from Steph in London, UK: a shrinking world …

April 24 I haven’t worn a watch since we went into splendid isolation. I’m not sure why I decided not to wear one but I suppose as I don’t have to be anywhere it doesn’t really matter what time it is.

I am reminded of a book – Station 11 by Emily St John Mendel. A fictional account of a world pandemic – will re-read it to see if it’s still as good and what with Bill Gates Ted talk in 2015, we may have an insight into our future …

 Everybody’s world is shrinking so much and that’s the thing that is so frustrating. So the irritation stakes are getting higher … immediately the thought of home schooling my boys whilst holding down a job kicks me out of it. I’m reminded of when I was doing an MA. I worked full time, had 3 teenagers and was a single mother. Assignment time was a nightmare and often I’d work til 4 or 5 in the morning trying to get it all done.

I must remind son number 2 of his comments then—- “Mum, you’re a lousy role model working all night to get your essays done” wonder what he thinks now as he juggles his job and 2 teenagers , who would be quite happy being glued to their devices til the end of lockdown…

Rumours abound about the over 70 being kept in lockdown for the foreseeable future– that’s the end of the House of Lords then- in one swoop …the House of Commons being left for the boys (and too few girls)

Getting exercised about being locked down, semi-locked down or isolated for the foreseeable future. Does it come from an underlying cynicism about the government’s ability to sensibly sort this out, get testing both before and after the norm or just being news weary?

 The complexities of getting the economy up and running must have a quid pro quo element – will Boris be his usual gung-ho self or be more circumspect when deciding what to do when? Will the economists and scientists be able to reach a compromise?

In our new reality world, we took delivery of 3 tons of top soil for the garden, which caused so much excitement … I’d better go and put it into the raised beds.

And my daughter-in-law hits 50 this week. A House Party instead of a real party and real celebrations when we can. We sent a video of us washing our hands to Happy Birthday to you!

from Brenda in Hove, UK: Scouting for Home Deliveries. 4 April

I am finding scouting for businesses that make home deliveries very time consuming. The big supermarkets have limited ‘slots’ and I have not succeeded in getting a single one. My book club put together or found a list of small providers and I happily resorted to a couple of them. I was pleased that at least some businesses would benefit from all this disruption. The results have been bizarre – or I have lost my mind in the process. I have the biggest carton of ice cream you have ever seen; we had to take a drawer out of the freezer to accommodate it. I have a huge roll of kitchen towelling which will last me the rest of my life (and I still feel quite well, thank you), I have dozens of bottles of peach tea and a box of 48 twirls (chocolate). The delivery man could not contain himself on this last one: “I hope you enjoy your chocolates” (heavy sarcasm). “It is possible they will save my life,” I replied. What does he know of what I laughingly call ‘my life’?  

3 April. Spare a thought for all the parents who have school age children and are now compelled to work from home. I hear stories of the managers (whose children have grown up and who clearly have short memories) calling virtual meetings at any hour that suits them – and with no regard for the parents struggling to keep children occupied, home schooled and indoors who have to attend those meetings. Children dart in and out of the video frame and distract not only the parent. I had to meet with a lawyer yesterday to update my will and enjoyed the charming sight of him meeting me from a baby girls’ nursery.  He handled the off camera sounds with an ease one could only admire. 

Some of parents are single mothers who already had a difficult enough time juggling work commitments, kid’s homework and other demands – and now are required to manage all three simultaneously.  In the UK single parent families make up one quarter of families with dependent children (see Gingerbread.org.uk). One’s mind boggles. 

We are led to believe that working from home is something to be encouraged anyway and this enforced period will demonstrate how beneficial it will be. For some, maybe! It is indeed possible that productivity will actually increase for those without the distractions of office or children – but those with children will be judged on the same performance criteria and their productivity cannot but decrease. Managers and Human Resource people need to talk about this before harsh decisions are made and some careers badly damaged.