Saturday 11th April 2020

Easter Saturday. The forecast is for a day of bright sunshine and above average temperatures for the time of year. A weekend when normally families would gather, friends would meet and hoards would head to the coast. A weekend for those with religious belief, or none; for some a time to reflect, for others a reason to simply make the most of an extended four days away from work. 

Supermarket shelves would be void of sausages, burgers and ice cream. BBQ smoke would waft through the air, gardens would be tidied, grass cut, and chocolate eggs hidden. 

Instead this Easter weekend will be anything but normal. A country in lockdown due to a virus that until a few short weeks ago was nameless. Social distancing the clear advice that’s repeated daily at the press conference from Number 10. 

Stay home. Protect the N.H.S. Save lives. 

Many will spend the their days entirely alone as the country is instructed to stay at home. The reasons are clear. To prevent the health service becoming overwhelmed the science has been explained to us all. We must flatten the curve; prevent the surge in critically unwell patients experienced by some of our European neighbours that risks the N.H.S. being unable to cope with demand. As a country we have had a little more time to prepare; valuable time to learn lessons from those nations who have gone before us. Throughout our land, some areas still have time to get ready and to carry on learning about this new disease, whilst our capital city is already neck deep in the demands the virus is enacting. Whether what we have done will be enough waits to be seen. Unfortunately our starting point lagged behind others; the toll of a decade of austerity catching up with a speed and urgency that can’t quite be put in to words. But it’s too late to think about that now; we must just do what we can.

Normal has been rocked in ways our generation has never before experienced. For some the gravity of the situation will have been brought home by the televised address to the nation by the Queen last weekend, or news that the serving Prime Minister was being admitted to Intensive Care; the latest ‘victim’ of what has been branded the hidden killer. For others the statistics of the daily rising case count and fatalities will be forefront of their minds. Many will be worrying about their health, falling into one of the high risk groups that have been advised to shield totally from the outside world for weeks to reduce the risk of becoming infected. Others will be worrying about elderly and vulnerable family or friends. Many will be scared of what the future holds; jobs at risk, furlough a new word in the vocabulary of millions. There will be those trying to manage the increased risk of being told to stay at home; those subject to intolerable domestic violence, children who need the routine and safety of school, those with alcohol and substance dependancy who depend on weekly group sessions to stay dry and keep on top of addiction. There are those whose mental health will be compromised due to isolation and fear.

I’m not spending my Saturday at work this week. There are thousands who today and throughout the long weekend will continue with their key worker essential jobs, often putting themselves at increased risk of exposure to the virus. The news has been brimming with stories of healthcare workers, of which I am one, but let us not forget the often forgotten other ‘key’ workers; the cleaners, the porters, the waste collectors, the bus drivers, the teachers, the funeral directors, the call handlers, to name but a few. And let us not forget those who so want to be able to carry on with the essential work that they do, but are unable due to the instruction to stay at home. Those that in ‘normal’ times educate us, entertain us, feed us in restaurants and cafes, run the pubs we socialise in, exercise us in classes and gyms, drive the ice cream vans, curate the museums and galleries. All essential in maintaining the diverse fabric of our nation, but even more at risk of being forgotten in these strange times we are living through. 

The ways in which life has changed in a few short weeks is endless and if we stop and think; really think, the reality of the new normal can seem insurmountable. 

Maybe it’s easier just not to think.

Today, I am going to try and do just that. Stop thinking. Stop looking at the data, stop reading the news, turn off the TV and the radio. Switch off work email and have a few short hours away from the planning and the what ifs. Instead I’m going to try and just be, and focus on the positives of the new normal. I am healthy, my family are healthy. I have a secure job that continues to pay my mortgage. I live in a safe household with my husband and my children, in a close neighbourhood surrounded by people that look out for each other. I have access to the internet and can communicate with friends and family. My ‘normal’ Saturday routine of Mum’s taxi to various children’s activities is cancelled. The is no need to rush. The diary is empty. 

There are some activities I know I will do. My dog will need a walk and the children will need exercising too! I am fortunate to live in a small village, with countryside walks on my doorstep. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve watched as the bluebells have come into bloom, and noticed other wild flowers I’d never really seen before. Maybe today I’ll take a camera and a long lens on my daily walk and try and capture some of this beauty. Last night there was a heron standing proud on a branch above the pond, reflected perfectly in the still water below. Maybe it will be there today ready to be pride of place in my photo; or perhaps today there will be a deer hiding in the shadows.

Maybe today I’ll find a quiet warm spot outside in the garden to snuggle up with one of the kids and read a book together. Or we might plant some seeds or paint the gate that needs a touch up or refill the bird feeder together. 

Maybe later we will make lunch together, bake our own fresh bread, eat outside in the garden. Perhaps we will listen to a comedy radio show and laugh out loud. 

Maybe later I will be able to pen some more words onto a page; something I’ve found virtually impossible over the last couple of months as the stress of the pandemic have overtaken my mind in nearly every waking minute. 

Maybe today I’ll just be able to be. Slow down, enjoy the moment, appreciate the new ‘normal’ that is my life today. 

Whether you are a key worker, an essential worker, not working when you want to be able to, unemployed, retired, a child, elderly, healthy or not, I encourage you do try and do the same today. Take stock of what you have and appreciate what you can. Connect, with each other in whatever virtual way you can; with nature and the outdoors in whatever way is allowed; with yourself. Maybe the new ‘normal’ isn’t quite so bad after all, at least for a while.