Seven weeks at home and what have you been doing? Of course, many of you will still be working, either at home or at work because you are essential workers.
For those who are going to work it’s a scary time. You are interacting with the public, who may be infected, and then going back home and possibly taking that infection with you. I don’t know how you do it, I really don’t. Especially the low paid supermarket workers who are risking their lives, and the lives of their families, for what is often barely enough to exist on (exist, not live).
If you are lucky enough to do a job where you can work from home, your working life has changed beyond all recognition. You don’t have to factor in the commute, you can make as many cups of coffee as your kidneys can take, and you’ve probably eaten way to many biscuits.
You might be having Zoom or Skype meetings, and you may have adopted a new dress code ‘at work’ for these. Perhaps your company has relaxed the dress code, perhaps they’ve relaxed your working hours. Maybe you now appreciate that teachers have a very hard job, and your offspring are not the delights to have in class you thought they were?
But what about those on Furlough? That new word nobody had heard of until two months ago. What about those who have been made redundant or now find their zero hours contracts really have zero hours? Well, aside from trying to work out what to do to get by on anything from 0-80% of your previous income, you might be trying to negotiate the benefits system (and I wish you luck), or perhaps you’re discovering you normally waste a lot of money and can indeed live on 80% or even 60% of what you had before. If you can, don’t get excited, it’s probably because you don’t have to buy lunch like you used to, or pay for your commute, petrol, parking, or those little extras that just make going to work more palatable; like your Monday morning expresso or hump day donuts.
These people have a lot of time on their hands, less of course if you have children, but you still have a lot more than you’re used too. What are you doing with it? Have you finally started on the long list of ‘home improvements’ or ‘gardening duties’ that you’ve been putting off? Probably. I painted the rail around the decking, but I haven’t quite got to the fencing yet. First I ran out of wood paint stuff, then I ran out of enthusiam.
Perhaps you’ve had a go at baking, if you were able to get the ingredients. Not sure I get the sudden obsession with home baking. I mean, I’ve watched Bake Off as much as the next person, but I still have no desire to start making 12 evenly formed petit-pans, giant gingerbread houses, or even my own bread. I’m not saying it’s not a nice way to spend the time, or that its not fun with the kids (albeit messy) but it just doesn’t appeal to me. Beside, you’ve not encountered the ‘guess what temperature I’ve going to do today’ element of my cooker.
I am shopping local, and I am cooking more meals from scratch. That’s enough time in the kitchen for me, thank you, unless I’m making coffee or have found a stash of biscuits.
I have been trying to get out on my bike. Exercise is of course permitted, once a day originally and now whenever you fancy it (depending where you live). It hasn’t always happened of course, the world is paved with good intentions. My waistline would like me to go cycling a little more often, the aforementioned biscuits have seen to that.
There’s been a lot of jigsaws, and I find it a way to practice mindfulness and take me away from the constant barrage of (largely) bad news, coupled with the massive frustrations at the uselessness of the UK Government in relation to the Covid-19 crisis.
But a couple of weeks ago I thought I might do something more constructive when a friend sent me a link to the Open Universities open learning section. Free courses, with certificates of participation or whatever they call them, all online. There is a raft of these, and I’ve sat four so far:
Smart Cities, Level 1, 24 hours study
Systems Thinking and Practice, Level 2, 8 hours study
Mastering Systems Thinking and Practice, Level 3, 24 hours study
Campaigns and Organisations, Level 3, 2 hours study
It has been fulfilling to get the old grey matter doing something again. It has been challenging at all levels with some new concepts and materials, and my memory is not that of a 20year old, that’s for sure. I’ve rediscovered my ability to write with a pen, and quite enjoyed seeing my own handwriting again (I’ve been told I have lovely clear handwriting). I have made a lot of notes, and even undertaken revision, something I was totally crap at when I was at school/college/university.
I picked these subjects because they interest me. I am not a cyclist, but a woman that happens to ride a bike in the city because it’s quicker, and fun. I also have a blog about it here
Cycling in a city has made me interested in infrastructure, policies, city development, the problems of different perspectives to the shared space, and the problems that people have in engaging with ‘active transport’. I get annoyed I don’t feel safe, I get annoyed at the way drivers treat me, and I try to be a better driver because of it. I get annoyed at the Council for not getting on and implementing temporary and permanent changes to facilitate more pedestrian and cycle access to the city. The UK and Scottish Governments have been very clear on the message, governments across the globe are seizing the opportunities to keep the lower emissions, less pollution, clean cities they have now discovered as the smog cleared.
Edinburgh has got to the consultation stage; which means it won’t happen. They’ve been at the consulting stage on a cycle path project for 13 years for one stretch extending Roseburn for heaven’s sake! Sadly, for the residents of Edinburgh, myself included, it seems we have a council paralysed by paperwork and procedures, and a desire not to offend anybody so they do nothing for anybody either.
I feel for the campaigners; they’ve tried so hard, for so long, and they were so optimistic that, with the new directions from Westminster and Holyrood, we might get somewhere. I feel it too. Now I feel that familiar disappointment and that dark, sinking, feeling.
But, I am not going to sit here doing nothing. I am studying to understand the problem, to get a new objective and a better all round view. I am keen to be part of the solution, and not just wingeing on the sidelines (aka Twitter).
Hopefully my study will prove useful in my career development, or even just in helping the campaigns I believe in. Who knows? But at least I feel like my lockdown has been purposeful. What about yours?