Wednesday 20 January 2021

Journal of the Plague Year 2020 (Entry Nine: Easter to Christmas)

 Entry Nine: Easter to Christmas

I stopped writing my journal in April because things had entered such a routine and there didn’t seem much to say. Of course, I didn’t get to see my parents at Easter but I had a distraction as I was then drafted back into work.

My lack of journaling during this time means I didn’t get to express my thoughts about the whole Dominic Cummings eyetest debacle (bitter-laughed-fury), the slew of reports of the government giving contracts to friends who couldn’t properly fulfil them (disappointed-fury) or the execrable track and trace system that was run on excel and had cost millions of pounds (tired disappointment, no fury). 

When I went back to work after Easter, things were different, there was more of a school-like structure to the day and it felt less like babysitting. I even had some fun, helping out with the stripped-down year six class and learning to cross-stitch. 

When the summer holidays came, I made arrangements and went up to my parents for most of August. The weather wasn’t as lovely as I had hoped, we’d had all that in May and June, so I didn’t get to spend days lounged in the garden as I’d hoped but I did have a brilliant time. I wrote a lot, read a whole bunch (including the Essays of Montaigne) and in the afternoons, me and my mum went on little trips.

We went to the grave of a famously fat man, the birthplace of a proportional midget who was a cavalry captain in the English Civil War and won a duel, looked around many pretty villages. At one point we went to see a labyrinth, which was pretty disappointing but next to it was this stunning lawn of sunflowers. We traveled to Boston, to an RSBP reserve and saw the egrets that were once so rare they became the society’s logo, and I went to an owl sanctuary. There I got to hold an eagle owl called Bagpuss who as almost as thrilled to meet me as I was him. 

When I returned to London, I went back to school and there were all sorts of provisions in place, we were in bubbles and if someone in the bubble got it, the bubble would be sent home. Although the theatres were still closed, the galleries and bigger museums were open and I got to see the Aubrey Beardsley exhibition at the Tate National, and spend time with my sister at the V&A and Natural History Museums. Dr Johnson’s House wasn’t yet ready to open but it was making plans and I was looking forward to it.

There were grumbles of a second wave, many of them caused by the government’s own ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ initiative and the first of the school bubbles were closed. Most strange was that the school never properly told us about it, we just went in and a whole year group was missing. Then individual people started to go missing and no official word was given, if we asked we were told it was an unrelated illness and definitely not coronavirus but when they came back the person who was off said it definitely was. At one point, all the reception classes were off because a TA caught it, but because the official quarantine for those in contact was 12 days, and for the person who had it was 10, she came back before they did. In fact, she had to cover a year two class because the TA there couldn’t come in because she needed to look after her daughter who couldn’t come to school because she was a reception child in quarantine. Which meant someone had to cover for someone who couldn’t come in because the someone covering had had coronavirus. And I can’t put it any simpler than that.

Finally, a kid in my year caught it but only she and the 6 children who sat closer to her had to go home. It was deemed that being in the same room day after day with someone who had it didn’t count, you had to be near them for longer than fifteen minutes. From that point on any notion of bubbles and protection broke down and as the term went on, more and more people dropped like flies (luckily, no one has died). We later found out that the government knew there was a strain of the virus in the country that was 75% more transmissible, and that they’d known that since September and had just thrown us to the wolves.

We were lucky though, the government had definitely promised everyone five days for Christmas and I was desperately looking forward to seeing my family again. So, imagine my dismay when two days after breaking up for Christmas, the government told half the country that they couldn’t go anywhere and I was facing Christmas alone in my tiny, studio flat. I had a choice, sit by myself or break the rules.

I broke the rules. Took me some convincing to have my parents to take us in and there was humming and hawing but considering we were travelling in a sealed car, to one house and then back in a sealed car - it felt as responsible as breaking quarantine rules could be. I thought the reward was worth the risk and had a wonderful few days eating, drinking, laughing and playing just dance with my family. No one got sick, nothing was past on and considering the gloom I returned to, it was an essential moment of light - because the new year was shaping up to be a pretty dismal one indeed.

The government was saying that schools are definitely going back, I wasn’t convinced.

Entry One: A Cough in a Box (22.2.20 - 28.2.20)
(Coronavirus is a rumble among other stories but silly stories start early.)

Entry Two: Eat More Garlic (29.2.20 - 6.3.20) 
(A song and a wash, rising paranoia.)

Entry Three: A Guilty Sigh (7.3.20-13.3.20) 

(Confusion at school, a new variation on 'it' and a new chat up line.)

Entry Four: A Week as Schrödinger's cat (14.3.20-20.3.20) 

(A week at school where it's open, closed then repurposed as something else.)

Entry Five: Lego and Ice-cream (21.3.20-27.3.20)

(In which much of what we called life goes online.)

Entry Six: A Reverse Joker  (28.3.20-3.4.20)
(A trip to the supermarket in this new era.)

Entry Seven: Fine Dining (4.4.20 - 10.4.20)
(A posh dinner - ish.)

Entry Eight: An Easter Walk (11.4.20 - 17.4.20)
(A poem)

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