Two months that changed the UK and me
By Hazel Riggall
Two months ago, it was an ordinary Friday morning and I was working as a volunteer for my local foodbank, just a ten-minute walk away from my home. The fact that it was Friday 13th, barely even registered as we started to take social distancing a little more seriously – gently reminding our visitors with good humour, that we did really need to keep our distance. Later, I’d popped into Smith’s to treat myself to a paper, trying to negotiate and avoid close contact with a man sneaking a free look at his choice of tabloid. The comment made about ‘social distancing’, as politely as I could muster, was met with a loud grunting of ‘you shouldn’t be out, people like you’. He was, clearly disgruntled I’d interrupted him for such a seemingly petty request.
My busy weekend included hosting a special birthday dinner party and an upmarket Sunday lunch with a very old friend. Conversations focused on the precarious state we were in and that these might be the last of any social events for some time. Within a few days, the slow drip feeding of tighter measures and often grim headlines, brought us all to a stark reality. China, Italy and then Spain all going through different degrees of ‘lockdown’ and now it was our turn. I had an idea we were not going to be immune from Covid-19 fallout and had moved on from the normal denial phase. I’d ordered a reusable WHO approved mask (FFP2/N950) and high alcohol content hand sanitisers after being persuaded by an Italian friend, thinking it probably was a bit over the top. However, the rationale was that with a sister, now classified as ‘highly vulnerable’ and in the ‘shielded- group’, I could at least, if urgent go to her home to support in reasonably safety. Other friends followed my lead with their own particular set of circumstances. How glad I am a forward planner; I would give my mask to a healthcare worker in a heartbeat, if requested.
A hypomania has been triggered and channelled in a positive way, enabling me to:
- help keep the foodbank open for one session a week, despite a shortage of non-perishable supplies and with few volunteers able to continue.
- ensure both of my siblings have food security and psychological support.
- work out how to transform my NHS community-based clinic into a virtual one.
I can intellectualise and observe with curiosity what’s going on, referencing Prochaska and Di Clemente’s cycle of change, but at the same time, recognise my own vulnerability. We all need to come to terms with this paradigm shift to our way of life and accept that it’s normal to feel anxious at this time of profound and rapid change. It feels like we are in a sort of dystopian experiment with a Covid miasma around us.
I look forward to embracing a bit of ‘down time ‘-soon, read Claire Tomlin’s Samuel Pepys The Unequalled Self(timely), complete a tapestry cushion, watch some great films and continue with my regular walks, much as before.
I am making a concerted effort to cook using ingredients from my huge stash of long held stock. We’re talking ten different types of pasta and seven types of rice -both in and out of date but perfectly salvageable. The toilet roll crisis passed me by, keeping a minimum of a two-month personal stock level. A baby boomer, I’m hardwired to keep plenty in ‘just in case.’
I’ve learnt how to video conference; garner support from shop managers; organise an urgent milk delivery for my far away brother on chemo treatment; master how to use a hashtag on LinkedIn; watch a live cam of a lamb being born, set up a foodie app group and taken to being a lark rather than a night owl.
Brave New World -bring it on…