Day 1. The Cowgirl comes in at 6:30am (second time that night) with an ouchy tummy. My sleep-fogged brain finally puts together all the pieces and we work out this is an all-too-familiar list of events, which results in a call to the doctor and antibiotics for a urine infection. Normally this means a day of Netflix, sleep and Calpol, and then back to normal. Today it resulted in a text message by 8:30am reminding us that, because urine infections come with a fever, the family is officially locked in for 14 days.
First I refused to believe it, running through everything I wanted to get done before this happened. Then came relief: at least now we knew what the next 14 days had in store. That was closely followed by guilt and a morning spent in Skype, email and Google Classroom as I watched my colleagues trying to plug holes and fight fires as we locked down the college for the academic year, with no exams complete and no certainty of whether this is entirely practicable or a massive over-reaction.
By lunchtime, we can breathe again. Calls have slowed, children have settled, antibiotics have been fetched. We have more food in the house than we had at Christmas, nothing has run out yet, and there are flowers and sunshine.
The evening arrives and I’m buzzing. Life is good and so are the people around us. My colleagues have delivered my left-behind marking; The Vicar’s colleagues have delivered the most beautiful duck eggs you’ve ever seen, and soil-encrusted potatoes from the local market. The paramedics have also revised their opinion: with The Cowgirl responding as expected to antibiotics and given The Vicar’s key-worker status we are given the all clear for him to leave the house if necessary. We are good.
Day 2. Can it really only be day 2? This time last week everything was still pretty much normal. How can things possibly change this much in a week? Within the house, life is manageable, apart from occasional gripes when told that we can’t use the playground and a moderate panic from me until I work out that what sounded like dry coughing from the living room was actually just The Paleontologist putting lanterns into her Minecraft mansion. Seriously – who knew the two things could sound so alike? Outside The World’s wheels continue to turn. Fears abound and people continue to behave like idiots. But self-isolation works both ways, and we are as isolated from that as others are from our temperatures.
Day 3. It’s Mothering Sunday. Church and Meeting are in enforced lockdown; we join Zoom so that we can take part in Meeting, catch up on worship on Facebook Live, and take the timer off Facebook so that it stops telling me this is contradicting my digital wellbeing. The sun is shining; the blossom is blooming; The Cowgirl is experimenting with endless rainbow crystal test tubes. All around us people are struggling and suffering and stressed and I am feeling pretty guilty that I am not.
My students have told me before that it is only in England that the work-life balance is so bad that you cannot shop for fresh produce every day. What habits will we all form in this time of enforced idleness? And will we want to return to our great busyness when society returns to normal? There are times that it feels like this is a giant reboot, turning society off and on again. I am aware that there will be many who are unable to trust that this is an answer to prayer. I am aware that there will be times when I cannot feel that myself, and I am aware that I am very lucky that right now isn’t one of them. But we have been praying for years for something to disrupt the destructive, cataclysmic societal structures that are draining the lifeblood of existence on earth. Prayers are very rarely answered exactly how we would like them to be. Is it just possible that this time, they are being answered like this?
Day 4. It’s Monday. Schools are shut and we’re juggling children’s activities with trying to maintain a normal work timetable. This is not going well. The morning was pretty productive and the children were cheerful. The afternoon was productive in a very different way: mostly productive of tears. And screaming. And The Paleontologist pretending she’s 15 and storming off to her room, slamming every door along the way. 8:30pm brings the news of Shutdown 2.0 from Boris Johnson, and the day ends with whiskey and chocolate on the sofa. The Vicar’s phone pings continuously from those who can no longer look to any form of church to sustain them when they need it most. His face greys out as the evening progresses and he gives all he doesn’t have while mourning himself for what has been ripped away from the core of his being. There are many who are screaming tonight, as the candles, lit at 7 to show hope, are blown out one by one.
Day 5. The cracks are deepening and blood is starting to seep through. There have been tears, tantrums and misunderstandings galore. The kids haven’t been coping brilliantly, either. Things ease once the morning chaos is past, though – the sunshine continues to help us out massively, a local independent bakery are doing home deliveries of chocolate brownies, and school have sent out colouring activities instead of research tasks this morning. This too will pass. All will be well.