To quote the great Ron Burgundy: "That escalated quickly".
On Monday mid-morning, I received a call from my son’s school to tell me that he had a temperature and I should pick him up. Only one thing was for certain: family lockdown.
With the coronavirus measures ramping up, my meetings on various edu-projects had already been moved to Skype, so as it happened I was home, a small clawback on my usual working mum absences. He was his normal gobby self when he got in the car, not at all poorly and after all, a 15-year-old being a bit sweaty is hardly breaking news. Or at least it wasn’t a couple of weeks ago. But then he does have a tendency to underplay it when he’s feeling rough and with a strange incapacity to bullshit us on the important things, he’s not one to attempt a school bunk-off.
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My husband set off back from work, stopping on the way home to stock up for the week at a supermarket with rapidly shrinking supplies. I mean, we didn’t even know if that was allowed. Once the question mark is hanging over your kinfolk, is that it? Go to jail, go directly to jail, do not pass GO, do not collect £200? He surmised that a more immediate threat to our family was the pressure of not having enough cheese or crisps in the house to last us, so made a mental health-based decision.
Coronavirus: Our plan of action
While we put the shopping away the following measures were decided:
- We’d try and maintain near normal wake-up and bed times. It isn’t Corona Christmas, it’s collective responsibility.
- Our lad would do three times 50-minute revision slots per day. Who knows what’s happening with GCSEs but as I write his are only weeks away.
- We would embrace this forced family-shut-in as a gift. It would be a very productive time for all of us. It’s only a week. We can manage.
My husband and I spent the afternoon contacting various places we work for to let them know our drawbridge had been pulled up. We’d already anticipated that it might be an interesting few months financially as he works in the arts, and I work on a freelance basis, but hadn’t planned for it starting so soon. I’d already had a number of speaking gigs cancelled due to the virus, and as I teach in college and in the community on zero-hours sessional contracts, there’d be nothing coming in from those either.
We’d already made loose plans with my parents about how we’d support each other in the event of a less specific self-isolation. They’re in their early 80s, both live alone, and a three-hour drive away. My mum-in-law lives slightly nearer and has Alzheimer’s. We're in close contact with her carers and my husband and I often spend weekends travelling in different directions on the M1 to visit our respective folks. We never thought we’d be the first ones to get quarantined. Oh well. It’s only a week.
'We sat there open-mouthed'
We finished the first day by popping on prime minister bitten-off-more-than-he-can-chew, and his much cleverer science friends, to see their up-to-date response to the world folding in. I can’t deny that as pan-devastating as this current time is, and it is such a threat on so many levels, the drama of it is a little bit thrilling. Most mornings the news resembles a clunky expositional scene in an episode of Doctor Who and these daily PMs' press conferences are no different.
We watched. All three of us sat there open-mouthed. Fourteen friggin’ days? Any concealed feelings of excitement at a week’s home time were washed away in the doubling of it. As if attuned to the mood of the family, the nation and the plant, Betty the Whippet slunk off the sofa and coughed up a bit of sick on the rug.
Searching for a silver lining, I sighed: "At least day one of lockdown’s done with."
Turns out that was day zero.
Sarah Simons works in colleges and adult community education in the East Midlands and is the director of UKFEchat. She tweets @MrsSarahSimons