to them:
- Serious reduction in social media – I’m still checking Instagram but mostly staying away from Twitter and FB.
- Weaning myself off the news – I really don’t need a death by death coronavirus count and most articles have an inherently negative spin that seems designed to contribute to panic. If an article is titled ‘How to survive self-isolation’ it suggests that the whole thing is an ordeal. What is with that? Where are the pieces on ‘Hey, it’s really not that bad when you get used to it’ and ‘How to make the most of alone time’? I guess they just don’t foster enough hysteria.
- Both of these mean less time on my phone. A few times I’ve even forgotten where it is, so I definitely want that trend to continue.
- No commuting did mean more time to cook proper meals, until I started running out of proper meal ingredients. I’m getting a grocery delivery today that should cover me for the next two weeks, but I couldn’t get everything so I might have to venture to a store.
- I started yoga again, not particularly successfully but I did a few workouts.
- My GCSE has been cancelled but I’m still studying Greek. I wasn’t learning to pass the exam, I just like to collect grades so I get the occasional sense of achievement. I don’t think there’s going to be a good solution for private candidates, but if I end up sitting GCSE and A-level at the same time next year, it’s not the end of the world. So I made flash cards to help me really learn the vocabulary and I have all the verbs written out and up on the wall in my study, and my tutor just sent me past papers to do.
- It seems like more theatres, and opera houses and galleries and whatever are getting online every day. I haven’t explored any of that yet, but what if I did sit up in bed watching the Met Opera live one Saturday night?
- Being more thoughtful about what I cook, so that I’m making the most of the ingredients I have. Plus, they have to cover lunches as well. I don’t think is a bad thing at all.
- Calling people. For years, I’ve been texting, like everyone else, but just this last couple of weeks I’ve started getting and making calls again. I may even actually write some letters.
- More reading time, of course. Blackwell’s sent me a three for two before they closed, and I ordered some books from a local bookstore.
Does all this channeling my inner Pollyanna mean everything is fine and dandy? No. I’m worried about my parents, one in a locked down care home and one in self-isolation for 12 weeks because of his age. I’m worried about my sister, because she and her husband are self-employed business owners and they’ve had to close. As of now, they can’t seem even to get one of the business loans the government promised, and their insurance company is threatening not to pay out.
I’m worried and a bit scared about being ill when I’m on my own, but that’s just how it is. Of course my main concern would be the cats, but I have plenty of cat food being delivered so as long as I can crawl downstairs to get them food and water, we’ll be ok. This is out of my control, so I’ll just deal with it if it happens.
But I’m making plans for after all this is over, too. I definitely want a bigger fridge-freezer, even if it has to go into the garage because I can’t reconfigure the kitchen. I’ll be keeping my cupboards just that bit better stocked and going all out on fancy storage jars and boxes because you can’t stack half-used bags sensibly.
If I think bigger, then if I don’t have to commute, I don’t necessarily need a car. And if I don’t need a car, that’s about £500 a month saved. And that, my friends, is part time PhD money right there. With some left to throw into a pension scheme.
So, I guess I’m one of the few people who doesn’t want life to go back to normal. Which is just as well, because I think there’ll be a new normal and it could look very different. You can’t cross the same river twice.