I briefly spoke to my dad on the phone first thing. He was "pratting about in the garage", so he got shut of me, sharpish. He didn’t sound like himself though, he said he couldn’t get warm and felt "a bit off it", which is tough old Yorkshire bloke speak for "I am extremely unwell". Panic started bubbling in the deepest part of my middle. I speak to my mum and my dad on the phone every day. They both live a long way from us and in these times, trying to support family who’re knocking on, especially those who live alone, is a worry.
My son was happily messing about online, and as we knew it’d be unlikely there’d be any GCSE news until tomorrow, we’d all accepted the uncertainty of that situation. But I couldn’t settle for thinking about my dad.
Coronavirus: College closures would cost £1m per month, warns AoC
Need to know: How colleges can prepare for coronavirus closure
Any symptoms whatsoever
Obviously, at the moment, when an older person has any sort of symptom whatsoever, your mind jumps to one thing:
I have a pain in my elbow: IT’S THE VIRUS
My eye is itchy: IT’S THE VIRUS
And as someone on day 4 of lockdown because my kid had a mild sweat on, it’s easy to become a bit overcautious.
I phoned him back.
He’s never retired and I knew he’d been out at work plumbing all week, that wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. But it turned out he couldn’t get warm because the day before, the "bit of a job" he’d been doing involved laying on his back under someone’s caravan, half-submerged in freezing cold water, for over an hour.
I had the right hump. He could have got hyperthermia.
“It’s not a good time for you to bloody croak, Dad, I’ve a lot on.”
“Give over,” he said, “A few weeks back, them lads were up to their waistbands in freezing water, wading through the floods to fetch out the old people. I saw it on the news. If they can do that, I can sort out someone’s toilet"
I pointed out that in this scenario, and at 81, he is the old people, not the rescuers. He wasn’t delighted. Words were exchanged…
I vented on the phone to one of my best pals from college days. He's having self-isolation bother with his octogenarian dad too, who has multiple serious illnesses and so is in a very high-risk category. Having sworn he was indeed taking all the precautions, his dad went on to assert that "popping up the shops" didn’t count, nor did "having a swift half down the pub". He wasn’t trying to be difficult, he genuinely thought that was somehow OK because it was part of his usual routine. Bloody hooligan old folk not taking it seriously enough, while we’re cooped up in the Overlook Hotel so as not to spread the germs we probably don’t have.
The five o’clock prime minister’s press conference passed without any new momentous turns. In simpler times – or February, as they were otherwise known – the announcements would’ve been seen as batshit cray-cray dramatic, but in this new normal it was nowt to write home about.
Though the day had been fraught, it ended beautifully: Thursday night meant #UKFEchat on Twitter. That gorgeous gang of FE smashers provided support, comfort and laughs and left me feeling even more nurtured by our community than ever.
I shared my new philosophy that adding the word "club" at the end of newly imposed activities, makes them seem… I’ll not go as far as fun, but a near equivalent. Our family is currently in "Self-Isolation Club", we are also patrons of ‘Wrangling-Elderly-Parents-Long-Distance Club’ and my son has recently become a member of "GCSE Mystery Club".
Suggestions were made about how #UKFEchat pals could socialise remotely during this indeterminate time of extreme weirdness: tweet along film watching, a book group, a TV box set gang, and an online choir… A CHOIR? Now that’s exciting. One whiff of showbiz and my sprints were lifted. Time to dig out my opera cape and start warbling scales.