West Berkshire Coronavirus Diaries

Posted May 28, 2020

Stories from people in our community.

Thursday 28th May Blog – working from home mum of two:

”I’m sitting here looking out of the window while writing this and everything seems so very normal. The birds are chirping, a sea of yellow daffodils are waving in the wind and the sun is still shining at 8pm. Spring is certainly here, but not like we’ve ever experienced before.


Our lives have changed dramatically since the Coronavirus outbreak. After the first news story broke of a new virus spreading through China, I would never have imagined how it would have had such an impact on how we live and go about our day-to-day lives here in the UK.

With government rules and updates happening on a daily basis, we are now in our fourth week of being on lockdown. Only essential shops can stay open for people to buy food and medicines. Schools, nurseries, colleges and universities have all closed. Recreational venues such as parks and gyms can’t be used. Restaurants, pubs, bars, clubs, etc, have all been shut down. The advice is to stay at home, not meet up with friends and family members, and not to travel unless it is absolutely necessary. We can only go out once a day for one hour with our household to exercise.


As this virus sweeps through our world, we are left to feel panic and unease of what lies ahead of us, scared of the unknown. We are also left questioning lots of things: How long is this going to last? Should I be standing further away from you? What happens if me or a family member gets this virus? When will things go back to normal? Will they ever go back to normal? The list goes on.
It is sometimes easy to get tied up with the negatives of it all and therefore, as with most things in my life, I try and think of the positives that come out of a negative situation. It’s been hard to do as change is difficult. I’ve never been in a situation like this before – no one has -but I hope by reading this you find comfort in what I have written and realise that we can make this journey a little less painful.


Togetherness
We are always busy in our household, whether it’s down to work, school, the children’s clubs or seeing family and friends, we always seem to be on the go. We have never been able to spend this much time together as a family. Believe me, there are some days that are hard and challenging, but I know when things are back to normal, I will look back and be grateful for this time together.


Sense of Achievement
If I stop and think for a moment, I feel a sense of achievement in many ways. I am helping our elderly next-door neighbours with their food shopping, so they don’t have to go out. I am now responsible for my children’s education while schools are closed, and I have somehow been able to cope, maintain some kind of normality and be a pillar of support during this situation that we have been presented with.


Community Spirit
From clapping for the NHS frontline staff at 8pm every Thursday to new support groups offering help and advice in our surrounding area, this period of our lives has brought out the best in so many people. There is a huge sense of community spirit that has evolved where I live. Everyone is united and will do whatever it takes to help one another in these hard times. It’s great and comforting to see and I hope it continues when we all go back to our normal lives.


Appreciate the Small Things
Listening to music on Spotify, reading a book on my Kindle, having internet connection and the technology to message or speak to family members and friends in isolation – these are some of the things that I once took for granted. This situation has taught me to be grateful for what I have, however insignificant they may seem. “Sometimes you have to forget what’s gone to appreciate what still remains and look forward to what’s next.”– Will Smith.


It’s been great to sit down and write this for other people to read. It has helped me refocus my thoughts and I hope it will also help you to think of the positives in your life during these tough times. Thanks for reading and I hope you all stay safe and well!”



 

Tuesday 26th May Blog – working from home secondary school teacher:

”I have sat down to write this blog numerous times but there always seems to be something that stops me. Some days it is the fact that I have been staring at my laptop screen for about thirteen hours, others it is the fact that I just don’t have the focus to. But most recently, when the profession I love so much came under attack, that is when I just had to log off social media for a bit and just take a deep breath.

Now, I am aware that I am very privileged in my position and that therefore, a lot of this will not be applicable to the masses – but maybe some of the small few of you who read this. I live at home with my Mum, Step-Dad, and younger brother; I pay rent; I have a separate room that I can sit and complete my work in; I have a cushion on the dining room chair that I am using to aid with my back pain; I’m getting used to the Blue Filter glasses that I have ordered to try and support my headaches; I do not have any additional responsibilities in my school; I have a shared Year Eleven class.

Teaching during a global pandemic – I don’t remember the unit on this at University! That being said, we have had to adapt extremely quickly to a situation that we were thrust under. Before I go any further, I just want to stop and say how impressed I am that we have adapted so quickly and so well. So many generous individuals on Twitter, and within schools trying to help in anyway that they can. Even my brother (someone who hated school) said that he would be willing to come in and teach if staffing levels got too low! This was pre-closure.

Where better to explore these unusual times, than with an overview of my day:

· 7am – Wake up feeling panicked that something has happened overnight and that there is so much to do. Check my work emails on my phone to confirm or deny this theory.

· 7:15am – At my desk with a large glass of water to get me through the morning.

· 9am – Get up and stretch – that’s about 15 emails dealt with, and the inbox just keeps on filling up…

· 10am – Wellbeing Webinar to explore the role I can take when speaking to students and parents (and myself) to try and alleviate stress and pressure.

· 11am – Deliver a remote tutorial-come-lesson, to Year Ten students from my class who have managed to log on. This is often interrupted by my internet crashing out, and a chorus of “We thought we’d managed to get rid of you!” sarcastically uttered.

· 12 noon – Returning back to the ever filling inbox and realising that I haven’t posted on the Department Instagram page that I run. I frantically search for something engaging for the students to get involved in, or at least look at. Once that is posted (and I check that I haven’t posted it on my own account – one time!), then I can get back onto marking student work and providing feedback. This hour is often one of my most sluggish, with work being downloaded from emails, rotated, deciphered, put into my spreadsheet, comments added to a feedback form, and emailed back. I never thought I would miss the ‘traditional’ marking in school so much.

· 1pm – break for lunch. Text some friends who are also teachers, as we can actually have a lunchbreak together, albeit electronically. This is one of the other privileged things – I don’t have children or other mouths to deal with. Just a general sense of frustration of three of us trying to work from home and things not being easy!

· 2pm – Hop back onto the laptop to see what else I can deal with. Oh look, yet more emails! The to-do list is starting to resemble the haphazard notes I made whilst writing my dissertation. Realise that I did have a system that was colour-coded for the to-do list and think that I should get back to it. Not only was it calming to look at, but it made it easy to prioritise tasks.

· 4pm – I make note that I haven’t heard from some students in a few weeks, and want to check in. Checking that in the depths of the emails I haven’t heard from their parents, I send a quick check in, and then ring the parents of those in my Tutor group who haven’t responded for a few weeks, to work or personalised messages.

· 5pm – Pop downstairs to put the kettle on and grab a snack before participating in some CPD that is being delivered remotely. This ranges from Exam Board specific, to how we can improve writing in the classroom. Still keeping tabs on emails and responding quickly. Also, responding to messages on my phone that have come in since lunchtime.

· 6:30pm – I decide to try and do something relaxing – bake! I normally choose something that we can enjoy after dinner as a family, and it also means that the oven is at temperature before we start cooking dinner.

· 8pm – I know I have half an hour until dinner, so I look at the Scheme of Work that I am putting together for Year Nine, and see if I can add anything, or if it needs to be edited in some way.

· 8:30pm – Take an hour to be with the family for dinner, during which time I am still checking my work emails and seeing if the Safeguarding issue I raised has been seen.

· 10pm – Still checking the emails periodically – this is becoming a habit that I cannot shift, the anxiety of it all is causing this response in me. So, I jump in the shower, and then read my book.

· 11pm – Have nightly phone call with my friend. This benefits the pair of us – two overthinkers who are trying to get to grips with this remote teaching stuff. She lives with people in her family who are not only teachers, but also high up in Safeguarding and Children’s’ Services for the County. My Mum works with adults with Learning Difficulties, so there is much overlap in our lives. This is our nightly debrief. It can be just talking through the day that helps us alleviate our stresses, but also it means that we are able to put the day behind us and talk about random stuff for a bit.

· 12 Midnight – 2am – These hours are often the darkest for me, not just literally! This is where I start to replay my day over and over in my head, trying to establish what I can do better tomorrow; how I can help the girl in Year Seven who is getting frustrated that she can’t access the learning; who else in my Tutor Group do I want to check in on tomorrow; how can I apply my learning from the CPD to my classroom; how can I remind my Dad, who has tested positive, to stay at home; how can I help my 94 year-old Nan to stay safe; how can I feel like I am doing something to help during all of this?

· 2:30 – Check my emails for hopefully the final time before I get up and start this all over again tomorrow.

· 7am – After a fitful night of ‘sleep’, I get out of bed.

This is just an example of a day this week. There is no place that I would rather be right now than supporting my students in the classroom, and to have the outside world be safe for them to be in. But that can’t happen, and it is going to be a long time until we can get there. For now, the best thing that we can do is stay safe and keep going strong. We have all got this, and we all have our own struggles, but ultimately, keeping ourselves safe is our priority.

We often publish the positives of our life online, this has been a far more honest, raw, and open account. I am not a Nurse, a Doctor, a Surgeon, a Police Officer, a Firefighter – these are the front line workers that deserve all of the love and support, people who are seeing the unfiltered impact of this. I am merely a young teacher facing the battlefield of remote education during a global pandemic.”



 

Thursday 21st May Blog – working from home parent to two adult children:

”Conversation of Covid 19 pandemic is all around me, it has impacted on my job, my charity, my friend, family, and my life. To stay positive has been a challenge for me. To lose control of my freedom of choice and independence has been a big issue.

When the decision was made to work from home during the lockdown, I took it in my stride with the view that ‘everything has it’s tide’, because I know ‘God will not forsake me. However, my faith journey has had many rollercoaster moments during the pandemic because it had nothing but negative emotions. The pandemic tested how much I really believe in my faith which has been the constant source of support and comfort.
Since the Covid 19 outbreak my network of fellowship disappeared, as not able to attend life groups or church.

Other than work, the contact with lifegroup and church was my lifeline. The whole culture changed to virtual lifegroup and church has been draining for me as I was sitting in front of my laptop just like work. I dread social media and technology however at this moment they are my lifeline to everything like shopping, family, friends, and my daughters. My laptop and I are besties.

Going outside for walks and exercises causes me to have panic attacks as people are not following the guidelines. When you ask nicely to maintain social distance, it is not taken kindly. My mental health is like a yo-yo and I did not realise how vulnerable I became. To protect myself during this time of uncertainty, I keep going to the bible verses daily which gives me assurance and protects me from spiritual warfare. I am learning to submit to Jesus’ teachings. When God is on my side, there is no battle I cannot face in this world. All I have being asked is to trust my beliefs. Is has not been an easy thing to do, however at this moment I tried not to let my heart rule but be wise in the scripture? I am taught to ask, and just trust, and I do ask every day to protect my family, my friends and anyone I know. As time has gone, I have learnt to cherish and value simple and beautiful things and moment, looking at everything in half full, not empty attitude. Reading the bible strengthens me through rough areas and believing that Jesus is walking with me through the trials I face, enables me to wake the next day.

 

I am blessed have two caring daughters who have kept an eye on me from a distance. The girls have taken on the role of parent and grounded me with love. They have been my shopper and my virtual walking partner. I have not liked losing my independence however am realistic that this is done to save my life. I cannot wait for the lockdown to end as longing to be with my daughters as well to have fellowship. I miss my hugs.

Whatever my journey is, there is always the rainbow of hope. My hope, out of this pandemic, is the showers of love for one another, no matter what is evidence of the past, respective of faith or beliefs, learning forgiveness to the path of recovery and healing. Love does not quit when we encounter epidemic or trials of life is piled on. Love does not fail despite our inadequacies as God is Love. #Kindness”



Tuesday 19th May Blog – from a West Berkshire preschool worker:

”At the beginning things seemed quite calm here in the UK. We’d been led to believe it was people over 60 or with serious health conditions who were the only ones being really affected or dying….

Then came the first week I was really aware things were a little more serious.
People started working from home on government advice & my parents being over 70 went into isolation. At this point I knew two families who had become ill from covid19, they said how ill they all were & yet they had no under lying conditions.
At this point I started to worry.

Each member of my family are asthmatic & my husband has had recent heart problems after being rushed to A&E a few months back & is now on several medications.
At this point as a dedicated nursery nurse I start to feel torn between wanting to be at work with the children I care for who are such a big part of my life & wanting to run for cover & safety at home. I feel desperate to pull my children from school through fear of them catching covid19 & suffering badly due to their asthma.

My husband at this point is still at work. Dealing with members of the public & there’s no sign of him working from home.
Days pass & eventually my husband is told to work from home. Worry sets in as he & his entire work group have been given a date of redundancy just a couple of weeks before covid 19 hit the UK. So now the search for another job is put on hold. With no companies apart from delivery drivers or shop workers being employed.

My work place are in discussions as to whether we are open for children of key workers or if we’re not. Things are so unclear after the announcement that schools will now shut.

How can we stay open if only 4 or 5 children will need our services. What will we do as several members of staff including myself are vulnerable & want to stay safe?
48 hours of worry not knowing what’s going to happen & if we do close, will we still be paid?

Goverment information & confirmation from the council takes longer.
Eventually we are told we are closing & on the Friday the schools close we also close.
The following week the hall we work from also closes.

Now comes the task of home schooling….
I have 25 years experience in childcare & early years.
My youngest son is 7 years old diagnoised ASD & waiting for an ADHD assessment.
I have to say, home schooling him is a tough job!

At school he has additional help for reading & writing. His teacher is amazing!
I have plenty of experience in promoting learning through play, but after the first three days of tears & tantrums, I down the work sheets & decide we’ll do an hour a day of the curriculum including reading. The rest will be using my early years experience & quite frankly just my skills as a loving mum to allow my son to learn through play. We garden, bake, paint, get caterpillars through the post to learn the butterfly life cycle.

Now we’re having fun & my son is happy & learning! But he’s confused & his anxiety shows in tantrums & meltdowns. We try to be understanding & reassure him.

 My husband is doing several video work conferences a day in the dining room. while I’m trying to home school in the living room! I try my best to stop my son from interrupting or making excessive noise.
It’s quite a challenge!

Meanwhile the world outside is still ticking along. Everyday I turn on the news & my happy bubble, locked inside my family home is burst as reality floods in as we hear another 700/800 have died & this is the same daily with no end in sight.

With my parents on lockdown 40 minutes away & my 84 year old in his flat 5 minutes away we have no one else to rely on. We can’t get a food delivery slot as my husband is considered to be just below the threshold for the most vulnerable list. So each week one of goes to the supermarket with a mask in tow.
They say masks offer little protection but we’d rather not take the risk. Everything takes three times longer than usual. We are now shopping for my father in law too.
Waiting for medication at the pharmacy is now a two hour ordeal. We feel sorry for the pharmacists who are working flat out.

My 15 year old son is in lockdown with his father. This is another misinformed topic!
It’s unclear in the beginning as to whether a child from a split home who lives between parents can go between two homes. It takes several days for the government to make things clear on this subject. But even after it becomes clear this is fine, the risks involved in mixing two homes when some members have medical conditions make it harder.

At one point we try to meet for a cycle together as he’s my son & we’re allowed to be together but decide meeting for exercise is safer to avoid spread between two households but the police take it upon themselves to stop my son & send him back to his fathers!

As of now I’ve not seen my son in 4 weeks.
Things are so unclear, nobody knows how long we will have to do lockdown for & even after lockdown how safe will we be going back to how things were before? I worry for my husband with his health issues.

I fear my youngest becoming ill as with his ASD & sensory issues he’s so sensitive to pain or illness.

Only time will tell where we all go from here & I hope the ones I love will be there the other side for happy times again.”



Wednesday 13th May Blog – from a West Berkshire mum working from home with three children:

”I am a mother of 3 children, aged 14, 9 and 4. My husband is a keyworker. Just an insight to normal family life.

Two weeks before the schools shutting, my 9-year olds teacher had an operation in hospital. Her anxiety was so bad that I had to keep her off school for a week as she just didn’t simply adjust to the new teacher at school. The school did not pre-warn her or me and so she was having panic attacks at night, sweating and inconsolable leading to having to sleep in the room with us. She then went back to school knowing that she only had a week to go until her teacher was to come back. All sorts of thoughts were going through her mind and she couldn’t wait to hear or see her teacher.

Then the schools shut. Luckily the school had set up a Google Classroom where her teacher could speak to all the children and set work accordingly. The sleepless nights still didn’t go away, panic attacks, very anxious.

Uncertain that what was happening around her, she still became anxious that she would never see her friends or her teacher again. The work set from the school is of a very high demand, although the school have said they don’t have to do it all. I am sure they have set more for them to do at home that they would have done in school. I, as a parent, will never ever be a teacher and simply does not have the patience or ability to be one.

I am teaching my year 5 child things that they have never done before. Frustrating doesn’t even come close to how the first week went. Thank goodness we have been able to have a break as it’s the Easter holidays!

My 14-year-Old is in Year 9 and has quite a lot of work, but it is very manageable (to be honest I think she has less than my 9-year-old). She has the capability to just get on with it but gets very frustrated from the noise and the behaviour of the over two distracting her. She is in touch with some of her teachers via Zoom, so she feels more connected. She sits at home in her own time and stays on her phone all day, if she could. She had a massive panic attack the other day, she is very quiet, generally easy-going and calm in most cases. When I witnessed her struggling to breathe, I talked her through the correct breathing techniques. It scared me to thinking she isn’t ok. It’s the quiet ones you need to watch out for. Now everyday I make sure we go for a walk to clear her head.

My 4-Year-old – He has just been referred to CAHMS for an assessment. Whilst he was at school, he showed to be a very angry child who just doesn’t cope in a school environment. Far too many demands for him and has huge anxiety. Since the schools have shut, he has become a different child, no longer angry, happy to be in his safe environment, the lockdown is exactly what he needs but unfortunately that’s not the real world. Enjoying the calm boy for now.

From a working prospective – I never ever thought that this was ever an option, 3 children and trying to work… a recipe for disaster. I am not going to lie, it’s been exhausting! I am fortunate enough for my husband to do shifts, so he is home by 2pm most days. I must leave all 3 children to just entertain themselves, but they know where I am if they need me. I was on the phone the other day and my 4-year-old shouts “I need the toilet now”.

Before I had to work from home, I had to dress up smartly looking presentably, now I have no drive to look my best and its very demoralising every morning. I must keep telling myself how lucky I am to still be working and still have a job.

Two of my children have asthma so I am very grateful for work to allow me to work from home where my children are safe. Things will get better, we just need to give it time..”



Tuesday 12th May Blog – from a West Berkshire Widow in lockdown:

”I am 71 and my husband died three years ago after having lived well with cancer. I have kept going for the three years since his traumatic death but now feel completely, even more, bereft. I thought I was coping but the isolation and time to think is so unhelpful. My friends are great but the Zooms we have, which includes their husbands/partners only compounds the loss. I used to do lots of voluntary stuff but being categorised as vulnerable has put paid to that, and make me feel old, which I didn’t before.

I’ve revisited my Lasting Power of Attorney too and redone my Will and I really must get around to clearing the cupboards and drawers too, but there doesn’t seem any urgency other than wondering if this wretched Covid thing might get me.

In many ways the weather has been a godsend but sitting in the garden provides time to think, “What might we be doing now?” “Wouldn’t it be lovely to notice things growing together, or plant veg to eat and share?”

There must be so many people in this same situation and it is difficult to know what to do, other than sink further into an unhelpful mental state. I know there is a lot of support out there but what on earth could anyone do, it’s the situation that is so sad and quite un-repairable.

Right, I’m stopping this now, I’m not going to dwell. I have learnt and know that tomorrow, or the day after, or the day after that could be lighter. And I’ll ring someone and just chat!”



Monday 11th May Blog – from a West Berkshire working from home mum of three:

”I think it goes without saying that we are all dealing with changes during this period of lockdown. Changes to how we work, our home life, how we interact with people outside of our household, how we parent and school our children, how we run a household, how we run a business, how we exercise, what food and drink we consume, what news and media we watch or read. The list could go on!

As I was reflecting on my own journey to date, I became acutely aware of how the phases I seem to be traversing (often back and forth) reminded me of the Kubler-Ross Grief Cycle. This cycle postulates responses to loss or change that many people have.Here is my light-hearted take on lockdown.

Stage 1 – Denial
It was just after lunchtime on 12 March 2020. I was having a lovely catch up with my friend, Jo at her farmhouse on the lake. The sun was shining and the sky was a cloudless blue. Her husband, Matt, was walking towards us through the grassy back garden. “They have just said on the radio that all the Irish schools are closing”, he announced. “Really?” I responded, not even having the slightest understanding of the weight of what he had just said, and certainly not making the connection that we in the UK would be next! He followed up with “I reckon it will be about another week or two and our schools will be next”. It all just seemed a bit outrageous to me. I wasn’t worried. It was all a bit of an overreaction and things would sort themselves out shortly.

Sure enough, on the 23 March 2020 our beloved Prime Minister announced the school closures, along with other lockdown measures. Well this should be interesting, I thought. It’s just not going to work so they’ll have to come up with something else. The reality of being at home with my 3 little darlings, 24/7, providing education, emotional support, healthcare, fun times, personalised attention, exercise and endless snacks and nutritious meals (basically a healthy, nurturing, calming, bond-building and enriching childhood experience) was still not sinking in.

I began to wonder if everyone was overreacting or if I was under-reacting!
“Denial began to ebb away and was swiftly replaced by an overwhelming feeling of dread and shock”
And so began the tsunami of “helpful” links to online learning tools, YouTube lessons, printable worksheets via Messenger, Facebook, WhatsApp etc.
Denial began to ebb away and was swiftly replaced by an overwhelming feeling of shock, dread and panic, with extreme grouchiness to follow shortly thereafter!

Stage 2 – Anger
I have read somewhere that Anger is just a mask and manifests itself in the place of another emotion, usually Fear. In any case, in my experience, venting is a pretty effective way to feel better! In no particular order, here are just a few of the things I get angry about during lockdown:

Joe Bloody Wicks. It was day 1 when I sustained a strained groin. After a day of limping, icing, resting, painkillers and heat pack application, I did a survey in my head. We voted never to do PE with Joe again.
Donald Trump. Sorry for dropping a political view here, but if I held that one in, it would pop a vein in my eyeball. Anyone fancy a tipple of disinfectant? Why not throw in a shot of Round-up for good measure!?
TVs left on in every room, with nobody watching them. For goodness sake! It is that bloody hard to hit a button on the remote control when you are done watching something??! Which brings me to my next point…

Lost / hidden TV remote controls. Why do they ever need to leave the room that the TV is in? They haven’t grown legs and moved themselves, yet “nobody” has touched them at all! It must be those TV remote control fairies again!

The fact that our glass recycling box is still collected fortnightly. It’s nothing short of insanity. We can’t be expected to be in quarantine and manage to fit all the wine, beer and gin bottles in one box per fortnight. They really need to sort that out. It is of the highest importance.

Explaining to my 9-year-old over and over that he still needs to brush his teeth, despite us not going out anywhere. “Your mouth is covered in scunge and your breath stinks like a sewer! Brush your teeth, you filthy animal!” I barked at him. One of my greatest skills is motivational speaking. Just ask any of my neighbours.

The way my washing machine walks forward on spin cycle and I have to push it back after each load. I’m really seeing red now! What’s that saying about not sweating the small stuff?
Don’t get me wrong, obviously I’m making light of a particularly dire situation, and my circumstances are infinitely a lot better than many people’s right now. I know I am lucky and am so grateful for that.
What makes you feel white hot fury? Write a list; it makes you feel so much better to get it out!

Stage 3 – Bargaining
Oh, the bargaining! The constant negotiating going on in my head are only ever muted by a chilled bottle of Pinot Grigio and 4 gin and tonics strong cup of PG Tips.
If I make the kids do all their homework on time, we can all have fun times and enjoy each other’s company.
If I cook a nutritious meal from scratch, every member of the family will love it and ask for more!
If I go out for a 1 hour run every day, then I can eat 4 packets of crisps, 3 Mars bars and a can of coke guilt-free.
If I busy myself with vacuuming, then someone else will take care of the ever-growing laundry pile.
Lies! Lies! Lies! They are all lies, people!

Stage 4 – Depression
My lowest point was Sunday 22 March. It was Mother’s Day and the day before home-schooling started. I felt like a non-swimmer in a tiny boat without a paddle. The tidal wave of well-intended WhatsApp messages sending links to online learning resources, educational You Tube tutorials, “helpful” resources to keep children occupied, and advice to “make sure you take time for yourself” just had me drowning. The kids could sense something was not right, and being the beasts they are, played up on it accordingly. Thankfully my husband managed to throw me a metaphorical life-jacket by taking the kids for a play in the garden so I could sob for an hour or two. Which is only fair, quite frankly, because he is responsible for the monsters in the first place. All their lovely features come from me.
Thankfully, although some days have been tougher than others, I would say my time in this stage did not last long. Mainly because I am acutely aware of the awful circumstances many others are in, and because so many people began to check-in on me to make sure everyone was okay, and that we had access to basic necessities. It was truly heart-warming.

Stage 5 – Acceptance
It is widely recognised that laughing about our misfortunes can transform how we view our situations. Studies show when we hear or see a joke that tickles our fancy, our brain’s reward system lights up and the “feel good” neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin and endorphins) are released.
I realised that wine humour was going to help get me through home-schooling, lockdown and toilet paper shortages! Coupled with the fact that so many other people were experiencing similar challenges (and were able to share the funny side) provided me with a huge boost!

There are a lot of very clever and witty people out there! Some with a whole lot of time on their hands.
Once I registered the bus was going, and if I wasn’t on it, everyone in our household would be left behind, preparations began! It felt good to be in control of something. Working out a plan for each day and prepping meals in advance became my lifeline. Incidentally, it is quite amazing what you can create with a tin of pineapple, some old bread sticks, some mini pavlova shells and a jar of expired crab paste that your mother purchased 6 years ago.

Yes, there are still some really tough days. A bit like the one where child number 3 (aged 2) was trampolining on the sofa in the lounge and managed to split half his earlobe off. Turns out he really just wanted an outing and he figured Accidents and Emergencies would be a lovely place to visit. Luckily, the severed ear could be reattached with a bit of tape and some superglue.

Or the day that I discovered the bathroom colourfully decorated in marker pen.

Or the days that it just feels like I am rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic.
Or the days where, despite doing absolutely nothing, I feel completely and utterly exhausted.

And other days, I just feel so unbelievably grateful.

  • Frontline key workers are risking their lives for us

  • Communities are working together to support the less fortunate or vulnerable

  • I live in a semi-rural area with access to green space and a back garden

  • I have the means to call or message anyone I know at any time

  • I have coffee

    Amazon.co.uk (shh!!)

  • The weather (in my part of England it has been bafflingly glorious for the past 4 weeks!)

I have a husband who is a brilliant dad and continues to head out to work to support us (champion!)

It helps to revisit the list when I am feeling less than 100%. I fully recommend if you haven’t already, make your list as well! Pin it to the fridge, or even better, go one step further and share it with others. It might just help them find the silver linings.
It is quite cathartic to be able to identify and place my own behaviours and emotional responses to certain events somewhere within The Kubler-Ross Cycle, and that comforts me in my own journey with learning to live in this unchartered territory. It might help you too?”



Thursday 7th May – from a West Berkshire centre manager for Dingley’s Promise:

”My normal day to day routine involves not only looking after my 3 daughters but working full time as the manager of an early years setting specifically for children aged 0-5 years with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND).

Since closing our doors on 18th March, the whole of the Dingley’s Promise team and I have had to adjust to a new way of working. A lot of the children who access our services are classed as vulnerable due to their medical needs so their families are working hard to keep them safe, healthy and happy at home. We would normally provide term time learning through play sessions as well as stay and plays, coffee mornings and regular trips out.

Due to the current situation we are now supporting our families in a different way. From home, we are busy developing ideas that can be used within the children’s homes to continue to engage them and support their learning and development. We have produced lots of videos of activities and story times, as well as useful fact sheets that have been shared not only on our children’s online learning journals but also on our Dingley’s Promise Facebook page and our new YouTube channel. This means that we are able to reach a far wider audience and support not only our current families but any family that has an early years child with SEND.

We have also broadened the Family Support work we do and are now doing online drop-ins and have a closed Facebook group where parents and carers can connect with each other and gain support and advice in a relaxed environment. If any parent needs to access our new remote support, information and ideas for supporting children with SEND at home, they can find out more at https://www.dingley.org.uk/covid-19-response/

Not seeing the children and families we work with face to face is hard for all of us as we are so used to being able to chat, play and support them on a daily basis. This is also true of the team I work with as we are such a close team who enjoy the work we do and look out for each other. To ensure that wellbeing is looked after, we are making regular phone calls to all of our families as well as sending emails.

As the manager of my team I would normally do team meetings and individual supervisions face to face within our setting. I am now doing this weekly via video calls as I know that working from home is not something that my staff ever imagined themselves doing. They are all doing an amazing job though and I feel very fortunate to be able to continue to work and support the very special children and families we work with, albeit in a very different way”



 

 

Wednesday 6th May – from an owner of a local sports program:

”It was far to confusing at first.

Owning a sports program where we monitor and intervene in the lives of 250 children and young people on a normal day is challenging. Along came official announcement of isolation which posed a number of issues.
We live in a society where children and young people are struggling with identity and self esteem. Today’s social media pressures are having a negative impact on everything from sleep to anxiety. The outcomes generically are a spectrum of mental heath challenges along with associated social communication issues.

As a result our normal working lives apart from teaching sport are to help children through crisis including bullying, abuse and emotional behavioural difficulties.
Enter the shutdown.

Our lives as staff have changed from hands on physical teaching to experts in online communication and support. I say expert but really mean a team of staff learning daily and working collectively to manage the needs to 250 children and young people.
Our mission is to keep young minds busy and to use exercise to minimise the negative impact of doing nothing.

This shut down has taught us that children in sport is key to healthy young people and positive for the local community. Our days used to be 12noon until 9:30 pm but today we start at 9am and finish in the early hours monitoring every child’s activities and communicating with scores of families per day. The outcomes are our service users are hopefully feeling as if the gym they belonged too is still very much part of their lives with individual progress rewarded with verbal feedback. Keeping young minds motivated is challenging at the best of times, but under lockdown it has been a skill we have been quick to learn.

For me this lockdown has had a positive impact on the future of the program I own. Yes financial hardship has hit hard, but we have learnt that we have the power to change lives and the ability to deliver in the most difficult of circumstances. Once this is over we will use the skills w have learnt to better serve the children and young people in our care.

Lockdown has been unpresidented for all and a shock to our nation. However within this small Newbury gym we have come together and I feel we have all achieved something also unprecedented. Our next goal is to hope Greenham Common Trust our landlords recognise the positive impact we make on the local community and support us by helping us through this crisis. Sadly like all businesses and community groups, money will dictate whether we can really ride out this storm.”



 

Tuesday 5th May – from a person who is working remotely with vulnerable people with learning disabilities

‘We are closing the office and all working from home now’! I thought, OK, sounds like a good plan (this was before lockdown). I’d started working one or two days a week from home dependent on whether I had meetings in Newbury or elsewhere in Berkshire. I’d surprised myself at how focussed I could be at home and my fear that I would be easily distracted just hadn’t happened; so, I knew I’d be able to do this…… It’d only be for a few weeks – right?? We all know how wrong I was about that!

So, home life and work life changed (like it did for everyone). My partner already worked a lot from home and had his space; I took over the dining room table; then the schools closed and our daughter who is an English teacher needed a space too (office space number 3 was set up); our son works in retail but thankfully we didn’t need to set up an on-line business for him – but we did need to think about interesting and varied ways of him spending his time whilst three of us carried on (although in different ways) with working hard.

My initial thought was that I’d probably have some ‘spare’ work time where I could go through and do some good old fashioned house-keeping on my laptop, but as soon as that thought had taken shape, I realised that we needed to change the we communicated with adults with a learning disability both living independently, in supported living, with families and in larger homes and this was going to change everything. We needed to be able to stay in touch, help their families and care staff to keep them safe, occupied, entertained, happy! Talk about thinking outside the box! We came up with many ideas and we ran with them. The most simple one is to keep in touch by e-mail with those who have it, and for those who don’t, pick up the phone, post activities and information to them. All easy read information or easy to understand – all easy to do from home with perhaps limited provision. We approved some funding so that puzzles and games could be sent out to local homes – we did so much…

My biggest concern was those who lived alone and independently. Calling daily and checking that they are feeling well has become the new norm, however, at the beginning (feels like we’ve been doing this for months) the calls were going over and over the recent advice, which was changing daily. This is challenging for most people, but if you add in a learning disability then it is magnified. They just get their heads around one thing and then it changes. One initial problem we had was that some adults with LD thought they only had to distance and isolate from strangers and that they could still meet up with their friends – having to explain that it was everyone they needed to distance from was hard, but you know what, every-one has adapted so incredibly well. Whether they are living at home, with peers in supported living or independently, they all know that they need to keep themselves safe, keep others safe, stop the spread of the virus so that they can go back to normal again. They just want to know when the groups and sessions they so enjoy can start again. At the moment – I’m trying to be realistic and say that June might start seeing some sessions resume!

My colleagues usually work from home but they visit clients every day, so are used to being out and about and meeting lots of people; their roles have changed a lot and hopefully there will be blog appearing within these news-letters from an Advocate or two! My colleagues have found creative and innovative ways of working with their clients to ensure they are support-ed and that human rights and dignity are not lost during these challeng-ing times. Lots of these clients are deprived of their liberty – the irony is not lost on me that now most of us are being ‘deprived of our liberty’ in a way, although we know that there will come a time when we can ‘roam free’ again and even now I can go out every day and enjoy a walk or a bike ride in my locale.

The worst and the best of it: The worst part for me has been the regular updates about the loss of life of the clients my colleagues have built rela-tionships with; hearing their story about ringing to speak to someone in a care home only to be told that they died the day before – finding out that they were one of seventeen that had died in the preceding 7 days – this brings the reality to home! These are quite terrifying times for people – es-pecially those key workers who continue to support the most vulnerable amongst us who deserve all the support and thanks we can give.

The best part is the way that colleagues and fellow team members and oth-er organisations are all working together to support each other – virtual regular team meetings to offer support, encouragement and to discuss dif-ficult situations; supporting through the tears and frustrations as well as weekly quizzes for staff (created and delivered by the Quiz Master – my son); a senior leadership team that keep us all up to date and the mutual support and good humour that is needed to traverse this scary time.

As we flip between the positive ways people are working to make our world as good a place as possible and the absolutely heartbreaking reality of people dying, we have to remember that our own thoughts and mental and physical wellbeing (even though free of the virus) is being assaulted by the roller coaster ride and we need to make sure that we take time out for ourselves and also to look out for our colleagues and friends and family as well as all the people in the world whom we may never meet! We are in this together and together we will get through this! Stay safe, stay at home, save lives, save our National Health Service! Thank you!



 

Monday 4th May blog – Reflections of being a Parish Priest during the COVID-19 Pandemic:

”2020 has been a year to remember, and one that will live on in our lives and be taught in schools in the decades to come. If you are like me, your way of life and working situation has turned upside down.

Being a Parish Priest, and I have been since 1988, I have always worked from home or the parish office attached to the Vicarage or church, so that hasn’t changed much for me. What has changed is how I go about the work of a Parish Priest.

The phrase ‘more tea Vicar’, is one we all know and it is part of the daily life of a priest, popping in to see how people are doing, talking about their concerns, their faith and generally helping them to make sense of an ever changing world. All of this has changed with the social distancing guidelines, which are needed to combat this pandemic, but which go against everything that makes me a parish priest.

I have only been in West Berkshire since December 2016, and part of The Hermitage Team of Churches since July 2018. The ‘Team’ is made up of 7 churches From Cold Ash in the South to East Ilsley in the North.

As this pandemic and subsequent lockdown has developed, I have relied very heavily on the support of the ‘Ministry Team’ and local Parish Council’s and representatives to assist in meeting the needs of so many people. As a team of churches, we decided not to initiate any social support ventures but rather link in and support those set up by the different groups within the different villages. This has proved to have been a great success as, together we have drawn together from within the church community and wider local community. The sense of care, concern and generosity have been overwhelming.

As a church community, we have continued our pastoral support of our members through phone calls and through the numerous ‘buddy’ pairings within the villages. I have had to rethink my whole way of dealing with people from our worshipping community as well as those who are grieving the loss of a loved one as the life of the Church is to interact with people physically and emotionally. As area where this is especially hard is funeral ministry. It is one which I am finding exceedingly difficult with our current social distancing guidelines. Part of our response as human beings is to comfort one another in times of grief and we are hearing a lot about those who are dying alone. It does not end there. It carries on to the funeral and beyond as saying goodbye cannot take place in the usual way.

I am becoming aware that even after the lockdown has been lifted, we will be in a completely different society and our lifestyles will have changed. My prayer is that we will be able to continue with all the good we have learned and implemented during this time and we will be a more accepting, loving and caring world.”



Friday 1st May Blog – a West Berkshire mum of three in remission:

”I have been here before.

The fear of the unknown. The anxiety of second guessing every cough, ache or pain. Basing your response to ‘how are you’ on your temperature. The financial implications of decisions you have no control over. The loss of freedom and above all, the profound isolation.

Living through the COVID 19 Pandemic is like a permanent flashback to my Cancer diagnosis. The two situations are so similar that it is both comforting and frightening at the same time. Trying to reconcile those feelings have been a minefield of their own – just one more set of emotions to add into an almighty jumble of feelings! It is comforting to know that I have seen the worst and made it through, that gives strength on the bad days, but it is excruciatingly painful knowing that people I love now have a deeper understanding of the isolation and panic that is the daily battle when faced with the possibility of a life threatening illness. I’m buoyed by the fact that this has bought out the very best in most people and that the planet and the human race have had to hit the reset button on life, whilst also being sad that it has taken something so horrific to make the changes to the way that we view our health.

For many people, COVID 19 is the first pandemic they have seen in this lifetime, for us Cancer patients it is the second pandemic we have lived through so far. Dramatic? Maybe, but bear with me a second, to quote the UK Government, ‘lets look at the science’…

Around 450 people die every day in the UK from Cancer, to put that into perspective that is 54,450 people so far this year lost to Cancer, compared to 26,097 to COVID 19. I am not suggesting we compare the two, or that any death is worse than another but if Boris Johnson were to give us a total number of deaths every day from Cancer would we do more? You can’t prevent Cancer by socially distancing, but socially distancing will claim more lives to Cancer than ever before, the 450 people dying each day was BEFORE you add an additional Global Pandemic into the equation, before there were (understandably) less GP appointments, before maintenance treatments and operations had to be cancelled, before people, ordinary people like me had to decide whether the risk of contracting COVID outweighs the benefit of immediate treatment.

Might the worlds biggest pandemic to date be the shift we need towards seeing Cancer for the threat that it is? Is there a way that the incredibly impressive Nightingale Hospitals can be used for Cancer treatments? Or will there still be a postcode lottery to decide whether your Primary Care Trust can afford your life saving treatment?

COVID 19 and Cancer go hand in hand whilst also repelling each other. It is a scary time, like living on the set of a horror film most days, but I’ve read more of the script than most of you, spoiler alert, it all turns out ok in the end. As someone who has seen the movie, got the t shirt and is attempting to rewrite their own uplifting sequel I can tell you that this WILL pass. You cannot control when or how, but you can acknowledge and accept the horror for everything it is and is not. This right here is your reminder that it is perfectly acceptable to feel ALL the feels. Sometimes all at the same time!

Feeling low? Me too.

Anxiety through the roof? Snap!

Frustrated at the lack of control? Join this control freak’s club!

Tearful? You guessed it, I am on my second full on blub-fest this week!

Comforted by having your chicks all in their nest and close by? Bask in that comfort – you cannot have the bad without the good.

If there is one piece of wisdom, I can impart from my time facing the original Big C it is this…

Allow yourself to feel. Everything. The good, that bad and the ugly. It is far healthier to face those emotions head on than try to bury them and have them turn up when you least expect it, the longer you hold on to them, the heavier they get. So, do not fight it! Now is not the time to be brave, if you need to cry, do it. Get in the shower, sob your heart out and then get your physically and emotionally cleansed self, dried, moisturised (use the good moisturiser!), dressed and start over. If you feel you cannot take anymore today, go to bed. Pull the duvet over your head, wallow in your anxiety and write the day off, but then set your alarm for the morning, make yourself get up, dressed and have a healthy breakfast ready to face the next day with a refreshed body, your mind will catch up I promise.

I have been here before, I have been in training for this for the past 2 years, I even had face masks and hand sanitiser before they were collectors’ items!”



 

Thursday 30th April blog – founder of Recovery in Mind :

”For the past 4 years I have been busy setting up and developing Recovery in Mind with a wonderful team of both trainers who shared their own lived experience of mental health challenges and mental health professionals seconded from the local NHS. Its been a hectic time as I started the organisation from my kitchen table determined to improve the lives of people living in West Berkshire who experience a wide range of mental health challenges. We provide free of charge, group courses based in Broadway House in central Newbury. Our courses help people to learn to ‘Self Manage’ their difficulties with the aim of living more meaningful and enjoyable lives. So its not therapy or treatment but simply taking a course on how to help you to help yourself. We have worked with over 300 adults during the past 4 years. We run about 6 courses per week in the term time only. So it would be fair to say that we have developed our courses, now over 16 of them, bonded as a team, worked closely with the NHS and other local organisations all for the benefit of the ‘Students’ who attend our courses.

Then Covid 19 came along and changed almost everything. At present we are unable to run our group courses where anything from 6 to 14 people come together in a training room to learn together. So instead we are learning new ways of supporting our students. We have started with a weekly newsletter which is sent to over 200 students and next we plan to start ‘Webinars’ online for our current students then developing into opportunities for anyone, anywhere to gain support.

We are most definitely not a ‘IT savvy’ staff team. The past two months has been a steep and fast learning curve for all of us…. Zoom, MS teams, webinars, Dropbox – all the lingo that we used to hear but managed to avoid is now part of our everyday work.

As a team we really enjoy our face to face work. However good our ‘IT’ is nothing can beat the opportunity to connect with students in the training room. Ultimately ‘Connection’ is at the heart of what we do. Being a Recovery in Mind student isn’t just attending courses – its about being part of our ‘tribe’. Living a life alongside others who get your difficulties and challenges and feeling accepted for who we are regardless of any ongoing mental health challenges.”

Take a look at our website for more information. RecoveryinMind2016@outlook.co



Wednesday 29th April blog – a 12 yr old from West Berkshire in lock down and distant learning:

”At this point in time we are living through a global pandemic, this is called COVID-19 or more widely known as the coronavirus. This virus started in China in the start of this year and quickly spread all over the world, even though China very quickly went into lockdown. Due to its sudden spread all over the UK we were forced into lockdown- starting with restaurants and certain shops which then lead to schools and leisure centres. After the schools had closed it was released that we were going into complete lockdown. This meant no leaving the house unless you were going shopping for essentials- which you had to keep to the bare minimum- and to have one piece of exercise per day. This very suddenly completely changed our lives.

At home I live with my mum, dad, younger sister and younger brother. In many ways this life changing situation has bought us closer together and we have been able to have a lot more time together. We are a very busy family with our extracurricular activities and our different clubs so a positive that has come out of this is a closer relationship. It has been harder for my little brother as he really struggles with routine change and not having a structure, but we are managing.

Our work has all been set online on an app called frog and sometimes we do zoom calls which are basically online lessons like a facetime. It has helped me be a lot more organised as that’s the only way to get through the day.

Most of my time spent at home I’ve been practicing my cheer and working out; my cheer team have been setting daily tasks and have been using zoom daily to practice which really gives me something to look forward to during these dreary times.

When I am able to leave the house, I have sometimes been going for family walks around my village/ in the woods. Then we normally go to our local shop and buy an ice-cream which helps to support our local businesses. Also, every other Saturday we get a takeaway from our local pub. To try and keep active I’ve been going on regular 3k runs which will really benefit my mental well-being. Before the coronavirus we would bump into lots of people on our dog walks however now the whole village is practically empty.

During this very lonely period of time I am especially missing being around people as I am a very sociable person so it’s hard communicating over the internet. Another aspect I am missing is cheer as it was always the thing, I would look forward to during the long school hours, it is my second family and it is where I get to see my best friends. I miss the team workout, the learning of new skills, getting to lift and support our flyers in the air, I even miss the long hard practices because we’d get a feeling of accomplishment when we had finished and I miss the girls the most as they were what inspired me and motivated me to become the best version of myself.

My coaches have always helped me to achieved what I didn’t even think was possible and their dedication to this sport helps me to keep going.

As soon as this is all over, I am going back to my happy place and seeing my favourite group of people. I will hug people for the first time in what feels like years and I will treasure every single second of our time together.”



Tuesday 28th April Blog – a West Berkshire Parish Clerk:

”Ever since I heard that the Covid-19 virus was spreading across the globe, and creeping ever closer towards our little island, I started to wonder if there was anything the Parish Council could do to help keep our village safe and free from infection. As a Clerk living and working in rural West Berkshire, my immediate concern was that we have a generally higher population of elderly folk who were likely to be in danger of becoming very poorly, and would the resources I have to hand be of any assistance?

We were already putting together a Community Emergency Plan so the village could respond to any crisis but it had not occurred to me to add in highly infectious diseases at the time of preparing it. It was time to galvanise the troops and gather together a band of volunteers who could assist their neighbours in the event that the virus reached us. Through the powers of social media, I was able to recruit nearly 30 healthy, active, and willing volunteers, all from the village who were keen to assist with whatever was needed.

Prior to lock down we did a ‘door drop’ to all houses in the village with a note to advise that the ‘Emergency Response Team’ were able to help them with shopping, medicine collection, dog walking and even a friendly phone call if they wanted a chat. To help me with communication, I set up a WhatsApp group with the volunteers so I could easily communicate with them all at once. It did not take long for the calls to start coming in and I was able to assign tasks to the volunteers, and not long after the 23rd March the phone rang almost every hour! At the time of writing, we are helping over 25 different households with their needs.

As the person who has put all this together I feel immense pressure to ensure the safety of the volunteers, and of the households we are helping, but I am so lucky to have the full support of my Councillors and I can honestly say it has brought us all much closer together, community spirit is literally overflowing here right now! It has been at times a little scary and overwhelming but the overriding feeling is of pride. I am proud of the village, the volunteers and the Parish Council I work for, and I know how appreciative people are of the measures we have put in to place to keep our village safe and virus free. I have received so many lovely comments via email, phone calls, text and social media and they have all been so heart-warming.

The best thing about being a clerk is that you never know what the day holds, or who you are going to interact with and that has certainly rung true over the last couple of months! I wish Covid-19 was never able to enter our little island and ravage our society like it has, but it has made us all stronger, pulled us closer to each other and forged new relationships that can last through anything.”



Mondays 27th April blog – a 24 yr old from West Berkshire but locked down in London, with family in West Berkshire:

”Lockdown is a very peculiar experience for everyone. People across the nation are reacting in very different and extreme ways. I read the statistic this morning that one in three people are drinking less whilst in lockdown whilst one in five people are drinking more – I think this kind of sums it up.

For me, 24 and living in London. Being this age, this is the most convenient (if you can call it that) time for this to happen, I’m not at university anymore having my education being interrupted and I’m also not trying to entertain young children at home for months on end. On the other hand, the thought of being stuck at home for months of my life at a time when I’m supposed to be out and experiencing things and trying to find out what I want to do with my life is tough.

However, I am in the very lucky position of having well paid job that I am able to do from home. I have never been so grateful to have a regular 9-5 job like this when others are not in the same position. So lockdown for me has been a time that I need to make use of. It is very seldom when you’re working and living in a city that you have the chance to slow down, make changes and reflect on everything. The main thing I’ve used it for, like the majority of people my age is dedicating my time to things that I deem important that has got lost. Things like trying new hobbies, taking up healthy habits and dedicating time to friends and family.
In regular life, having so little free time means I don’t normally make time to try new things. Who wants to spend their precious little time being bad at things? Now, as I have nothing but time and have taken up knitting, furniture making, gardening and rollerblading.

All things I have always wanted to do but never made time for. I am still very bad at all of these things but now I have the time to improve and the feeling of accomplishment is great.

I am also dedicating my time to my health and wellbeing, I think this is the most important part. It is really important to have a good mind set and those things are intrinsically linked to your diet and how much you move around (albeit limited). Eating and cooking good whole food has given me a lot more energy and I find my mood is calm and balanced. I have taken up running again to get outside and have been exploring places in my area on runs that I never would have been to otherwise! I have been doing yoga every morning which has really given everything a sense of routine and purpose.

This is one of the reasons I think I haven’t found lockdown too tough at the moment, I feel good and am finally sleeping enough.
The final thing I have been making time for is my friends, family and good causes. I am notorious for getting too busy and not keeping in touch however now I am chatting to everyone regularly and this has been great.

This I will definitely keep doing even post lockdown. I have also been donating regularly to charities that have been helping with the Covid-19 response as I am spending less money on travel. I’m choosing 3 charities a month from direct causes such as NHS PPE support to charities that will have to cope with the knock on impact of the lockdown such as domestic violence and refugee support charities. Not everyone has the money to donate but every little helps and this helps my well being too.

I really hope I bring some of the healthy habits I have gained in lockdown into regular life. I don’t anticipate I’ll always cook good food or knit forever but I hope there have been some changes that I can bring forward with me. I am in a very lucky position and my main goal was not wasting it.”



Fridays Blog – mother of two boys in the shielded group who works from home and also had COVID-19:

As the news came that lockdown was imminent, I was completing what was to be my last day in the office for the foreseeable future. I knew I was likely to be in the ‘higher risk’ category which meant I wouldn’t be going back into the office for at least 12 weeks.

The first week of WFH whilst juggling ‘homeschooling’ the boy’s was tough. Much tougher than I expected. With one in year 6, whom all of his learning had been geared towards SATS that now wouldn’t be happening, and one in year 7 being set a whole days worth of lessons every day, plus homework, it all felt very overwhelming. I could feel my anxiety about being able to ‘do it all’ escalating. My admiration for teachers has always been high, but in that first week it reached new levels. I was also acutely aware how privileged my husband and I were to be able to work from the comfort and safety of our home, as this wasn’t something everyone could do.

As week two of lockdown begin, I started displaying symptoms of covid19. I became ill quick and I went downhill fast. The next two weeks went in a blur. I had never felt so ill and the cough was exhausting and relentless. I felt tiredness like I had never experienced before and no amount of sleep was enough. Seven days after I first became ill I received my 12 week shielding letter; the irony was not lost on me. I now knew whatever happened I would be staying home till the beginning of July.

As we now enter week four, and I am coming out on the other side of covid19, I am very grateful to have been one of the lucky ones to survive it. I am also very relieved that my husband and two boys didn’t get it.

I’ve learnt a lot about myself in the weeks since lockdown began. I always knew I liked ‘structure’ and a ‘plan’ but I never realised how much I depended on those things. It’s been hard to just let go of that but also strangely liberating too. I miss seeing my family and friends but technology allows us to stay close to one another.

Amongst all of the chaos going on in the world the community in which we live feels like an oasis of calm. Living rurally has meant daily walks with the dogs have been a joy and as a family we have never spent this much time together. The slower pace of life is benefitting us all. My two boys have impressed me with their maturity and resilience. They have accepted the situation for what it is and are making the most of this time at home.

My hope is that when all this is over, we all remember what really mattered during this time. That we remember the kindness of strangers, of communities working together, the key workers who went to work everyday and risked their lives for us and that we remember those that didn’t make it. Ultimately, I hope the world is just that little bit kinder ❤️”



Thursdays blog  – working mum with three children practicing Ramadan:

”Across the world Muslims are about to enter the holiest month in the Muslim calendar. Ramadan is due to start on Friday 24th April. However, this year there will be no mosques open and we will be practicing social distancing. Ramadan for us is a time to stop and focus on God. We fast from dawn til sunset every day for 30 days. Abstaining from food and drink. But Ramadan is so much more than just fasting. It is a time for families to get together and have iftar (our evening meal) together.

The mosques see their busiest times with an additional night time prayer called taraweeh, read only during Ramadan. However, this year it will be my children, my husband and myself in our home. No parties. No mosque. I could either be upset over what we will miss or try and embrace the situation.

I picked myself up and realised I can try to make this the best Ramadan. Last night we turned our front room in to our own mini masjid. We set up some cushions, prayer mats, Islamic books, lanterns and bunting. Our own cosy area to reflect upon life’s blessings. Because are we all not doing that already? Being more appreciative of what we have. Many of life’s distractions have already been taken away from us so what better time to get closer to Allah. We are already practicing more patience after 4 weeks of lockdown.

This year we will be fasting as a family. We will focus on us. We have gone all out to make this time special for our children. We are welcoming Ramadan as a distraction during such unsettling times. We will turn to Allah, focus on each other, eat together, pray together. We will of course miss our families and miss the ways we normally celebrate. As Eid approaches, and we will likely still be social distancing, I will miss the buzz of going to buy all the food, new clothes, presents ready for the special day. But I am hoping I can give my family a different buzz this year.

None of us have experienced a lockdown Ramadan before and I pray we never do again. But, whilst we are, let’s make it memorable in a good way. Inshallah”



Wednesday’s Blog – Stay at home mother of two children:

”The day came when the PM announced schools would close until the unknown. Okay what do we do now ?

I am a solo parent with 2 children of which my eldest has autism but attends mainstream school with full support.

He needs consistent structure and routine each day otherwise he is all over the place, demanding, causes drama when there is no need.

So I create a structured daily plan for my children, 10 and 4 years old , year 5 and foundation levels . We display the plan on the wall.

Maths and English for about an hour then a break, then exercise, then free time for everyone, then lunch . After lunch there is a choice between craft, drawing / colouring or learning about the world. Finish at 3pm. My son can then have his electronic device, my daughter can do what she likes and I can prepare dinner . Simples I thought. Fantastic, what could go wrong!

Day 1 was amazing. My children responded well to the structure, result!

Day 2 , oh my days , a different story all together ! My son kicked off because he didnt like the work that was set for him from school . He was raging , being destructive, angry , swearing ( where did these words come from , we dont use these at home ) This outburst sets my daughter off , so now I have 2 angry children , yeah great !!! Lets abandon the plan for today and reassure, regulate and connect with my children. It takes me nearly 2 hours to fully calm the situation. Blimey who knew that some simple school work would cause so much stress. Its a shame as my daughter just wants to learn and always asks for more.

Day 3/4/5 my son just wants to control and do what he likes ! The anger is still there although manageable . Im used to this behaviour . My daughter responds well to the school work I have given her. Excellent, at least she wants to learn and enjoys it .

By the end of the first week Im exhausted, who knew being with your children for every hour of every day would be so hard . The constant questions of where are you going ? Err, Im going to the toilet! What are you doing ? Im making a cup of tea , etc etc

My children want constant attention. Its draining. Thank goodness there has been sunny weather so we can get outside in the garden or do our daily exercise on our scooters for 3 miles.

In the evenings when my beauties are in bed and sleeping I seek out adult interaction. Oh my days , I miss people ! Being with them , conversations, laughing, socialising . It was hard before this pandemic being the only adult in the house but now its worse. The confinement in the house is hard . Miss the lunch dates with a friend , miss the seaside . Everything we did before is a no go now !

At the end of week 4 of being home with the children I can reflect on the last weeks on how to move forward for the next. Keep talking, keep exercising, keep calm and breath and enjoy the connection with my children . We can do this !”



Tuesday’s blog – Nurse Practitioner in a GP Surgery:

”A month or so before lock down the new started talking about a new virus in Wuhan. Where on earth is Wuhan. I now know. I know the Wuhan is, how the people of the community have been devastated by the Corona virus and how patients and fellow medical colleagues alike are suffering. The news became progressively worse and out came guidance of what to look out for at work. We all knew what was coming, we were kept undated. It changes daily. What we were all unprepared for was the emotional tole this would take.

I cry everyday. It can be over nothing, something silly or something sad. It doesnt matter. I would say Im pretty tough but this is something else. An email that PPE is late or not coming or that an elderly patient has gone without a food delivery for over 2 weeks as he didnt want to come out, has no family and didnt know where to turn too. I fear the media isnt helping. PPE issues, oxygen considerations and manpower all raise anxieties even higher. 

Young kids are being kept at home and presenting when I needed them 2 or 3 days ago. I hope the hot hubs will help people understand they will still be seen if we cant sort them over the phone. People come in but are anxious and distressed by seeing us in face masks and visors but under it all we are the same medical personnel you talk to about everything, you just cant see our smiles. They are there, just check our eyes.

The elderly are still getting emergency dressings done but wonder if everytime they come in, they will be exposed to the virus. We do all we can but I cant guarantee they wont. Every contact has potential.

My family worry. Am I going to get this virus, am I going to bring it home? I wash my uniform at 60, wash my hands a million times a day till they are cracked and bleed and shower before my young kids can get a hug. My eldest at 5 cried clinging on to my leg for 2 weeks every time I left the house incase I got sick and died. We stopped watching the news in front of them. They are too young to understand the complexities and yet I also cant say never. I wont lie. My friends and colleagues are getting sick. Many have died already and I wonder who will be next. Who will be there for me if I get sick? Or my mum or my sister or my best friend? The government arent counting properly I feel. 

But I have some silver linings. I see families going out for a walk every day. This doesnt happen in normal life. We rush round, frantic to compete jobs, get to swimming lessons etc and generally keep occupy our time. I hope for some healthy habits will be formed and continue when all this settle. 

My walk in the woods everyday allows me to breathe and reflect. Watching my kids discover how to rescue a bee, get their wellies stuck in the very muddy puddle and giggle their heads off and to tuck them into bed gives me peace. I am grateful I can go home. Plenty are in hotels alone or in hospital accommodation for fear of taking this virus home to love ones who are at high risk or have been redeployed to areas they are needed in.

I am lucky and feel lucky. My husband, family and friends mean everything and a simple question of  do you need anything will make my day. I probably dont but you cared enough to ask. My game face is good, you wouldnt see me crack till I get home.

I hope for the future but fear it too. Many are going to struggle to get back to a normal. Many left impoverish, unemployed and underprivileged. Many anxieties about the world, will continue as a hangover effect for years to come. I hope we all get the support we need and for all to ask when help is needed. Help is out there but underfunded. The volunteers manning such help are amazing.  I feel like we are all trying and thats all we can do. I shall continue to do all I can and keep plodding on with a smile on my face and hope everyone else does as asked to help the spread. Its all we can do. A quote I was told as I trained by an old mentor still rings true. ”

Keep your face always toward the sunshine and shadows will fall behind you.”

Walt Whitman



Monday’s blog – A West Berkshire Primary School Teacher:

”It was during our second weekly staff meeting via videolink, that I think my Headteacher summed it up perfectly. ˜If we wanted a life like this, we would have created one.Teachers are naturally sociable people. We choose to fill our days surrounded by the most amazing and curious minds; millions of questions fly around our classrooms, our names on a repetitive loop, we laugh together, we cry together, we learn together and memories are made – there is never a dull moment! We knew it was coming, but with 48 hours notice, we realised with a mixture of panic and sadness, that our life as we knew it was about to change. 

The last couple of weeks have been a real learning curve, both professionally and personally. On a professional level, we’ve had to adapt the way we teach and provide support to our children and their families, whilst appreciating that each family has different circumstances, with many parents working from home, whilst being expected to homeschool. Luckily, I think we struck the right balance, however, the anxiety of this and the long-term bigger picture remains at the forefront of our minds. I feel very lucky to be part of a school community where the kindness, understanding and support from parents has enabled us to work effectively and provide a good level of ongoing support for our children. Despite this, I still worry. I worry about the vulnerable children. I worry about the children who dont really understand the current situation and I worry about the children on the edge of understanding a new concept, whose parents might not be able to support them because they are a key worker. I worry about those children being at greater risk of catching this virus. I worry about the children missing their friends and I worry about the children who potentially miss out on transition. I worry about how I will support children who lose a loved one. Teacher guilt is a real thing and its worse than ever! Please send some love to your teacher friends – we are not okay! I just have to hope that they are safe and happy and remind myself that once this is over, being reunited will be one of the most emotional and happy days of our teaching careers!

On a personal level, Id never truly appreciated how much I rely on school for my mental health. School has provided me with a welcome distraction and a focus on a day to day basis, following a couple of traumatic experiences and only now have I fully accepted this and need to address it properly. I have realised how much I also rely on my friends and family for emotional support and how grateful I am for them being a part of my life. Being apart from them has been one of the toughest challenges during this whole experience. 

As the partner of a keyworker, I am now spending a lot of time on my own and have found that daily phone calls with friends and family, walks in the countryside with my dogs and just taking some big, deep breaths every morning is helping me to keep a rational head through all this. My Mum is sending me a daily ˜Thought for the Day’ which keeps us connected and ensures that I start my day with a positive outlook. I have been forced to stop and process and more than ever am appreciating the little things in life.”