Saturday, 3 April 2021

Nature, and my role in reversing climate change

A mini-blog/reflective journal, from a self-confessed air-head.


Nature and my role in reversing
climate change



I've described myself as a nature-worshipper from quite an early age, though I can't pinpoint exactly when.  It's just always been within me, somehow.

I grew up in an idyllic little town, living right on the edge of some fairly extensive meadows and a little network of streams and rivers.  So us kids spent large portions of our lives, especially our summers, in the fresh air engaged in wholesome outdoor pursuits (mostly wholesome, anyways).

My special place was some woodland to the north of town where I used to take our doggo on long walks, and I once spent the day sunbathing stretched out comfortably on the trunk of a fallen tree in a meadow, while the dog had a wonderful time in the long grasses (I cried, later, when I found they'd sawn the tree up into bits to remove it).

Absolutely golden memories, which I'm lucky to have and which I treasure.

I composed a (sort of) haiqua about that fallen tree:-
Peaceful tree
In meadow sunshine
Though many years felled
Soothes the spirit still

As I got older and went off to university I still loved to spend time in the outdoors.  I recall each spring sitting in the sun watching the squirrels chasing one another round and round tree trunks in their courtship dance (usually while I was supposed to be doing something else).  When the trees bloomed each year I loved to shove some stems of cherry blossom in my hair!  (Yes, I'm that type of person -- and I've also been known to hug trees!)  I once spent a fine summer's day lodged in the forked branches of a tree reading a book of second hand poetry I'd picked up that morning, snoozing, sipping pop and snacking on a loaf of fresh, crusty bread from the bakery!

Again, golden memories.

After graduation, I spent years trying to gain employment somewhere like 
The Wildlife Trust, but unfortunately that didn't work out.
(I'll always be glad of the years I did spend working for Oxfam, though -- some may have their criticisms of that organisation, but I learned a lot).

I didn't only use those natural spaces for my own needs; I recognised a need to give back to nature from a pretty young age as well.


I recall drawing "save the whales" and "save the ozone layer"/"combat the greenhouse effect" & similar all over all my notebooks and numerous items of apparel (this was before the internet and hashtags were a thing), along with the CND symbol in school.  ☮️  I insisted that my whole family cease to purchase CFC propelled aerosols.  
I've had a variety of boycotts -some of which are still going to this day- against a number of companies, since my early teens.

Later in my teens I held letter writing campaigns to companies, such as the 'big 5' energy companies (nowadays there are many more than those 5 or so -- happily, some of them are at least somewhat  committed to providing green energy).  I wrote to my local newspaper, too.  My mum still talks about the time I went off to take the dog for a walk and returned hours later with bags full of litter I'd picked up while out there in the woods, and the subsequent letter I wrote to the local paper.

My mum and I campaigned for years, protesting planning permission for housing estates on some of local the green belt.  We held the developers off for a long time (not just us, of course, there were other local people too -- "the people united can never be divided!")  Those developers have since gone ahead and obtained some land from at least one local farmer and now, with the addition of numerous additional housing estates, the town is growing and growing, for better or worse.  As are most other towns and cities, at least in my part of the country.

If I'd known of a local Greenpeace group when I was growing up, I'd have joined it (or at least hung around them all; but, as I say, it was before the days of the internet).  In uni I branched out a bit into the realms of social justice causes, too.
I'm ashamed to say I've only recently learned that the two causes are interconnected, because the negative effects of climate change always impact the poorest and most disadvantaged communities, first and foremost.

If you're reading my blog then there's a good chance that you're someone who's concerned, maybe even alarmed (like me, and Greta), about climate change.  So I don't propose to go on about all the reasons climate change is a threat and why it needs to be reversed (as much and as fast as possible).  There are plenty of websites you can visit to find out that info, if you're not already familiar with it.

But I'd like to provide (as a linked Google doc, below) a list of some of the things we can do as individuals, which can help.  We may not all be able to go on protest marches every weekend, or have wealth we can invest in ethical & green stocks, or be the CEO of some huge corporation/a head of state with the power to implement policies which can positively impact the climate.  Obviously.  These things all need to happen, for sure; but what if (like me) you're not in a position where you've any real influence over those things...?

Well, then the things in the list are at least actions you can take, from your armchair (like me!)  Share the Google doc (and other relevant articles) with friends, family and colleagues -- try to do (or encourage others to) a little something every day or so, or just each week or so (whatever you can manage) and it all mounts up, for the better.

Some of my favourites are the Ecosia search engine and The Rainforest Site, along with the Friends of the Earth and Greenpeace sites.

Please see the Google doc, below, for the full list.

๐Ÿ’ญ Please also share your ideas in the comments here, to add to the list, too.  The more the merrier, and the bigger the better! ๐Ÿ’ญ





Photo credits (all photos from Unsplash):  forest by Kunal Shinde;  town in valley by Luca Pozzoli;  fallen tree by Thomas Allsop;  cherry blossom by Yustinus Subiakto;  (Wildlife Trust, Oxfam and Save the Whales logos);  wind turbines by Thomas Reaubourg;  meadow by Dave Lowe;  'community' graffiti by Mike Erskine;  climate change placard by Markus Spiske (logo is Extinction Rebellion's);  'planet burns' placard by Ethan Wilkinson (again, logo is XR's);  armchair by Hjalte Gregersen; grass by Markus Spiske.


All logos shown are the intellectual property of the organisations in question, and I recognise the -no doubt- trademarked status of all of these -- they are shown here under fair usage, and in the interests of promoting the organisations in question.  If you are the owner of one of the IP logos shown in this post or the associated Google doc and you wish it to be removed, please get in contact with me via the comments section and I'll take care of it as soon as I see your comment (but please note it could take some weeks).  Thank you.


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Saturday, 27 March 2021

Optimism

A mini-blog/reflective journal, from a self-confessed air-head.

Optimism


I'm probably a natural pessimist, if I'm honest.  I tend to look for the pitfalls in things, and my outlook is: 'prepare for the worst/hope for the best' (or possibly the other way around).  I'm naturally cautious and wary of new things; a sort of motto of mine has always been that it's human nature to be resistant to change (which I believe to be broadly true, but it also lets me off the hook as regards trying new things etc). 

In the past, however, I've struggled with self-esteem issues, overthinking and sometimes giving myself too hard a time over some -often- fairly minor things.  Oh, and I have a tendency to catastrophise when something goes wrong or there are bumps in the road.  All of which can be really draining (and may arguably have contributed over time to physical health conditions I'm now experiencing, such as chronic inflammation).  ๐Ÿ˜ฌ

So it's been helpful for me, over time, to work toward a more positive outlook and way of being.  (But I couldn't call the blog 'Positivity', because I've something else planned for 'P'!)  ๐Ÿ˜€

And it did involve a certain amount of work, so this post is not a recipe for instant optimism.  But 
I thought I'd share here some of what I've found helpful, in hopes it might also help others in their journeys.  (Please also see the end of this post, however, for a note about toxic positivity, and about picking & choosing the advice you decide to accept, or otherwise*.)


General actions/activities:-

Breathing
I've included this because breathing can affect your mood, for example if you're breathing too quickly or shallowly in a moment of tension or anxiety, it can make matters worse.  This can happen to us without our really being aware of it.  But conversely there are some simple things which can be done to take back control and actually improve how we're feeling, too.

Almost everyone has probably been advised to take a deep breath at some time in their lives.  Well, even better, I recently learned a simple but, for me, life changing technique known as 'the physiological sigh'.    ๐Ÿ€€

And because it's so simple, I actually remember to do it, even in moments of really high stress (which is where it differs from most of the other breathing techniques I've ever learned).  I don't even have to step away from what I'm doing, or take 5 minutes out (which, though brief, is still pretty unrealistic for me), or whatever.  I can literally just do this wherever I am, in less than a minute.  So I really recommend this one.  ๐Ÿ€ƒ

Also, as the neuroscientist himself says in the podcast, it's almost impossible to control the mind with the mind, so it's really helpful to have a physical action which can be carried out, especially a quick and simple one like this.  ๐Ÿ€‚

I learned about the physiological sigh in this podcast: Andrew Huberman & Lewis Howes - YouTube
But also here is a YouTube video in which this neuroscientist demonstrates the physiological sigh fairly simply and more concisely.  ๐Ÿ€

Create a mantra, if it feels right
Years ago I created a personalised 'mantra', along the lines of a positive affirmation.  If you're not familiar
with positive affirmations, this involves telling yourself that you already embody the quality/ies you wish to develop, for example "I am feeling relaxed" or "I am creative".

Now, I don't go in for the "I am wealthy" style of affirmations personally, because while there may or may not be something to them (I guess) I can't really get on board with the idea that these can magically work to create wealth out of nowhere (do an online search for laws of attraction if you don't know what I'm talking about/want to learn more -- also, see the next point below).  ๐Ÿ’ธ

But I do think mental repetition of something achievable which you feel you need, such as "I am feeling contented" or possibly "I am an optimist" can have the potential to be beneficial.  I've heard that some people do affirmations in the mirror, and I sometimes do them while I'm showering.  But mostly I repeat the mantra silently to myself, over and over, in time with my steps whenever I walk anywhere.  I find it really helps me to work toward feeling more contented (or whatever), and this past year with the pandemic (and walking less) I've felt I've suffered a bit without it.  ๐Ÿ’ญ

(Do your due diligence
This may seem an odd recommendation to be on this
list, and it's true that it is out of place. But I felt it important to say something about this, as there's a tonne of stuff out there on 'how to be positive' & etc, and not all of it is going to be right for everyone.  So if you're not already familiar with being sceptical about what someone says or writes, it's a good idea to try and pick up these 'due diligence' skills so you can better separate the helpful from the unhelpful.

If you're not up for an online critical thinking course or something, then even just discussing the ideas you read about with your social circle can potentially help you get another perspective about them.  And remember that just because someone's published an article, or created a podcast, or whatever, doesn't necessarily make them an authority on the subject matter, or to be believed without any second thought (including me!)  ๐Ÿ–‰

(Scroll down for a link to the Future Learn website, which periodically offers a free short online course in Critical Thinking skills.))  ๐Ÿ•ฎ

Exercise
You've almost certainly heard it before, that exercise can help with things like anxiety and depression.  And I know it's true, so I've included a link to the NHS's free 'fitness studio' (selection of videos), here.  There are also some videos geared toward those with chronic health issues such as back pain or fybromyalgia.

I also believe that it's important to engage in a form of exercise which you enjoy, as that can otherwise be a barrier for many.  So I've included a couple of links to videos I find helpful when I'm trying to get motivated to exercise, or if I'm feeling too tired to exercise 'properly'.

Diet can also play a large part in helping to manage mental wellness, but I'm the world's least qualified person to talk about that so I've left it off the list, but just putting this link to the 'Food and Mood' section of Mind's website, here: https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/tips-for-everyday-living/food-and-mood/about-food-and-mood/  ๐Ÿฅช

Meditation
I keep reading how helpful this is for almost everyone so I felt I had to include it on the list.  There are many, many different types of meditation so there's bound to be one out there somewhere which is right for you.  From the simple, gazing into a candle flame for example, to an elaborate guided meditation, to really complicated (in my view!) breathing techniques.  Even a form of moving meditation, such as tai chi, yoga or 'forest bathing' with a walk in nature can be really beneficial.  ๐ŸŒณ

There are a selection of yoga and pilates videos available, for free, here.  (And then of course there's YouTube.)  ๐Ÿง˜

There are loads of apps for guided meditations these days (so I won't list any), but a longtime favourite website of mine for this, with a selection of free short meditations, is 
Meditainment.  ๐Ÿ’ญ


Specific resource recommendations:-

Jason Stephenson on YouTube -- sleep meditation, music & etc
I include this channel as I particularly like the positive affirmations tracks he has made available, such as this one: Guided Sleep Meditation for a Positive Mindset, Sleep Talk-Down With Affirmations - YouTube
Jason has several YouTube channels, including The Awakened Mind  ๐ŸŽง

He also has one, approximately 45 minutes long, designed to help with sleeping, available for free download here:

Something about Jason Stephenson's voice is really relaxing to me, and I like the style of his affirmations, for reasons I can't quite articulate -- I just feel he's on the right wavelength for me, I resonate with what he's saying (to use a bit of a buzzword).  Your mileage may of course vary.  ๐Ÿ˜ด

Mental Health Foundation 'podcasts'
This site has a number of free recordings which you can download or stream, here: 
Podcasts for your wellbeing | Mental Health Foundation  

I particularly like the one entitled 'Wellbeing and Positive Thinking'.  It doesn't harp on about stuff you should or shouldn't do, it's just a gentle guided meditation for harnessing the energy of remembered wellness, in their words.  It's really pleasant, not too lengthy and again the voice of Dr David Peter's, who voices the recordings, is really relaxing to me (although there's sadly a loud woman reading a disclaimer at the start and end, so I made 'trimmed' versions of the MP3s with those bits removed, for my own use).  ๐ŸŒž

My Noise website
There's a sound generator on the site called Happy Place, but there are also hundreds of others so you're certain to find something which calms &/or lifts you according to what you need.  The site is free, but the creator does ask for donations -- the site is so chock full of really neat features, I feel it's well worth donating.  You also get an MP3 of your chosen sound generator to keep if you donate a certain amount (the length of the MP3 depends on how much you donate).  Well worth it, as I said.  ๐ŸŽง

Anthony Metivier YouTube video
These two simple questions I've found really work to guard against overthinking/rumination, and (similar to the physiological sigh) it's a really simple method which I can actually remember to do, unlike some others.  The TEDx talk is not long, so it's worth listening to and the questions really are easily remembered, as 'advertised'.
I won't give any spoilers here, though.  ๐Ÿ’ญ

Wellbeing steps x 5
The NHS recommends these 5 steps to mental wellbeing (which include being physically active).  They also include learning something new, so here are a couple of links to sites which offer free (in some cases) online learning courses of varying lengths/levels: Future Learn and Open University.  There are almost certainly also other sites too -- please feel free to share details in the comments.  ๐Ÿ•ฎ๐Ÿ–‰

If you're not into or don't have time for 'proper' -or structured- learning, there are various YouTube channels which are factually oriented and also interesting which could help expand your mind more informally -- as well as TED Talks, which cover all sorts of topics, I recommend these two channels (which are both largely food focused, but they do occasionally cover other topics too):-
Try sharing the information you pick up with others, as it helps you to retain it in your own memory, too.
(But don't forget about your due diligence as you hop down that Yabbit hole!  And, it's a good idea to think about things like setting limits with your time spent on social media.)  ⏳

And if, like me, you're keen on volunteering (i.e. giving your time to others) but have limited time &/or energy, please see this citizen science sort of site:
https://www.zooniverse.org/.  There's also a community of sorts attached to this, if you're feeling starved of interaction with others.  ๐Ÿ’ป

What else?  Do you have other things which help you to maintain a positive mindset, or to restore your optimism after you've had a set back?  Let me know in the comments.  ๐Ÿ˜ƒ


*A note about toxic positivity.
I wasn't really aware that this was a thing until recently when someone had to explain it to me.  I do recall one previous 
counsellor once telling me that the subconscious mind listens to everything you tell it!  Fortunately for me, that motivated me to learn to catch myself in negative thinking and instead cultivate a positive thinking outlook, including coming up with my helpful mantra.  But it could have easily had the opposite effect, as I've learned more recently.  Everyone has the right to do life in their own way, and everyone should be free to seek & find the strategies and coping mechanisms which work for them.  Some of these might be unhelpful longer term, but they may work for some people in the short term.  It's not for someone else (except perhaps a trained psychological professional, whom you trust and work well with) to say.

Whatever else, we're all intrinsically worthy as human beings and no-one should be dictating to us how to live our lives and how we 'ought' to be thinking.  I hope some of the things shared here are helpful to some folks.  If not, please disregard.  ๐Ÿ‘

And have a very pleasant day, whatever you're doing.  ๐Ÿ˜ƒ











Photo credits (all photos from Unsplash):  flower by Sandy Millar;  grimacing emoji balloon by Bernard Hermant;  shadow-work notebook by Priscilla Du Preez;  'breathe' by Sanny Sahil;  balancing rocks by Brad Switzer;  books by Aaron Burden;  running shoes by Hipkicks;  Tibetan singing bowls by Magic Bowls;  sleeping cat by Alexander Possingham;  beech by Chris Galbraith;  headphones by C D-X;  ?? by Jac Alexandru;  dice showing 5 by Jonathan Petersson;  speech bubble by Jason Leung;  warning triangle by Jurgen Dekker;  glasses and written note by Sincerely Media;  trees/lake by McKayla Crump;  trees/meadow by Baciu Cristian Mihai.



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have added a notice on this blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.  If this notice does not display and you are in the EU, please will you notify me in the comments section.  Many thanks.

Sunday, 14 March 2021

Map out of lockdown, mid-summer's day 2021 and musings on many matters

A mini-blog/reflective journal, from a self-confessed air-head.

Map out of lockdown, mid-summer's day 2021 and musings on many matters

Photo by Harley-Davidson on Unsplash

(Do you ever get the feeling I've reached 'M' in the alphabet?!)

Photo by Zhen Hu on UnsplashOkay, that's a few too many 'M's, strictly it should read 'Roadmap out of lockdown', and "many matters" is most definitely an exaggeration.  But, call it all artistic licence.  And the onset of giddiness about the prospect of actually having a social life and activities outside the home again later this year!

As I write (it's 11 March, just after publishing my 'L' post), the government's 'roadmap' out of this latest lockdown is talking about lifting (hopefully) all restrictions mid-summer's day, 21 June 2021* (*okay, it actually reads 'no earlier than...').

This will be dependent on rates of infection & etc between now and then.  But it is a ray of hope for a return to some sort of normality, which had started to seem like something which had gone entirely out of reach for a while there.

...

And it feels significant, to me, that mid-summer's day is the date I'm looking forward to (or thereabouts).  It's always been one of my favourite wheel of the year holidays (even before I really knew of the wheel of the year).  This year I've an extra reason to look forward to it, for the new found freedom.

I've been very fortunate that I've not been in total isolation at all during this whole crisis.  I've had my husband and my cat, my friend a few doors down has been available at numerous times, I've seen colleagues (in a designated 'cohort' or 'bubble') in the office.  Psychologically, once I learned to manage some early anxieties, and start resisting the perceived need to work overly hard, I've fared relatively well through this whole thing.

I've also been on my full salary this whole time, so financially we've been managing (although I wish I could also say that the money I've saved on commuting daily has been set aside in an account or something; sadly our landlords have taken a slice and the rest appears to have evaporated, due to the inflated costs of groceries and our increased household bills, I guess).

But even though I've weathered this past year quite well, even I am now craving a return to normality.  It's made me realise that I should've made the most out of the temporary relaxation of the restrictions last summer.  I'd been quick, last March, to complain that it felt as though 2020 had been stolen away, it was a non-year, life was 'on hold'.

But the most exciting thing I then did with my free time in the summer was sit on the front lawn in the sunshine (well, in the shade actually, as I can't sit in direct sun -- but enjoying the warmth, anyway).  I would've attended Pagan Pride in mid-late August, had it gone ahead, but sadly they made the decision to cancel it in 2020.

As soon as I get the opportunity I hope to embrace life, to the fullest (for a given value of 'fullest' -- see below).

The bit I've got to manage between now and then is the personal physical restrictions I'm also saddled with -- my long-term ill-health, and consequent chronic spoon-shortage.  It's going to be a challenge, because I've been trying to find ways to manage this problem for literally in excess of a decade.  But if I want to be able to get out there and do stuff, I'm going to need the energy to do that (and not crash the following day, particularly if that happens to be a Monday and I have to work).

I'll also need to work out how to balance the fun stuff I'm hoping for with the un-fun stuff I'm anticipating.  Such as protests and demonstrations against the government's predictable redoubled austerity measures, which is always draining as it generally involves travel and sometimes marching whilst waving a placard or some such thing.
And then there's my environmental activism, too.  Plus, I'll need to sustain a certain level of household maintenance, which takes up a lot of my energy at the best of times.  This paragraph has exhausted me just thinking about it!

Joking aside, these are all legitimate considerations and it's going to need a certain amount of mental energy, deciding which things I should prioritise (and not giving myself a hard time if I opt to sit out of a given demonstration or protest for health reasons).

The other reason for wanting to embrace life at this point is another M word: mobility.  I still have a fair to good level of it at this point; but it's possible I'll experience a decline as time goes on.  Little things are already getting harder, like the other day when I stepped up on the toilet to reach something and had a momentary fear that I couldn't get back down by myself (something I'd have done without even thinking about it just six months or so ago).

I guess there's another M word that applies here, too: mortality.  But I'm a self-confessed air-head, so that's much too serious a topic (and one which, frankly, I don't want to think too much about).

Well, I'm ever the optimist and I've a little bit of time to try to come up with some solution before lockdown is finally entirely over (OK Google, find me a miracle cure!  Ha!)

For now, for a while longer (and I'm really okay with this), it's still a case of:-

Stay safe stay home save lives
Stay safe, stay home, save lives

Photo credits, main body of post (all photos, other than my own, from Unsplash):  'M' by Zhen Hu; sunny road by Simon Rae; aerial trees by Rog Shafi ; aerial trees ii by Aaron Burden; sunny forest by Casey Horner; Stop HS2** placard by Ethan Wilkinson; wildlife by jean wimmerlin [sic]; ostriches = my own work (they may in fact be emus); candle and message by Sandie Clarke; bonus tree photo by Zsรณfia Vera Mezei.


**If this Stop HS2 placard was your artwork and you wish to be credited for it (or have it removed), please let me know in the comments.





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have added a notice on this blog to explain Google's use of certain Blogger and Google cookies, including use of Google Analytics and AdSense cookies, and other data collected by Google.  If this notice does not display and you are in the EU, please will you notify me in the comments section.  Many thanks.

Wednesday, 10 March 2021

Looking forward by looking back -- my diary from the early days of the Covid-19 crisis

A mini-blog/reflective journal, from a self-confessed air-head.


Looking forward by looking back -- my diary from the early days of the Covid-19 crisis

Photo by Glen Carrie on Unsplash

I began the diary below of the lead up to the first Covid-19 lockdown of 2020 with the original intention of hand-writing it out on a toilet roll or rolls as a joke, later.  But I stopped keeping the diary in mid-April (when the sudden death of one of our beloved cats took all of the wind out of my sails, and firmly put my mind in another space for quite some time๐Ÿ’”).  I didn't feel like picking this up again later, but thought I'd share what I'd written up to that point, here.  It seems a good time for this, as we're one year on, the roll-out of the vaccine's underway and our freedom from lockdowns is anticipated here in the summer (we hope).

(Note: if TL;DR for you, please skip to the final 3 and a little bit paragraphs.)

๐Ÿ–‰ January 2020
        In late 2019/early 2020, a cluster of pneumonia cases of unknown cause in China became known to the World Health Organisation.  At that time there had been no deaths.  By half way through January, this was becoming widely known as the 'novel coronavirus' and there was at least one death from the virus being reported in the media.
As I understand it, the reason the virus would turn out to be so virulent and dangerous is that it was one which was transmitted from wildlife to humankind for the first time at this time, and as such the human immune system was totally unfamiliar with it; our systems didn’t even know to react to it as an intruder, let alone have any immunity or antibodies it could readily deploy against it.
Although there was still talk around this time about containment of the virus outbreak, the first case of the novel coronavirus outside of China was confirmed on 13 January 2020 (in Thailand, and Japan & South Korea also confirmed cases at around this time).
The first confirmed case of the virus in the USA was in mid-late January (on around the 21st) in Washington State.  The man was in his 30s, but had returned from a trip to Wuhan in China.
The risk level from Public Health England was raised from very low, to low in mid-late January[i].
By the end of January, it was known that the novel coronavirus was a global threat to human health, numbers of cases in China having risen by thousands; the WHO declared a global health emergency and the UK raised the risk from low to moderate[w].  There had been over two hundred deaths from the virus, and there were now just shy of ten thousand cases worldwide.
The population of Wuhan (over 11 million) was cut off by Chinese authorities with forms of transit being cancelled.  In the region of 100,00 had already departed from the train station alone.
The first patients in the UK tested positive around this time; on February 2nd the first death outside of China from the virus was reported, a 44 year old man in the Philippines.
The virus was named COVID-19 on 11 February 2020 by WHO.  The following day the UN activated the WHO-led Crisis Management Team.  The death toll in China had reached in excess of a thousand, and there were almost forty five thousand cases there (with nearly four hundred in the rest ot the world).  New regulations began to be announced, granting new powers to authorities in relation to the containment of the virus.
Things began to move quite quickly here in the UK, or at least it started to seem that way.  One morning on the way to work I noticed a headline on someone else's newspaper indicating there were 4 cases here; by the afternoon colleagues in the office 
were speaking about there being 8 or 9.  I recall feeling the first stab of anxiety, but then I recalled that those cases were further north, not down here in the South and I so managed to assuage my own burgeoning fears for a while.

February 2020
        I'm not someone who watches the news or reads the paper, not even the free one on the train, not even if I've forgotten both a book and my phone -- not for some years; I banned myself for the sake of my mental health as I find it too depressing.  I tend to get my news from overheard conversations of colleagues at work (and if I'm interested in a topic I'll look it up online to find out more).
But quite a bit of Covid-19 talk had evidently filtered through into my consciousness despite this.  Because on 14 February I attended a Climate Strike & contracted a common cold and in a few days, when the cold had turned itself from a tickly cough to a chesty one, it dawned on me that, if by chance I HAD been exposed to Covid-19, I'd been attending work for several days and potentially exposing my colleagues there to it.  So I called 111, who put me thru to Public Health England.  I needed to be reassured that I couldn't have exposed my colleagues (at least one of whom is a very poorly person at the best of times) and subsequently our clients to this thing.  I'd known it was fairly unlikely, but there were dozens and dozens of people at the strike, and I'd no way of knowing whether any of them had returned from travelling.  On top of that, I'd participated in a litter pick in the park at the close of the strike, handling equipment which had been in who knew whose hands, and stirring up items of litter dropped by, again, who knew who.  And on top of THAT, I'd gone for coffee with a handful of other climate strikers I'd met that day and when one of them was served my mocha in error I wasn't able to catch her up at the table with her hot chocolate in time to prevent her from taking a large sip of my drink.  I'd spun the cup around before drinking my mocha from the other side of it, of course, but still...
Public Health England reassured me; I just had a cold.  And I recall passing on that reassurance to others I spoke to about it.
By 17 February 2020 the WHO issued guidance, based on lessons from H1N1 and Ebola, around mass gathering and travellers who were ill with the virus (or suspected of having been exposed to the virus).  Terms such as self-isolation began to become commonplace.  The authorities seemed to be carefully avoiding the term quarantine.
By 21 February 2020 WHO was warning that the window of opportunity to contain the virus was shrinking.  However, it appears to have been thought that the likely location for the spread of the virus would be Africa, as 11,000 African health workers had been trained up on Covid-19 over the preceding month.
In late February, it was revealed that transmission of the virus had taken place here in the UK, it was no longer contained among only people who'd recently returned from travelling overseas.
For some time I kept telling myself there was nothing to worry about -- okay, there were cases of the virus here in the UK now, but they'd started somewhere up north, so it was alright.  Okay, there's a confirmed case in the next county over, but that's still not that close, so it's alright.  Okay, so there's a case in Hampshire now, but Hampshire's a fairly big place, it'll be alright.
I had a wobble when I learned there was a case at a 6th form college, about a ten minute walk from my work place (and, in fact, it was my friend's workplace -- my friend who'd been giving me lifts to and from work for a good chunk of the preceding couple of weeks).  But somehow I managed to stick my head in the proverbial sand, even despite the first death from the virus here in England, which was quickly followed by four more.
I wanted to believe the message the government was putting out, that this thing was mostly only a threat to the very old, or those with pre-existing lung health conditions -- why wouldn’t I want to believe that?

Early-mid March 2020
        On 11 March the seriousness of the threat of this outbreak really hit me; I came across a few YouTube items late that evening, immediately prior to retiring.  And made the mistake of watching one or two of them.  Prior to this I'd been going about life as per usual and hoping for the best.  Overnight 11 March into 12 March I had terrible insomnia (worse than usual), ruminating incessantly about coronavirus and the possibility of dying from it, or family and friends -- I can't even write the words.  Coincidentally, 11 March was the day it was officially announced as a pandemic, though I didn't find this out until later.
Life was changing.  People were wearing face masks to go out, the streets were emptying of people but filling up with litter; there was sensationalist reporting of ice rinks being used as make-shift morgues and images of emboldened wildlife encroaching into cities (though these latter may've later been debunked, I believe).
        It began to feel like something out of some apocalyptic sci-fi movie, like Twelve Monkeys or something.
I managed to get a grip on the anxiety for a while at least, and when my swimming buddy advised me on the evening of the 12th that chlorine neutralises the virus I was persuaded to go for what would turn out to be our last swim for some time.
        Another friend and I later went ahead with a planned trip to Avebury on Saturday 14 March, too, though various of the museums were understaffed and therefore closed at the time.  I felt a little guilty going to Avebury, like we shouldn't be out in public for fear of spreading the virus unknowingly.  But I also knew it could be the last chance of an outing for some time (and apart from our cup of tea in the pub before setting off home, we kept our distance from others quite successfully - we would have in the pub, too, but for my friend's lost earring back and the overzealous gent who stepped in to try to help us find it).
In the week commencing 16 March they began making preparations for us to work from home, much to my relief.  I concentrated my efforts on getting as much finished up in the office as possible to facilitate digital working from home.  I worked a few late evenings during this week, but doing so helped me to put my anxiety onto the backburner.  I heard about the panic buying and stock-piling which was taking place amongst sections of the populace.  I confined myself, initially, to buying one or two additional dry items each time I was in a shop, and a single carton of UHT milk.
At some point my anxiety resurged, and this time I spent a couple of days all but convinced it was the end of civilisation.  I placed an online order for nearly £200 worth of groceries, almost three times what we'd normally spend (though we later reduced this down to just over £100 worth, prior to delivery).  I started small scale 'prep-ing'; refilling 5 litre water bottles from the tap & storing them, placing an order for vacuum packed meals which last 6 months in the cupboard.  Locking the door earlier, and being choosy which windows were opened for fresh air in the day.  Tying my hair up out anyone's reach when I went outdoors, even just to the bins or to put the milk-bottles out.  Learned a recipe for making oat milk out of oats.  I was spending money recklessly, too, as though it was no longer any point having any savings because there might not be an opportunity to enjoy or make use of them.  (Well, this was spending recklessly for me, anyways.)
  On Thursday 19 March I had my last regular train commute home from work for the duration of the lockdown; staying late at work was actually a good move, as it meant the late train home was far less crowded and it was easier to keep the recommended 2 metres distant from others.  On Friday 20 March I spent at least four fifths of my day standing at the scanner to ensure I had everything available digitally, and yet I still had a ream of paper to carry home in the briefcase.  The knuckles on my left hand bled, today, from the damage of repeated hand washing and being too busy to apply any soothing lotion.
  The atmosphere in the office became borderline hysterical.  The noise of coronavirus chatter was incessant, I literally felt I couldn't hear myself think.  Colleagues returned from lunch breaks with reports of what felt like a rapidly deteriorating situation.  One said there was no soap to be bought anywhere in the town (though I later found that out to be an exaggeration, when the shop right next to our office still had two packs on the shelves).  Another said there was no feminine sanitary protection, and she was outraged.  A third reported there'd been a "run on the cash machines", and this was the one that really chilled me to my bones as that felt like the kind of activity which can precipitate financial (and hence social?) collapse.
        My final journey home from work the afternoon of 20 March was surreal, though my friend gave me a lift as was quite usual for a Friday.  I had my usual rucksack style handbag, the briefcase stuffed into another larger backpack and a shopping bad (oh and a pot plant).  I tightly knotted my hair up on my head and had my attack alarm at the ready, having seen headlines reporting there'd been muggings over toilet rolls.  I arrived earlier than my friend at our meeting place, and waited anxiously for her without daring to have my phone in my hand to pass the time with a puzzle game.  Getting home and especially knowing I wouldn't have to journey to work again in the foreseeable future was very much a relief.

Late March-early April
        It was my first day working from home on Monday 23 March.  Took a little while to sort out the tech issues logging on to work systems from my own PC, despite having tested everything out the previous week, but could have been worse.  Fewer interruptions from phone calls, but inundated by email messages.  I wonder if this is how it's going to be throughout lockdown.
        I'm not sure how I managed to have office drama despite not being in the office!  There's a dispute about whether an SMS text message circulating around is genuinely from the goverment or if it's a scam.
        Happily, my friend was prepared to defy the rules just a little and meet up out on the garden wall for a cup of tea (brought from our own homes, each) and a chat.  It was strange to sit there, feeling furtive, glancing at every passing car in case it was a police car and every passing pedestrian in case it was a beat copper (not that any of those generally venture into our area even in ordinary circumstances).
        I can't recall exactly when it went from from a suggestion to stay home to an instruction to stay home, but for me it came as a huge relief that I wasn't going to be expected to return to commuting to the office by train again anytime soon.
        We'd been expecting it, but were nevertheless disappointed when we heard that the comicon we had tickets for in mid-May was cancelled, especially my husband.  We'll get a refund, and we hadn't actually got as far as booking the hotel room yet so there's only the one reimbursement to look out for.  But last year's had been our first of this sort, and we'd been really looking forward to going again and getting more involved in that social circle.  Can't be helped, of course, but yet another example of how the year 2020 has been put totally on hold by this thing.
        27 March -- Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed to have tested positive, apparently.  And him with, apparently, a pregnant girlfriend, from what I understand from colleagues.
        Saturday 28 March -- I went over the road to feed the semi-stray cat (my first excursion outdoors, other than the front garden, since quarantine).  I felt a distinct sense of anxiety when another pedestrian passed by on the pavement, despite their having a face covering on, and me being stood in the gutter.  They were the only other person I saw out there, though, in something like the space of a half hour I'd guess.  Later I participated in quarantine karaoke via Discord software.  I sang Big Yellow Taxi and Pink Floyd's On the Turning Away (because I can never miss an oppurtinity to try to convey my environmental message and some social commentary) and then later I Will Survive by Gloria Gaynor.
        I realised we'd missed Mothering Sunday, and hadn't sent my Mum so much as a card, so I adopted a tiger for her via WWF.  It'll be a week or so before her welcome pack arrives with her.  I hope it makes up somewhat for forgetting about her.  I'll give her a call, too, and let her and Dad know that I love them - something I don't say nearly often enough.
        Wednesday 1 April -- today I ventured out of home, proper, for the first time since lockdown started.  I took annual leave this afternoon and about 3pm I ventured to the pharmacy.  There were possibly fewer people on the way up the road; but once on the main drag, you'd barely have known there was anything different about today compared with any other day.  It was difficult to keep the prescribed 2 meters away from people -- numerous times I had to step into the road just to do so.  I didn't feel compelled to shower when I got back indoors today, though, so I guess that's progress on the anxiety front.
        Thursday 2 April -- spent almost all day (or so it seemed) on the phone with the doctors surgery and both Boots online and the local branch, trying to get my husband's prescription sorted due to a series of mix ups (unconnected from coronavirus, but I didn't need it on top of everything).
        Friday 3 April -- back to the pharmacy again and to Superdrug to restock the hand sanitiser (2 bottles max. per customer).  Proper social distancing this time thank goodness, with queuing outside of each shop before being allowed to enter.  I didn't venture to the supermarket, and I'm glad I didn't need to because the queue outside went all the way down the road (with 2 metres between each person).  I'm pretty sure I've developed a new cough, but I'm not sure it qualifies as 'continuous'.  Could be psychosomatic knowing me, too.
        Saturday 4 April -- we slept in late.  I think I must have bordered on burning myself out by working such long hours this past couple of weeks, as today I was as tired as ever despite no commuting latterly.
        Quarantine karaoke once again this evening, though, with a theme of 'Hope'.  I sang On Top of the World by the Carpenters (and then Leave Me Alone by P!ink -- less of a hopeful number, but a catchy melody and a very bouncy tempo).
        Sunday -- BoJo admitted to hospital, I heard.  I wonder if he'll pull through.  I dislike the man's politics, but I don't wish him any ill-will, and am kind of shocked by those of my friends who do.  Also, I'm not sure it'd do the left any good if he were to die, as there's a danger he becomes some sort of martyr for the right.
        Monday 6 April -- felt better today, and had quite a productive day of work.  I don't know why the one care agency decided to leave it until they were down to their last incontinence wipe for the clients' before notifying us they needed restocked.  It seems as though we're each going to be issued with our own corporate purchasing cards for just such situations, although finding retailers which actually have stock and are taking orders is another challenge.
        Tuesday 7 April -- corporate purchasing card arrived.  Also, travel 'papers', permitting me to travel to the office as a 'key-worker' (a letter from work to show to the police if I'm stopped at any point).  It feels a bit like war-torn Europe or something, having to have and show papers to travel.  I know that's not so, because I'm obviously not at risk of coming under heavy fire; but you can't help the thought from passing through your mind all the same.
        Wednesday 8 April -- we received at work the first report of one of our clients having passed away from Covid-19, in intensive care.  Not someone I knew personally, but still sad - and, one can't help but feel that this could be the first of many.
        Apparently, we know at least five people with the virus because not only do two people from work seem to have it but my father-in-law and sister-in-law also believe they have or have had it and someone from our circle of friends believes they've had it (although, that may've been a cold).  I'm grateful I can work from home, and have yet to need to venture into the office for anything.  I'm even more grateful that I'm on my full pay, and not furloughed.  I worry about the economy, though.  We've had years and years of austerity and you just know they're going to do it again, after this.  Even though public services cannot take it, and neither can the most vulnerable members of the public.  ๐Ÿ–‰

The diary ended here, with the above paragraph, in terms of full entries, rather than just scrappy notes.  It's long, and not that eventful I guess.  I'm lucky enough not to have been infected with the virus or had to struggle to manage on 80% of my salary or had to remain isolated at home alone.  Nor anything catastrophic.  My heart goes out to all those people who've been in that position over the past year, and to the bereaved.

Happily, one of the things I'm glad to have learned out of this whole experience is that civilisation isn't quite as fragile as horror films and disaster movies would have us believe.  The crisis wasn't handled well by most governments around the world (and it's highlighted a lot of inequality, which it's probably high time was spotlighted).  But, we've yet to collapse into complete societal breakdown to date.

And whilst I'm steeling myself for a great deal of demonstrating and protesting the next wave of austerity the government are sure to impose (it's already known that we, in public services, are having our pay frozen), we do at least have a few things which we can look forward to in the not-too-distant future.  Things such as meals out with family (and if I'm lucky, and maybe if I volunteer to help make it happen, Pagan Pride in the summer).

I hope this post was of some interest to someone, somewhere.

Photo by Matt Seymour on Unsplash


(Sources:
 ~ British Foreign Policy Group
 https://bfpg.co.uk/2020/03/covid-19-timeline/
 ~ [i]The Independent Coronavirus: A timeline of how Britain went from ‘low risk’ to an unprecedented national shutdown.
 https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/coronavirus-uk-timeline-deaths-cases-covid-19-nhs-social-distancing-a9416331.html
 ~ [w]Wikipedia 2020 coronavirus pandemic in the United Kingdom
 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2020_coronavirus_pandemic_in_the_United_Kingdom
 ~ World Health Organisation
 https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/events-as-they-happen)


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