For those of you that know me, you’ll be aware that I’m a private person not oft given to introspection. Here is my inelegant attempt to make sense of recent events.
The lockdown has been in place for a couple of weeks. It’s certainly taken me a while to adjust and I’m not entirely sure I have yet.
My wife works for a pharmaceutical company and so leaves for work every day while I work from home. Like so many others I’m also responsible for parenting, education, dog walking and a myriad of other jobs as I piece together a work schedule for the day and try to remain equal parts motivated and singularly focused while my son’s do their best to distract me with shouts of “It’s my turn” or “When’s lunch Dad?”
None of what I mentioned is news to most of you and for those without children or pets I’m sure the solitude is equally tough
My concern is not so much with what we’re all enduring now, but what lessons we can learn and how we can use this time to positive effect for the future.
The reason I’m saying all of this is because a few weeks ago, I was struck by a blinding headache which after tests turned out to be a minor bleed on my brain. Sounds scary and certainly has been, not least because I’m somewhat of a control freak and putting responsibility for anything in someone else’s hands causes me to sweat let alone my health.
I rang the Health Centre 2 days after I should have (I know, I know) and after giving some symptoms was told I’d be called back shortly by a doctor. 30 Minutes later and after a long discussion the lady on the line decided I needed to have a CT scan. All regular stuff! However the experience was anything but regular. Leave aside the extra precautions taken but the hospital staff and the uncomfortable mask everyone was wearing, the one thing that was impossible to ignore was how empty the place was. I was seen immediately, triaged soon after and sent for tests within 10 minutes.
I thankfully don’t have much experience of hospitals but I’m pretty sure that is how in an ideal world they are supposed to function. The staff were supremely efficient, endlessly polite and couldn’t do enough to help me. All the while I’m apologising for monopolising their time during what I’m sure is a cataclysmic time for them.
Thankfully I’m getting sorted but what this highlighted is how self-centred we’ve all become as a society and how what are in effect minor changes to our lifestyle and expectations of others can have a massive impact.
The staff at North Devon District hospital hadn’t “Upped” their game to be able to deal with this crisis. What they had was time and space to be able to work more effectively and give their patients the level of care I’m sure they signed up to offer. A & E was empty, not because issues hadn’t arisen with the public but for the first time in a long while people are having to take personal responsibility for their actions and actively staying away. There were no loud drunks festooned around the waiting room being monitored by security staff and even fewer calls for ambulances because “there’s a seagull injured in my garden”
And this goes further into society as well. On the rare occasions that I step outside the house I find passers by to be far more courteous than at previous times. People are actively engaging in conversation rather than staring at their phones as they understand (some for the first time) how rewarding real human interaction can be. I say this and I’m in Devon, quite possibly one of the nicest places to be for community spirit and general neighbourliness.
Turning to work, this has understandably quietened down for myself and I’d imagine the majority of the country. I’ve been lucky, I’d only been with my company for about 4 months when the sky fell in and as has happened to a number of my contemporaries in the recruitment industry I was concerned that I’d be seen as a “nice to have” and quietly set aside as a cost saving measure before the chancellor came striding in on his gallant steed and rescued us all from the dole queue.
Nothing could be further from the truth. I work for a small independent agency that prides itself on honesty, integrity and well sheer bloody mindedness if I’m anything to go by. We were all sat down, run through the figures in a very open and un-corporate fashion and assured that the measures taken over the next few months and as a collective will be to protect all of our jobs and that none of us should be worried about our futures. As a parent with bills and mouths to feed I’ve no doubt you’re aware how welcome this was.
I’m sure and sincerely hope that I’m not alone in this experience and forgive my indulgence as I am getting to the point.
I’m concerned that this Corps d’esprit, this concern for our fellow man, this willingness to want to help others is not just a flash in the pan. Rather that it’s something that we’ve all been waiting to express, but that in the era of social media and trolling have found ourselves increasingly isolated and unwilling to lift our heads above the parapet.
There are plenty of things I miss from what seems like a lifetime ago now, Driving, cycling, just going for an aimless meander while listening to a podcast and I’m sure we’ll get back to all of that. I just hope that I don’t forget this moment. This time when I can greet passers by in the street or offer to collect shopping for a neighbour without encountering a look of derision.
From myself as a “mostly” human being I wish you all a healthy and fulfilling confinement and hope to have many meaningful interactions with each and everyone one of you in the future.