Applauding the NHS

A quiet day in the home office today, in contrast to yesterday I had just one meeting; a team social to keep everyone in contact while we all work from home.

One team member prepared a quiz with questions from the British Citizenship Test. All the questions were based on British history, such as who is the famous English, Elizabethan playwright?, and which British sportsman won five consecutive gold Olympic medals in rowing? (Shakespeare and Sir Steve Redgrave). I’m quite a fan of British history so was pleased to have won the quiz. There were three out of the 30 on the call who scored 11/15, however I answered the questions quickest out of the three top scorers, so claimed the trophy (it would have been 12/15 if I’d have got to the first question in time!)

IMG_7626

After the quiz I decided to take my “one daily exercise” allowance and walk to the Iceland frozen food store up the road. I was almost out of milk and bread, luckily they had both in stock, and I picked up some other bits as well, including my personal favourites, chocolate Hobnob biscuits and Jaffa Cakes! Life in lockdown is much more bearable with hobnobs and jaffa cakes.

I managed to dig out the rest of the space I needed for my compost bin later in the afternoon, then spotted my neighbour sat outside his house when I was finished. We had a good chat about the surreal situation we’re living in, while keeping a good few meters apart over the garden fence, before heading inside again for the government press conference that’s become a daily 5pm routine. Today, the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, put in place a bailout scheme for self-employed people who were unable to work because they have to stay at home. They’ll now get 80% of their annual profits paid by the government for the next three months adding another £9 billion to the aid package the government have put in place.

The rest of the evening news was given over to a campaign to give the doctors and nurses working for the NHS a round of applause. Every household was asked to open their front doors and clap at 8pm. TV news crews covered it around the country and neighbours could be heard clapping along the street and neighbouring streets. It was a really moving and emotional experience with the whole country showing their appreciation for those putting their own lives at risk to save many others.

 

Spring has sprung

Today has been the warmest and sunniest day of the year so far. After checking the new laws to make sure the girls could legally travel between me and their mum, she picked them up at lunch time; hopefully having a regular change of scenery will help avoid complete boredom for them.

I took the opportunity to sit outside for a while at the picnic table. Three hours worth of teleconference and video-conference meetings in the morning, then a video presentation in the afternoon left my throat quite dry.

I picked up the cough from Chloe a couple of days ago, but during my presentation I found myself increasingly coughing and losing my voice to a dry throat. I had to pause the presentation at one point and head to the kitchen for a glass of water. I’m seriously wondering now if I might be carrying the virus.

Fortunately, after that final meeting I was able to retreat back into the garden and the fresh air did me some good and settled my throat. I decided to put my evening to good use and dig a patch at the back of my garden which has just been a wasteland since we moved here 10 years ago. An area about 3-feet by 12-feet is a hill of soil and other debris, with a large tree or bush in the middle. The only thing I use it for is composting grass after mowing the lawn, but when the horses from the farm come out around Easter they’ll eat the grass clippings and that can give them huge problems with their stomachs and potentially kill them.

I decided to dig out a portion of the ‘hill’ nearest the farm, just big enough to slide my large compost bin into. I can then put the grass cuttings into the composter and keep a lid on it, keeping the horses safe and dealing with my own garden waste. I dug and moved earth of a couple of hours but only got half way through the hill. The rest will have to wait, but at least I’ve been able to get outside and have plenty of fresh air and exercise without actually leaving my home and breaking the law!

Self isolation – day 10

I made Amelia cry today. She desperately wanted to go out with her friends, but I wouldn’t let her. We had four more days of self-isolation to complete. She pleaded with me, she’d only go out for a short time, she’d come straight back afterwards, she’d be ok, she wasn’t ill, she wouldn’t catch it or spread it…

The answer was no. Lots of people are not taking Coronavirus, and it’s risks, seriously. While it’s true that children don’t seem to have serious symptoms, if any at all, they can be carriers and spread it to other, more vulnerable people.

Our next-door neighbour is in his 70s, the government class this age group as high risk. The girls have been told if they see him they must keep two meters away, if they are carrying the virus we don’t want to spread it to him.

I spotted Chloe out in the back garden playing football with him in the afternoon, she kept a safe distance as she’d been asked, and so did he. Meanwhile, Amelia’s friend came round to drop off some school books, she went out and I saw her giving the friend a hug. I wasn’t impressed and called her back in. She just doesn’t get the seriousness of it.

I reminded her that given my asthma I also fall into a high risk group, and while she might think she’s invincible, if she catches the virus from someone who shows no symptoms, the might also show no symptoms but will spread it on to me. I’ve got a long history of catching chest infections and finding them hard to fight off. While it’s been about a year since I’ve used my asthma inhaler, I really don’t want to get this virus and given the severity of it – thousands have died across the world in just a few weeks – I don’t rate my prospects if I do get it.

Unprecedented times

I woke up this morning and looked out of the window to see a brilliant sunrise coming up over the houses at the far end of the farm which backs onto our back garden. I went out into the garden with my work laptop to grab a picture of my new home office desk. There have to be some advantages to being stuck at home, right?

gardentable

You’d think so, but when the girls came around, only Chloe went outside to see it. The other two just looked through the window and refused to venture in to the back garden!

As the news about the countrywide school closures sank in, Hannah became upset again at the prospect of not seeing her friends, while Amelia was bothered about one friend in particular who was quite vulnerable; she wanted to be there to support her friend.

I picked up a few things from the garden centre and set about spending the morning tidying up the rockery area, which for the last 10 years has refused to allow anything but weeds to grow. I laid a plastic weed-prevention sheet, covered it in bark and laid some heavy stones on top to keep it in place when the wind picks up. I found a couple of garden ornaments to decorate it too, including a little dog with a solar powered lamp which is now home to a strawberry plant, hopefully to deliver some juicy fruit later in the summer.

I also planted potatoes in two buckets so we’ll have some fresh homegrown vegetables to eat later in the year. It’s my first attempt at growing my own food. I’m really pleased with the results and it compliments the picnic table to give somewhere nice to sit out in the sun.

We spent the evening watching the news, the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson is becoming a regular feature alongside the government’s chief medial officer and chief scientist. While China seems to be over the worst of the virus, the situation in Italy is looking far worse. The whole country has been locked down with people banned from leaving their homes without good reason.

Spain are also in lockdown, a phrase which just a week ago was only used by schools and businesses in emergency planning meetings in case of terrorist attacks. France, Germany and other countries across Europe are putting similar measures in place.

In the US, president Donald Trump insists on calling Coronavirus the “China virus” and the “invisible enemy” and preaching about how well he is handling it, and eradicating it. He’s put plans in place to spend billions of dollars on the response, particularly on testing anybody who wants a test, but more than anything it looked like a huge commercial marketing campaign for some of the companies he admires – he had the CEOs of some of America’s top companies at a press conference with him, some such as Walmart offering their car parks as mobile testing stations. He also announced he’d be buying as much oil as the country could stockpile, the price has crashed over the last couple of weeks and he wants to store it to sell on for profit when the price goes back up. Trump also announced a new healthcare phoneline – much like the NHS 111 service that has been live in the UK for many years – and a website where people can check their symptoms with a quick questionnaire to see if they need testing. It’s being developed by “1,700 engineers at Google” according to Trump. I could knock up what he’s describing in half an hour.

I really don’t understand how or why some people in the UK are criticising our government’s response to the virus. It’s an unprecedented event, there is no playbook, no rules. The government are following scientific advice, doing what they think is right for the country. They’ve put massive financial measures in place to protect companies from going bust and jobs from being lost. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, promised that he’d do whatever it takes to see the country through this crisis. Yes, by now it really is a crisis and it’s ramping up every day.

The plan is to stem the flow of the virus. The fewer people that catch it now, the better the NHS will be able to cope. That won’t reduce the number of people catching it, but it’ll spread it out over a longer period, to make sure there’s enough beds, ventilators and staff available to treat those in need. We have 5,000 ventilators in the UK, the government has offered to buy as many as can be manufactured, with no upper limit. They’ve challenged engineering companies to switch their main business and help to make new ventilators. I feel so much happier about being British given our government’s response compared to that of the US.

Outdoor office

Last year I had planned to buy a patio table and chairs set for the garden, but I never got around to it. I’ve been thinking about it again for the past couple of weeks and the plan was to buy something in time for the Easter school holidays.

Tonight though I decided to bring the timescale forward, if we’re going to have to stay at home any longer then it’ll be a good feature to have so we can sit out in the garden. I opted for a wooden picnic table and two benches. They arrived by courier tonight after the girls had gone back with their mum. It was a part-built flat-pack so I spend a couple of hours assembling them and getting them into the garden ready to surprise the girls when they came back in the morning.

Chloe’s seven days of self-isolation are now over so technically she can go back to school, although I decided to keep her at home for the rest of the week. The government have now announced that all schools will be closed after tomorrow until the pandemic is over so I didn’t see much point in sending her in.