telephone booth beside a black car

keep your distance and carry on – covid from a londoner

The current pandemic is global, yet it feels very local. It is affecting us all, but in slightly different ways according to the way our governments are dealing with it and the cultures of different countries. This is the first in a series of perspectives written from a local woman in her 50’s about how it is affecting her. Take it away Nicoletta McCarroll…

Thank heavens for social media. 

As the mother of teenagers, I had never expected to say that, but after weeks of life under lockdown even I’m dancing to a different i-tune.  I hold a truce with my 14 year old daughter.  She does all her schoolwork and I don’t nag about the time spent on Facetime! Really, I am truly thankful she is so distracted, and can still see and keep in touch with all her friends.  I think she is about to throw an old saying about pots and kettles in my direction, but being fourteen she just rolls her eyes at me.     

The tech also means we can keep up with our son, down at his Uni house (so lovely to see him at least).  I obsessively and frequently enquire on the expiry date of his inhalers and epi pens (more eye rolling) before our conversations turn to food.  There’s what we ate for lunch, then what we will have for dinner and what we will eat when we all see each other again. We chat nostalgically about everyone and everything we are missing.  Before he signs off with promises to whatsapp that video of the dancing chickens on the group chat.    My mothering instincts to scoop him up and bring him home had to give in to the practicalities of me dealing with his father’s chemo under lockdown.  I take comfort that he is bound to be happier down in Southampton with his housemates and that my dwindling loo roll supplies remain intact.

On my daily walk with the dog, I pass the many posters that adorn our local  park’s railings.  This new life under lockdown, comes with a new set of instructions.  Stay inside to stay alive. Keep two metres away to keep Coronavirus at bay. Keep your distance and Carry on.  Protect our NHS.  There are many slogans, but just one stark message. Please Save Lives!

The dog looks up at me expectantly, at this point I would normally let her off the lead, but it is difficult to practice social distancing when she has zero recall, so instead we head off towards the river with the lead still on. 

Lone dog walker through the streets of London

We have the path to ourselves for a while, I have picked a good time to take a walk, or maybe it’s because children across the land (my daughter included), are back at school in their bedrooms this week.  As I glance at the taped up playground I wonder at how much life has changed in a matter of weeks.   I just hope that this strange experience our children are all having at the moment will help them shape a better world for us all in the coming years.

The river looks beautiful and different. There used to be so many boats: Twos, Fours and Eights with eager instructors motoring along the side barking orders down a megaphone; The river bus chugging into dock; and white and blue sails elegantly gliding from the shore.  But today there is nothing to disturb the calm, no wash reverberating out to the riverbank, the water is still and as smooth as glass.  It is very green along the path, trees are blossoming and daisies lace the grass.    Summer is coming and the world is still turning.  The human race may be in retreat but nature marches on.  I feel put firmly in my cosmic place.   All of a sudden there are people on the path again and my anxiety levels rise.   In a time not so long ago, I was afraid to meet muggers. Now it’s joggers.

In a time not so long ago, I was afraid to meet muggers. not it’s joggers

We finish the rest of our walk down the side streets, dodging another discarded rubber glove and a disposable mask – I hope this isn’t becoming a trend.  Boris Johnson’s worried brow pokes out from a pile of Evening Standard newspapers sitting outside the corner shop.  He is still recovering from the big CV, and hopefully mulling over the importance of vital PPE and testing, testing, testing. 

Back home it is time to phone the hospital.  My husband is fighting off a bacterial infection not usually a problem for most of us, but because he is on chemo, it is causing havoc. My daughter and I dropped him off at the hospital door, where he was promptly whisked away in a wheelchair.  We have not  seen him for two weeks, no visitors due to the risk of Covid-19. As he disappears into the distance without me, I swallow hard on the lump rising in my throat. Despite all the difficulties he is going through, I know we are lucky he has had his operation and has started his treatment. I already have friends who have no clarity on when their own treatment will begin.   We have a lot to be thankful for. when Thursday night comes and we thank the NHS, all medical staff and frontline workers (I also give thanks for all my wonderful friends and neighbours helping us to shield), tears mingle with my clapping. Sad it has all stopped now.

It has just been my daughter and myself for the last few weeks and we have been getting on really well.  We have been watching all our old favourite Disney films, the Harry Potter series, reading books (she actually finished one woo hoo) making cookies and lasagne.  It’s been a very special time.   It’s all going so well……. then she asks me to cut her hair.  At this point I think I will plead temporary insanity, or maybe I was just distracted by what to do about my own Corona grey hair.  Instead of saying “Best not” or “No” or “Let’s wait until we can get to a trained professional”, I say “Put your finger where you want me to cut it”.    The crying that ensued nearly reached the heavens, or at least as far as next door.  One of my neighbours texted me to say it sounded like someone in the street was being tortured.  After three solid days of crying she has come around to her ‘new look’, although I have promised to take her to a professional hairdresser when lockdown is over.

During one of my many scrolls through the internet I came across a saying. Maybe happiness is not about having a beautiful day but about finding those beautiful moments. I’m not usually one for flowery sentiment, but these are emotional times and it felt very poignant in these lockdown days.  It made me think about all the things I won’t be doing this summer.  No holiday we were planning to Croatia, no Chelsea Flower Show (but I have saved the tickets for next year), No Wimbledon (not even on the telly). No more tennis course, no day trips to Broadstairs.  Even if lockdown begins to lift any time soon, chemo means we will be one of the last households to come back out of it.   So, the moments have become precious. Clearing out cupboards, jetwashing the patio (something I’ve never done before), cooking lasagne and making cookies feel incredibly significant and satisfying.  My house has never looked so tidy. My only regret is that none of my friends (or my mother) are here to witness this transformation. 

View from my window – all is quiet

The talk now is of easing the lockdown, cranking up the economy and getting children back to school in some way. No doubt It will be a slow rise from the ashes if we are to avoid a second wave of infection from the virus.  I hope at least we have learnt a thing or two about who and what is important to us.  I wouldn’t have thought a few months ago that freedom looked like a walk in Richmond Park with a friend, or a coffee with my mother. 

The Government still have much to do before we are let out for that haircut. But the New Normal is on its way. 

Whatever shape it will take, however long it will take to arrive, whatever we have to wear to get out into it (masks by Versace anyone?), I will embrace it joyfully.

But until then, stay safe, keep your distance and carry on and I’ll look forward to seeing you in the New Normal.  Whatever that might look like.

Nicoletta’s new found skill – jetwashing

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